Honouring your loved ones in their absence

Everyone who gets married does so with someone there in spirit. The sad reality is we all have loved ones we miss and that is amplified at the big occasions in our lives like weddings. Embracing the memory of loved ones at weddings is becoming something I see everywhere I go – and I love it. I love that families aren’t shying away from the emotions and are taking moments to honour and remember those they loved, and continue to miss. I have compiled a list of my favourite memorial ideas for your wedding and ceremony.

Memorial Table or Ladder

I was at a wedding in 2019 where the bride had created a beautiful memorial ladder to honour all of the friends and family who were there in spirit. She had all of their photos framed, and included battery operated candles and a string of lights and white feathers for all of the angels in attendance.

You don’t need to do something as elaborate, a simple table with photos and a candle will ensure everyone knows it is a memorial.

Toronto, Oshawa, Durham, Port Hope and Cobourg Wedding Officiant for commitment ceremony, renewal of vows, marriage, elopement, handfasting, Belleville and Bowmanville wedding venue, Bobcaygeon, Lindsay, Peterborough weddings.

An Empty Chair With Framed Photo

This is what I see most often when it comes to honours loved ones. The empty chair is usually in the first row and might have a framed photo and some flowers on it to honour a family member who isn’t there.

Moment of Silence

When I ask my couples what elements they would like included in their ceremony such as land acknowledgements and prayers…a moment of silence is offered in those options. It takes place at the start of the ceremony after the couple is at the altar with me and everyone else has been invited to sit down again. It’s a handy tool not just as a way to honour loved ones, but it gives the bride a moment to breathe after her big walk down the aisle and seeing her soon-to-be husband for the first time that day.

When the Bride is “Given Away”

Things I never do during a ceremony is ask if anyone objects (due diligence is done when my couples get their marriage licence) or who gives the bride away. I only include these in ceremonies by request and I am rarely asked for them. Something I do like to do if my couples want it, is ask if the parents/family bless the marriage and welcome the new member into their family. When my couples tell me they want their family to be as involved as possible I always offer that moment as part of the script.

But what do we do when a parent has died and isn’t there? Here’s a nice way of phrasing the blessing that can be said by any of the parents:

Officiant: “Does this couple have the blessings of their family for this marriage?”
Answer: “With the knowledge that (deceased parent) loved and supported this union as much as I do, I freely give my blessing.”

Photo Charms

Photo charms are easy to have custom made these days and can be tied into your bouquet or boutonniere by your florist. They are a lovely way to carry a loved one with you on your wedding day.

Toronto, Oshawa, Durham, Port Hope and Cobourg Wedding Officiant for commitment ceremony, renewal of vows, marriage, elopement, handfasting, Belleville and Bowmanville wedding venue, Bobcaygeon, Lindsay, Peterborough weddings.

Recipe by Your Loved One

How lovely it would be to include a dish or dessert at your wedding from your loved one’s favourite recipe? Was Grandma famous for her butter tarts? Did Uncle love ceasar salad with homemade dressing? Include these details in your dinner program so your guests can enjoy the extra love in the meal.

Flowers in Their Honour

An arrangement of your loved one’s favourite flowers with a card to them on your signing table and later moved to the head or cake table is a beautiful tribute.

Light Candles During Your Ceremony

Feel free to request this when we are planning your ceremony – once you are together at the altar we can pause to let you both light candles together, or light them separately, in private, before your guests arrive. Be sure to use hurricane style candle holders if your ceremony is outside.

Toronto, Oshawa, Durham, Port Hope and Cobourg Wedding Officiant for commitment ceremony, renewal of vows, marriage, elopement, handfasting, Belleville and Bowmanville wedding venue, Bobcaygeon, Lindsay, Peterborough weddings.

Favours in Their Honour

If your loved one had a favourite candy, wine, cigar…or any other item that would make a great favour you can add a little tag to each one explaining the gift is in their honour. I remember being at a funeral years ago and everyone was given a particular candy to eat during the service in honour of the lady who died – as these were the candies she always carried in her purse for weddings and funerals.

Donation To Charity in Their Name

If you don’t want or need any gifts at your wedding you can invite your guests to make a donation to your loved one’s favourite charity. The Kissing Game is also a great way to have all of your guests take part – if they want you to kiss, a donation goes in the jar.

Wear Their Jewelry

When I got married I borrowed and wore my Granda’s wedding ring. It was a great something borrowed and something old. My Gran loaned it to me for my ceremony and it was so nice to have a piece of him with me. Another idea is to carry a handkerchief from your loved one’s collection.

Use a Tie or Scarf for Your Handfasting

Did your loved one have a tie or scarf collection? Use one or two or several for your Handfasting ceremony to make them a part of your special day.

Play Their Favourite Song During Your Ceremony

Walk in or out to your loved one’s favourite song, or have it played while we sign the paperwork. No one else needs to know the significance if you don’t want them to or include the meaning of the song in your wedding programs.

Read a Love Letter Written by Your Loved One

I performed a wedding ceremony where an aunt took part by reading a letter her father, the bride’s grandfather, wrote to her for her wedding. He shared his thoughts on love and marriage at the aunt’s wedding, and his words lived on for the next generation. Ask your grandparents if they have love letters they have written to each other to be read at your ceremony.

What to do if Dad Has Died

Many brides are escorted by their mom or a male family member. Asking an uncle, brother, or cousin to step into this important role is such an honour, and a personal decision. Don’t be afraid to walk down the aisle alone with a photo of your dad if that is more authentic to you.

I also offer other services which include Elopements, Civil Unions, Commitment Ceremonies, Vow Renewals, Handfastings, Memorials, Graveside services, Celebrations of life, Funerals (Religious and Non-religious).

Couples in Toronto, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, Bowmanville, Newcastle, Port Hope, Cobourg, Grafton, Brighton, Belleville, Trenton, Kingston, Uxbridge, Port Perry, Lindsay, Peterborough, Millbrook, Bailieboro, Durham Region, Northumberland County, and the Kawartha Region can count on their ceremony being beautiful and memorable with me as your professional officiant.

You might also like:

Why a funeral is so important
Questions I wish couples would ask me!
Why you should hire a professional Officiant

11 thoughts on “Honouring your loved ones in their absence”

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