Heartfelt ways to remember lost loved ones at your wedding

Laying flowers at a grave on a wedding day

Weddings are a marketing mecca for words like ‘happy’, ‘perfect’ and ‘celebration’. 

Well, durrr. Ain’t no-one interested in fear-based articles promising a day of doom and gloom. (Tabloids and Broadsheets excepted.)

But still, perfection is an unrealistic ideal. It’s rare for a wedding to be 100% fairytale. And there are lots of reasons why it might not be.

One of those reasons? Bereavement. 

Fixing photo of bride's mum to wedding bouquet

Yep, that awkward topic. Yet to me, it isn’t awkward at all. And since you’re here, I suspect you’re on the left-hand side of the 0-10 ‘how awkward is talking about death’ scale too. )

And I’m also guessing someone special won’t be there on your wedding day. Whether it be a parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or pet… my heart goes out to you. I’ve been there myself and I see it at wedding after wedding. 

When you’re celebrating, catching up and making memories with your fam, and someone’s missing? It’s a big hole. 

Your day will be jam-packed with joy, of course it will. But sadness will be there too. And that’s okay. There’s room for all your emotions.

So it’s natural to want to show your love for them and include them in your day somehow. To honour them and have them with you in some way. (In case you were wondering, it’s also normal not to.)

But figuring out how to include them can be tricky. After all, some hearts will be strong and others fragile. 

My best piece of advice, as always, is do what feels right for you

Mentioning lost loved ones in a wedding speech

And to help you decide, here are some ideas I’ve seen on my travels as a wedding photographer, from subtle sharing to public tributes.

Carry them close 

Attach mini photos to your bouquet/jacket

Keep them near with a locket. Katie put bluebell petals from her Grandparents’ garden in her locket

Melt their wedding ring and make a new one

Wrap one of their ties or scarves around the stems of your bouquet

Looking for something old? Seek out cufflinks, a signet ring, pearls… 

Include their favourite flower in your bouquet/buttonhole

Did you keep the last birthday card they sent you? Have your name, in their writing, cast into a necklace. Some lovely sources on Etsy. 

Wear socks or shoes in their favourite colour

Have a keepsake with you. Roberta attached the black cat her Grandad carried with him during the war to her bouquet

Ways to include lost loved ones in weddings

Involve them in your ceremony

Use their favourite book as your ring cushion

Support others. If you’re missing someone, chances are someone else will be too. Maybe it’s your Gran’s first wedding without your Grandad by her side. Make it easier for them by arranging for someone to escort them to their seat.

Mention them in your order of service. Attach a tag with a dedication or include photos of those you miss on the inside cover. 

Reserve a chair in their memory, perhaps with a buttonhole/corsage on it.

Light a candle, before or during the ceremony.

Include a reading, poem or piece of music they loved. 

Are they buried at your church? Lay some flowers before or after the ceremony.

Hang their photos as pew ends or display in frames on a table.

Ways to include lost loved ones in wedding ceremonies

Save it for later

Talk about them in the speeches. (Think carefully before doing this as it can trigger tears  – and publicly.)

Propose a toast to them.

Hang their photos in a tree with handwritten notes that bring your relationship and their character to life … Would have loved to enjoy a pint with you, Dad, Wish we could play a game of fetch, Buster…

Did they love to dance? Decorate the dancefloor with bunting made from their dresses or shirts 

Eat their fave food or snack. Anyone know the After Eight game?

Create a cocktail in their honour for post-dinner drinks

Share their signature recipe

Give a packet of your Nan’s favourite flower seeds and a cigar from Pops as favours

Instead of favours, make a charity donation

Dance their favourite action song

Incorporate a symbol that’s synonymous with them in your stationery

Family recipe wedding favours