It's no secret that on a wedding day, a couple and their families could feel a million emotions at any given time. Happiness, excitement, nervousness, relief, joy. But after a couple weddings last year, there is one emotion that I kept seeing over and over again that kept shattering my heart into a million different pieces: Sadness that a loved one was not able to join the celebration.
I don't know what it was about this past season where we had lots of deceased parents being commemorated throughout the evenings. And each time, they had their own special way to pay their respects.
In the unfortunate event that this may be something that you are going through (and by the way, no matter how professional we are as wedding planners, we are human first - which means we feel your heartache), here are some heartfelt, bittersweet ways to include them in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
1. Leave them a seat
Of course, we all would like to believe that our parents, grandparents, siblings and other close family and friends live to see the day we get married. If that is not the case, a great way to include them is to leave them an empty seat at the ceremony, out of respect that they no longer are physically able to attend. Usually this is in the first row. Placing a flower next to a photo on the seat, or having the bride and groom place a flower during the ceremony, is touching and significant gesture.
When it comes time for the traditional father/daughter, mother/son dance, it may be a nice gesture to have the parent's sibling (so, an uncle or aunt) stand in and dance with the bride or groom instead. For one of the aforementioned weddings, it was the groom's mother's sister, his aunt, who ended up taking the stage with her nephew, in honour of her late sister. There was not one dry eye in the house.
And then there was this video, that circled the Internet some time ago. And shatters me every time.
3. Use their words
A little more low-key of a sentiment, but just as beautiful, is commemorating a loved one through their own words. If your loved one used to have a written journal, or perhaps used to recite the same poems or quotes, it would be nice to incorporate this into the bride and groom's final speech when thanking guests. And even if it isn't poignant or poetic - it might be a nice way to lighten the mood when obviously everyone is feeling a little piece of them is missing. In any case, reciting those same words and raising a glass will ensure they are respected and remembered.
4. Bring them along with you
Many couples find a little token to incorporate into their outfit or their flowers the day of the wedding. A trinket from grandma would be a nice added touch to the bouquet wrap, or a swatch from dad's business shirt could be sewn into the bride's dress near her heart. Or perhaps use their favourite pen to sign the marriage documents. It could be a way to personally pay homage to those lost, even though nobody else can see it or nobody else would know the significance.