Your wedding day is a special occasion on its own, but what makes it even more special are the loved ones who attend to celebrate love and unity with you and your significant other. For some brides and grooms, all of their nearest and dearest are able to attend the wedding. But for others, it means they’ll be saying their vows without a cherished loved sitting in the crowd or standing at the altar.

If you find yourself in this situation and want to honor a passed loved one at your wedding, consider including a memorial to show your respect and love for those who have gone before.

Bride sitting on a wooden bench and holding a photograph in a white wooden frame of a dog and a small girl holding an adult male's hand. behind the bride is a table with a plate of donuts and flowers on it and the table is covered in a white tablecloth. Photograph by Austin, Texas wedding photographer Nikk Nguyen.

Here are a few heartfelt ways to pay tribute to and include in your wedding those family and friends who have passed on.

Ways to Create a Wedding Memorial For a Loved One

When deciding what kind of memorial you would like to include on your wedding day, think about your relationship to the loved one, what kinds of things and activities he or she enjoyed, and whether you want the tribute to be public or private.

After you’ve answered these questions and brainstormed a bit, look through this list of ideas and either use as is, mix and match, or adapt to your particular situation.

  1. Adorn the bridal bouquet with a memento like a photo, brooch, necklace, handkerchief, etc. You could also wrap your bouquet with a loved one’s tie.
  2. Wear a piece of jewelry that was passed down from the honored loved one. This might be a ring, a locket, earrings, a tie clip, or cufflinks.
  3. Toast to their memory with their favorite drink or an inspired signature cocktail.
  4. If you’re lucky enough to own a pair of their champagne glasses (perhaps the ones they used at their own wedding), use them in your toast.
  5. Include an “In Loving Memory” section in your ceremony program.
  6. Place photos of those you wish to honor on your family wedding photo table.
  7. Light a candle during the ceremony or have one burning on the welcome table.
  8. Walk the aisle to your loved one’s favorite song.
  9. Read their favorite poem or passage during the ceremony.
  10. Place a flower or cherished memento on an empty chair to honor where they would have sat during the ceremony.
  11. At the end of the ceremony, release a dove, balloon, butterfly, etc. in their name.
  12. Sew a piece of your loved one’s wedding gown/tie/handkerchief/etc. into your own wedding dress.
  13. Give your loved one’s favorite recipe as a wedding favor.

Before you make a firm decision on the kind of memorial you’ll include, let your family/friends know your plans. Check in to make sure everyone is okay with the decision and so they’re not caught off guard. This is especially important if the loved one’s death was recent. Most likely, everyone will appreciate your tribute and look forward to honoring family and/or friends on your special day with you.

Related: How to Say No to Family and Friends' Wedding Services and How to Include Pets at Your Wedding Without Them Being There

Interested in more heartfelt ways to pay tribute to loved ones who have passed on? I'd love to connect with you and talk about it!

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