Your wedding is a beautiful and happy day, but if important family members have passed before they could share it with you, it could put a damper on your day. Luckily, there are many ways in which you can respectfully remember your deceased loved ones and have their memory warm your heart rather than make you feel sad. We’ve put together some ideas of how you can commemorate your loved ones on your big day.

Your wedding attire

The saying goes, Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe. Though we don’t really adhere to this custom in South Africa, and it refers to the bride specifically, it does show how what you wear can have symbolic meaning.

If you want the remembrance of a family member to remain a private affair between yourself, your partner, and possibly your direct family, you could, for example, wear your grandmother’s pearl earrings, or your grandfather’s favourite tie. It is a beautifully subtle and private way to pay homage to the people that helped shape you but cannot be there.

Your decorations

You can have a remembrance table with the photos of deceased loved ones that you wish could have been there as a focal point in your wedding decorations. It doesn’t have to be a table either. Some brides would rather have a large frame with ribbons running from top to bottom and then pin the photos on the ribbons. It is a beautiful feature and whether you have a table or large frame, it allows all the guests that knew them to take a moment and pay their respects.

You could also add their favourite flower to your flower arrangements or have a very small, framed photo hanging from the bouquet or boutonniere.

During the ceremony

Wedding ceremonies tend to have a traditional seating pattern with the direct family members sitting right up front. It can be a beautiful gesture to reserve a seat for your deceased family members by placing a flower with a black ribbon and/or their picture on the chair they would typically have sat on.

You can also have a special moment of lighting a candle in remembrance of those who are with you in spirit. Have your officiant explain why the candle is being lit and ask him to request a moment of silence.

During the reception

No wedding is complete without speeches. This could also be a great time to incorporate something about your loved ones. Ask a trusted family member to prepare a special speech, or for someone to incorporate it into theirs and make a toast to them.

A beautiful gesture I once saw was that the bride and groom did not open the dance floor on the first song. They had the MC announce that the next song was in memory of the bride’s parents, and they played the song her parents had danced to on their own wedding day years ago.

Your wedding day is special and unique. If you want to pay homage to your loved ones that can only be there in spirit, you have to do it in a way that you are comfortable with. If it is a private commemoration, that is beautiful, and if it is a commemoration that you request all your guests to participate in, it is a special moment too.