At their core, weddings are about family. Two families becoming one, two individuals creating a new family – they’re a celebration of where you came from and where you’re going. As wonderful as it is to be surrounded by family on your wedding day, it can turn bittersweet when it comes to remembering a lost loved one in the midst of so much happiness. I’ve written about balancing that grief and joy before but today I want to focus on ways to honor that memory.
A few years ago I had the honor of working with a wonderful couple on their wedding – as happy as Liz and Doug were for their big day, they were still reeling from the loss of the bride’s father several months earlier. His health had deteriorated while they planned their wedding, and it became clear to everyone that he wouldn’t make it to their wedding date. Instead of waiting and hoping for the best, they decided that the most important thing was for Liz’s father to walk her down the aisle. They put plans for their elaborate wedding on hold and planned a last-minute backyard ceremony with their closest family and friends – Liz walked down the aisle on her father’s arm and they were able to celebrate their marriage with one of the most important people in their lives before he slipped away. Hearing them tell the story of their wedding day made me tear up, since Liz and I had both recently lost our fathers. We worked on planning their big wedding day to honor the day they shared with her father and the guests who had not been able to join them on such short notice. I wanted to share some of the details we worked on to celebrate a lost loved one.
Heirloom Wedding Locket | Michael & Carina Photography via Project Wedding
Wedding day jewelry means so much more when it has family history and significance – instead of just picking out a pretty piece, find an heirloom that holds sentimental value to keep that part of your family close to your heart on your wedding. If there aren’t any family pieces that you’d like to wear, there’s nothing wrong with finding a new, meaningful piece of jewelry on your wedding day.
My dad and I spent months of Saturdays visiting antique shops, searching for the perfect vintage locket for my mother’s birthday. His health wasn’t getting better, and he told me that he wanted to find something special for her to remember him by. I told him there wasn’t a single gift in the world that could do that better than all of their years together, but we decided that a locket with pictures of the two of them was the perfect memento for her birthday. After many Saturday outings we found the perfect one – a rose gold locket inscribed with two intertwined hearts. On my birthday, a few months later, he surprised me with another antique find – a beautiful gold locket of my own.
Fabric from a Loved One’s Clothes for your Wedding Dress | Sequins and Candy Photography via Style Me PrettyBouquet Memory Charm by Whisper Jewels | Maru Photography via Hey Wedding Lady
Locket Bouquet Charm | Max Wanger Photography via 100 Layer Cake
Family Photo Display at the Ceremony | Jen Huang Photography via Ruffled
When we sat down to plan their long-awaited wedding day in earnest, Liz and Doug wanted to find a way to share the memories of their intimate ceremony, but didn’t want guests to feel left out of that day. They had a beautiful photo book from the ceremony, filled with photos of the happy couple with their full family, including Liz’s dad. I appreciated how much they thought about their guests’ feelings but assured them that everyone who attended loved them and would only be happy that they were able to share that moment with someone they loved so much. There weren’t many dry eyes after guests viewed the book, placed on a separate table in the foyer from their sign in, along with a memory candle.
Liz and her mother shared more than a few tears that day, but the memory candle was by far the most sentimental moment. We arranged for them to have the entire foyer to themselves before the guests arrived, so they could share some time together and light the candle. Candles have become such a wonderfully symbolic tradition for weddings – lighting the flame of the unity candle brings families together, and a memory candle symbolizes the warmth of that person’s love living on. We found ways to incorporate bittersweet memories into their day of joy in a way that honored her father and the times they shared, rather than putting his loss front and center on a day that was about so much happiness and promise for the future.
A Saved Seat for a Lost Loved One at the Ceremony | Jacquelyn Poussot Photography via Wedding ChicksMemorial Lantern at Your Ceremony | Closer to Love Photography via Wedding ChicksMemory Candle for the Ceremony | Justin DeMutiis Photography via Style Me PrettyFamily Photos on Display | Kat Braman Photography via Green Wedding ShoesLiz and Doug’s Cake Table with Family Wedding Photos | Tyler Vu Photography via his blog
Sharing Family Recipes for your Wedding Desserts | Sarah Q Photography via Style Me Pretty
One of my favorite ways to share family memories is definitely through food! There’s something incredibly celebratory about sharing a favorite recipe, so what better way to commemorate a loved one than by sharing their favorite dessert. In that case, my dessert table would be full of flan, chocolate mousse, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies – all treats my dad loved. His favorite Australian red licorice – shaped like little Scotty dogs! – would make for a sweet and memorable favor. If you’re honoring someone who loved to cook or bake, send guests home with recipe cards to share their legacy!
Family Recipes for a Personal Reception | We Heart Photography via Style Me Pretty