So this is a tricky subject to blog about – something that is a little close to home for me but sadly something that comes up in conversation only too often with couples who’re planning their weddings…..
It’s a heart breaking topic to tackle – often too painful to even discuss – how to honour a passed love one at your wedding.
Ten years ago, when Mr TW and I got Hitched – we sadly had to do so without lots of friends and family – most of whom were not present because of the distance. But in just over two weeks time – we walk down the aisle together again to renew our vows and this time we do so without some of the most important people we ever knew.
For me, in particular – while there are several key people from my life, who no matter what and despite wishes and prayers, could never be there – there is one person in particular that whenever I think about how much I wish they could be there, my heart hurts, I struggle to breathe and I feel like celebrating anything without them is just not even okay.
Despite health struggles, my dad traveled 12500 miles, with my mum, to be by my side on our special day. He passed, suddenly and devastatingly, just over 4 years ago and on almost every special occasion, every birthday and every anniversary I feel sadness at his absence and sometimes it’s enough to make me not want to celebrate.
But that’s not living – people should celebrate the monumental moments in their life with joy and create precious memories and while it’s important to always remember the one’s we love who can no longer be with us – it’s important to do so in a way that doesn’t cause further sadness.
Hence the reason for this particular blog. I’ve given this particular topic a lot of consideration recently – how best to honour our dear departed at our special occasion. Seeing as it’s something that most of us find it genuinely difficult to talk about – I thought sharing my thoughts and ideas might help other couples feeling the same way I do.
But before I do – know that it’s perfectly normal to have fears and doubts about tackling a special occasion without a cherished loved one there. When we picture the special moments in our life – we imagine being surrounded by our parents, our grandparents, our closest friends. There are so many moments – picking out your wedding dress, walking up the aisle, the father-daughter dance – so many rights of passage and so many moments that can be filled with pain if the person you want the most can’t be there. Never be afraid to lean on the ones around you at these difficult moments, never be embarrassed when you shed tears and never feel pressured to honour any of the traditions that are just too painful for you. This is your special day and you do it your way.
Here are just a few of the options I’ve considered:-
A Toast to Absent Friends – this is perhaps the most common way to approach this subject and is an honour traditionally bestowed upon the Best Man. For some this is the easiest way to honour their loved ones however it can bring down the mood of the room, for many mentioning a loss out loud, even in a general way and especially when a loss is recent, can be painful and difficult to deal with in a public way. If your loss is recent this might be a difficult way to go.
Lighting/Burning a Candle – another popular option and one that can be done more subtly and without causing too much pain. A simple candle burning in a glass hurricane jar accompanied by a modest framed sentiment can be enough to acknowledge a loved ones absence.
Carry a Memento – this could be all manner of options – a locket or charm with a photo on your bouquet, wearing a piece of their jewellery, carrying their handkerchief or stitching fabric from their clothing into your gown or blazer. Carrying a piece of your loved one with you on your big day keeps them close to your heart and can give you strength.
Playing their favourite song – while for some this can be the perfect way to honour a loved one – it’s one that I personally would avoid like the plague. Music carries so much emotion and memories for me and even 4+ years after his passing, I still can’t listen to my dad’s favourite songs and trying to do so on our special day would ruin me. But – if hearing your loved ones favourite song brings you joy and makes you want to dance – this could be the perfect option.
An Empty Chair – leaving a seat at your ceremony or reception empty, with a place setting that is either left blank or quotes a sentiment or simply says “for absent loved ones” is a subtle and dignified way to honour those who can’t be with you.
A Prayer or Moment of Silence – this can be particularly appropriate if the passing is recent. You can ask your celebrant or officiant to make note of your loved ones passing at an appropriate time during your ceremony – leading you and your guests in prayer or simply taking a few moments of silence so that your friends and family may have the time to catch their breath and think of your loved one.
Visit them – some couples may choose to visit the grave of their loved one after their ceremony – some Brides could choose to leave their bouquet or to have their officiant accompany them to lead them, and their families, in prayer.
Honour them with your Registry – many couples nowadays forgo traditional gift registries in favour of a wishing well or contributions towards a honeymoon. A beautiful gesture could be to ask your guests to donate to a selected charity in honour of your loved ones passing.
However you choose to honour your lost loved ones on your special day – it’s important to do so in a way that you are comfortable with. Remember this is going to be the happiest day of your life and while their absence will no doubt be a continual reminder of your loss – the greatest way you can honour a loved ones passing is by not taking any day for granted, by making memories with your loved ones and by cherishing the moments you have with them.
And to those of you who are struggling with a loss or feeling sadness at planning your perfect day without a cherished soul – I wish you love and peace.
Mrs TW x