The Woodland Events Blog

  • Todd Harper

How to Honor Lost Loved Ones on Your Wedding Day

Today's blog is a guest post by Alyssa Lavelle, Woodland Events Intern and owner of Weddings by Alyssa.


So many fathers dream of walking their daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. Every grandparent wants to see their grandchildren get married. Having your loved ones at your wedding is the most important (and typically the most cherished) part of a wedding day! Sadly, unexpected tragedies happen and don’t always allow for your loved ones to be around for your special day. So what do you do when your father is no longer there to walk you down the aisle? What if your favorite grandparent passed just months before your wedding? What if your mother passed years ago and will never be there to help you shop for your dress or get ready in the morning? Or if your best friend who was supposed to be your best man passes away just days before the wedding?

My mother wasn’t there for my wedding, and I always thought she would be. When it came time to plan the wedding, I wanted to be sure I found a way to honor her memory in my ceremony and reception, without bringing down the mood of such a happy celebration.

If you're trying to find ways to keep your loved ones’ memories alive at your wedding, I've got some ideas for you to use as a starting place. Of course, your loved ones' memory is deeply personal, so absolutely feel free to customize these ideas to fit your unique relationship.

Memory Board

memory board at wedding with photos of departed loved ones attached with clothespins

A memory board is a simple, elegant, and great way to remember those who couldn’t be there for your special day. Simply get a chalkboard, or even have a board specially made, and list all the people you wish could be there for your wedding. Most people will have the list on a board, with a small sign next to it with something along the lines of, “Please say a prayer for those who couldn’t be here.” It’s a great way to make sure they’re remembered on your big day!


If your grandparents aren't around anymore, but you still want to feel close to them on your wedding day, find something small of theirs, such as a handkerchief or bracelet, and wrap it around your bouquet or place it in a pocket. They’ll be with you the entire day! (Woodland Events' owner Todd kept his grandfather's handkerchief with him on his wedding day and used it for the one, two, or fifty times tears welled in his eyes throughout the day).


There are a few ways you can include your departed loved ones in your wedding with photos:

bridal bouquet with charms attached to honor lost loved ones

You can find a small charm or locket for a bracelet or necklace, put their picture in it, and attach it to your jewelry, your bouquet, or the centerpiece of your head table.

You can set up a memorial table with small photos of all your dearly departed. If any of them were married couples, you can include pictures from their wedding and perhaps even swatches of their actual wedding attire. If you’re only trying to honor a single person, like a departed parent or grandparent, print out an 8x10 picture, find a nice frame that fits with the theme of your wedding, and place a candle in front of it, perhaps in their favorite color.

Give Them a Chair

bride with mother's memorial pillow on designated wedding reception chair

We honored my mother in many ways on my wedding day, but the one thing we did that was the talk of the night was the pillow. She loved beaches, and her favorite color was purple. I went online for about an hour searching, and finally found a pillow that had seashells all over it, and it was all different shades of purple. That pillow was placed on the chair next to my dad during the ceremony, and on the chair in between my dad and I during the dinner. It really did make me feel like she was there with us that day.

Play Their Song

Did the person you lost have a song that they just loved? Or is there a song that reminds you of them (and won’t make you ugly cry when you hear it)? Maybe it's a party song that always got you both on the dance floor. Request that your DJ play it in honor of their memory. It’s a nice, subtle way to honor them towards the end of the night.

Have a Butterfly Release

butterfly near bridal bouquet shortly after butterfly release honoring lost friend

In modern funerals, butterflies have become a symbol for celebrating all the good things in a person's life. If you'd like to honor your loved one's memory in a big way, consider doing a butterfly release at your outdoor ceremony. A simple Google search will show dozens of companies that will send you live butterflies in envelopes. Have your ushers distribute the envelopes before the ceremony and choose a moment when the officiant will ask your guests to release their butterflies in memory of your lost loved one.

Everyone wishes that all their loved ones could be at their wedding, but this just isn't always possible. Don’t be sad though; you know they wouldn’t want their absence to put a damper on your big day! Get creative and find a way to honor them that’s just as special to you as you were to them.


Today's post focused primarily on creative ways to honor lost loved ones at your wedding. Stay tuned for a future post on how to move forward with planning your wedding in the face of tragedy.

You might also like:

What is Wedding Insurance and Why Does It Matter?

Using Wedding Technology On Your Big Day

How to Include Guests in Your Wedding

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