Acknowledging the Death of a Parent at Your Wedding

You can do this within the ceremony or with small gestures

Detail of bride waiting
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When a parent or other close relative has passed away a short time before your wedding, you want to find a way to remember them in the ceremony without diminishing the joyous tone. Figuring out how to do that can be a challenge. Most of all, you want to honor your beloved relative who cannot be with you but is in your heart on your wedding day.

Small Ways to Remember

Any one of several nods to those whom you love who are deceased lets all your guests know just how much you miss them on your special day and how much they mean to you. Here are a few ideas:

  • Set up a special small table at the wedding reception with a flower arrangement and a card saying “In memory of those loved ones who are not with us today” or more specifically, “In memory of Martina Jensen, mother of the bride.” You could also put a picture of the bride or groom with the deceased person you are honoring.
  • At the wedding reception, display wedding pictures of family members or pictures of loved ones with the bride or groom. This is a more subtle way of including those who are missing on your day.
  • Wear a piece of jewelry or article of clothing that belonged to the person you want to acknowledge. For example, you could wear your mother’s wedding dress or earrings, your grandmother's pearl necklace, your father’s cufflinks or watch, or your grandfather’s ring.
  • You could carry the same flowers that your mother had in her bouquet.
  • At the end of the wedding program, it is appropriate to add a line in ​memoriam. For example, you might write, “Today we honor those who could not be with us, especially the bride’s stepmother, Alison Janet Brooks.” In the case of many missing grandparents that you want to acknowledge, you can list them all.

Acknowledgment in the Ceremony

If the person who is conducting the ceremony is someone who knew your beloved relative, it's appropriate for him or her to say something during the ceremony. This is particularly easy to include if the officiator is giving a homily or other sermon-like speech. He might say, "Today, we have come together to celebrate the love of these two people and the life they are building together. As many of you know, the groom's father recently passed away. And in times like these, it can be more important than ever to honor love and family. I know (the groom's father) was so happy to see (the groom) find the love he has with (the bride). Although it would be easy for his recent death to make this a sad occasion, (the groom's father) would want to see you all so happy today, celebrating and full of joy. So today, let's remember how precious life is and be thankful that (the bride and groom) are creating a new family together."

If there's no homily or sermon-like speech, a mention of a deceased father or mother could be mentioned at the time the bride is given away by answering the question of who gives her away by saying, for example: "Her mother, now gone, and I do," or "I am giving (the bride) away in the place of her loving father (bride's father's name), who is no longer with us." There are now many alternative wordings for giving the bride away, and any one of several of these suggestions might fit your particular situation.