Wish You Were Here: Including Lost Loved Ones In Your Big Day

I still remember the moment it hit me: My grandfather won't be there for any more big moments in my life. It was a couple weeks after he passed away and my mom and I were back at church for the first time. Up to this point, I had been holding myself together pretty well. Although I was certainly heartbroken, I tried to focus on being grateful for the time I had with him. But when we were sitting in church waiting for the service to start, several people came over to offer their condolences. One lady looked at me and said “I know, it's so hard, isn't it? Especially when you think about what he won't be there for…like your wedding.” Well, I hadn't actually thought about those things until that comment, and that's when it really hit me. I cried on my mom’s shoulder through the entire church service. I was crying not just for the man I lost, one of the most important people in my life, but for all the moments I won't have. I won't dance with him at my wedding. He won't be there for my birthdays. He won't meet the person I fall in love with. He will never hold my children. I cried more that day thinking about these moments than I had since he died.

It's been five years since I lost my Pepere and there have been several moments in my life where I have thought “wow, I wish Pepere was here.”  I would have loved to share a drink with him on my 21st birthday. I wish I could have shown him my first apartment, or called him to tell him when I finally got promoted at work. I would give ANYTHING to be able to introduce him to the man I am going to marry (I know in my heart they would have loved each other). And yes, the big one. I wish I could dance with him at my wedding and see him hold my future children.

The reality is though, that he will not be there for those moments, so I have put a lot of thought into how I can honor him and have him there in spirit. My boyfriend never met him, but I have shared my memories. My children won't know their great-grandfather in person, but they will certainly know how amazing he was. And at my wedding, he will be there in spirit and I will incorporate his memory into that day in a meaningful way.

There are several ways you can honor loved ones at your wedding.

If you have a printed program, you can dedicate a page to family members who have passed away. You can include a meaningful poem, pictures of your loved ones, or even just a list of names.

Dedicate a table at the reception to framed photos of you and your loved ones

If there is someone who would have had a role in the ceremony or a front row seat, save space for them. An empty chair with a photo or article of clothing on it can honor a parent or grandparent. An empty space among the bridesmaids or groomsmen can honor someone who would have been a member of your wedding party.

Wear or incorporate clothing or jewelry that belonged to them or was given to you by them. This could be as visible as wearing your grandmother’s veil, or as simple as sewing a piece of your dad’s old shirt into the lining of your dress.

Incorporate photos or items into your bouquet. Tiny photos look great on bouquet handles, and jewelry or other items can easily be incorporated into a brooch bouquet. I have a pair of my grandfather’s cufflinks and can't wait to include them in my future bouquet.

Do you have a loved one who passed away and won't be at your wedding? How do you plan to include them in your special day?

-Charlotte Gill