10 Ways to Honor a Loved One at your Wedding

I was lucky enough to still have my dad at our wedding festival here in late 2019 and working every wedding festival after that alongside us up until he was diagnosed in early 2022. I can only imagine how a loss like that would have effected our wedding experience (I lost him two years later). But we’ve seen so many weddings here with both brides and grooms finding their own ways to remember those they’ve lost – and to me it’s a privilege to host them and play a small part in however they choose to do it. 

If youre planning a wedding and have a loved one who has passed away, you may be looking for ways to honor them at your ceremony and reception. While it can be difficult to celebrate a special day without them, there are many ways to remember and celebrate their life. We’ve seen so many sentimental ways to do it, everything from the subtle to the very obvious. 

Here are the top ten ways to honor a loved one who has passed away at your wedding – but keep in mind, whatever way YOU want to incorporate them into your day is the best way:

1. Create a Memorial Table or Space Set up an area at your wedding with photos of your loved one and mementos that represent who they were. This can be a place for guests to pay their respects and offer their thoughts and prayers. At Elm Pass Woods, we love the option of using our tree with the porch swing as a subtle memorial, because it’s in the middle of all the festival activities. The twine on the trees can be used to hang their photos and the cut tree stumps are a unique way to display items that represent them. One groom placed a pack of his mother’s favorite cigarettes there during his wedding. 

2. Toast to Their Memory Honor your loved one during the toast portion of the ceremony or reception. Share a few memories and raise a glass in their honor. We had one bride whose brother had saved a bottle of whiskey their dad had given him on his wedding day, so during his toast he revealed what the bottle meant and poured a shot for his sister and her new husband. It was perfect.

3. Include a Photo or Memento Place a photo or other memento of your loved one at the alter or in the reception space. We’ve had a bride place her dad’s favorite leather jacket on the first bench right next to her mom’s seat during the ceremony. It was so subtle, but very meaningful. We’ve also seen a groom place a photo of his mom at an assigned seat at the family table – again, nothing big but still special to those who knew what it was for. 

4. Play a Special Song Dedicate a song to your loved one during the ceremony or reception. If you don’t want that type of attention for such an emotional moment – you can always ask the DJ to play a song and invite all couples out on the dance floor in their honor instead. For something even more subtle you can use one of their favorite songs as a ceremony entrance song, or exit song to celebrate!

5. Carry an accessory with their name and/or photo – Etsy has endless options to fit your taste. We’ve seen a bride bring shoe charms with her dad’s photos in them and we used plier to attach them to her shoes. She said she wanted a way for her dad “to still walk her down the aisle.” We’ve also seen similar charms used on bridal bouquets. 

6. Wear Something of theirs Represent Them Wear a piece of jewelry or clothing that belonged to them or that symbolizes them in some way. For those wearing a suit – they could also use a piece of fabric/scarf/handkerchief as a pocket square.  

7. Involve Their Favorite Hobby Include an activity or game that your loved one enjoyed during the reception. We’ve seen cigar stations in honor of father’s with their favorite types. 

8. Dedicate a Dance Dedicate a special dance to your loved one during the reception. We’ve seen a groom dance with his new mother-in-law in his mom’s honor. And brides dance with their grandfathers or another special relative.

9. Plant a Tree or Plant Plant a tree or flower in their honor. This can be done as part of the ceremony, with the couple both pouring dirt onto the tree and being able to take it home and plant it as a memory of the day. 

10. Make a Donation Make a donation to a charity or organization in your loved ones name. Honoring a loved one who has passed away at your wedding can be very meaningful, but it’s not everyone’s style. In that case, something like a donation in their name can still be a way to keep their memory alive for yourself without something during your wedding day that might be triggering. 

Whether you choose one of the above ideas or come up with your own creative way to remember them, it’s going to be special because you chose how to do it.