My mom passed away in 2004. It always occurred to me that my wedding would be an emotional time when I would want to honor her memory, but I didn’t think about the logistics until I was planning my own wedding for September 2019. There are so many options for remembering deceased loved ones and as a wedding editor, I see them all the time—but all those options can be overwhelming, too.

What actually makes you think of them?

I’m not a visiting-the-grave type of mourner. When I honor my mom, I do it in the ways that she’d want me to in life: I make leaf piles and jump in them. I spend time with cats. I drink a lot of caffeinated beverages. I make silly jokes. I dance. Every year when I celebrated her birthday and Mother’s Day, I do so in ways that actually remind me of who she was.

The first step in figuring out how to honor your loved one should be—how would they want to be remembered? What ways can I keep them close to me on this day that feel authentic and genuine? You don’t need to get caught up in what you think you “should” do because you’ve seen it at other weddings or online. Do what actually feels right. That’s why I take a whiskey shot every year on my mom’s birthday; she loved drinking whiskey (Southern Comfort was her favorite).

What feels appropriate for your day?

Once you’ve thought through how you might want to remember that person, it’s important to consider that this is your wedding day (and your partner’s). If you want there to be somber, memorial aspects of the day, build those in. If you’d rather keep your loved ones’ memories light and fun, you can do that too. It’s your day! Your loved ones would want you to enjoy it the way you want to.

My mom was a big proponent of living and not a very traditional person. In her honor—and also because it’s my favorite color too—I’m wearing a purple wedding dress instead of white. I’m also affixing a photo of her and her favorite saying to my bouquet and reserving a seat for her at the ceremony. She’ll be included in the photos of our slideshow that will play on the walls at our venue. But I’m not going to make her memory somber and it’s not centered around wedding traditions. If she were here, she’d be totally fine with the fact that I’m marrying a woman, not wearing white and seeing my future wife before the ceremony. She and my dad didn’t have a formal wedding and instead had an intimate ceremony in casual clothing, so I’m not going to make a big deal about traditions that she would never ask me to follow anyway.

Here are a few suggestions that might get you started if you’re thinking about how to honor your loved ones:

  • Reserve a seat for them at your ceremony or reception or both
  • Create a memorial table at your wedding for loved ones who have passed on, where you can share photos of them and other memories
  • Attach a photo of them to your bouquet or boutonnière if you have one, or on cuff links or in a locket
  • Wear their wedding dress or suit (or even just a small piece of it)
  • Honor them in your vows or during a speech at the reception
  • Include an in memoriam section on wedding programs or other stationery and decor
  • Give a toast to them
  • Make a donation in their name
  • Have a reading during the ceremony that reminds you of them
  • Include one of their favorites at your wedding: Recipe, foods, drinks, flowers, etc.
  • Wear their wedding band or engagement ring if they had one
  • Use an item of theirs on the wedding day, even if you aren’t following the “old, new, borrowed, blue” tradition
  • Light a candle
  • Play their favorite music
  • Incorporate their cultural, religious or spiritual wishes into your day