Weddings are a time of happiness, joy and dreams come true.


However, what if a beloved family member has passed away? Their absence on the special day can be saddening.

How can you honor your loved ones who have passed away?

Pastor Teresa Whetsel serves the Arlington United Methodist Church and the Lake Preston United Church of Christ/United Methodist Church; she has seen a variety of memorial options.

Whetsel said, “I recommend that couples find something that is meaningful to them. There is no right or wrong answer to how they should honor someone.”

Whetsel suggested these ideas for the ceremony:

  • Candles: If the couple wants to honor a parent or grandparent, the lighting of the candle can take place during the traditional sitting of the family members.
  • Roses: Giving a rose to family members can also be a time to remember someone who has passed. The rose can be placed on the altar or near their photograph.
  • Symbolic Seating of the Parent/Grandparent: This can be a solemn, moving moment. Lay a flower in the pew or seat designated for them.
  • Include a memento in the bridal bouquet; for example, grandma’s lace hankie, locket, photo charm or mom’s wedding ring.
  • Personal favorites: Remember the family member by including a special song, poem, bible verse or favorite flower. Anything that symbolized the beloved family member.

Pastor Whetsel concluded, “Truthfully, every couple, and every situation is different – so they should make their ceremony personal.”


In addition to Pastor Whetsel’s ideas for honoring family members during the wedding ceremony, couples can also utilize decorations or other aspects of the reception:

  • A table of cherished framed photos
  • A family recipe on the reception menu
  • Play one of their favorite songs during the reception
  • Toast to the family member at the reception
  • Include their favorite flowers in the décor.
  • Place a vase of their favorite flowers at the ceremony; include a note in the program. Traditionally, gladiolus, rosemary and pansies are flowers that signify remembrance.

Another specific situation that may occur is that the father-of-the-bride has passed away. Who should walk the bride down the isle in this situation?

Whatever seems like a natural and loving fit for the bride works!

If she would prefer to walk alone, that is an option. Or, a brother, uncle, or even mother can walk the bride down the aisle. If the bride has two brothers, they could both escort her.

When honoring the life of a family member on the wedding day, there are no finite rules. Taking time to personalize and honor the family members in the ceremony and at the reception can be meaningful, moving and peaceful.

Look at our other blog on advice for “In Loving Memory” wording for your wedding programs.

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