In my experience, almost every couple wants to honor a lost loved one at their wedding. Finding the best way to honor lost loved ones is, therefore, a very personal and important part of the celebration. Lost loved ones have been particularly foremost in my mind lately because a lot of the brides I have recently worked with have lost their father or significant family members within weeks or months of the wedding ceremony. It’s a strange and tragic coincidence that for some reason seems to be very common at the moment.
A lot of our couples like to light a yellow glass hurricane lantern that we call the “legacy lantern” during the ceremony. Quite often, the officiant will announce the names of those who are not able to be present at the start of the ceremony and the bride and groom will light the lantern to acknowledge those persons.
People have also given readings during the ceremony that pertain to the special person. Once, the bride’s mother read one of her deceased husband’s letters sharing his excitement over the birth of his daughter, and it was the daughter who all grown up was getting married that day. People also like to read a poem or a piece of prose, or some portion of scripture that acknowledges those that aren’t able to be there in person.
There are other ways, besides during the central ceremony, to honor lost loved ones on your wedding day. Sometimes at French’s Point, we help couples create a display of nicely framed photos of the lost loved ones for a table at the reception or in the lobby of the guest house. We usually move the legacy lantern to the display after the ceremony and keep the light beside the photos. We’ve also helped couples organize a slideshow that can flash in the background of a common area and includes not only images of the couple but also of the people who aren’t able to be there.
If the bride and groom prefer, a lost loved one can be acknowledged during a blessing at dinner. Finally, we’ve had parents or significant others of lost loved ones give a gift or special token during a private moment before the ceremony or at the reception. An exchange like this, which remains one of my most vivid memories of any of the ceremonies I’ve worked on, was when, just before the march down the aisle, a mother of the bride gave her daughter a monogrammed handkerchief that the bride’s father had carried. The mother had kept the handkerchief a secret from the daughter so that the gift was new and special on her wedding day.