It is rare to photograph a wedding and not see a memorial during the day. Many families have been touched by loss on some level. On special occasions families want to remember their loved ones who aren’t there to share in the celebration.
My heart is wrecked for brides who walk down the aisle without their daddy or grooms who don’t have their grandpa to congratulate them with a hand shake. Through facing my own wedding without my father and capturing over 150 weddings, here is what I’m learning.
Recognizing loss is not just for you. It is for your family too. They all have lost. What if it’s not your side of the family? You may not understand who Papa John was, but your in-laws sure do.
2. Hold On
Whether it’s an heirloom handkerchief or a locket with a picture inside. Tangible items you can grasp are heartfelt ways to show/remember. Sentimental items are also great to photograph.
3. It’s ok to cry
You know the moment is coming. Set aside time that week or that morning to journal or write the loved one a letter. This allows the emotions that may be wrapped up inside to come out before you become cautious about your airbrushed make up. Again, it’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel on your wedding day. Each moment and emotion is important.
What did I do?
I pinned a locket on my bouquet with dad’s picture in it. A few years later, I shared the locket with my sister on her wedding day. We mentioned loved ones in our wedding program and lit a candle during the ceremony. For the reception, we loved putting together legacy photos for everyone to enjoy a blast from the past.
I decided after Dad passed in 2007, long before Jeff and I were dating, that my mother would walk me down the aisle. My dear friend and mentor, Jana Candler did a phenomenal job capturing the span of emotions. These two images were taken within 25 seconds of each other before we walked down the aisle. The flood of those emotions comes back to me every time I see these in my album.
My couples are so special to me! Below are images and stories of how they honored their loved ones.
(Above and below images) Chelsea had a number of sweet ways to cherish her father on her wedding day. She had his picture pinned to her bouquet. She reserved a seat with their picture on it during the ceremony. As her and her brother reached the end of the aisle, Chelsea laid a single red rose on her daddy’s chair then joined John to become husband and wife.
Chelsea’s mother gave her a special gift on her wedding day. This sapphire ring was the first piece of jewelry her dad gave her mom. Chelsea made this available for me to incorporate it into her detail pictures. In her note to John, she mentioned how her dad would approve of her choice of husband. Below, you’ll see a tiny tattoo of her Dad’s initials.
(Above left) Stephen’s wanted to remember his mother during the reception, so after Lauren’s Father-Daughter Dance, the DJ invited Stephen to have a dance with his family members. Is was a very heartfelt moment his family needed with each other.
(Above right) Kelley chose to honor her mother by having a vibrant, yellow rose placed in the back of her bouquet. She also pinned heirloom broaches, a locket, and handkerchief on her bouquet.
(Above left) Davis and Chandler lost Davis’s dad suddenly only months before their July wedding. Their families are dedicated Clemson fans. Chandler got Davis’s dad’s initials monogrammed on an Official Tiger Rag and gifted it to Davis after their First Look, before their ceremony. Davis’s dad was set to be the Best Man, so they left his space open on stage during the ceremony. They also had childhood and legacy pictures places around the reception.
(Above right) Lauren remembered her mother by wearing her sapphire bracelet. Something old, blue and very sentimental. Lauren’s twin sister helped her zip up her wedding dress.
Katie carried her grandmother’s Bible and wore an heirloom ring in memory. She had these details set out for me to photograph to document the special notes and items.
This legacy display was set up in Tiffany and Travis’s cocktail hour, so all guests could remember loved ones.
More heirlooms! From heirloom rings, to handkerchiefs, to earrings! All of these touches make a wedding so unique.
What do you do about signature moments of the wedding?
Father-daughter dance? Mother-son? Here’s my take. Don’t let someone else miss out on their moment. I wanted to zip right through those signature moments because I did not have a father to dance with at my reception. I thought I was being strategic in scheduling a mother-son dance for Nita and Jeff later in the night. Jeff picked out the song, but things ran late and the reception continued. Their moment never happened. As a mom, I would have been REALLY SAD not to have danced with the child who I loved and raised for 20+ years. It still bothers me (6+ years later) that she didn’t get her moment with her baby. Side note: A day of coordinator could have helped make this happen.
If there is no Mother of the bride? Who zips up your dress? A sister, Maid of Honor or special aunt/grandmother, or all bridesmaids at once! Let them know ahead of time about this honor.
One last tip, my favorite.
Tell your photographer about these memorials, they want to photograph it. Help them help you remember. Tell your coordinator about a special dance. Let your pastor know to acknowledge your godly parent in his wedding script. Do not assume things will happen, think ahead and communicate.
We compiled a Pinterest board to show these memorials, wording solutions and ideas from other sources. Please feel free to browse the options and repin to your own wedding boards.