How to Commemorate Absent Loved Ones at Your Wedding
As an Adelaide based wedding photographer, I’ve been lucky enough to witness the magic of countless weddings across our stunning city and our country. Over the years, I’ve seen so many couples find beautiful ways to commemorate loved ones who couldn’t make it to their special day. Today, I’d love to share these heartwarming ideas with you!
Absent Loved Ones Memory Table
Ah, the memory table! What a timeless way to honour those we miss. Perhaps the most common way to commemorate absent loved ones is to put together a beautifully decorated table filled with framed photos, letters, and trinkets belonging to the couple’s loved ones. It was not just a spot for quiet reflection but becomes a gathering point where guests shared stories and reminisce.
Walking past it, the aroma of fresh lilies (Grandma’s favourite) from the Adelaide Central Market would whisk you away. Every element on the table told a story, making it a unique, personal tribute.
Wedding Program Tributes
Printing a touching tribute in the wedding program is a subtle, yet significant nod to loved ones. An Adelaide couple I photographed in Glenelg had heartfelt notes dedicated to family members alongside their pictures. Guests would read and remember as the ceremony went on.
Often, these tributes add depth to the ceremony, making everyone feel the presence of those dearly missed.
Nothing captures a memory like a photograph, right? Photographic memorials can be done in a range of different ways, perhaps a charm tied to a bouquet, or a wall adorned with printouts of a person’s life.
Even the groom can wear cufflinks with miniature images of his late father, or perhaps a lapel pin. Such gestures ensure that though absent, loved ones are right there in every frame.
Lighting a Candle
A common sight at weddings is a memorial candle, often lit during the ceremony with the celebrant mentioning what it’s for, the flickering flame stands as a beacon, reminding everyone of the spirit of those not with them.
Many believe that lighting a candle allows the spirit to shine bright amidst the celebrations, and it surely adds a soft glow to your wedding photos!
Jewellery has a way of becoming a part of us. I remember once at a wedding in the Adelaide Hills, the bride wore a locket with a tiny note from her late sister. Every time she touched it, you could feel the bond they shared.
Whether it’s a piece passed down or something new, memorial jewellery is like holding a piece of your loved one close, all day.
Using Heirlooms in the Ceremony
One of the most touching weddings in Adelaide I covered showcased a bride wearing her grandmother’s veil. She told tales of her grandma getting it stitched from a boutique in Rundle Mall decades ago.
Incorporating heirlooms can be a beautiful nod to family history and the legacy of love that precedes you.
Creating a Memory Garden
If your venue has the room, setting up a memory garden filled with potted plants that your lvoed one used to enjoy having aorund is a nice way to honour them. Each plant can symbolise a loved one, and perhaps adorn each with a photo. Guests could stroll, reminisce, or simply sit and reflect amidst nature.
This living tribute not only honours loved ones but also thrives and grows as a testament to enduring love.
Reserving a Seat
An empty chair can speak volumes. I remember guests tearing up at a beach wedding in Henley, where a single rose adorned an unoccupied chair with a framed photo, representing the groom’s late mother.
Such gestures, though simple, resonate deeply, ensuring those absent are given their special place.
Reserving a Seat at the reception
Beyond the traditional empty chair at the ceremony, an empty seat at the reception with the name of a late family member. Flanked by fresh flowers, is a poignant reminder of their presence.
Dedicating such spaces at a reception holds profound significance. It’s a tangible affirmation that, even in their absence, our loved ones still occupy a distinct and honoured place during our most precious moments. In the midst of the joy and festivities, these reserved spots serve as grounding points, offering moments of reflection and deep connection.
Video or Audio Tributes
One wedding that I fondly remember was the wedding of Michaela & Paddy in Mclaren Vale where the reception featured a video of well wishes from guests all around the world who could not make it. The reactions from Michaela seeing the faces of loved ones talking to her via video was a beautiful addition to the day. The room was filled with laughter and tears as his witty anecdotes and blessings filled the air.
Video or audio tributes can be a powerful way to feel their presence, even from afar.
Incorporating Their Favourite Flowers
What’s more intimate than using flowers that your loved one use to love? Every bouquet and centerpiece can be a fragrant reminder of absent loved ones. Taking it one step further, you may even like in infuse any stattionary with a perfume they used to wear?
Choosing flowers linked to memories or loved ones is a beautiful way to infuse personal touches into your decor.
Bouquet and Boutonniere Tributes
Now, speaking of flowers, I once photographed a groom in Norwood who had a dried petal from his grandmother’s garden enclosed in his boutonniere. It can take the idea of using a simple photo charm attached to a bouquet to another level. While not many people other than yourself might know the significance, it’s still lovely to know in your own mind that your absent loved ones are represented in some way.
Crafting a DIY Memorial Keepsake
DIY is what makes a wedding personal and unique to you as a person, or couple! One super-creative couple in Port Adelaide designed beautiful memory pins for all their guests, each pin carrying a miniature portrait of a loved one.
Crafting these keepsakes not only serves as a tribute but also involves family and friends in the process, making it even more special.
Including Them in Photo Sessions
Now, this one’s close to my photographer heart! I once suggested to a bride during their engagement shoot to pose with her late mum’s portrait. The emotional photos captured were poignant and touching.
The absent loved ones you’re including in your photoshoot don’t have to be ‘gone’ either, they may simply not be able to attend your wedding for some other reason! Invite them on a family shoot before your big day, the photos you take may be priceless in the future.
It’s also quite common to recieve the request to photoshop in someone who could not attend, then print off the scene to put on display at the reception.
It’s always a pleasure to help couples in Adelaide find innovative ways to make sure that those who are absent still make it to the photo album.
Floating Lantern Releases
Now unfortunately due to fire concerns, this one – while absolutely awesome in every way! – cannot be done – at least in Australia. However the effect can still be achieved with grounded lanterns or candles placed around a wedding venue. Each lantern can represent a departed loved one, creating a spectacle as their memories illuminate the evening.
Memory Quilts and Fabrics
There’s something so warm and comforting about quilts. Crafiting a memory quilt using fabrics from clothes of their late family members can be quite an undertaking, but can make an incredibly heartfelt gift to centerpiece to a reception, perhaps draped over a bench, inviting guests to feel its warmth.
These can serve as a patchwork of memories, each square narrating a different tale of love.
Cheers to the ones we miss! It’s always a touching addition to any speech where you offer a toast to an absent loved one’s memory. You may even go so far as serving their favourite wine for the toast, and tell stories about them as you drink to their memory
Tribute toasts are a great way to ensure everyone raises a glass in loving memory.
Creating a Memorial Book
At a vintage-themed wedding, there was this ornate memorial book, where guests could pen down their memories of the departed. Located by the entrance in Burnside, this book was brimming with stories and sketches by the end of the day. The book also doubled as the couple’s guest book so that whever they were to look through they would also be reminded of their absent loved one.
It’s a lasting keepsake, giving guests a chance to contribute their memories and sentiments.
Setting up a Digital Memory Wall
Marrying tradition with technology! Setting up a large TV as a digital wall where photos, videos, and messages related to their absent loved ones played on a loop can be a space-effective and interactive way to honour absent loved ones at your wedding.
A modern twist to remembering the old times – and as their photographer, capturing guests’ reactions to these memories was truly heartwarming.
Live Stream the Ceremony
With the ever-improving mobile coverage at many wedding venues, you have the fantastic option to live stream your wedding ceremony right from your smartphone. Most contemporary smartphones are equipped with impressive camera features. So, all you need to do is initiate a video call with the absent guest. Instead of pointing the camera at yourself, simply angle it towards the altar, allowing them to immerse themselves in the real-time events of your special day.
For those who are tech-savvy, consider leveraging platforms like Livestream. By connecting a camera to a computer with internet access, you can broadcast your wedding. The added advantage? many absent guests can join in and witness your joyous moments simultaneously.
This is something SvenStudios offers for free with any wedding we cover as a photographer or videographer.
Memory Balloon Release
This is another one of those lovely ideas that unfortunately should not be done at a wedding due to littering laws – however you can opt to perhaps fill multiple balloons with helium and release them at your reception hall, to be collected later?
Guests can release balloons with tiny notes attached, sending their wishes skywards for those not with them. The sight of colourful balloons ascending against the sky can be both joyous and emotional.
A simple, yet profound way to send love upwards.
Sewing Tokens into Wedding Attire
Sewing an absent loved one’s handkerchief, or piece of clothing sewn into a wedding dress is a common way to keep a loved one close all throughout a wedding day.
Such gestures are intimate, ensuring that even in the most significant moments, we carry a part of our loved ones with us.
Special Dances in Their Honour
Twirling to tunes that echo memories! I was in awe at a wedding in Prospect where a bride danced to her late father’s favourite song. The DJ played a special setlist commemorating absent loved ones.
The dance floor became a space of remembrance and celebration, making the music even more magical.
Set up an Audio Reminder
There’s an undeniable power in the human voice. It can evoke memories, feelings, and transport us back to specific moments in time. If the couple had a recording of an absent loved one’s voice perhaps they could set up a telephone that guests could literally pick up the phone and listen to their loved one’s voice.
This can also allow loved ones who are still alive, but not able to attend – be a part of the day by giving them a job to perhaps voice the introduction to an audio guest book, which is a nice way to augent a more traditional guest book with audio of your guests stating their well wishes.
During a wedding ceremony in the serene Adelaide Park Lands, a groom read aloud a letter to his late best mate. It was filled with shared jokes, promises, and dreams. There wasn’t a dry eye around.
Writing letters provides a voice to the heart’s yearnings, ensuring feelings are shared and acknowledged amidst the wedding joy.
Themed Accessory Stations
A really call bonbonerie idea I’ve come across is a ‘Memory Pin’ station. Guests could pick pins symbolising departed loved ones—like a guitar for a music-loving uncle or a rose for a gardening grandma. It can also be an idea if you’re planning on hosting a photobooth during your reception.
Such stations add a fun, interactive element, allowing guests to wear their memories and spark conversations.
In lieu of gifts, a socially-conscious couple may encourage donations to a charity close to a late relative’s heart, or even perhaps related to cancer if they passed due to cancer (for example). The reception area can showcase a tribute corner with donation details, photos, and stories.
It was a heartening way to transform loss into hope, making a difference in the Adelaide community in the name of their loved one.
Be sure to include a credit card reader too to maximise donations!
Another fun way to do this is have the groomsmen add a secret word into the groom’s speech, or anyone’s speech really, and take ‘bets’ from guests on if they say it or not. Can be a fun way to raise a lot of money 🙂
I hope these ideas inspire all lovebirds to craft a wedding day that is as sentimental as it is celebratory while commemorating absent loved ones. Remember, it’s all about weaving love, memories, and connections into your special day. Cheers to love and the memories we cherish!