I am wedding planner, so I love making friends with my brides.  I always say that my brides teach me how to be a better planner and person.  Sometimes I get brides who are dealing with how to incorporate those family members who have passed on.  The concern is always to do it in a meaningful way without bringing the day down, but almost to celebrate their life and the joy that person would feel for their choice to be united with the life partner.

Here are my suggestions on how to honor those members of your family in a quiet, beautiful and meaningful way.

1. Candle with a picture – this can be placed near the ceremony space in an area close to the sign in table.  It is quiet, but always meaningful for all who see it.

2. Placing Flowers on an empty seat – This is especially meaningful if a parent couldn’t be there. You could actually coordinate with your wedding officiant to place the flowers during the ceremony.

3. Moment of Silence – You can do this at the ceremony toward the beginning or at the reception right after you have walked in; before the blessing or Groom’s welcome speech. (Photo Credit – Matt McElligott Photography)

The Coordinated Bride Matt McElligott Photography

Now here is where I will get personal.  I lost my mom over two years ago to COPD and never thought that this loss would help me to understand my clients’ suffering with this same situation.  It is delicate if you don’t know or haven’t felt the loss of a parent.  It is unique, because you want to honor them justly and still want your wedding to be joyous.  So here are some options, when those mandatory traditions start causing unwanted stress.

4. Mother/Son Dance – I had a bride recently who lost both of her parents, but she had just given birth to her son.  Instead of doing a Father/Daughter Dance, she had her first Mother/Son Dance with her adorable baby boy. 🙂 (Photo Credit: Laura Miller Photography)

The Coordinated Bride Laura Miller Photography

5. Father/Daughter Dance – You can always ask for a proxy on this one, so an uncle or grandfather. There is always the option of just skipping it.  Nobody will notice and those who do notice will understand why it isn’t there.

6. Brother/Sister Toast versus Father of the Bride Toast – Let your siblings speak at your wedding! They might roast you a little bit, but somewhere in there they will give wisdom and well wishes that would have definitely been what your Father would have wanted to say.

7. Uncle or closer friend giving you away versus your dad – I always encourage brides to let a family friend or uncle give them away. I recently had a couple break with tradition completely and walk down the aisle together.  Trust me!  This was out of my comfort zone as well, but it ended up teaching me a lot about their view point.  They viewed their lives as together, so the bride wanted to walk with her groom down the aisle.

This picture is my bride with a family friend (Photo Credit – Laura Miller Photography)The Coordinated Bride Laura Miller Photography 2

And here is a picture of my couple that broke with tradition completely to walk together towards the altar.  (Photo Credit: Cassie Madden Photography)

The Coordinated Bride Cassie Madden Photography

Just remember traditions are there to remind us to stop and pause to remember the importance of the day.  They should never cause you stress or make you forget the most important part of your wedding day – You are getting married to your love and that should be celebrated and honored with unbelievable joy; regardless of who may be able to be there in the flesh and who may be there in your hearts.

Also, remember traditions happened, because someone saw it at a wedding and started doing it. 😉  As a bride, you need to always think “I may be braving a new path for someone else who is struggling with this same situation.”

And to all of those brides and grooms struggling with this, I understand your struggle.  Below is a picture of my mom at my wedding and that is an oxygen strapped to her back.  She walked down the aisle and entered our reception, then sat the rest of time as she was too ill to dance.  This moment was right after we finished the ceremony and she had just cracked the funniest joke ever!  (Photo Credit – Joseph Mark Photography).

The Coordinated Bride josephmark

The walk without them does get easier, but there will always be something that will knock you down.  Just remember to shed the tears and get back up again, because that is what they would have wanted for you. Be brave and bold with all of your decisions so that guests feel your joy.  I mean that is why we all go to weddings, right?  Feel the joy! 🙂 Okay, and the free cake! 🙂

-Kristine Baker, Trained Wedding Planner & Owner of Urban Magnolia Weddings and Events for The Coordinated Bride