Joy & Sorrow can Coexist // How to Honor loved ones on your Wedding Day

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

For my second blog post, I’ve decided to bum you out. You're welcome.

Okay, I’m kidding... However, for me, this piece was a vital part of my personal wedding planning experience. Many clients wrestle with how to creatively, & significantly honor loved ones on their wedding day. I hope that in sharing my personal experience, it will help someone who is missing their mother, father, sibling, or grandparent on this extraordinary day. My heart is with you.

I remember completing my photographer’s questionnaire a few months prior to my wedding. The flowers, dresses, and food were important elements to capture for me, but not as important as my deepest request. I trusted her to collect moments of JOY. Not just smiles, not just laughter but pure joy. (Spoiler - She did!) Ginny Corbett is queen of all.

For example:

Why was it so important for my family & friends to be caught with some joy? Roughly, five months before I got engaged my family and I experienced a painful loss. My first cousin Andrew passed away suddenly at the age of 19 in a tragic car accident. He left behind two broken hearted parents and three grieving brothers ranging in ages from 13 to 25. It was a devastating, mind-blowing loss for our family. One that, without God’s intentional grace & mercy, we would never have survived. You see, God showed us how anguish & joy can coexist.

Jeremiah 17:14 Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.

This is Andrew:

He's very cute. I know.


1 Peter 5:10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

I am here to tell you today that you do not have to avoid this portion of planning. You do not have to let it overwhelm you & steal your joy. I admit wrestling with how to remember your loved ones without stealing the joy of the day is difficult, but not impossible.

I’ve listed a few pointers to assist in strategizing this portion of planning. Following these steps can help you create a lasting memory for those you miss most.

1. Spend time reflecting on your favorite memories with this person.

This allows you to let the emotion roll. (I am an enneagram 4 lol). It’s not always fun, but in healing we have to allow ourselves a few minutes to just hurt. Spending time remembering those you cherish will bring memories to the surface. This prepares your heart for some creative ideas.

2. Spend time remembering what he/she loved doing.

Did they love animals? If so, which ones? Did they have a favorite food or color? Did they binge watch Netflix or go running? Did they have a favorite band? Were they diligent in school or a teacher’s worst nightmare? Did they have goals, aspirations? Did they like to take control in a situation or were they laid back?

Personally, remembering Andrew as a living, breathing person with likes & dislikes brought me peace during this process. I was able to reflect on his 19 years with some tears & a small grin. This is evidence of joy and sorrow mysteriously coexisting.

3. Begin filtering his or her interests, or best memories into something tangible.

This is the creative part. This is how we take a memory and filter it into a piece of your wedding. For example, if he loved hunting, use a camouflage ribbon to tie on the back on his empty “reserved” ceremony seat.

  • If she loved to sew, use one of her creations in a décor piece, bouquet, or your dress/tux.

  • If sports were his life, place a picture of him playing a childhood sport on the memory table.

  • If she had a favorite author, choose a quote and incorporate it into your ceremony.

  • If he or she had a favorite song, play the song for the ceremony music.

  • I’ve had clients create photo collages, sing songs, wear jewelry, quote an array of things from Grey’s Anatomy to Dr. Seuss.

These are just a few examples. You can be as creative as you want. It does not have to be over the top. It simply just needs to honor them in a way where you can have peace.

Here’s the main point – Remembering someone is not about showing the world you remember. It is about personal healing. It’s not to gain attention or make a scene. It is about the quiet-spirited approach you take to honor those gone before you.

For my ceremony, I opted to honor Andrew with childhood photos & a letter. I wrote him a letter a week before my wedding day. It helped me process him not being there. I placed the letter on the memory table in front of his photos & kept it there throughout the night.

As the evening proceeded, I often would peek over to the table to see if the letter remained. It was there, safe. At the end of the night, I gave it to his mother. It was an acknowledgement that she was not the only person grieving that day or any other day. We were able to honor him in a simple, yet meaningful way. That is the beauty of joy and sorrow coexisting. The complexity of grief meets the simplicity of joy.

My advice when overcoming this planning hurdle is to spend time in reflection, remembering the wonderful memories you’ve shared & filter those moments into something tangible. Use your creativity & trust you’re making the right call on how to remember the people you’ve lost. I promise joy & sorrow can coexist.

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