How Tributes Expand a Wedding Story

Many couples miss someone on their wedding day. Death is not the only cause of an absent loved one. Illness, travel or expense constrictions, and military deployment are only a few of the other reasons the couple may opt to incorporate a tribute on their big day. The decision to include a tribute at the ceremony or celebration, while deeply personal, requires forethought.


Often, couples want to honor the missing loved one by bringing their memory into the wedding day. Approach a tribute plan with this goal: balance absence and hope.


No tribute plan fits all couples. Closeness often determines the scale. A closer relationship between the couple and the absent loved one may necessitate a more intimate tribute. Loss that occurs close in time to the wedding may feel more raw and will likely prompt a larger, more open tribute. On the spectrum of intimate to open exists a full-scale of options that fit every searching couple and each situation.


The most memorable tribute arises from specific inspiration. Use these ideas to brainstorm tributes that strike the perfect chord.


Worn & Carried

For an intimate, quiet tribute, incorporate into the wedding attire some piece of jewelry or small artifact owned, given, or adored by the absent loved one.

  • a ring worn on the hand or on a chain, earrings, a bracelet, cufflinks
  • a tie or handkerchief
  • a small charm sewn into or tucked into a special pocket of the gown
  • a small Bible or other book tied to and carried with the bouquet
  • a veil, lace, or other material from the other’s wedding or life
  • a single flower or more included in the bouquet or boutonniere

A tribute written into your wedding materials, like a program, is an elegant way to acknowledge an absent guest.


To draw attention to a significant absence, add an element to the ceremony decor.

  • Reserve a seat at the ceremony by intentionally reserving one seat with a bouquet of flowers or a framed picture.
  • Use one or several mementos to decorate the ceremony site. Think about a cascade of handmade quilts, a piece of woodworking that can be used to hold candles or pictures, or any other tangible item that speaks to the absent loved one and the couple.

One very open way to offer tribute is to speak to the absence within the ceremony itself.

  • Ask a family member or friend to offer a few words followed by a moment of remembrance.
  • Have the absent loved one’s favorite poem or passage introduced and recited or read.
  • Play an absent guest’s favorite song, allowing music to convey love.


The nature of the absence may lead couples to forego a ceremony tribute in favor of a tribute at the reception, dinner, or other celebration. Or, a couple may choose to honor someone at both the ceremony and the celebration in different ways.

In addition to reserving a seat at a table or playing a favorite song, turn heirlooms into art. Create art from tangible tokens of the bond between couple and absent guest. For maximum impact, display the pieces with gallery-inspired description cards connecting the artifact to both the couple and the absent guest.

Artwork can be treated as fine or folk and displayed accordingly. A single table display can work for small objects or frames. Easels are excellent for large frames or artworks, but pedestals show off individual objects with sophistication. Guest table centerpieces, dedicated walls, and signage offer additional options to fit nearly every couple.

  • Design a wall with framed or collaged letters from or photos of the absent guest.
  • Honor one or multiple generations with a display of family wedding dresses.
  • Enlarge and frame recipes, writings, or the signature of the absent guest.
  • Incorporate tokens into tabletop centerpieces
  • Encourage guests to bring items handmade by the absent guest, like quilts, visual art, birdhouses, crocheted articles, woodworking, recipes, metal working, or other artifacts that can be displayed together. Be sure to consider how to best display the pieces. Remember to plan a way for guests to mark their artifacts as theirs and to remind them to take the artifacts when they depart the celebration.
  • Create a new heirloom by commissioning the painting of two family trees joining in this wedding and then display the artwork.

Grief Stones

One of my sister’s patients once described grief as a stone, at first jagged and painful. The patient said that time only smooths the edges of the stone but does nothing to diminish its weight.

Whenever profound grief precedes a wedding, grief stones can be a symbol to remember and carry the lost loved ones forward. A vase or flume (a deep narrow channel) of smoothed stones serves as both art and gift when the couple sends a stone home with each impacted guest.


This post is by no means an exhaustive list of tribute ideas. Please share your tributes ideas in the comments.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: