AOW A-Z of Getting Married – R is for Remembering


The AOW A-Z of Getting Married is a resource for brides (and grooms) to be.  It’s a welcome piece of sanity in an industry-saturated world where people are bombarded with what weddings they should have, what they should act like, and how a bride should feel.  Created by the team behind Any Other Woman, this A-Z is the first collaboration of its kind, bringing together posts from readers across the AOW community filled with advice, wisdom and experience from sane, smart, real women, many of whom have been there.  From wedding planning to family trials to breaking taboos, no topic is out of bounds.  We are honoured and excited to run each and every post, and we learn from each and every one of our readers.

To help the A-Z become an even better resource, please leave your tips, advice and comments below. 

R is for Remembering by Hollie

Unless you decide to elope, chances are you’ll be spending your wedding day surrounded by your nearest and dearest.

While there’s no doubt in my mind that having your closest friends and family surrounding you while you make your vows to each other only makes the day even more special, it can also really highlight those people that are missing from your celebrations.

It may be that people can’t make it because of distance, that the date isn’t convenient for them, they can’t get childcare (the list goes on), but chances are for most brides and grooms there’s also at least one person who isn’t there because they are no longer with us.

It’s a sad fact of life that by the time most people get to marrying age they have lost someone close to them, be it a grandparent, parent, a relative or close friend. Special occasions often serve to highlight that loss and bring it to the forefront of people’s minds. Understandably, many people feel that they want to honour those that are missing from weddings in some way. As far as I’m concerned there isn’t a right or a wrong way to deal with it, and how much or little you choose to do in order to acknowledge this is an entirely personal thing.

When I married my lovely husband in January, there were two rather large holes in our wedding party. The first was Bren’s Mum Clare who passed away before we met (something I will always feel sad about as I will never get to thank her for creating such a wonderful man) and the second was my paternal Grandmother Joyce who died four years previously.

We both agreed that we wanted to do something to honour them on the day, as there is no doubt that these wonderful women had shaped the people we had become, but we didn’t want anything too ‘in your face’. Having a civil ceremony meant that any form of prayer would be out of the question (not that it would have been the right thing for us personally anyway). Likewise we didn’t want to light a candle or have any form of ‘event’ that would draw attention to the issue – we were mindful that it was an emotional occasion for everybody involved being the first wedding in both families since we had lost those close to us. We felt it was already at the back of everybody’s minds enough and we wanted to keep the atmosphere celebratory and euphoric – as every wedding should be in my mind regardless of circumstance.

We considered many options that others have used to great effect at their weddings – having charity pins that relate to loved ones as favours, having music or a reading in the ceremony that reminds you of them, carrying a photo of them in your bouquet or pocket or having a toast to them during speeches. There really are lots of options that you can use in whichever way you see fit.

After much umming and ahhing we decided to have a ‘line-up’ of our parents and grandparents wedding photos on display. There was a huge fire and mantelpiece in the bar of our venue and we had them lined up there for guests to admire. They provided a great talking point as people tried to guess who was who, and for those who were missing Bren’s Mum and my Grandmother they provided a small element of comfort. As we had lots of vintage touches throughout the day, having photos from the 1940s-1970s didn’t look out of place and no extra attention was brought to them than any other element of the decoration, which is exactly what we wanted. We knew they were there and if nobody else noticed it wouldn’t have mattered.

The added bonus of this is that we now have lovely family wedding photos that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, and are now on display in our snug at home. Looking at them, with a photo added of our own wedding day, never fails to raise a smile even on the crappiest of days.

Even though we had a civil ceremony we still had an order of the day, and decided to write a little ‘in loving memory’ section to feature there. It was one of the hardest things that we had to write for the wedding – we wanted to get the balance right and not reduce everyone to emotional wrecks before the day had even started! In the end we came up with this:

On this day of happiness, we would like to remember those who have gone before us. Many of them have played important roles in our lives and made us the people that we are today, standing here and making our vows to one another. Although they cannot be here to share in our special day, they will be in our hearts today and always.

There was also one less public way that I was able to mark those who couldn’t be with us. I wore a pearl necklace left to me by my Grandmother and used some of the money that she left me in her will to buy my Jenny Packman headpiece. While nobody but Bren, my parents and me knew that this was the case, it was nice for me to have a private nod to her on the day – a day that she would have so enjoyed if she’d had the chance.


Categories: A-Z of Getting Married
21 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    We’ve gone for charity donations in memory of our grandparents in lieu of a gift list.
    Might have to steal the photos idea too though as I love the idea of having a ‘weddings wall’ when we finally move.

  2. Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Oh Hollie, I love both of your ideas so much. The photos are lovely.

  3. Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I love this. This is a beautiful way to remember lost loved ones, we did not do this but this is something that I would have loved to have thought of.

    My beloved aunt (who was actually my mother’s cousin) passed away after a ten year battle with cancer 10 months before our wedding. I was lucky enough to be able to tell her that my something old and blue would be the pearls she gave me and that my something borrowed would be the pearls she gave my sister. Putting them on in the morning and thinking of Marie was so very special to me and knowing she was there meant a lot. I think it meant a lot to her too to know I wanted to remember her that day.

  4. Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    We are struggling with this (my Mum, his Gran), you put it perfectly “We felt it was already at the back of everybody’s minds enough and we wanted to keep the atmosphere celebratory and euphoric”. We have already decided on the wedding photos and I think we will have an absent friends toast, but I’m worried about that reducing me and everyone else to an emotional wreck.

    I am also trying to think of a way to privately remember in the morning in the hope that that will allow me to enjoy the rest of the day. But I don’t know maybe that will just start the day on a downer!! xox

    • Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Do you have any accessories (veil maybe?) of your mums that you could wear? Or maybe her favourite perfume? That way you can feel like you have a part of her with you all day.

      • Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

        Yeah – I am going to wear her veil :-)

        • Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

          That will be lovely and very special!

    • Posted December 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

      My friend had a separate bouquet made that was very similar to hers and she took it to her grave the day before to have that moment before the day. Obviously, I can’t tell you exactly how that felt but I I think it really helped her

  5. Katielase
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    This is so lovely, Hollie. I love the photo idea.

    We chose to ask for donations to the hospice that cared for both my maternal grandparents in their last days in lieu of gifts, which was a nice way to remember them. In addition, I wore the necklace my Gramary left me, as I wear it everyday to remember her. Finally, my Mum organised for my singing teacher to perform You’ll Never Walk Alone, a song we all associate with my darling Grandpa, during the signing of the register as a surprise to me. This was amazing, because I didn’t know it was going to happen it felt like my Grandpa was suddenly there at such a special moment. The downside of my not knowing in advance was that it caught me unawares and I may have let out a honking goose-like sob of emotion. Ever the classy bride.

    K x

  6. Emma
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    How lovely. We have also unfortunately lost people close to us and decided to honour them in small ways. We had wedding photos of our grandparents and parents, which served several purposes. It allowed us to include our grandfathers we have lost, was a small talking point and was a lovely surprise for our remaining grandparents who had no idea the photos would be there.

    I also chose to have a personal touch for me, and attached a gold heart locket to my bouquet. It contained a photo each of my much loved Grandad and Uncle, both of whom have passed away. That way I felt that they were walking down the aisle with me.

    We couldn’t honour every person we’ve lost over the last few years, there were a cousin and an aunt who sadly got no mention but we couldn’t see where to honour them without making the day about the many members of the family we have lost. We had a little private chat about it and decided they would be in people’s thoughts and chose to publically do something only for our grandads and privately for my uncle ( who would have walked me down the aisle had he still been alive.)

  7. Peridot
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    That’s lovely.

    My aunt kindly took my bouquet back to Dorset with her to put on my beloved grandmother’s grave. And I wear her wedding ring as my wedding ring. I couldn’t have said anything on the day or I would have cried – ditto my mother and husband – but I wanted quietly to mark how special she was to me.

  8. Posted December 19, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Hollie, this made me cry! What a lovely way to remember the people you love who can’t be there.

  9. Posted December 19, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    I’m also planning (weather/mud permitting) on having our portrait photos taken in the place where my dog and grandad’s ashes were scattered.

  10. Alison
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    These are all such lovely ideas. This is a post close to my heart. I completely agree with keeping the atmosphere happy and euphoric and not bringing everyone down. I didn’t wear a veil and had a flower in my hair in a nod to my mum who wore a big hippy hat rather than a veil when she married my dad in the 70s. It wouldn’t have been something many people would have known or noticed but meant something to me. I also asked the hotel to put out a traditional cake from my mum’s hometown in the Scottish Borders as part of the evening buffet. They forgot but I didn’t mind at that point, it helped me in the run up to the wedding to have something to focus on and feel I was doing my bit to remember her.

    My step-sister had passed away suddenly just a few weeks before our wedding and I agonised about going ahead with the whole thing in the first place, then about what to do to remember her on the day. Our humanist celebrant mentioned my late mum, gran, sister and step-sister in her ceremony. A friend who also had a humanist ceremony gave me advice to mention loved ones early on then have a lot of stories and laughter afterwards so you can recover when you have to say your vows.This definitely helped! I decided I would take the flowers out of my bouquet and scatter them on the loch outside our hotel the day after our wedding and once I had a plan I was much happier about the whole thing. In the end I didn’t do it, my bouquet was too beautiful and I didn’t want to be sad again while I was still on a high from our amazing day. Maybe that was selfish of me but my step-sister was such a fun-loving and happy person, having a euphoric joy-filled day was the best tribute we could have made to her.

    • Posted December 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think that it is selfish in the slightest, not one bit.x

  11. Posted December 19, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Hollie the words you use here are perfect. It’s such a personal subject about how to fittingly remember someone who isn’t there, I’m the sort of person who would acknowledge them with something like photographs so I think the idea of a collection of old pictures together is lovely. I like speeches when loved ones are mentioned although I can appreciate it must be hard to get the right balance or risk ending up a weepy mascara sodden bride. Having said that the speeches always make me shed a tear whatever is said, I cry at the funny stories, the heartfelt bits, the jokes, the toasts…

  12. Laura
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    This is a lovely piece and I love the idea of the photos!

  13. Roz
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post Hollie, the words you used in your order of the day are beautiful, a very fitting tribute. I think you got the mix of public and private rememberance just right x

  14. R
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    I struggled with this as we lost my much loved Gran while we were engaged, none of my husbands grandparents were still alive and we also had people unable to be there due to illness.
    I wore my Gran’s pearls (borrowed from my Mum), we served some of her favourite dishes and we bought everyone Marie Curie daffodils instead of favours as they were brilliant in her final days. We also had a couple of minutes silence in the ceremony for people to pray or remember those who couldn’t be with us that I found very powerful and made time in the day to call relatives still alive who couldn’t be with us.

  15. Kate G
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    Lovely lovely words in your tribute Hollie.

    We’d also decided on photos of those who werent able to be with us, but as this included P’s parents who were not well or young enough to travel abroad, and his brother, I didnt want anyone to think they’d passed away. We ended up doing photos of everyone we’d invited as well as those not around. It worked really well as we didnt invite loads and had a small wedding. I had about 500 photos printed which I stuck back to back on a long coloured string and hung around the edges of the verhanda whre we sat. They were hung vertically to twirl around as decor – and for people to look at. They loved seeing photos of themselves at great times we’d had together, as well as seeing photos of all our family friends and loved ones who couldnt join us (and of my wee beloved doggie) and we felt completely encompassed by all those who are special to us.

  16. Posted December 20, 2012 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    We did exactly what you did Hollie (although we didn’t have photos of parents – Mat’s dad passed away about 12 years ago and his mum has a partner who we didn’t want to make feel awkward – we did mention his dad in the speeches though) – the photos of grandparents were lovely to have there on the day, and they’re now in pride of place in our living room.

    My lovely granny passed away about a month before our wedding, which was awful (and definitely put the wedding planning in perspective!) – I was so worried I would cry at some stage during the day but actually the fact we had the grandparents’ photos and the fact I knew she would be mentioned in the speeches meant I knew she wouldn’t be forgotten and would have her part in the day, and so I could enjoy the rest of the day. I wore a bracelet she’d given me for my 21st birthday as well so she was with me all day.

    As you say there are plenty of good ideas out there for making sure loved ones are remembered, and I agree it’s important to try and keep everything celebratory and happy – it sounds like you found the perfect balance!

    K x

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

More here.

image by Lucy Stendall Photography

Find me a random post