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Honoring Lost Loved Ones

By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway

It is traumatic to lose a loved one at any time, but when this happens close to your wedding day it can be devastating and almost surreal. I have gone through this with a number of couples and it is never easy.

One thing that most brides and grooms come to see after the initial shock is that the one who has left them would not want them to abandon their wedding plans. Their loved one would have wanted to dance at their wedding and in some ways, spiritually inviting them to do can bring a sense of peace to all involved.

Of course, how and if you include a mention or moment for this loved one depends on how you and your mate, and your families, deal with loss. I personally believe it is important to at least acknowledge when someone very close dies. But for some couples and family members, it is too difficult when it is so fresh. They fear they will not be able to hold it together. Others, quite appropriately, want to remember the one who has passed, but not make it a focus of the ceremony.

There are many poignant ways to honor your loved one. These ideas can be used for any of the people you have loved and lost – even those who passed on quite some time ago.

You can make the remembrance just a moment or two and move on quickly to a more uplifting part of the ceremony. Here are some ideas:

• Ask the officant to simply call for a moment of silence.

• Have family members (siblings and/or surviving parent) come up and light a remembrance candle, or light one yourself.

• Ask the officiant to request we light a candle for this loved ones in our hearts and minds.

• Keep flowers on your wedding altar to represent the one (or ones) who’ve passed.

• Create a memorial table or some physical remembrance, near the wedding altar or even at the reception.

If it feels right you can actually hold a seat for that person with favorite flowers. Or you can make a point to just hold her or his memory in your hearts and trust that she/he is there in spirit, rejoicing with you. One groom placed the flag from his father’s coffin (folded military style) on the chair next to his mom, to have a physical reminder of Dad. Another couple placed small bouquets on seats they symbolically assigned in the first row for beloved deceased grandparents.

A groom I worked with recently unfortunately went through the agonizing experience of loss when his mom passed unexpectedly two months before his wedding. His family was trying to be strong and somewhat stoic so that he could be too. We worked it out that his mom would be represented by his grandmother during the ritual lighting the unity candles. Then we decided to gently broach the subject of Mom’s loss right after the opening prayer and then go on to the first reading.

I said, “We are all heartbroken on this day because we know there is one seat that is empty. Before we go on, the bride and groom would like us to take this moment to honor the memory of the beautiful soul who left us too soon. We know that her love and spirit live on. And that she smiles upon us all on this special day! The bride and groom have placed a rose for her on their wedding altar. Let us observe a moment of silence. “

Just as I was about to end the moment of silence at this outdoor wedding, a white bird took flight above the altar. I took that as a sign! The groom’s Dad caught it too and it was the first time I saw him smile. I am convinced that when we remember those we have lost that it is like inviting their loving spirits to share in this important moment.

© Laurie Sue Brockway, 2011, all rights reserved.

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