Wedding Wednesday (3) – Tough Realities & Things I Don’t Want To Plan

Wedding Wednesday is a feature I created so that, for the next year, I can talk about my wedding planning progress, review wedding books, give wedding tips, share bookish wedding ideas, talk about weddings in books, etc. Pretty much whatever I want. It’s going to be a big part of my life so I decided it deserves a place here on my book blog as my life is changing. Find more about it here!

Last week I showed you all what our reception venue looked like which was super fun but this post is a bit more serious!

As most of you know, I lost my mom to cancer in 2006 and Will recently lost his dad to ALS last year. Needless to say, two HUGE parts of our life are going to be missing from this special day. I’ve heard of people doing different sorts of things “in honor” of important people who had passed — mentions in the programs, pictures at the reception, candles on the alter, a moment of silence, etc.

On an evil wedding board (which I’m learning I don’t want to be a part of at ALL because people have been really quite rude thus far) I had mentioned that I was just looking for any other ideas that people had or what they had done..if anything at all. I was leaning towards having both of us place a rose on the seat where our parents would be sitting (*not at the reception but at the pew in the church) and have that mentioned in the program why we were doing that. I want to do something to signify the importance both my mom and his dad has played in our life even if they weren’t able to share in this with us. I stated clearly that I didn’t want to do anything that would make it a sobfest like a funeral but felt that our parents deserved more than a tiny afterthought on the back of the program. That’s just me. I’ve spoken with my boyfriend about it, my sister, my stepdad..everyone seems to like the idea of the roses. I also want to incorporate purple somehow either in our colors or SOMETHING because it was my mom’s favorite color…and not like a random fact that someone asks you like “oh, yeah I guess my fave color is this..” …but like you KNEW it was her fave color…it was a part of her lol.

Anyways, some person on the board posted this in response:

From a widow….CHECK WITH THE SURVIVING PARENT.  They’re already painfully aware of the fact that their spouse didn’t live to see their child’s big day.

Memorials can be a dreadful shock to other family members who arrive at the wedding (joyous occasion) and are suddenly confronted with an unexpected reminder of their loss. For a spouse, it can be excruciating.

I would not be okay with a photograph of my dead husband, or an empty chair, at the kids’ weddings.  The graduations and other milestone events were bad enough….. that would be a knife in the heart.

You can’t “include” a dead person in something, so please be kind to the living.

I get what she is saying…but I clearly am not wanting a whole show with all of this. But then I wondered what the general consensus is about these things. The weddings I’ve been to just had grandparents mentioned on the program somewhere.  I don’t want any empty chair or like this obvious hole acting like this person is “there”…I just want something meaningful because they are two of the most important people in our lives and they just aren’t going to be there…and that fact is hitting me hard as I start all this wedding planning. I think my family would think it is weird if there wasn’t some mention of my the family thing isn’t an issue for me I don’t think.

So, what do you think? Do you agree with her (I promise I won’t be offended if you do!) and think it has no place? Or do you think it can be done in the way I’m trying to do it..subtle but still meaningful?  Also, what have you seen done in these cases at other weddings? I’m still not decided on if we are even doing anything like this but these were just my initial thoughts…so I really really would like feedback. This is totally not something I want to even have to be thinking about for my wedding but I have to face the facts that I will not have my mother there with me on the happiest day of my life.
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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she’s actually that old. When she’s not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.


  1. I would only agree in part with her. Check with the surviving spouse, but at the same time, I think that's a LOVELY symbolic representation. I wouldn't say it's a blatant reminder, but both of you lost your parent as much as they lost their spouse, and this is your big day, so really that's fair. But certainly, having them know about it in advance is a good way to ensure there isn't a severe emotional reaction or anything!

  2. Oh for sure. My stepdad and I are very close so he knows where my head is at with it and I know he's fine about it. I know my sister is fine. The only people I'd probably give a heads up to are my grandmother, uncle and aunt since they are her only surviving family.

    We are definitely a family that likes to remember her and not shy away from talking about it even if it results in a few tears. But, like I said, totally NOT the goal with the wedding ceremony. Just a little recognition for their important role in our lives!

    Thanks for your input! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. My friend's dad who had passed away had a table with a candle lit and a framed poem. Since I have never been in the situation of losing a significant other like the poster has (thank God), I don't know if my viewpoint is entirely accurate – however – it's not as if you are doing this for all people you would have invited that are no longer with you. These are YOUR parents. It is your day, and if you would like to do something in their memory you should feel completely able to. I do think it is a good idea to talk to your families so that no one is caught off guard by your display. I really like the rose idea.

  4. Wow. just wow. Like you I get where the woman was coming from- she obviously had a really painful experience and her main point is valid. You don't necessarily want to spring it on anyone, lest they not be ready and get really emotional. However, personally, to not include them would be a real disservice to who they are and what they mean to you. I wore a piece of my Grandmothers jewelry to my wedding (and then passed it to each of my cousins for their weddings) as a reminder that she was still there. I LOVE the idea of a rose on an empty chair. If you want to incorporate purple somehow what about using a purple rose or one white (white flowers mean remembrance and purity) and one purple. At any rate- I'd say go for it. It's your day, what matters is that you feel like everyone who needs to be represented is and it should be in a way that you find meaningful even if others don't get it.

  5. Cassandra says:

    I knew someone once who had one odd flower in her bouquet in honor of her mother who had died not long before the ceremony. She didn't make a big deal of it, but she knew it was there, and that was what mattered most. Perhaps that's something to consider.

  6. Shanyn- Yeah, I would definitely tell my grandmother, uncle and aunt (in addition to my stepdad and sis) for a heads up. But I think it will be subtle enough for everyone else.

    Kate — I made an edit to my post because I realized I didn't would be a rose on the pew during the ceremony..not during the reception. Oh and I totally love that you wore a piece of her jewelry…I shall have to take a look in the stuff of hers that I have.

    Cassandra — That is a really great idea actually! If we end up not doing something like the rose, I will for sure doing something like that.

  7. I think your idea with the roses is a wonderful way to honor your mom and his dad. Like you mentioned, you have to give family a heads up, but I can't imagine anyone having a problem with it if you, your sister and your stepdad don't. I think it will be really beautiful. I also love Cassandra's idea, it won't be as obvious to other people, but you and your family know why it's there.

  8. I just lost my grandpa and I can totally understand your wish to include your mother in your wedding. I like the idea of wearing something that belonged to her (that really brings her close to you). I also like the idea of the rose. I think that the most important thing is that you (and your family) feel comfortable doing this. As long as you are doing it for yourself and not for someone else I would say "go for it". It is your day and you should honor your mother and your financรฉs dad the way you like.

  9. Jacinda (The Reading Housewives) says:

    I have no problem with it…it will be very subtle from what your saying, many people won't even notice exactly what's happening (other than it will be in the program). ๐Ÿ™‚ My sister planned on doing something for my grandma at her wedding, but I think she never ended up doing it, not from the reasons you stated above though.

    And those people are just plain evil, screw 'em.

  10. Chrisbookarama says:

    Ok, so that woman has a problem with it but she doesn't know you or your family. If your family is ok with it, then do whatever you think would honour her her best. My bff's mom died years before her wedding and her presence was honoured. The groom included her in his toast. I think it's odd not to include a parent who died because they raised you and loved you and looked forward to this day.

  11. I think it is YOUR wedding and YOUR MOM and DAD. I think you should do whatever you like. I don't think you have to have concern for the living when you're the daughter and son of the deceased, it's not some random relative!

    Also, I recently attended the wedidng where the bride had a photo of herself with the deceased family member (in this case her grandparents) as a part of her bouqet. It was very cute and small. Lauren knew it was there, and it was a very thoughtful tribute. Maybe you and your future husband can find a way to make photos of you with your parents into your bouqet and boutineer?

  12. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    Jamie, this day is about you & Will – no one else. So who cares what others may think is appropriate or not? Do what makes you comfortable & happy. I think it's absurd that someone should check with their guests before making a decision to honor their deceased loved one before their OWN wedding. That's ridiculous.

    My sister had a picture of my mom & a candle sitting on the front table before you walked in to the wedding alter area (she had it at a country club, so it was in the foyer). It was not this huge memorial set up.. just a simple gesture that she wanted done. I thought it was tasteful & very nice – so did everyone else. I don't even want to think how incredibly difficult my own wedding will be without my mother there. I helped plan both my sisters weddings after my mom died. As much as I loved doing it and being there for them, it literally broke me. My heart goes out to you right now <3

    P.S. I love the rose idea. And I LOVE the purple idea too.

  13. I'm with Ginger. It's YOUR wedding and if you want to honor your mother and Will's father, then you should do it in the way that you want to. Everyone else can get over it. And the roses and incorporating a color sound really sweet and pretty and NOT inappropriate AT ALL.

    BTW, I love this feature! <3

  14. I think I'm in agreement with most everyone here. I would do it, but maybe give a heads up to or check with those who could take it harder than others. I think it's a lovely gesture.

  15. I agree with everyone. I think it's a lovely tasteful idea. If I was invited to a wedding and someone had done the same thing, whether I knew beforehand or not, I'd think it was sweet. Also since you and Will have each lost a parent, I think that makes the gesture that much more special.

    The woman clearly has a lot of issues with her loss. But ulimately it's your wedding. You should do what makes you and Will happy. It's your day.

  16. When I was engaged and had to think about this as well, as my mom passed away several years ago, my thought was to have an extra bridesmaid a "in memory" bearer, so to speak, with my moms favorite flowers, a note in the program and special wording in the invitation. It was tricky to try to figure out exactly how to do it to make sure I didn't offend my stepmom, but there were a lot of websites that had advice for etiquette and at the end of the day it was MY wedding and MY mom. I wanted to be sensitive to my my family and not cause strife, but it would have broken my heart not to fully acknowledge my mother. I think it did make my dad and stepmom a little uncomfortable, but I think there were other things to focus on and ultimately accept it.

  17. I think you need to do what will be meaningful for you and provide the right level of remembrance for you and your fiance.

    At a recent wedding, the bride and groom had both lost their Dad's and they started the ceremony by having their siblings light a candle together in memory of their Dad. The pastor said a few words about remembering those that could not be there. It was very tasteful but really called attention to the fact that their Dads were not present and that the couple wanted to honor them.

    Another friend who lost her Mom put a picture of her on the part of the bouquet that faces the bride so she could have her close as she walked down the aisle.

    I am sure you will come up with the perfect way to honor your Mom!

  18. My husband and I have grandparents that we were very close to and they both died before our wedding. We did exactly what you are thinking of doing. We laid a rose on the pew at church where they would be sitting. I personally think this woman was out of line saying all that to someone she didn't know who was just asking for ideas. It's your wedding…do what makes you happy. As for you Mom's favorite color you could put a purple ribbon on her rose…I think remembering your loved ones is a wonderful meaningful thing.

  19. April (Books&Wine) says:

    Looks like you got better ideas here than on that forum.

    Honestly, I think you know your family better than some random internet lady. So you should go with your gut instinct/heart and do what you want, like everyone here says, it is your special day.

  20. April (Books&Wine) says:

    Looks like you got better ideas here than on that forum.

    Honestly, I think you know your family better than some random internet lady. So you should go with your gut instinct/heart and do what you want, like everyone here says, it is your special day.

  21. Thank you so much everyone! I am at work so I can't respond individually to everyone but just want you all to know how much I appreciate your comments and support! I'm really glad that I have you all to come to with all this stuff…wedding message boards have NOTHING on you all!

  22. Girl, you are going to have people telling you "Do this, do that" and that every little idea you plan is a HUGE MISTAKE from the beginning of the wedding process to the end. You will never make everyone happy, and at the end of the day it's about a marriage for a lifetime, not what happens one day. Things will go wrong, people WILL be judgmental. So you do what YOU like, and your love and sincerity will shine through any drama people try to bring to it. Whatever you decide, follow your heart! xo

  23. The Violet Hour says:

    I think you guys should do whatever you want. It is obvious this lady has suffered a terrible loss, and I don't think she was really trying to sound rude, but just speaking from her hurt.
    I've been to weddings that had ideas similar to yours, candles set in specific places with a special note in the ceremony program, etc. At my wedding, we had photos of our grandparents displayed on the piano beside where we were standing for the ceremony.

    I don't really agree with her about asking 'permission', but maybe just give a heads up to your immediate families what your plans for it are. As someone else has said, it would be a disservice not to honor them, and that is all you're wanting to do.

    Are you guys going to do a unity candle? I had a friend who, when they went to light theirs, put roses down in front of the candle right before they lit it. It was really sweet!

    Whatever you decide to do, it will be perfect, no matter what anyone says! This day is about YOU and your husband. ENJOY IT! <3

  24. I think that this day is for you and Will and to celebrate your new lives together – forget what everyone else thinks and do what you feel is the best for you guys.

  25. My two cents for what it's worth…it sounds like a lovely way to incorporate two people that were such a big part of your lives. I can't invision anyone having that adverse a reaction to it. Hugs to both of you for your losses and may your special day bring nothing but joy. ^_^

  26. Melissa Buell says:

    The rose is a fantastic idea, especially since it's something that YOU want to do. You could tie a purple ribbon around the stem of the rose for your mom. Maybe a different colored ribbon for Will's dad's rose?

    Ignore the evil witch lady. She has issues that she doesn't need to share on wedding boards.

    I've seen weddings where they light a candle during the ceremony to memorialize someone. I don't know if that fits you guys.

    The most important thing is to go with your gut. You know what your mom would have liked and what Will's dad would have liked. Everyone at the wedding is there to support you two.

  27. We asked the officiants to mention my mom and my husband's grandfather as part of the opening welcome. I included somethings of my mom's with my dad's consent. I like the idea of the roses.

  28. I like what you have in mind. I think you need to do what feels right for you and is sensitive to other family members.I'm sure you'll be able to come to an accomodation. My only caution is don't let it become a sore point with other relatives. It shouldn't be something to stress over.It shouldn't become a battleground.

  29. Library Gal says:

    Jamie, it is your (and Will's) day, you need to do what is meaningful and special to you, and not worry about everyone else. If I have one regret about my wedding is that I let other people's opinion influence how I did things.

    I love the purple, and rose idea. Friends of ours who had lost a parent each, had a framed photo that they held for a couple of pictures. It was their tribute.

  30. bibliophile brouhaha says:

    My dearest friend lost her father to cancer at 20. She married last year, and her mother was so ill with the illness that eventually took her from us at the time of her wedding that she was unable to attend. My friend carried a locket with both her parents' pictures in it and incorporated it into her bouquet. Maybe something similar for you? We also read the "May the Road Rise Up to Meet You" poem, as he was very proud of being Irish.

    Also, maybe in lieu of a wedding favor, maybe you could make a donation in your guests' names to the American Cancer Society and the ALS organization. You can lay cards at their tables, maybe on a pretty shade of purple in honor of your mother. People will understand, and truthfully, I think people like receiving a token of appreciation, but I don't think the actual favor matters much. I think they would be touched by the gesture.

    And screw those jerks – no one knows your family and your guests better than you and fiance. Do what makes the day special for you and your family.


  31. Oh, please. The woman who told you that is a self-centered, melodramatic asshole. SHE would already be painfully aware. Pfft. What about YOU being aware of it during YOUR wedding? How dare anyone suggest that you should make sure that something you want to do at your wedding be approved by other parties beforehand? It has nothing to do with them. It has to do with the two of you and your marriage and your parents that cannot attend in body but can be represented in some way to show that they are there in your minds and hearts. Don't second guess yourself just because some random internet attention whore wouldn't be okay with it at her kids' weddings because everything has to be about her. You don't need anyone's permission. Yes, loss is sad. But what is worse, missing someone who isn't there or pretending that the loss isn't felt, that they never existed, or that you don't wish they could be there? If she wants to go around pretending like she didn't lose her husband and spending her days never thinking about him, that's her own idiotic business. You don't have to tippy toe around that sort of self-delusion. Do what makes you happy.

  32. I hate things that make wedding planning stressful — I try to avoid them like the plague, but this is one of those "issues." I think subtle is the key. I think the roses are nice, if it's OK with the spouses, and maybe a mention in the program about those roses. I think that's perfectly fine. In a Catholic wedding (and certainly in some others, I'm sure) there are prayers for those that aren't with us, and it is expected to hear those names, so don't sweat this too much. To me, it would be weird if there were no mention of these very special people.

    What we have tried to do during the planning is talk issues out, try to see all the sides, and then I say, "it's your decision, it's your wedding, it's one day when you get to DO WHAT YOU WANT." (My daughter had a terrible time choosing bridesmaids. I had to say this to her MANY times…)

    Good luck!

  33. Jessica M says:

    My uncle died before my cousin got married, and he was super close to his dad. His bride-to-be understood the importance, so he put a flower (I think a rose but I don't remember) on an empty chair next to my aunt. He didn't make a fuss out of it but it was there.

  34. Sara Kankowski DeSabato says:

    Jamie, it's definitely up to the two of you how you want to remember them! I don't know what kind of ceremony you're having (depending on religion/other factors, some are more strictly scripted than others) but at our wedding, which was non-religious, the minister had a section where we acknowledged all the people who had helped raise us/get us to this point in our life where we were ready to marry one another. We used that time to give flowers to our parents & surviving grandparents, and then the pastor also talked about the people who had aided us but were no longer with us.

    I think the roses are a beautiful idea. Logistically , if you don't want to directly call attention to the sentiment, you may want to mark it some way, because there is ALWAYS that person at a wedding who will touch something that shouldn't be touched, etc. Also, have you thought about who will do what with the roses after the ceremony is over? I'm not trying to be the "advice person", I just remember that at our wedding we did a sand ceremony, and never designated a person to get the bottle for us after the wedding was over, and we had to find it in the dark at the end of the reception! (Thankfully, ceremony & reception were in the same place, so at least we didn't leave it behind!)

    I also like the idea of doing a charitable donation in honor of your parents in lieu of favors–I've seen a few different weddings do this and I think it's really lovely.

    Good luck!

  35. Christina / Book Addict says:

    Jamie- What it comes down to is the fact that it's your wedding and you should do what you want. Trust me. I wish I had done more of what I wanted and less what other people wanted or felt was right. That's my biggest regret. So, you should do what you feel is right and there will always be people out there that disagree with you or will critique your choice, but the people that really love you will always support your decisions and they are the ones that matter the most. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Christina / Book Addict says:

    Jamie- What it comes down to is the fact that it's your wedding and you should do what you want. Trust me. I wish I had done more of what I wanted and less what other people wanted or felt was right. That's my biggest regret. So, you should do what you feel is right and there will always be people out there that disagree with you or will critique your choice, but the people that really love you will always support your decisions and they are the ones that matter the most. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. I think the rose is a lovely idea, but if someone is really going to be upset about it, then I really love the idea of a donation in lieu of favors. My brother and SIL had bottles of water out on every chair (they got married in the middle of August outside and it was sweltering) and donated a dollar per guest to Blood:Water Mission, which digs wells in Africa for clean water. It meant more to them (and most of their guests, I'm sure) than any favor could have, plus it was practical!

  38. I disagree with her, and am sad for her that she cannot deal with her grief in a way that allows memories of her spouse to be a part of her life still. :-/ My husband's mom passed away from cancer when he was fourteen and we just had a few pictures with her in a slideshow. We also talked about her at the luncheon when everyone made their speeches. One of the wedding gifts I received was a vase that was in the china she picked out when she married my husband's father. It made me feel closer to her and I thought it was tasteful. We didn't do anything planned other than include pictures in the slideshow but just talking about her and thinking of her on that day made things more special.

  39. That woman's comment obviously came from a very personal place, rooted in anger over her own loss. A tribute to a deceased parent is meant to honor, not upset. I think that you and your fiancรฉe's wish to honor your mother and his father is in no way shameful or negative. Of course you want to pay tribute to these important people who sadly could not be with you on your wedding day! How you choose to honor them is ultimately up to you two, and I think that there are plenty of subtle, beautiful ways to do this. The suggestions in the comments are great ones. Whatever you choose will be the right decision.

  40. I absolutely do not agree with that comment. I think it is a very considerate thing you are doing on a day that can easily become very selfish. When it comes down to it, it's YOUR day. So celebrate your lost loved ones the way YOU are most comfortable with.

  41. When I read the quote you posted I think I read it in a slightly different way. I didn't read it as a 'don't do it' simply that you should mention your ideas and final decisions to their other close living relatives to ensure that no-one will get upset on the day. She obviously says that it would be difficult for her but as long as your decision works for you and your immediate family I think you need to go with your gut as to what's right.
    I have only experienced special mentions in speeches which are often very heart-felt messages and I have found them very touching.
    In the end do whatever will be right for you and your future husband.

  42. I lost my dad 3 years ago and had always pictured him walking me down the aisle, so I know exactly how you feel. I say do the roses. It's not like you are trying to make people sad, you're trying to show that your mom and your fiance's dad had a big role in your lives, and it's a way of having them their in memory. I don't think anyone would have an issue with it, and if they did then so what because it's YOUR special day anyway ๐Ÿ˜‰ Just follow your heart <3

  43. says:

    Wow, what a tough subject for you ๐Ÿ™ I know I'm late here, but I say screw that lady. I think it's really sweet and important to include your deceased parents in your ceremony – I can totally understand why you would want honor them both by doing something, and I do really love the rose idea.

    In the end though, it's your wedding and I think you should do what will make you and your fiance happy. I hope you decide to stick to the rose idea. Best wishes!

  44. I think that it's your wedding and if you think it would make your mom happy to have a rose on the seat then go for it! Also, love purple.. Bet it looks beautiful! ๐Ÿ™‚

  45. To the people who said that the woman doesn't know how to cope with lost — that's a pretty damn rude thing to say. Everyone takes loss differently, there's no right or wrong way to cope with something because it means something different to every person. Consider the situation and the roles of people.

    Yes, this is your wedding day, and yes, you should have things your way, but at the same time, it's a tricky slope. If there is a spouse there who might be upset by it, this could taint the day for them and ultimately for you/your boyfriend. I don't think people quite get the connection here — you're at a wedding to symbolize the union of two people, but for a spouse left behind, they're now alone and it could dig up some very painful memories.

    I honestly don't think any right minded person can just say bug off to how other people might feel. Granted, I wouldn't say that you need to take into thought the feelings of EVERYONE there, but at the very least, you need to seriously consider what this means for the spouses left behind/the parents because they're the ones who this will have the absolute greatest effect on, positive or negative. For you it might be a beautiful gesture, and it could be the same for them, but it could also be a crippling reminder of a happiness only in memories now.

    tl;dr seriously, talk it over with your parents thoroughly. The ultimate decision is yours, but take into account the feelings of your parents in this decision as well.

  46. Cat the Librarian says:

    It's YOUR wedding, do what you want!

  47. Melissa (Avid Reader) says:

    I don't know how I missed this post last week, but I'm going to throw in my two cents. I lost my Mom to cancer as well and it was important to me to represent her at my wedding (Oct. '09). I decided to walk down the aisle with my Dad and while I carried my bouquet, he carried a peace rose representing her. Then he handed it to me when we reached the front and I put it in a vase on the table by the alter. Our minister said something explaining why we did that later. It was good, I needed to have her there in some way and it meant a lot to me.

  48. With all due respect, but what a shrew! Honestly, I doubt any member of either of your families would feel badly about subtle and appropriate recognition of a lost parent on your day. Even if they did it's YOUR day. If you want to have a small way to include your mom and his father than you should! I like the idea of the roses, it's quiet (which you want) and respectful and doesn't make the day about them. It includes them. I say go for it!

  49. weighing in a little late… I went to a wedding on the weekend and the bride's older brother was a soldier who died a couple of years ago. They're an incredibly close family and he would have walked her down the aisle.

    Anyway, they didn't do anything at the ceremony but at the reception both the sister and mum mentioned him in their speeches and then they had a video of three of his best friend's giving the blessing and support that they knew he'd give.

    This probably didn't help at all, but I just wanted to let you know since it just came up and I know they struggled about how/whether to include him in the wedding and while there were tears (thank god I forgot to put my mascara on that morning!) it didn't bring down the event at all.

    Also, I think Cassandra's idea of the mismatching flower in the bouquet sounds like a beautiful idea.