The loss of a loved one is never easy and even though you may be excited for your wedding, you might also have feelings of sadness about a loved one who has passed away who would be there otherwise.
Honoring these special people at your wedding ceremony or reception can help it feel like they’re celebrating alongside you.
This is an important part of the grieving process, and it may also provide some comfort to those who are attending your wedding who also are missing family members who have passed away.
There are many ways you can include a loved one in your special day,one of which is having a wedding memorial table. You can create some beautiful wedding memory table displays that honor loved ones without making your guests sad.
The history of the wedding memorial tables
Wedding memorial tables continue to grow in popularity, especially in the United States. They are usually situated near the ceremony or reception area and can be customized to reflect your loved ones and your personal style and desires.
In some cases, weddings are the first time an extended family has gathered together since they attended a memorial service.
And as happy as they are to now be gathering for a celebratory event, they may still be feeling the loss and wishing that person was here. It can make the wedding day a little bittersweet for everyone.
So a wedding memorial table display offers a way for your loved ones to not only share in the joy of your day, but also feel like the one you are all thinking of and missing is also part of your day in spirit. It is a way of not avoiding those feelings which many of your family members may be having, but giving them a chance to acknowledge them and have a moment to share it them together.
It’s important to remember that love and grief are not mutually exclusive when planning your wedding memory table.
In Steel Magnolias Truvy Jones says “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." For most of us both joy and grief co-exists in our everyday life and it’s a feeling worth validating.
What to talk to your spouse-
to-be about while gathering
your wedding memorial
As you begin brainstorm memorial wedding ideas, we’ve included a list of things to consider when planning.You can also get our free printable to download with a checklist of all of these memorial wedding ideas so you can include it in your wedding planning binder and have it handy when needed.
What is your general viewpoint about wedding memorial tables at this time?
Do you definitely want a table?
Are you considering a table?
Have you ruled it out completely?
Is there a reason you feel the way you do? A certain memory or trigger that your spouse-to-be may not know of?
How does your fiancé feel about it? Are your feelings similar or different?
While you may be uncomfortable even talking about death, and you have vetoed the idea of any kind of memorial moment at the wedding, you may not realize your fiancé has been quietly grieving the loss of his best friend when he was 14 and thinking about how he would have stood by him as a groomsman.
Before making a decision on your own work through the following, with both you and your spouse-to-be answering privately and then sharing the responses together.
How do you feel about honoring deceased loved ones in any way at your wedding in some capacity?
Why do you think your feel this way?
On a scale of 1-5, 5 being most strongly, how strongly do you feel about this?
Honoring a loved one who is deceased is a very personal thing. On a scale of 1-5, 5 being most public, how do you feel about honoring them at your wedding in a private versus public way? Are there people you can think of immediately who you would like to honor at your wedding who have passed on? Who?
Are there people who have passed on that you care for, but you just don’t feel the need to call attention to them at your wedding? Who?
If you honored the people you wished and did not include others, are there family members who would be hurt by the exclusion of some loved ones?
If you were to select 2-4 people who you specifically wanted to honor with a photo or in other ways, could the ones you do not necessarily want to include be part of a general “we honor those we miss today” sign be enough so that no feelings were hurt by any family members?
Are there specific ways to honor a loved one you have already considered that you wish to do?
When considering ways to honor deceased loved ones at your wedding, list 3 words that you want to describe it (for example: classy, simple, sentimental, bittersweet, thoughtful, memorable, not too sad, meaningful)
Here are some memorial wedding ideas for honoring loved ones who are deceased. Check all that you would consider.
What to consider when gathering your wedding memorial table ideas
Who do you wish to specifically include?
The purpose of a wedding memorial table is for newlyweds to honor their deceased loved ones, whether it be parents, grandparents, siblings, or friends who have passed away. They can be people who have passed away recently or even great-grandparents you never knew.
There are no rules when it comes to choosing who you choose to specifically honor.
You may discover that between you and your fiancé there are over 10-15 people you wish to honor. Decide how elaborate you wish it to be for whom. For example, you don’t necessarily want it to be a 12-foot table of photos and memorabilia.
You may decide to honor grandparents, and closest friends with photos and then a general “for those we’ve lost” sign for others you wish to honor.
Or if you are honoring a father who has passed away, as the brideyou may wish this to be extra special and not also honoring every cousin and uncle that has also passed away.
Use caution if delegating the wedding memory table design
This is your wedding and you know the atmosphere you wish to create.Don’t delegate your wedding memorial table to someone else unless you truly will be okay with anything they decide.Your cousin may offer to take care of this task, but when she places a 16x20”-framed photo of her late father on the table it’s going to be hurtful to have to tell her that isn’t appropriate.
Instead, decide it all in advance.Set up a mock wedding memory table, take photosthat show exactly where you want everything, and then delegate this to the wedding coordinator or a task-oriented friend you can count on to do it as you have shown.
What’s your preference and style?
Decide exactly what feeling you want your wedding guests to have when they visit the wedding memory table. There may be a few tears, but it shouldn’t cause them to be sad for hours. This is not the memory table display that is often used at funerals.
If your wedding is small and intimate, it may be meaningful for guests to look at a fairly small collection of memorabilia and take time to read through it. But if your wedding is large or if you're afraid what guests might think if they think you're being sappy and sentimental, larger objects with fewer details may make more sense.
An example of this may be a photo book to flip through versus a few framed photos.
Consider having a wedding theme for you wedding memory table
If you are feeling at a bit of a loss about how to bridge the gap between loss and the wedding day, here are a few memorial wedding ideas worth considering. Could a wedding theme could be a thread that holds it all together.
For example, if you are honoring grandparents or a parent, do you have photos of their wedding day? Cards from one of their anniversaries? Is there a special book a loved one had that was about love? Do you have Grandma’s Bible, that could be turned to a love-related scripture?
If honoring someone not married, are there any photos of them as an adult, but perhaps also as a child in a cute dress or suit? Is there a favorite quote they had that could be framed?
When do you wish guests to see the wedding memory table?
Decide when you wish to introduce guests to the memorial table. If you’d prefer it to be after the wedding, set it up in the reception area.Would you prefer all guests to walk past it or for it to be a place guests can visit if they wish?
For example, I attended an outdoor wedding and the the bride’s wedding memory table was setup about 40 feet from the ceremony and reception area. One could tell it had photos on it and the purpose for it, so my mom and I walked over to spend a few minutes there, honoring her brother who had passed.
It was out of the way where guests could have a quiet moment alone, and if guests couldn’t bear the emotions, the table was not directly in their path.
Will guests interact
with the wedding
memorial table display
or just observe?
Do you wish guests to have the opportunity to engage with the memorial table display?
Some couples wish to not only honor lost loved ones, but to also give guests a chance to pass along memories—or express their own emotions. Here are some ways to add an interactive feature.
Have guests write a note to leave for the bride and groom
One example would hare what would be said if they were there. For examples, guests can write a note for the couple about:
- “what she would say if she was here…”
- “my favorite memory of her is…”
- “he would most love ___ about this day”
- “what she always said about love or marriage”
If giving guests the chance to write a note, try to keep it wedding themed. Frame a note that explains the guests notes will be tucked away in a wedding album keep sake for you to treasure always.
If your loved one was known for having a sense or humor, you can even incorporate this into the note topic ideas such as;
“if she was here she would be;
trying to take over the wedding planners job;
wanting to get the weed whacker and trim those shrubs;
trying to tell everyone to stay calm while she kept breaking out in tears."
Don’t be afraid to keep it light as long as it stays appropriate and won’t hurt or offend any of the guests. (Ask another family member if you are unsure.)
Items you can include on the wedding memorial table
The decision of what to be included on a wedding memory table is completely up to the couple celebrating their wedding. Opinions about remembering lost loved ones at weddings vary as much as opinions about choosing a wedding dress style.
While some think it’s too sad and inappropriate to honor those who are deceased, other couple cannot image their special day without this tribute.
“I wouldn't feel comfortable not including my parents or grandparents, those who raised me and I wished were with me that day, just because they had passed.” –Reddit, ComradeH
Tissues- Make sure to include either a box of tissues or small individual packets of tissue.
Photos - One of the most thoughtful ways to honor the deceased at your wedding is by displaying photos of them. This can be done in a variety of ways, from a table top frame, to a memory tree or even an album.
A keepsake - Something special from that person's life such as an old watch or bracelet they wore often during their life. If they were known for something like always wearing a bow tie that could be nice beside their picture. Display something from their own wedding if you have it. A veil, crystal glasses, a Bible, a program (if the bride or groom was part of the bridal party), etc.
A drawing- Having a custom remembrance illustration made from an artist is a creative way to give recognition to late loved ones at your wedding. There are many talented artists who create special artwork that is even wedding focused for honoring deceased loved ones.
A Plaque or Sign – A small sign you print out and frame can tie the photos and items together. Here at Gutsy Goodness we have a selection of signs that can be edited to even include your loved one’s names if you wish.
A candle or a lantern – One tradition is to include a lantern with a candle. You can also find lanterns that have words added to the lantern for a unique and personal touch.
Flowers – Memorial Bouquet Charms can also be a nice touch to add to a vase. Here I show one of our Gutsy Goodness brides displayed their bouquet charm at the reception dinner.
Memory Cards – If you’ve decided to have people share their own memories, include the cards in a pretty basket or container and a place for them to be put after they are complete. If you wish them to be displayed, an empty frame with string and clothespins is one ideas many brides have used.
Their favorite quote - Maybe the person had a favorite quote, a bible verse, or a scene from a movie. If there is a quote or an image that would add some variety to the wedding memory table, be sure to include this. Guests will like remembering those things that made that person so special.
Sheet music of a song – Online you can find sheet music you can print and frame of a loved ones favorite song. You can also discover26 memorial songs appropriate for weddings and consider printing a verse of lyric is or a page sheet music of one of these songs that speaks to you. This is personal but also can make your display feel a bit more balanced.
Frame a quote of something they always said.
Did your mom always say"I love you to the moon and back” or did your dad always ask if“who’s ready for dinner??” in his funny voice? You might want to consider sharing something they used to always say and what they likely would have said today about the person you are marrying, the chaos of the day and so on.
Maybe something they thought about marriage or a wedding memory they may have had of their own wedding is an appropriate thing for this table too – perhaps even how much fun she would have been having dancing around with her friends!
Notes about the individual – If you wish the wedding memory table to be personal without being too sad, just share a fun or thoughtful note on a placard beside each photo.
“We remember Aunt Martha who would be here celebrating with a bright red dress and her favorite pearls.” “We remember Joe who would have been the first one in line get the cake with the extra frosting and then given away.”
Memorial Wedding Table Gifts for Guests
If you wish for your guests to have a tangible memento some couples add in a favor not just as a memory of the wedding, but also as a memory of a lost loved one.
These items can be put out on the memory table so guests can take one home and they become tokens of remembrance. Gift ideas include memorial coins, forget-me-not seed packets, or plantable memorial cards with flower seeds embedded in the paper.
How to decorate a wedding memorial table
Continue the theme of the wedding into your wedding memory table. Ask the wedding coordinator to include a tablecloth and consider asking your florist for an appropriate small table floral display.
Add coverings to the wedding memory table
If you wish to add some depth to the table display, you can purchase tulle by the foot at your local fabric store, or atable scarf also can add some texture.
Add a memorial table flower arrangement
Speak with the florist about any additional "memory" flowers you may wish to add, for example some sprigs of Rosemary, which is mentioned in "Hamlet" by Shakespeare. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, love, remember."
Another flower often associated with memories is Forget Me Nots. Perhaps if there is a specific loved one you are honoring, her favorite flower, or a flower she carried in her own wedding bouquet would be appropriate
A Memory Tree for your wedding memory table
A memory tree is a place to capture special memories of your loved one. Family and friends take a card and write their memory on the card and then tie the card onto the tree branch.
After the reception someone can be delegated to take off the cards and put them in a special box where you can go back and read them with your spouse after the wedding.
Practical display tips for
For the best results here are some quick display tips:
Add texture. For example, rather than just having a table of photo in frames, add a table scarf, a hankie, fabric, or tulle.
Add greenery. Even a few sprigs of faux eucalyptus can make it feel more natural. Add light. A few battery-operated candles can add a beautiful cast to it and make it seem a bit more special.
Add sparkle. Glittery beads, clear flat marbles, or even white stones can all add some sparkle or more natural elements, depending on your wedding theme.
Make sure there are different heights. Have a variety of heights to your frames, candles, anything being displayed. The eye should try to find "triangles."
Think creatively rather than just at able if the look compliments your wedding style. People have used ladders, wine barrels, wooden crates, and vintage end tables. You could use a park bench, an old sewing machine table.
How to set up your wedding memorial table display in advance
Your wedding day will be crazy busy and not only will you not have time to get your memorial table set up personally, you may also wish to avoid the extra emotions.
The best way is toset up an example of the entire display as much as you are able in advance at home. Even if you end up setting it up the day before the wedding, you will appreciate having it all mapped out exactly in advance.
Once you have it how you want it take photos and also a video. When filming the video, explain what you have set up and why it’s in that location, or any other tips you want the person who will be delegated to this task to know about.
When packing the items upbe sure to attach anything together that the assistant may need to know. For example, she may not know that is cousin Sarah when she was 12 years old. Also provide her with a name of who to ask questions of if she runs into any trouble.
What if I am not sure if I want a wedding memorial table?
If you are unsure if you want a wedding memory table yet, consider gathering photos and mementos and then see if that makes you feel more secure in a decision. Many brides say the preparation of the wedding memory table is when they had their most meaningful moments.
“Honestly, I didn't notice much on the day, but it was comforting during planning.” -Reddit
“It felt like a way to include those I've lost, and getting the pictures together was a nice reason to remember happy times. In a small way, it made them feel like part of the day.” -Reddit
There are numerous ways you can honor your late loved ones at your wedding, but no matter what you decide to do don’t forget that this should be meaningful for you and your partner.
Your wedding celebration is supposed to be a joyous occasion where you can enjoy those you love all being there with you. It will be one of the few times in your life all of your friends and family will be in one place. Keep it meaningful and not sad in any way.
Your wedding memorial table should be about what you and your spouse-to-be most desire. If your mom wants an elaborate display for your deceased father for example, but you think this is going to be too emotional for you, have a heart-to-heart talk with her about why you want to keep the memorial display small. Don’t have a memorial just because it is the latest wedding trend and you feel obligated to do so.
It’s your big day and you should do whatever you and your spouse-to-be feel is most meaningful to you.There’s no right or wrong way to do plan your wedding memory table. Just make sure that however you choose to honor loved ones you will lookback on your decision fondly in years to come.