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Coll It Thankful: Wedding Memorial Ideas

November 24, 2021

This summer, my sisters and I participated in group reading with Kate Howe, The CT Medium. She mentioned something that really stuck with me:

“They [those that have passed] always say to me: I’ve had a funeral, so every celebration that happens after I die doesn’t need to be another funeral."

This is something that I keep with me as clients and friends ask for ideas of how to honor a loved one at their wedding. There are so many ways in which to incorporate those family members into your special day - both big and small.

As we reflect on today’s holiday and give thanks for our family and friends, near and far, I thought, what better way to celebrate than to highlight ways in which some of my dear friends chose to honor and remember their loved ones throughout their wedding journey. I hope these ideas provide some inspiration for those of you who unfortunately find yourself in the same grief club as us.

Colleen Horstmann | Niantic, CT | October 2020 In memory of my mom, Eileen

By the time my husband and I got married in October 2020, I had almost 11 years to think of the ways in which I could still include my mom in my wedding day. But, it was important for these ways to be subtle, as I firmly believe My Mom is always with me, regardless of the celebration.

When my husband and I took our engagement photos, we decided to re-create a few of my parent's engagement photos that were taken at the same location, Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme, CT. We had a memorial table at our backyard wedding, in which we displayed a few of those side-by-side comparisons alongside framed photos of our other deceased family members.

After my bridesmaids and I had finished getting ready on our wedding morning, my sisters surprised me with the sweetest gift. It was a polaroid of me at my dress fitting, juxtaposed with my mom trying on her dress for the first time. Accompanied with it was a piece of lace from my mom's dress that was then fastened to my bouquet. That lace, and thus my mom, walked with me all day, as I carried my beautiful flowers.

During the summer of 2020, my sister and I came across my parent's cake topper when we were cleaning out our family home. The topper was passed down to them from my maternal grandparents. I knew we also needed to use that topper for our cake.

To make the topper look more like us, my sister repainted it and incorporated our wedding color, sage green into the grooms tie. She also added our wedding date to the bottom before placing it on top of the handmade wedding cake:

For more of my personal wedding memorial ideas, visit my December 2020 post, "They'll Be Happiness After You, But There Was Happiness Because Of You Too."

Vito Capasso | Griswold, CT | October 2021 In memory of my mom, Tracy

Growing up, truthfully, my mom and I did not always get along. We had similar personalities, so it led to us bumping heads quite a bit. It wasn’t until I was older that my mom and I grew closer. Even though I could find her annoying (as any teenage son does), I still made sure to take time out of my week to talk with her on the phone.

My Mom passed away in May 2021 of congestive heart failure as a result of radiation treatment she had when she was a teenager with Lymphoma. She had a previous valve replacement a couple of years ago and had been struggling with her heart health ever since. She made the decision to go for a second open-heart surgery to replace her Mitral valve. While that was successful, she was never able to fully recover. She made the decision to come off the ventilator and passed peacefully with my dad, my now wife, Jaime, and myself by her side.

While she was in the hospital, and the outlook took a turn for the worse, we talked about how she wanted us to enjoy our wedding day. She kept reminding me that while not there physically, she would be there in spirit, and it was important for me to show that to all those in attendance.

My mom always wore scarves. It didn’t matter what day it was or where she was going, she always put one on. The specific purple scarf that we displayed on her ceremony chair was an embroidered one that a family member had made for our family to wear to my mom’s services. My mom was also an avid gardener. Gardening was something her and my dad did together a lot. Purple was also one of her favorite colors, so we decided that a purple orchid along with the scarf with her initials would be the perfect representation of her presence there.

Wanda Raymond | New Britain, CT | July 2021 In memory of my grandmother, Babcia

I am the daughter of Polish immigrant parents who came to the United States in the early 80's. I was a preemie, and my mother had quickly gotten pregnant with her second baby and needed help as a new mother. She called my grandmother, Babcia, in Poland, and Babcia came to help her, no questions asked. Babcia became my caretaker, second mother, and above all my best friend.

She took care of us while my parents were at work and taught us Polish songs and poems to recite for my parents on their birthdays. She made us breakfast before walking us to the bus stop each morning, and without fail, she was there waiting at the bus stop when we got home. When we got in trouble with our parents, she was always our comfort, the greatest hug giver and the best person to tuck you in at night. As a 31-year-old, 5 ft 8'' woman I still loved curling up on her lap for one of her "Babcia cuddles".

When I moved away for college, and then New York City, I developed a new habit of calling Babcia daily to tell her about my day. When I lived in NYC, I called her on my way from work, walking to my subway stop where I would regale her with tales of my latest dates on my quest to find my match.

When my now-husband, Austin, came to ask my family for my hand in marriage, he made sure Babcia was there because he knew how much she means to me. When we had to make the difficult decision to postpone our wedding due to COVID we knew there was a risk that she wouldn't be there to see it. While she fought as long as she could, Babcia passed away in January 2021 after fighting a long and valiant battle with congestive heart failure.

Going into my bridal shower and wedding day, I was afraid they wouldn't be as special without Babcia there, but what surprised me the most, was how much of her presence I felt at all of the special wedding events. At my bridal shower, my family put together a beautiful rolling cart display that was such an amazing tribute to her and the role she played in shaping the woman I am. It included:

  • A recipe book called "A Recipe For Happiness", a favorite of Babcia's

  • A hot pink fake bouquet from Babcia's apartment sprayed with her perfume

  • Pictures of Babcia with me as a baby

  • Pictures of Babica with Austin and me after we got engaged

  • Pearls (because Pearl is my middle name)

  • Fresh flowers from Babcia's garden, which still bloomed despite her not being there to tend to them

  • Crystal vases gifted to my mom from Babcia as a wedding present

  • A bottle of champagne to drink on my wedding day

  • My wedding robe, which I would wear to get ready

As much as I would have loved to have her there physically, her spiritual presence gave me comfort that is hard to put into words. Not a day goes by where I don't miss her, or want to call her or get into her lap for a "Babcia cuddles", but I know she is there, watching, smiling her Babcia smile.

Caroline Glavin | Newtown Square, PA | February 2021 In memory of my mom, Molly

As an only child, I was always very close with my Mom. My mom had the unique skill of making each person feel like they were the only person around. My mom took the gift of herself and gave it freely to improve the lives of those around her. A close friend of my mom’s pointed out that she was probably one of the biggest users of the US Postal Service. Not only did my mom remember every birthday, anniversary and special occasion, she chose hilarious cards and filled them with heartfelt messages that arrived days before the occasion.

My mom always, selflessly, devoted her life to me. She was my loudest cheerleader, my most loyal fan, and my most honest coach. She never missed a swim meet, driving all over New England with soft pretzels in tow. I can remember after her very first chemotherapy treatment, she arrived to my college senior recognition swim meet with a big smile and an even bigger bag of white chocolate crunch!

My Mom died in October 2013 of Ovarian Cancer when I was 23. She was diagnosed my senior year of college, and she passed away when I was in my 2nd year of graduate school. I was fortunate that I moved home after I graduated from college, so we spent a lot of time together prior to her death.

My Mom's sister is a talented seamstress, and she used beading from my Mom's wedding dress to embellish my veil with pieces of my Mom's dress! My Mom's name is Mollie, and one of the pieces of her dress perfectly made an "M" on my veil - I know that was a sign from my Mom! My Aunt also gave me a handkerchief that was my great grandmother's; she had sewn on pieces of my Mom's dress to the handkerchief, and I tied that around my bouquet.

We also had a picture of my Mom on her wedding day printed out and placed next to the Mary statue in church. My Mom was devoted to her faith, and we attended mass together every weekend for years. I was a Cantor at our church, and I often sang at weddings. One of her favorite songs was "Ave Maria", and of course she liked it more when I was the one singing it 🥰. I placed a bouquet of flowers next to her photo near Mary while "Ave Maria" was being sung at the wedding. I also took some photos of my Dad and I while holding the photo of my Mom.

Alexandra Joyce | Boston, MA | December 2018 In memory of my father, Robert

I had a very special relationship with my father. I was his only girl and was very much a Daddy's girl as a child. As I grew older, my father and I continued to be close. We had a lot in common and called each other kindred spirits.

My father passed away unexpectedly in the middle of the night in April 2017. It was suspected to be a heart attack, which was shocking because he worked out regularly and just received a clean bill of health. I will never forgot waking up at 2 am with 40 missed calls from my mother who woke up to the sound of the death rattle, when he finally released his soul from his body.

Music was very important to my father, and we shared very special memories around music growing up. Our house was always joyful, most of this attributed to the music that was always playing. For these reasons, I always dreamed about the song that my dad and I would dance to at my wedding.

This was a popular topic of conversation for my Dad and me because there were so many songs that were special to us, but unfortunately, we never officially selected one. I ended up going to a medium after he passed to try and connect with him. At the end of the session, she asked me if I had any questions. I asked her to ask him which song he would have picked. The medium was skeptical that she could answer it accurately because she doesn’t know a lot of music and the people who passed typically take from her own repertoire, but immediately she said to me I’m seeing a Van Morrison album and I knew that "Irish Heartbeat" by Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler was our song.

Instead of the traditional dance, I had a video tribute created of different photos, videos, and voicemails from special moments with my father. These were played over "Irish Heartbeat." We showed this during our reception at the Taj in Boston, MA (now The Newbury).

Rachel Paul | Munnsville, NY | September 2018 In memory of my father, Russ

My dad passed away in 2004 when I was 13 years old due to a heart attack. He wasn’t super healthy before he died. He suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes among other things, but even still, his death was pretty unexpected. He was my best friend. I was always a daddy’s girl growing up so once I lost him it really turned my world upside down.

One of the hardest parts of being a bride that lost her Dad is that Dads are often included in many of the “traditional” wedding events. At first I felt like I had to do those "traditional" wedding events, in the same way as others. But, I quickly realized it was okay to break away and do things a little differently. It was important to me that I didn’t replace my Dad, but honor him, remembering to hold spaces for him and myself where appropriate.

Having your Dad walk you down the aisle is a moment you always look forward to. This was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make while planning. I originally felt like I had to have someone walk me down the aisle, but as our day got closer, I realized that I didn’t want to replace my Dad in that moment. After my dad died, I had to take care of myself, as my mom was working a lot. I helped myself grow into the person I became, and it only felt right that I walk down the aisle by myself.

At our reception, I set up a special area in remembrance of my dad. It included a lighthouse lantern with a candle, a photo of him and me, a plaque I made with Cole Swindell's lyrics from "You Should Be Here" that read “And I know that if I had just one wish it’d be that you didn’t have to miss this." It also had a boutonniere that matched, my now husband, Nate’s dad -- So basically the boutonniere he would have worn if he was alive.

The typical father-daughter dance is another wedding tradition that you think about a lot. Originally, I had planned to dance with the special men in my life, but it honestly didn’t feel right. I really thought about what would be best and decided that I wanted to dance with my two older sisters. We grew up together, and I was close to both in different ways. I really believed they taught me so much as I grew up, and they helped to shape me into who I became. They were there for me through all of the good and the bad. I had a unique and special relationship with both so it meant a lot to have them included in this special moment. I had the DJ announce prior to the dance that it was in memory of my Dad. We danced to the song "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion. It was a tribute both to my dad but also to my sisters.

Katie Durkin | Absecon, NJ | July 2017 In memory of my grandmothers Re-Re & Mom-Mom

I learned about losing a loved one at a very young age. My maternal grandmother died in 1994, when I was five years old, and to this day, I don’t understand how I was able to grapple with such a loss as a child. She died from a collapsed lung, which resulted in a pulmonary embolism. I have fond memories of my “Re-Re,” especially since both of my parents worked full-time jobs, and I would often be babysat by both sets of grandparents. My paternal grandmother died 15 years later in 2009, when I was 19 years old. I still remember receiving the phone call that informed me “Mom-Mom '' had died of a stroke.

Looking back at both of these losses, I knew that when I got married, I wanted them both with me on that day. They both taught me important life lessons through our relationships, and their marriages and love for their children stood as foundations upon which I wanted to build my own marriage. I eventually decided I wanted to incorporate both of my grandmothers into my wedding day through “something blue.”

For those that might be unfamiliar, "the Old English rhyme that ends with 'a sixpence in your shoe' is all about good luck charms on your wedding day. "Something old" symbolizes continuity; 'something new"'offers optimism for the future; 'something borrowed' represents borrowed happiness; and "something blue" stands for purity, love and fidelity." (The Knot)

My original inspiration for "something blue" was a set of rosaries from Spain, given to my paternal grandmother by my brother. While my brother was now in the possession of these rosaries, he allowed me to “borrow” them for the day. These rosaries were a beautiful crystal blue, and I remember seeing them sit on my grandmother’s side table in my parents' house growing up. She believed in the power of prayer, and my florist was able to string these rosaries around my bouquet.

Keeping with the blue theme, I wanted to find a way to incorporate my maternal grandmother into the wedding day. My mom and her three sisters had kept pieces of my grandmother’s wedding gown after she passed away, and while many pieces were stained or ripped, there were pieces leftover that I was able to use. When I was being fitted for my wedding dress, the seamstress asked if there was anything I would like sewn into my dress. Since my mom had been trying to figure out how to use my grandmother’s wedding dress on my wedding day, this presented the perfect opportunity. My and my husband’s initials, with our wedding date, were stitched in blue thread on a small piece of my grandmother’s wedding gown and sewn into the seam of my wedding dress.

My husband and I were married in July 2017 in Absecon, NJ. I loved knowing that my grandmothers were able to be with me during all parts of my wedding day: as I walked down the aisle, danced the night away, and ultimately, married my best friend.

Amy Berretta | Lincoln Park, NY | October 2011 In memory of my father in law, Joe

My father in law Joe died a little over year before I met my husband. My husband, Chris, is a very handy guy, just like his dad was. He loves sports and is a devout Yankee fan just like him too! His father coached him for many years while he played baseball and owned his own HVAC company. Chris was 20 years old and in college when his father was diagnosed with lung cancer and died shortly after, in 1999.

Our church wedding ceremony (4 years after we were legally married) was in October 2011 in Lincoln Park, NJ. Following the ceremony, we did a balloon release in Chris' honor.

I so wish I could’ve met him and he could be here to meet our girls and watch them grow! All the stories I’ve heard about him make me feel like I do know him though!


Huge thank you to Vito, Wanda, Caroline, Alexandra, Rachel, Katie, & Amy for contributing to this post. I am so grateful that you felt comfortable sharing your stories. I know they will offer inspiration for others throughout their wedding journey.

"Remember that your wedding day is YOUR day. Do whatever is best for you and your partner. Include your loved one in whatever way best suits you. There is no right or wrong way. Don’t feel like you have to stick to the usual traditions. It’s okay to break out and do things a little differently." - Rachel Paul


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