From time to time I log on to the message boards on weddingbee.com. For those of you who don’t know, it is a no-holds-barred discussion of all things-wedding. I like to keep my finger on the pulse of contemporary brides. Wedding Bee has created an elaborate message board system with threads on dozens of topics (photographers, dresses, florists, etc) and also has message boards for brides in a particular geographic area. These brides provide a treasure trove of information, even on the most arcane topics and delicate etiquette questions.
Of late I have found an interesting and compelling series of discussions about honoring deceased family members during wedding ceremonies. While weddings are joy-filled occasions, it is important for couples to remember who could not be there, as well as those guests in attendance. So the question is—what sorts of ceremonial touches can be added to honor those who have passed.
A number of interesting ideas have been put forward: some brides light a candle in memory of the loved one, perhaps coupled with a photograph of the individual. I have seen such rituals at the beginning of the ceremony and then referenced during the proceedings. One bride said that empty chairs were being left in the front row, representing loved ones lost. Each chair would hold a bunch of flowers. This made me think of a Scandinavian tradition where the bride has two bouquets of flowers—one for the wedding and one to be placed at the grave of the departed relative. Finally, many young women indicated that they were noting their loved ones in the program to be handed out to guests.
Perhaps my favorite activity that served this function took place at a young colleagues wedding. To honor the deceased parents of the groom, there was a butterfly release during the ceremony. According to some Native/First People’s folklore, when one whispers a wish to a silent butterfly, she carries that wish to Heaven. Guests were ask to take a moment to remember the parents.
So while weddings aren’t usually thought of as times to remember those who are no longer with us, there are fantastic and moving options to honor loved ones during creative wedding ceremonies.
p.s. Since writing this essay a year ago, I have now made it a tradition to give each one of “my” brides a vintage butterfly pin, to add to her collection of wedding remembrances. In addition to the wonderful Native American folklore, the butterfly is a fabulous symbol of personal change and growth, for brides and grooms, as individuals and as a couple.