Your wedding is the culmination of every bit of love that went into making you and your fiancé the people that you are. Why not take a few moments of your ceremony to properly thank the loved ones who made the day possible?
Honoring parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents is common in many Eastern cultures, but regardless of where you hail from, you may wish to let everyone know how much your loved ones mean to you on this special day.
Honoring Those Who Are in Attendance
Whether you warn them ahead of time or you spring it on them as a surprise, including your loved ones in your wedding ceremony is a heartwarming way to thank those people who mean the most. Take a moment to think of what will be the most meaningful gesture for the particular people you want to acknowledge.
If it’s simplicity you’re after, don’t rule out bowing. Sure, you may feel a little silly. Sure, it’s deceptively straightforward. But, when done with utter sincerity, it packs an emotional punch. In Chinese weddings, the couple traditionally bows three times to honor their ancestors.
You may wish to explain the significance of the ritual, then bring your parents or grandparents to the altar for three quick bows, regardless of your own ethnic background.
If you’re not the bowing type, you can also recognize your loved ones verbally or with a heartfelt hug. The important part is not what action you use, but the emotion and intent behind it. Compose and recite a poem or a few lines praising their influence in your life.
You may also want to secretly invite your nearest and dearest to write poems and quotes about the important people in your life, which you then read aloud as part of the wedding ceremony.
If you think your loved ones would be embarrassed by a public ritual, you can write a few words in the program thanking them in a more understated way. Write something along the lines of, “Our joy on this day would not have been possible without the love and kindness of our parents. Thank you, Mom and Dad.”
Looking for something more casual? During the reception, stand and give a toast to your loved ones. Sharing the spotlight on your special day is a lovely way to honor those special someones.
Be sure to mention any specific help they have given you, either in making the wedding itself possible, or in valuable advice over the years. Tell everyone how they inspire you, giving lots of examples to make your toast colorful and interesting. You’ll sit down to glowing applause.
Once the music starts playing, grab the microphone and dedicate a song to your parents, or to whomever you want to honor. For those of us who aren’t too fond of public speaking, sometimes the lyrics to a song can put emotions into words perfectly. Pick the perfect song and invite that person to share the dance floor with you.
Are you trying to find a still more subtle way to honor your special guests? Honor the things they value most. In lieu of wedding favors, for example, give donations to a charity that you know your friend or relative prizes highly.
Or, ask for donations to the charity in lieu of wedding gifts. When involving charitable donations in your wedding celebration, however, it pays to be cautious. Stick to non-political, non-controversial charities so all of your guests can feel good about giving.
Honoring Those Who Can’t Be There
Sometimes the people we most want to honor are the ones who can’t attend. Whether a frail grandmother can’t travel the distance, whether a sibling is away on military duty, or whether illness and even death interfere, a missing loved one can cast a long shadow.
Honoring the important people who aren’t at your wedding can help bridge the gap between addressing their absence and celebrating the happiness of the occasion.
If the person is still alive but unable to attend your wedding, you can include your missing guest through video conferencing software, or by designating a camera that guests can use to take photos or video that will be specifically sent to that person.
Set up photos of loved ones who have passed away, along with a brief note explaining their significance in your life, on a small table with candles and flowers. You may also want to light a candle dedicated to the special person as a part of your wedding ceremony.
Did your friend or relative have a favorite flower, candy, or other special item they loved? Find ways to incorporate it into your celebration in a special bouquet or table display with a small note of recognition.
You may want to save a seat for your missing guest (a flower with a name tag placed on the chair works well). The empty seat will hold a space for that person during the ceremony so he or she is not forgotten.
If you’re worried that a public acknowledgement of a deceased guest will be too morbid (as is sometimes the case when the grieving is still fresh), you may still honor your loved one privately by wearing a piece of clothing or jewelry that reminds you of good memories.
If your loved one gave you any gifts that you can use at the wedding, such as dinnerware or table décor, use it as a quiet reminder that their memory is still with you.
On your wedding day, you are a king or queen. You’ll be the center of attention and all eyes will be on you. By shining some of your spotlight on those who matter most, you’re sending a beautiful message that everyone present can see.
Even if the gesture is small, giving your loved ones special recognition is a way of telling them how much they mean to you. For parents, siblings, best friends, or any other people who have seen you through the best and worst of life, an acknowledgement on your wedding day is a gift they can cherish forever.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.