Mary-Catherine Talbert, a May 2010 bride, plans to wear a veil many women in her family (pictured behind her) have worn. Casey Templeton photo
Even though Mary-Catherine Talbert's grandmother, Edith Covert, passed away before Talbert had the chance to know her, the bride-to-be still wants to honor her during her May 2010 wedding.
"I know how important she is to my family, and I want to recognize that," Talbert explains. "Tradition is something I value."
Talbert's wedding will include a veil that her grandmother purchased in Belgium. More than 10 women in her family, including Talbert's mother, have worn the veil during their wedding ceremony, and Talbert plans to do the same.
Talbert and her fiancé, Micah Berry, also plan to recognize his grandmother, Elizabeth Fogg, who passed away in 2008, by having someone sing her favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Art," during the ceremony.
The wedding will take place at Berry's grandmother's farm in Manquin, Va. "She will be on everyone's mind," Talbert says. "It's important to remind people that we are aware of her presence."
Meghan Baillargeon Ely, owner of OFD Consulting and managing director of the Richmond Bridal Association, encourages brides and grooms to recognize deceased relatives in an upbeat way.
"You don't want to remember them in a somber manner," she says. "You don't want it to be another wake. You want to honor them in a way that keeps people smiling. You want to remember and celebrate life rather than mourn a loss."
Some couples choose to honor the memory of a deceased parent or grandparent in a subtle way. Some brides, for example, may wear a piece of jewelry that belonged to their mother or grandmother as a way to keep the memory intimate and personal. Others may incorporate a favorite brooch of their loved one in the wedding bouquet.
"I had one bride that ordered a bouquet with small framed photos cascading out of the bouquet," recalls Jerry Littleton of GML Design. "I've also had brides use their father's favorite tie around their nosegay."
Other couples prefer a public acknowledgement. "You often see things in the ceremony, such as a reading or prayers to honor their memory," Ely says.
In Muslim ceremonies, parents or grandparents can be referred to in the supplications after the sermon. "They will usually say, ‘May God grant his mercy,' " notes Malik Khan, community-relations director of the Asian-American Society of Central Virginia.
The prayer shawl (talit) of a deceased male member of the family sometimes becomes part of a Jewish service, "a wedding canopy that is put around the bride and groom at some juncture during the service," explains Rabbi Gary Creditor of Temple Beth-El.
Lindsay Averette of LK Events and Design recently worked with a bride whose father had passed away shortly before the wedding. Both she and her dad loved the Star Wars trilogy. The bride referred to that mutual passion in a letter to her dad, which was included in the wedding program.
"In it, she introduced him to her fiancé and ended the letter with a Star Wars reference: ‘In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Force is strong in this one.' She was talking about her fiancé," Averette says.
Colleen Cook of CCS Events recalls a bride who ordered purple irises for her mother to carry as she was escorted to her chair. The flowers were in honor of the bride's father, who had loved irises, and they later served as a centerpiece for the VIP table.
At one wedding Littleton attended, the bride inserted an extra page in the wedding program with photos of her grandparents and a short tribute that read, "You are not with us today but you are in our hearts." While some guests may feel uncomfortable with that type of remembrance, Littleton says, "It's part of life."
Remembrances can be extremely emotional, as DJ Jim Bostic discovered. Bostic, with Choice Entertainment, attended a wedding where the brother of the bride walked down the aisle with a single rose tied with a ribbon. "He placed it on the chair where the bride's mother would have been seated. She had passed away two months before the wedding. At the end of the ceremony, he walked that rose back down the aisle," Bostic says.
Jennifer McBride of Occasions Event Planning was equally moved when one of her wedding couples wanted to honor friends who had been killed in Iraq. The couple placed wreaths of fresh yellow flowers at the church and the reception site. "It was very subtle, but everyone understood what the wreaths represented," she says.
Still other couples choose to honor loved ones during the wedding reception rather than the ceremony. "I had one bride that wanted a family-style meal at her reception and served a particular version of macaroni and cheese," Cook says. "No one knew it was a family recipe except the family." Another bride served a top-shelf brand of bourbon that was her grandfather's favorite.
Whatever the means, remembering loved ones is crucial to many couples. "They don't want to lose sight of where they came from," says Cook. "It's a part of who they are."