Your marriage is a creation of a new family, but it is also a blending of the rich history that makes each family distinct.  Many of my couples have lost friends and family members and feel that they want to call them to mind during their ceremonies.

This should always be done with the utmost in sensitivity and grace. Very often I will include a moment of silence, introduced by a very short reading. My favorite is a quote from playwrite Welly Yang, from his play, “Finding Home””:

“We are all a culmination of the people that came before us, and we’re here to finish the dreams they left unfinished. ”
We include in our thoughts this evening, those who could not be here with us, and know that they are with us in spirit. Let us take a moment of silent meditation to remember them with fondness. We know they all rejoice with us.

This is usually followed by 20-30 seconds of silence.

Other couples have lit candles as they approached the ceremony space; left a seat open in the front row with a rose on it, or had photos at the reception. One of my grooms had his dad’s fishing hat on the greeting table, holding the fans that were the couple’s favors. Many of my brides have worn pieces of heirloom jewelry from their mothers or grandmothers, and I will usually mention those things in the context of the ceremony.

One of my couples included a sand ceremony, and included their grandmothers’ favorite vases as the vessels that held each of their individual sand.  The possibilities are endless, and don’t stop at the ceremony; your Aunt Mary’s famous cheese sticks might be the hit of the reception, (especially if your guests are told the history of the recipe), and what a wonderful way to celebrate the past and the future! 

Great care should be taken when including these memorial touches; if the loss is very recent or still very painful, this might not be an appropriate time to pay respects. This is something to discuss with your New Jersey wedding officiant, who can write a gracious and fitting tribute into your ceremony.