Honor a Lost Loved One at a Wedding

5 Ways to Honor a Lost Loved One at Your Wedding

Walking down the aisle is usually an exciting event for any bride or groom. A whole host of your closest family and friends are there to help you celebrate and all seems right in the world. However, occasionally a bride or groom must get through the day without a loved one that they always dreamed would be there. Many couples face their wedding day after the loss of someone they love. The good news is that there are many amazing ways to honor a lost loved one at your wedding without allowing the entire day to tumble into a slump of melancholy. How do you balance a solemn tribute with a joyful day?  This post is dedicated to ways to honor lost loved ones, without bringing your wedding atmosphere from party to pitiful. 

Honor a Lost Loved One at a Wedding

1. Wear or Carry an Item that Belonged to Them, During the Wedding

This may be the most private of all the tributes listed but it could be the most meaningful to you.  Is there a special piece of jewelry or small trinket that belonged to the love one that you want to honor?  This could be a locket that your grandmother always carried or your dad’s favorite cuff links.  Consider wearing them as part of your wedding attire. A few ideas are: sewing them inside of your coat, adding it to your veil or pinning it to the inside of the bouquet.  The advantage to this type of tribute is that it is mostly private, so the melancholy effect on the wedding guests are minimal to none.  However, if you want to make it a more public gesture, feel free to share about your reasons for wearing the item at the reception.

Honor a Lost Loved One at a Wedding

2.  Add a Tribute to Them in the Program

A more visible way to honor a loved one who has passed on would be to include a tribute to them in the program. You could include their favorite poem written in the program or even play their favorite song during the ceremony or reception and give a brief explanation.  The advantage to this type of tribute is that it is public, and everyone is involved.  The disadvantage is that if the loss is still fresh, it may trigger a few emotional responses from attending family members and friends.

Honor a Lost Loved One at a Wedding

3.  Save Them a Seat or Build them a Memorial 

This is a more common idea used to honor family or friends who have passed on but is still a lovely way to include them.  Frame a favorite photograph of your loved one and decorate with ribbon, then place it in the seat that the family member would be sitting in if they were with you at the wedding or create a memorial for them at the reception venue.  You can either add a short note about the person you are honoring or place a candle in front of the framed photo.  That way when you look back into the audience you will have them with you in a small way. Even though the photo will be in out in public, if the seat is near the front, you and your closest family and friends may be the only ones to see it, so it can still serve as a subtler tribute.

Honor a Lost Loved One at a Wedding

4. In Lieu of Gifts, Accept Donation to an Organization That Was Meaningful to Them

This is probably one of my favorite ideas in this list.  If you are going the route of accepting donations for a good cause in lieu of wedding gifts, consider having guests donate to an organization that was special to the member of the family that has passed on.  For example, if you have a grandmother who passed away from lung cancer, you can have guests send the donations to the American Cancer Society, or if your uncle was a regular volunteer for Meals on Wheels, have guests donate to that organization in his honor.  Donations are an outstanding way for your relatives to leave a legacy and your contributions will keep their memories alive with the organizations they loved or that served them.

Honor lost loved ones at a wedding

Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you started.  The grieving of a loved one is personal and choosing to remember them at this important milestone in your life honorable.  Celebrate them in the way you feel would be most special to both you and them.

Tahoe backyard wedding

Tahoe Backyard Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Dost + Nick

These two. 

I adore them. 

I’m so thankful to call them friends now.  They love music, and dancing, and laughter, and good food.  They are adventurous, curious and sardonic.  They say yes when I invite them to concerts by bands they’ve never heard of and they invite me to concerts by bands that I’ve never heard of.  They are willing to go to burlesque shows starring my former clients.  They like brunch (but, I mean, never trust a person that doesn’t).  They have some incredible moves on the dancefloor.

Dost and Nick wanted an intimate backyard gathering with their motley crew of far flung friends and family.  Their guest list was as diverse as they are, with folks coming from as far away as Turkey.  They rented a beautiful house directly on the water through VRBO for their Tahoe backyard wedding and as an added surprise, it decided to snow that week.  Bonus: Dost made good use of a thrift store fur coat that was perfect for the occasion, which is to say, it was fucking freezing that day and she had no choice but looked amazing in it.

We were all thankful for the tent and for the best DJ around Dave Berkman, who was willing to completely break down and move mid-day his entire setup inside so everyone could cut a rug the grass in relative comfort while it was 40 degrees out in Tahoe in September.

Dost and Nick have since told me that they were drawn to my work because they loved the way I capture movement and motion, which is something their dancefloor had plenty of!  I’m so incredibly honored to not only have been part of their day, but have new friends also.

Venue: VRBO | Caterers: Carson City BBQ | Rentals: Celebrations Rentals | DJ: Ascent DJ | Bride’s Attire: Maggie Sottero | Groom’s Attire: Paul Smith

Tahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard wedding

North Tahoe Lodge Wedding

North Tahoe Lodge Wedding | Truckee, CA | Agnes + Laurence

It’s freezing today in Tahoe.  Actually, it’s been freezing all week.  As I was trying to decide what amazing wedding to share from this past wedding season on the blog, the cold temps, banana bread in the oven, and the promise of fall from the chill in the air reminded me of Agnes and Laurence’s private estate North Tahoe Lodge wedding in Truckee from this past spring.  There was still piles of snow.  So much snow, in fact, that their guests spent an entire afternoon clearing the deck of snow for their ceremony.  

Agnes and Laurence wanted to have a small, intimate celebration surrounded by friends and family.  They wanted amazing food, lots of laughter, and great photos.  I have to say, that when you are one of two vendors, it makes you feel incredibly unbelievably special.  (I’ll try not to let it go to my head, Agnes).  

Agnes is Polish and customarily, at a Polish wedding, the father presents the couple with two glasses – one of vodka, one of water. They are offered first to the bride, who must make her selection without knowing which is which. Tradition says that whoever ends up with the glass of vodka will be the dominant partner in the relationship.  I think you can tell by the photos which way this ended!

Agnes and Laurence, it was an honor to be part of your day and even bigger honor to be so valued.  I firmly believe that your wedding day should be a day where you celebrate with the friends and family closest to you and that the pomp, circumstance, and traditions aren’t that necessary so when clients find me that not only believe, but exemplify the same values, it makes my heart sing to be part of the day.

Venue:  The North Tahoe Lodge | Caterer: Blend | Bride’s Attire: Glamour Closet | Second shooting service of the sassy shutterbug Shaunte Dittmar

North Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge WeddingNorth Tahoe Lodge Wedding

Tahoe Engagement Photography

Tahoe Engagement Photography | Kiva Beach | Rosa + Justin

I’m so thrilled to be connected with these two!  Justin is brother to one of my clients, Julie.  Julie, Michael and I had an incredible day romping around San Francisco once for their engagement session.  Since then, I photographed their wedding and they had a child!

I love staying connected to clients and their families afterwards and this is one family that is so fantastic to be part of.  Rosa and Justin are getting married at the Landing Resort this summer and I can’t wait!  I envision gorgeous blue skies and an awesome holiday weekend in their future.  I expect it will look very different from their super snowy winter engagement session at Kiva Beach!

Tahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement PhotographyTahoe Engagement Photography

Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding

Zephyr Cove Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, NV | Ana + Andrew

Ana and Andrew had me at pizza.

When we first spoke in 2015 about their wedding, over a year out, Ana was most excited about the pizza.  As a photojournalist, there are few details that I worry about on a wedding day.  I am, frankly, unconcerned with the pomp and circumstance and whether or not you’re going to have any traditions.  By all means, cut that cake and I will photograph it, but I’m not going to orchestrate your day or suggest that you do things you don’t want to for photos sake.  What I will get behind though: pizza.

The pizza was fantastic.

But the rest of their day, that was fantastic also.  From the tear inducing speeches to the cake in Andrew’s brother’s face, from the coordinated and choreographed first dances (Ana and her father danced to Time Warp!), everything about their daytime Zephyr Cove Resort wedding with a pizza buffet was right up my alley.

Venue: Zephyr Cove Resort | Coordinator : Stephanie Stugart | Officiant: Sharon Rusk | Invitations: Mighty Industries | Florist: Rose Petals Florist | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace | DJ: Southworth Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: David’s Bridal | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be | Videographer: HeavenSide Studios | Second Shooter: Annie Robillard

Zephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort WeddingZephyr Cove Resort Wedding

Chateau at Incline Village

Chateau Wedding | Incline Village, NV | Caitlin and Brad

Can all weddings have flower girls that clean up their flowers during the ceremony please?  For real.  Have you ever seen anything more adorable?

Caitlin and Brad met while attending the University of Arizona and now are loving living in Reno.  Mountains, athletics and four seasons are important to them and their friends definately did not let any of this, or their antics during college, escape their speeches at the wedding!  Brad’s brother actually kicked off the entertainment: he delivered, without a doubt, the most hysterical and amazing best man speech I’ve ever heard in the history of all weddings.  I could hardly take photos through the laughter induced tears.

Their Chateau wedding in Incline Village was graced with beautiful light, a kick ass dance party and plenty of laughter.  It was a beautiful day for a beautiful couple!

Venue: The Chateau at Incline Village | Officiant: Erica Jones | Invitations: Compass Rose Studio | Florist: A Floral Affair | Bakery: Dee’s Bakery | DJ: Epik Entertainment | Bride’s Attire: Bridal & Veil | Bridesmaid Attire: Jenny Yoo | Groom and Groomsmen Attire: Joseph Abboud from Men’s Warehouse | Hair and Make-Up: Tahoe Salon Be

Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingChateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe chateau at Incline Village WeddingThe Chateau at Incline Village Wedding

Valhalla Wedding

Valhalla Winter Wedding | South Lake Tahoe, CA | Mary + Scotty

Mary and Scotty are pretty much the raddest kids around with the best hair.  Until Scotty shaved his hair off on his wedding night.  True story.

Mary ascertained that he needed “marraige hair” instead of “bachelor hair.”  What I think probably started as an inside joke grew to actuality as the dance party went on into the night and the whiskey flowed.

Other reasons they are rad: they wanted a Viking themed photo booth because they were getting married at Valhalla.  Their Hope Valley engagement session featured golden light, stylish threads and dogs.  Their grandma facetimed them while they were getting ready.

Venue: Valhalla Estate | Wedding Planner: Tahoe Dream Events | Florist: Enchanted Florist | Bakery: Cakes by Grace | Catering: Blue Angel Cafe | Bride’s Attire: Nicole Miller from The Wedding Party | Groom’s Attire: J Crew | Second photographer: Nicky Lockman of Nemus Photography

 Valhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter WeddingValhalla Winter Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding

Landing Resort Wedding | Lake Tahoe, CA | Lex + Michael

Lex and Michael’s image from their Hora may be one of my most favorite images ever.  The combination of surprise, concern and hands everywhere makes me incredibly happy.  I also couldn’t help but put a ton of their portraits in this post, which is unusual for me, but they are so ridiculously good looking and adorable that I couldn’t help myself.  This young couple has been together SINCE JUNIOR HIGH (yes, seriously) and their parents and families are already best friends.  What I expected to be a quiet, subdued Sunday brunch Landing Resort Wedding was the exact opposite: from a poignant ceremony, to tear filled speeches, to a pumped up dance party, this wedding delivered like no other brunch wedding ever has.

Venue: The Landing Resort and Spa | Officiant: Sharon Rusk | Florist: Thran’s | DJ: Ascent DJ Productions | Bakery: Tahoe Cakes by Grace | Bride’s Attire: Free People | Groom’s Attire: Men’s Warehouse

Landing Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort Weddinglanding resort weddingLanding Resort Weddinglanding resort weddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort WeddingLanding Resort Wedding

Tahoe Private Estate Wedding

Tahoe Backyard Wedding | Meyers, CA | Clint + Sierra

Backyards.  Tacos.  Mismatched cups.  Koozies.  Kegs and coolers.  Golden late summer sunshine.

These are the things my wedding job dreams are made of.

Clint and Sierra delivered all this and more, despite some venue hiccups.  When their private estate rental cancelled on them for their wedding service, they did what any woodworking self-reliant couple planning a DIY wedding would do: scramble to turn their own backyard into a wedding oasis fit for the party of the century.

They filled their yard with lanterns and candles, wildflowers and string lights.  The dogs ran underfoot, the children serenaded us, the laughter spilled over the fenceline into the dark of night and the photographer had to make a late night beer run for the partiers (yes, this is a service I provide).

I loved every bit of this Tahoe backyard wedding from start to finish and I am so thrilled to have these two as friends now!

Venue: Private Estate, Lake Tahoe, CA | Bakery: Witt’s Cakes | Catering: La Promesa | DJ: Ascent DJ | Bride’s Attire: Janene’s Bridal Boutique and Forever 21 | Hair: Britney Mitchell | Make-Up: Maxine Reyna | Rentals: Tahoe Entertainer

Tahoe Backyard WeddingTahoe Backyard WeddingTahoe Backyard WeddingTahoe Backyard WeddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard weddingTahoe backyard wedding

Northstar Wedding

Northstar Wedding | Truckee, CA | Kendra + Tom

I have never seen a bride so incredibly full of laughter as Kendra.  From start to finish, not only was she throwing her head back in huge guffaws, but so was every single person around here.  This was my first time photographing a Northstar Wedding in Truckee, CA and I must say – their staff and venue is incredible.  From a gorgeous mountain top ceremony and cocktail hour to a evening reception under a tent in the village, everything was flawless.  The food was incredible, the staff was amazing and Ike and Martin not only are comedians, but had the dancefloor jumping from start to finish.

Venue: Northstar Ski Resort | Officiant: Ceremony of Love | Florist: Martha Bernyk Floral Design | Bakery: Flour Girl Wedding Cakes | Musicians: Ike and Martin | Bride’s Attire: Matthew Christopher from Allegria Bridal | Veil: David’s Bridal | Bridesmaids’ Attire: Bill Levkoff | Groom’s Attire: Bonobos | Hair and Make-Up: Acqua Hair Design | Special thanks to my second photographer Nicky Lockman

Northstar Wedding Northstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar WeddingNorthstar Wedding