A picture of your parent's wedding day honors the deceased parent.

How to Honor a Deceased Parent During Your Marriage Vows

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

Missing a parent at your wedding can be poignant and bittersweet, especially if you always envisioned that parent as a vital part of the event. Mentioning that parent in your wedding vows, or incorporating a memento or symbol of your deceased parent into your day, can honor your parent without giving your wedding a funereal atmosphere. Discuss your wishes with your partner, remaining parent and officiate so no one is caught off-guard by what you say or do.

"Thank You"

As you recite your vows, thank your new spouse’s deceased parent for raising such a loving and wonderful individual to walk you through the journey of life. Or, thank a deceased parent for watching over you as you begin your marriage -- and for being a role model for how you should treat each other and raise your children. Realize that your words could bring tears to your eyes or the eyes of your partner and make it difficult to get through the next bit of the ceremony, but keep in mind that you are acknowledging that without your beloved deceased parent, you and your love would not be standing there together.


If the deceased parent is a parent of the bride, when the officiate asks who gives her in marriage, the individual who walks her down the aisle can say, “I do, in honor of…” and provide the name of the deceased parent or parents, suggests the Lyssabeth’s Wedding Officiants website. Another option is for the bride and groom to both take a red rose and place it in a vase on the altar or a remembrance table and light a candle in memory of the deceased parent prior to declaring their intention to marry or saying their vows.

Empty Chair

An empty chair with a picture of the deceased parent acknowledges the memory of the beloved parent, notes a May 2013 Glamour.com article. Before you light the unity candle that symbolizes the creation of your new family, give each living parent a flower and leave a flower on the empty chair. Then thank your parents for their roles in your life to this point -- and ask for their prayers and best wishes for your life together going forward.


You can carry a token that reminds you of the deceased parent as you speak your vows together, suggests the Knot website. It could be a picture of you with the parent, a piece of cloth from your deceased parent's favorite article of clothing, a Bible that belonged to the deceased parent or that parent's favorite flower in the middle of your bouquet. This type of honoring is more subtle than speaking the parent’s name or adding the deceased to the ritual, but could be less stressful and emotional when you are already missing the parent.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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