Charlotte Balbier
Brides Up North Wedding Fairs

Up For Discussion: Empty Chairs

November 18th, 2011 | Julia Braime

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Had enough birthday cake yet Brides Up North?  Course you haven’t – and there are still a few more super giveaways in the Great Brides Up North Birthday Bakeaway still to come!  Make sure to tune in over the weekend to enter the rest. 

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This morning, we address a more serious topic here on the wedding blog, and one I am sure that a lot of my readers can identify with – how to remember lost loved ones on your wedding day, and how to deal with those metaphorical empty chairs?

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This is a topic that hits home with me personally, as a week before our wedding we lost a very close family friend after his long battle with illness.  He is – and was on the day – very sorely missed, but having been a larger than life, heart of the party, host with the most, fun loving family man, we knew that he would want the show to go on.  Tears were shed for him during the ceremony and during my father’s speech, and I felt proud to raise my glass to him in the first toast of the day. 

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As we think about the ones that we will personally miss, I will hand you over to my fabulous guest blogger Alison, who discusses the empty chair at her own wedding. 

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Weddings are emotional enough, before you even start thinking about how to include and remember loved ones who can’t be there for your special day.

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For me, it was my mum who sadly died back in 2002.

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Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog: Alison Staples

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As a bride, if there is one person you want there to help you plan, choose and decide. To be by your side while you visit and try on. To huddle with over bridal magazines, and phone up on the spur of the moment to blurt “I’ve just had a brilliant idea, what do you think of ……”

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To be swept up with the excitement, while keeping your feet on the ground, and then to be there on your big day to reassure you, keep you calm and to wear an enormous hat – then it’s your mum.

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Had she been alive, we’d have planned the wedding together and she’d have been a huge vibrant presence on the day itself.

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After she died, I described moving forward like re-arranging the furniture. When a chair is taken away you have to move the furniture to fill the space left in the room. That’s what we had to do at our wedding both metaphorically and literally.

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I wanted to include and remember her, of course I did, but I didn’t want to upset people or myself. After my recent health scares I was already going to find my wedding day emotionally and physically demanding.

So in addition to a mention in my dad’s speech, I chose a few positive, lovely touches which were a nod to mum. The guests who knew and remembered her recognised them without prompting.

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A few years before she died, mum gave me and my sister a package each. It was a gift from her wedding to each of us. In the package were two black and white photos from her wedding in 1964 and three squares of fabric. White satin and lace from her wedding dress and blue satin from her older bridesmaids dresses. For my wedding I copied her colour scheme. My little bridesmaids wore ivory with blue accents and my sister wore a long cornflower blue gown – as did hers.

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My sparkly clutch bag was one that my ever so glamorous mum carried to cocktail parties in the ‘70’s and the beautiful circular diamante broach that held my furry wrap in place was the one mum wore in the late ‘50’s as a newly qualified teacher.

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Mum loved music and was an amazing pianist, so including her favourites in our ceremony was an easy decision. Our choices included ‘The Entertainer’ by Scott Joplin and ‘Side Saddle’ by Russ Conway. Those two pieces are so evocative of my childhood – lying upstairs in bed while she played her ragtime favourites in the room beneath me. While we signed the register, it was like she was right there with us filling our wedding with her energy and joy.

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Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog: Alison Staples    Brides Up North UK Wedding Blog: Alison Staples

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It’s traditional for the groom’s father to walk back down the aisle with the mother of the bride. For us that wasn’t an option, so instead we surrounded him with the little bridesmaids and my ‘best boy’. My mum was a primary school teacher, so having the children represent her felt right.

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Finally, in addition to our civil ceremony at Chester Zoo in June, we also had a much smaller church blessing a couple of months later in the town in Lincolnshire which mum and dad retired to. My mum is buried in the churchyard, so after the ceremony Tris and I went and put my flowers on her grave. I left her a message:

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I missed you.

Although I couldn’t see you at our wedding,

I knew you were there.

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Mum never met Tris, my husband – but she left such an imprint, I knew what she’d have said. “Alison, he’s very dishy – well done!”

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Including someone special and madly missed in your wedding day can be really hard. I worried about striking the right note – enough, but not over the top, reflective but not over sentimental. Every situation is obviously different – but this is what I did for my mum. I hope if you are in the same situation as me, you find it helpful.

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How to you plan on remembering lost loved ones at your own wedding?  Leave a comment to start the discussion. 

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Alison writes her own personal blog at http://alison-staples.blogspot.com

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Alison’s latest posts for Brides Up North:

Up For Discussion- Achieving The Perfect Level Of Wedding Morning Zen

Up For Discussion- The Name Game (and meet Alison!)

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Would you like to guest blog for Brides Up North? Email julia@bridesupnorth.co.uk

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  – Images © 2011 Alison Staples

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comments

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    A very touching feature. My wedding is in one month and I sadly lost my father and grandmother at the start of this year. It feels really important to have something that will remind me of them on the day without being too over the top. x

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    At Floral Quarter we always likes to try and incorporate something special into floral arrangements, one of my customers had a button belonging to her grandma attached to the stem and another requested Eucalyptus in her bouquet because her gran used to grow it. It’s the little things that make the difference :)

  • Michelle
    November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Julia and Alison – a lovely post.
    My parents are divorced and my dad wasn’t at my wedding in 2008 and I felt like there was an empty chair. I wore my gold bangle my dad had given me before they divorced and I felt as though I had him with me.
    So sometimes it isn’t just bereavement which gives us those metaphorical chairs
    Thanks again
    Michelle

  • Lisa
    November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    This article really touched me, especially the bit about the blessing and laying flowers on the grave. It feels a really raw subject as my godmother passed away suddenly on Wednesday. She was so looking forward to our wedding (had already planned her weekend in Whitby!) and the thought of not having her there on the day is devestating. She had an amazing collection of vintage jewellery – hopefully I will be able to include this in the day. And maybe her wedding photos – my mum was her 1970’s bridesmaid, oh how fashions change!

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    Such a lovley post! And an issue that so many people have to deal with. It is hard to balance feeling excited about getting married with the sadness (and often guilt) about special people not being there.
    I cancelled my original wedding one month before we were due to be hitched in 2005 as I just couldn’t bare the though of walking down the ailse without my dad. It took me another 6 years to pluck up the courage to do it (thankfully having a patient other half!!) and wish I had done it sooner. I made a little video montage of my family for the reception and 100% felt that my dad was very much part of my day.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYKi-BM1e6Q
    Good luck to all those who face such a hard thing to go through though, and Emma, I’m sure your wedding is going to be full of love, laughter and a truly brilliant day.

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    Wow Bethan – your video is lovely.
    I’m so blown away with all your comments. In what ever form you are faced with it – it’s a hard thing to deal with. All the perfect dresses and on trend table centres in the world won’t make up for someone who should be there. I know you will all find your own way through it.
    I feel the need for a big bridal group hug xxx

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    I am often asked by couples for ways to remeber loved ones who aren’t with them on their special day. We are aften asked for ‘Memory Trees’. These are similar to our Crystal Wishing Trees but instead of gursts hanging wishes on them small photographs of loved ones are hung on the tree and guests are asked to share a memory of times gone and hang those on the tree too. The tags are then presented to the couple in a memory box to treasure.

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    Such a touching subject, I too lost my Mum just a year before my wedding and I felt her loss greatly in the run up to the big day, but on the day itself, I felt I had to put all that emotion into a box or else I would have been sobbing all day. So instead I visited her grave the evening before (in the church yard where we were to be married), laid a bouquet that was the same as mine and blew her a kiss. All day I knew she was with me and said she had arranged the gorgeous weather, looking back I don’t actually know how I was so strong but we had a beautiful wedding day and of course raised a toast to her and privately shed a few tears.

    Now as a wedding planner I have dealt with a number of brides who have lost parents and I often suggest a rememberance candle, which can be discreetly positioned and they can light it in private and spend a few moments with their memories. I have also rearranged a wedding when a bride found out her Mum was terminally ill, so everything had to be brought forward and organised in 8 weeks. It all came together wonderfully and her Mum had an amazing day, sadly she passed away just a few weeks after the wedding.

    For all those that have loved and lost and planning a wedding, yes it is incredibly hard but it does make you realise what is important in life and not to take anyone for granted. Good luck and be kind to yourselves xxx

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you so much to everyone for sharing their own private experiences this morning, it is truly appreciated. More than a few tears of emotion have been shed on my keyboard reading each comment. Wishing you all love xxx

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    I managed a wedding recently where they had a sunflower for each loved one who wasn’t there on the day. The sunflowers stood tall in a vase at the front of the alter with a simple chalk board sign which read ‘in loving memory’. The vase was then transferred to the gift table after the ceremony. Claire.

  • November 18, 2011 | Permalink | Reply

    I managed a wedding recently where they had a sunflower for each loved one who wasn’t there on the day. The sunflowers stood tall in a vase at the front of the alter with a simple chalk board sign which read ‘in loving memory’. The vase was then transferred to the gift table after the ceremony. Claire

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about the author

Julia Braime
Former lawyer and bride to be Julia founded Brides Up North in 2010 with a chip on her shoulder. Frustrated by the poor Northern presence in glossy bridal magazines and online, she decided to do something about it herself. Astounded by the rapid growth of her blog and brand, Julia now manages Brides Up North’s online content alongside their busy wedding exhibition season, industry events and related commissions. And she’s always, always, got a new project on the go…

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