Planning Your Wedding when a Loved One Passes Away

Wedding experts share practical advice that will not only help you get through this challenging period, but also find some joy in the process.

Related: Golden Rules for Any Couple in Crisis

Honor a departed loved one by naming a station at your cocktail hour after them. Even celebs are in on the trend: Actress Shannen Doherty created a Scotch bar area at her wedding in remembrance of her Dad.Honor a departed loved one by naming a station at your cocktail hour after them. Even …

1. Allow yourself to grieve.

It's devastating when someone you care about deeply is taken away from you-no matter how joyful getting married can be, it doesn't negate this loss. Grieving reminds you of the important things in life that sometimes create a shift in your planning.

Bride-to-be Michelle Taylor thinks of her late mom at every step in her wedding planning. "Your mom is supposed to be there when you find The Dress, she's the one who calms you down when you freak out over your budget, and, most importantly, she nags you about what she feels is right for your wedding. It might sound weird, but I actually wish that my mother was here to nag me." Taylor and fiancé Wesley have been together since they were just 14 years old (they're 23 now), and she's grateful she got her Mom's blessing before she passed away three years ago.

2. Honor their memory by including them in your wedding.

There are many ways to honor a lost loved one at your wedding: big and small, private and public. Taylor's wedding will incorporate purple (her Mom's favorite color), New Orleans' architecture (her Mom's favorite city) and even a heart-shaped swatch of fabric (from her Mom's clothing) hidden in the folds of her gown. Instead of buying a new wedding band, Wesley will place her mother's ring on her hand at the altar. Souza tells us she's had clients whose mothers have read the speech that their father would have given (incorporate it in the wedding program, instead, if you feel that the potential for tears is too high).

3. Stop feeling guilty.

After Taylor's mother died, "I felt like I didn't even want to eat, let alone think about planning a wedding. So often, when people lose someone, they feel as if life shouldn't be happening, and they forget to live, or feel guilty for having wonderful experiences happen to them, because they feel that if their loved one can't enjoy it, then they shouldn't either."

4.Don't underestimate the power of weddings.

In the book "A Practical Wedding: Creative Ideas for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable and Meaningful Celebration" by Meg Keene, the author describes how during a painful moment in her own wedding planning, she came across a passage from Elie Wiesel's A Jew Today that forever changed her perception of weddings. It says that when a wedding procession encounters a funeral procession in the street, the mourners halt so as to allow the revelers to proceed-the wedding takes precedence. They serve as a symbol of hope and promise for the future, and give families a chance to heal.

"Weddings are a brief shining moment in the sun. They are a little bit of magic. Often, as a bride, you don't know this yet, but every elderly person at your wedding who dressed up and got themselves there knows it well…we need moments where we can get together and celebrate someone's joy. So in that way, a wedding isn't just yours. But this time, it's your turn to host," said Keene.

Tell us: How are you honoring a loved one's memory at your wedding?

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--Stefania Sainato