Who Did You Honor At Your Wedding?

Honoring your best people, even when it's complicated.

One of the hardest parts of wedding planning is choosing who and how to honor the people closest to you. On the one-hand, there are some great, clearly-defined WIC-approved roles for close friends and family members that can take some of the guesswork out of things, while simultaneously managing the expectations of those closest to you. But once those roles are filled (or if those roles don’t feel authentic to you), well there isn’t much for deviations from the norm. How do you honor a friend who is close, but isn’t in the wedding party? How do you navigate divorced parents who both love you, but don’t care much for each other? More complicated still, how do you tell people they aren’t being honored in the WIC-approved way they were expecting, but that they are still important (see: walking yourself down the aisle).

As children of blended families, choosing how to honor all the special people in our lives during our wedding was one of the more complicated parts of planning. There were so many people we wanted to honor, people we love dearly and equally, but among whom there are perceived hierarchies that we had to pay close attention to so as to avoid any hurt feelings. Like I said, complicated. In the end, I had both my dads walk me down the aisle (though I regret not giving my stepdad a father-daughter dance); my stepmom (who was uncomfortable taking any of the shine off my mom the day of) helped make our flowers; and any cousin under the age of thirteen got to walk down the aisle because that’s the only fun part of a wedding when you’re a tween, right?

But making these decisions wasn’t easy. Part of that can be attributed to sensitive feelings. But mostly, it was because we didn’t have any ideas available to us to draw inspiration from, so a lot of what we were offering felt a little…lackluster. Second rate. When what we really wanted was something that would carry the weight and emotional significance of what we were trying to say to them. So, since APW readers are some of the most creative and thoughtful people on the internet, I want to open up this open thread to your thoughts and ideas on how to make your special people feel special. Who are you honoring and how are you doing it? What has the response been to your alternative honor? Did you have to soothe and hurt feelings after telling someone they weren’t getting the honor they thought they were? If we get enough ideas, we’ll round up some of our favorites into its own post to keep handy for the future.

Photo: Gabriel Harber Photography

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  • Mallory

    Collectively, my husband and I have 6 siblings, ages 12-22. We struggled for a long time to honor them in our ceremony in a meaningful way that didn’t include what my teenaged sister referred to as “crappy jobs,” as we had previously made the decision not to include them in our attendants (14 person bridal parties are not our thing).

    We decided to create a color-coded handfasting ceremony (inspired by this post on Offbeat Bride: http://offbeatbride.com/2012/10/handfasting-color-ceremony). Each of our siblings read a short description of what their color ribbon represented and then tied it around our hands. The end result was emotional, poignant, and extremely special to both of us and our families (http://www.flickr.com/x/t/0095009/photos/90557807@N06/9512318340/ for a pic stitch of all 6).

    • meg

      Those photos are BEUTIFUL! Would you let us use them in a roundup?

      • Mallory

        Heck yes! I’ve been toying with submitting as a Wordless Wedding, actually….*kicks self in butt*

        • meg


          • Mallory


    • Aww, I love this idea! And those pictures are awesome!

    • Thanks so much for sharing this link! As I fall down the rabbit hole of daydreaming this into a ceremony, I wonder how the end of the ceremony works? That is, once everyone has contributed a ribbon/cord, how did you transition to the next part of your ceremony?

      I’m trying to envision a graceful transition rather than [long, touching ceremony, cords wrapped around hands, then–] “Alrighty, get this stuff off, on to the next!”

      • Mallory

        We transitioned into the ring exchange, with the pastor saying how the rings will be a symbol of the bonds we tied today, tying the knot, etc. I don’t quite remember the exact verbiage..

        • Thanks! Did you leave the ribbons on for the ring exchange, too?

          • Mallory

            Nope, we slipped our hands out and I gave the ribbons to my Maid of Honor as she gave me my husband’s ring. Tied up hands make for difficult ring exchanges.

    • Goodness! Your dress and veil. *swoon*

      Can’t wait to see the WW post!

  • ZZ

    I would love some advice on this topic! My fiance and I have a very dear friend who introduced us, so we give her full credit for our relationship! We would love to honor her in some way (but she is not in the bridal party, we are keeping that just family). Aside from doing a reading does anyone have any other ideas of how she could be involved?

    • Natasha

      We’re asking our dear friend who introduced us give a speech at our “welcome reception” the night before the wedding. She’s a writer and super funny so we thought this would be a great way to honor her and set the tone for the weekend.

    • Jen G

      One of my dear friends introduced another dear friend of ours to her ex-boyfriend from high school (this was in our early/mid 20s). At their eventual wedding, the groom stood up and gave a short toast in honor of the introducer. So she was honored directly, rather than “honoring” by making her do something she doesn’t really want to do (talking in front of people).

      My friend felt absolutely fantastic about it. Also – the bride/groom started the toast with a thanks to everyone for coming, all the helpers, etc. then she got the special shout out with story at the end.

    • ART

      We’re planning to ask ours to officiate – YMMV on that one though ;) (as might ours, we’re not sure she’ll say yes)

  • Natasha

    I’m getting married in 11 months (eek!) and I’m having some anxiety about pleasing both sets of parents (mom, dad, stepdad, stepmom). I’m planning to have both my dad and my stepdad walk me down the aisle. But I haven’t told my dad this yet…mainly because a) I don’t know if I need to give him a heads up and b) I worry he might be upset (but I’m a worrier, so maybe I am projecting?)

    My biggest challenge is the father/daughter dance. Part of me wants to skip it because it will take time away from the group dancing (esp. if I do dances with both dads) and I’m kinda weirded out by having everyone watching me dance (twice, since we’re going to do a first dance). But, if I skip father/daughter, then I think my fiance would need to skip mother/son and I’m not sure my MIL would be cool with that. Clearly, we need to have a chat about all this but I would love to hear what other peeps did before I bring it up!

    As far as honoring friends, etc: We aren’t having a formal bridal party but we’re giving out special tasks (the person who introduced us is giving a speech, my best friend is signing out Ketubah, etc) We’re also subtly honoring grandparents who passed away (ex: my fiance’s grandfather’s tallit will hang over our chuppah but we’re not calling it out in the program or ceremony–it’s more just for us, his mom, and his grandma)

    • Laura C

      “But, if I skip father/daughter, then I think my fiance would need to skip mother/son and I’m not sure my MIL would be cool with that.”

      I’m a little worried about this, too. We’re not doing a first dance or a father/daughter dance, and I told my fiance he could do a mother/son if he wanted. He didn’t seem to feel it was necessary but I don’t know what expectations his mom might have.

      • eulalia

        Could you do a parent/child general dance, where any parent and child that wanted to dance could? It would take the pressure off the individuals and might be nice for other guests, too!

      • Ali

        I did a father/daughter dance. My husband had no interest in a mother/son dance so we just skipped it. Nobody seemed to notice.

        • Jennifer

          That’s good to know. I want to do a father/daughter dance, but my fiance has had a rocky relationship with his mother and has no interest in dancing with her.

    • Anonymous

      This wouldn’t work for everyone, but maybe it would in your sitch. I didn’t have parents at the wedding and was feeling sensitive about mother son dance for my groom. But I certainly didn’t want to deprive my husband or mil of that. I spoke with them and they agreed that they could just dance with each other. That there was no need for announcements or anything like that, it was about sharing a special moment at the wedding together – for the two of them and not the crowd at large.

      Perhaps if you expressed the desire to be more laid back with family dances and simply made a point of doing them shortly after the first dance, it would eliminate the anxiety of doing it in some prescribed way that may not work for you.

      • Natasha

        Thank you! That’s a great idea.

        My other thought is to have our parents “cut in” during our first dance after the first minute or so (first my dad and his mom, then my stepdad and my stepmom, then my mom and his dad), and then the “cutted-in-ons” (for lack of a better word) would pair with each other so somehow all of our parents would be dancing at once with one another when the song ended. Clearly this will require some orchestration (and practice…) but it could work to include everyone?

        • That’s a really nice idea, both for inclusiveness and to help with your concern about time for special dances vs. time for general dancing.

          Also, this is just one person’s perspective, so take it with a massive grain of salt, but I was just in a wedding where there was a first dance, a father-daughter, a mother-son, a stepfather-daughter, a wedding party dance, a general family dance (aunts, uncles, brothers, cousins, and so on) … I think I may even be leaving a couple out. It was A. LOT. of “special” dancing, and honestly after six or eight, no matter how spotlit or how dramatically announced by the MC, they start to feel … less special.

        • Penny

          I was at a wedding recently where they did this and it worked really well. It was relaxed and casual and flowed really nicely into eventually everyone getting up and dancing.

      • Kat

        Yes, my sister and brother-in-law did this at their wedding. It got all the dances over and done with in one song.

        Bride & Groom Dance

        Father of Bride Cuts in to dance with Bride

        Groom goes to ask mom to dance

        Step-Father could cut in to dance with Bride, and FoB could either sit down, dance with their significant other/MoB depending on the civility level.

    • Margaret

      Maybe give your dad a heads up about who is also walking you down the aisle. For one, it will let you stop worrying about it. And two, this way it won’t be a surprise the day before with no time for him to get over it if it does bother him. I had my dad and stepdad walk me down the aisle and neither of them were upset by it but I did make a point of being very clear about what was happening.

    • My dad and I are both shy, so we decided to invite all the other fathers and daughters among our guests to join us for the father daughter dance. (Since I have a fairly large family, there were a good number of people included.) My dad loved the idea and it made both of us a lot more comfortable.
      I would definitely talk to your dad about the walk down the aisle-the sooner the better. I worried a lot about which parents names to include on our invitations, especially whether or not to include my father’s wife, who is an important part of my family but not someone I see as a parent. When I finally worked up the courage to talk to him about it, he was very understanding. I could have saved myself a lot of worry and a stomachache if I’d just talked to him sooner.

      • AVA

        The all-father-daughter dance is such a lovely idea. It reminds me of primary school (elementary school) when we’d have an annual father-daughter ball and it was always such fun :)

  • This is slightly off topic, but there is a trend that I have observed where large wedding parties are read as the ultimate WIC-absurdity. That really bums me out. For us, the easiest way to honor our loved ones was to have this giant, sprawling, uneven on each side, mixed-gender wedding party, and we caught a lot of raised eyebrows for it.

    We gave our wedding party general guidelines for clothes (on his side: navy, on my side: pastel or ivory), and we had them all sit down during the ceremony. It was so much fun having them all a part of the day in that way, getting ready together and lining up to go down the aisle together, and everyone seemed pretty pumped about the whole thing.

    So, if you’re considering it: I think a giant wedding party brigade can be pretty damn anti-WIC, too.

    • Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll add:

      To honor our grandparents, 4 of whom passed away in the year leading up to the ceremony, we had a wedding photo from each of their weddings at the front of the ceremony space.

      To honor our community at large, we included a part in our ceremony about the day being, also, a celebration of their support for us (individually and together) over the years, and we did a ring warming. (I love thinking about all the good mojo sent in the direction of our wedding bands.)

      To honor my uncle, who is like a second father, we asked him to lead our ceremony (which, it turns out, totally scared the crap out of him, but he did an awesome job).

      On the day of, I asked my cousin (who has super good taste) if she would go pick out some flowers from Whole Foods for my bouquet because I hadn’t found the time to do it over the weekend. She did an unbelievable job, and she also felt really honored by the task, so wins all around.

      • Rachelle

        We’re doing grandparents’ wedding pictures too, but I’m thinking of putting them on the cake table. Of the 8 grandparents between us, 3 have passed away, 2 are not in good enough health (or state of mind) to come and 3 will be attending so we wanted to honor the ones that are not there and their very long marriages.

      • AVA

        Wow, I’d never heard of a ring warming before, so I just googled it….. AWESOME!!!! What a fantastic way to honour EVERYONE at the wedding :)

    • Lauren

      Thank you for this! I needed it. I have 2 sisters, 2 future sister-in-law, and also want to include a few friends for all the reasons you gave, but mostly because they are my people and I want to spend the morning with them and have them in front with me. But it has been hard for me to tell people the numbers.

    • Marie

      I love that you had your wedding party sit down during the ceremony – the main reason I am leaning toward no wedding party is because I don’t want to stand for that long. (Plus, in the traditional formation you don’t get a very good view of the ceremony.) Your wedding party sounds awesome!

    • Miranda

      I totally agree! I have three sisters, 2 future sister-in-laws, and 4 very close friends and I wanted to include them all in the bridal party. My husband had a large group of friends who have been close since elementary school. We had 18 people in our bridal party and it was amazing. They were all so helpful and loving. I can’t imagine the day without one of those 18 people standing with us (although they actual sat during the ceremony).

    • I’m not having a wedding party but I love big ones at other people’s weddings! I think it makes a lot of sense as many of us move around a lot more and get married older than used to be the “norm,” so instead of having our three bestest friends since grade school we have all sorts of groups of indispensable people from different phases of our lives (and that’s not even taking into account large/ close families).

      I think it might even have been APW where I stumbled across this link recently? It sounds like exactly what you’re doing!

  • Sarah

    I had a very difficult time navigating this which lead to a lot of WIC-induced tears.

    My father is no longer in my life (he is alive, so this is by choice), and I have the greatest stepfather known to mankind. He suggested that my brothers walk me down the aisle to honor my blood family and so they were both honored and involved in the ceremony. This is also because my choice of not including my father in the day is affecting the family in ways that are too long to type, and he was aware that him walking me down the aisle might stir those feelings up the day of the wedding. We opted not to do a “father-daughter” dance because he is in a wheelchair and he did not feel comfortable with it. So we decided that he would do the toast and blessing the meal at the beginning of the reception along with escorting my mother in. That way the three key men in my life are celebrated in meaningful ways and in ways they all feel comfortable with.

    • Katherine

      Yay for step-family that gets it! I love that it was your stepfather who came up with a way to honor the truly important people in your life, without causing strife.

    • Judith

      Your stepfather truly does sound like the best!

  • KC

    a) decorations (corsage, boutonniere, whatever) that “match”
    b) names mentioned in program (oops; our program was literally just a this-is-the-order-of-stuff-in-the-ceremony)
    c) singled (or grouped) out for specific photos with you

    We mostly went with kind of standard roles (reader, herders-of-people-towards-the-guest-book, person-watching-over-the-gifts-and-sticking-loose-cards-on-with-extra-tape, wedding party) and then with things that made sense with peoples’ special skillz/abilities.

    • eulalia

      My fiancee and I aren’t doing a first look before the ceremony, so this is an excellent time to get oodles of individual and group pics in with just me and friends and family! Great idea!

    • Jenni

      Sticking loose cards on with extra tape?! You just blew my mind.

  • Ella

    This comes at such a good time. I recently asked my fiance’s future step-sister (FH’s mother is also engaged) to do a reading at our ceremony. This felt like the perfect solution because we’ve recently gotten much closer (now that we know our lives are more permanently involved) and I’m excited to honor her and the new family my fiance’s mom is become apart of. She and I were both English majors, so this is especially relevant to both our interests.

    • april

      Exactly! We’re using the readings to honor a couple of very close, very important non-relatives. One, my fiance’s “aunt” (a very close friend of his mother’s who does not have any children of her own) was so touched that we asked her, she sent us a beautiful ‘thank you’ card. The wedding isn’t even until next month!

  • Tess

    We didn’t feel comfortable with a wedding party, but still wanted to honor our families and our close friends. We ended up honoring people by asking them to speak in some way — we gave all of our immediate family (7 siblings and 2 sets of parents) a speaking roll as well as 7 close friends. The talking was parceled out over toasts at the rehearsal dinner, toasts at the reception, and a reading of a self-written blessing for our future at our ceremony. We also had a close friend officiate. For the processional we had all our siblings process with their family units and then each of us walked in with our parents. To us, this was an excellent way to honor people as words are very important to us and everyone’s speeches really enriched the weekend and made it much more personal. But, my one regret is not communicating better with our people about how much this meant to us. My husband’s sister, for instance, gave a toast at the rehearsal and processed with a special bout but we found out too late she was disappointed she wasn’t “in” the wedding. I guess my point is, non-traditional roles can work great, but it’s worth making sure you’ve explained their meaning to avoid hurt feelings.

  • eulalia

    Thank you so much for this thread! Although I have come up with a few ideas about how to honor people, I hope to get more – we have a lot of honoring to do!
    We are not having a bridal party, but I still want to show my friends how important they are: I am hoping to make a small fabric flower corsage for all my friends. I am asking several ladies to be in my ‘bridal posse’ and as I ask them, I try to find some kind of casual title – so far, I have ‘honor guard’ (keeping drama away from me on the day of), groomspotter (to my FSIL – keeping tabs on where her brother is so we don’t run into each other before the ceremony by accident), as well as several more traditional roles, guest book enforcer, photography rounder upper, readers, toasters, etc. I am also trying to tap into some of my friend’s talents in planning – bring a friend with us to the cake tasting (as a proxy taster, I don’t eat gluten or sugar), advising on invitations, menu, and music, etc. Since I won’t have a MOH to hand my bouquet to, I am handing it to my mom for the ceremony, and although I want my dad to walk me down the aisle, I will have my mom stand up when we get to the end to hug us both.
    So far, my parents are the only ones that have been anything less than completely supportive, but even they are mostly OK with the arrangements, although my mother will be the only person with a fresh flower corsage because she does not approve of fabric flowers. So in accommodating her, I feel like we are honoring her in a way, or at least soothing frayed nerves.
    Can’t wait to see some other ideas!

    • Natasha

      I love your idea of handing your bouquet to your mom and having her stand up when you get to the end of the aisle! My mom doesn’t like having any attention on her (I was going to have her walk me down the aisle but she felt really uncomfortable about it) so this is a great way to include her/honor her without her feeling awkward. Thank you!

    • InTheBurbs

      “Since I won’t have a MOH to hand my bouquet to, I am handing it to my mom for the ceremony, and although I want my dad to walk me down the aisle, I will have my mom stand up when we get to the end to hug us both.” This made me tear up. We have no attendants – and no corsages/flowers on folks – and I was just starting think about what I’m going to do with my bouquet. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • I love your Bridal Posse! I think it’s such a great idea to honor close friends outside of a bridal party. There’s a tradition in the American South that I really adore for it’s inclusive spirit: The Wedding House Party. It’s just like you’re describing: Your best girls (or guys, because why not?) get honored as members, howver you decide to do that, and given some trinket (a flower, a charm, a necklace) to wear on the day in friendship solidarity. I’m planning on incorporating that idea into my wedding somehow.

  • Laura C

    We are struggling with this, especially because I have strong feelings about having gender balance in who has speaking roles — I’ve been to too many weddings where for whatever reason the vast majority of people who spoke were men.

    We have a big wedding party — seven on my side, eight on his. Another friend is officiating. If his grandparents are able to attend, one cousin will walk them down the aisle just before the wedding party starts to come in, and the same cousin may give a toast at the rehearsal dinner. Another of his cousins will emcee. Hopefully one of his friends and one of mine will do ceremony music. We’re thinking a pair of my friends and one of his will do ceremony readings. (The officiant, one of the musicians, and two of the people we’re thinking of for readings are women.)

    Toasts — how many and who — are a major issue of debate. Our parents’ roles are a major issue of debate. His mom will walk him in. I don’t especially want to be walked in, but I don’t want it to look like I care less about my parents than he does. I’m more worried about the toasts. I’ve been to one too many weddings where those got completely out of control.

    • Ella

      It’s funny you say that, because most of the weddings I’ve been to have had only or mostly women speak!

      • Laura C

        Interesting! I just counted and in 10 weddings over the past three years, there may have been one or two that were within one person of parity, but otherwise they all skewed heavily male on the speakers (toasts plus officiant plus readings). And it’s not like we’re talking about a conservative set of people, either.

  • Jenni

    What are some suggestions for honoring your mom? I’ll probably do a father-daughter dance, and I’m going to push for being walked down the aisle by both of my parents (mom isn’t quite used to the idea yet), but I still feel like something’s missing for my mom. I talk to her every day and she’s already hand-holding me through the stress of wedding planning.

    • SamanthaNichole

      Yes! I’d like some advice on this too.

      • Rachel

        I danced with my dad and then halfway through the somg, switched over and danced with my mom.

    • eulalia

      If she doesn’t want to actually escort you down the aisle, maybe she could stand and answer a question when you get to the end of the aisle? That is what I think we are doing – our officiant will ask something along the lines of “Do you support your child’s decision to join together in holy matrimony with (name), and do you vow to receive (him/her) as a member of your family from this day on?

      Answer: “With love in our hearts for both (name) and (name), we joyfully do.”

      Got that here, lots of good alternatives:

      A special corsage would be great, too. Maybe a toast?

    • Ana

      My mom was ALL OVER IT when I asked her if I could borrow a bracelet to wear at the wedding.

      • Emmy

        Yes! My “something borrowed” is my mom’s original wedding ring. (She doesn’t wear it anymore since she upgraded. Bling bling! :)

    • scw

      I don’t know if this will work for you, but my boyfriend and I have talked about the possibility of having him and my mom dance as well during the father-daughter dance, and then me with his dad during the mother-son once. (although to be honest, I don’t really want to do the dances at all- I hate being the focus of a room!- so for us it will come down to whether it is important to our parents.)

      • Jenni

        This is a cool idea. At least if two couples are dancing, statistically half of the people won’t be looking at you at any one time!

    • Beth

      At my brother’s wedding, they had the moms each light a candle while the dads read something and then they used those candles to light their unity candle.

      At my wedding, both my mom and my dad walked me down the isle. My mom is into line dancing and actually knew a dance to the song we were using for the father/daughter dance, so we were planning on having me start out dancing my with dad and then having my mom come up part way through and break out into the line dance. She ended up not wanting to do it unless we got more people to come up and join, but we didn’t have time to teach anyone else the line dance so it didn’t happen. But! Something like that? Swapping out with your dad halfway through the dance?

      • Beth

        Oh and I should say that my husband walked down the aisle with both his parents as well.

    • Heather

      I’m getting married next June, and the plan is to have my dad do the aisle & dance and my mom to do the toast. They’re divorced, and my mom and her husband will be helping us more with wedding costs, so it suits her role as a host, and I can’t imagine not having those traditional moments with my dad. It also suits their personalities–my mom is a bit more outgoing than my dad.

      • Jenni

        Oooo I love this! My mom is definitely more of the ‘talker’.

    • Kat

      I struggled with this too and decided that we would have my mom and my fiance’s maternal grandma (since his mom died 12 years ago) be our witnesses on the marriage certificate, registry etc. We had decided to call our bridal part Best Ladies and Best Men to cut out a lot of pissing matches over whose “job” it was to do things, it also eliminated having to pick a “favourite” to sign the papers. Everyone is honoured.

    • Steph

      I struggled with a way to honor my mother, so we decided to have each of our mothers do a reading during the ceremony. Seemed to make them happy!

  • We decided to have a small family only wedding party. Yay many many siblings! I still want to share the day with my close friends, so I’m hoping to ask them to get ready with me the day of/come to brunch. I’ve made plans to host a really informal brunch and I’ve already talked to some of the girls about this- they seem pretty excited about helping me get ready.

    However, I know some of them will bring dates to the wedding. I’m not particularly comfortable with the idea of having guys in the room getting ready with us- and I’m not sure these dates will be comfortable with the groom and his brothers (who they may not have met). Should I organize something to entertain them? Any suggestions?

    • eulalia

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the extra dates – people should know that that is kind of part of the deal being a wedding date. Maybe suggest a bar or coffee shop that they can hang out in?

      • TeaforTwo

        Exactly! As long as none of the dates are under the age of 12, they can be safely trusted to entertain themselves. And I feel quite confident that they would rather spend the morning of doing anything other than watch a group of your close girlfriends put on makeup and get ready for a wedding.

      • That’s a great idea. There should be a coffee shop close to the hotel where we blocked rooms. Also, maybe making sure to introduce the dates to each other before that morning? I was hoping to see everyone the night before anyways :)

    • GCDC

      I did this as well, and the dates were not invited. We just got ready in my hotel room and had bagels and fruit and mimosas. The dates were not at all interested in getting ready with us, anyway, and I think they just slept in. I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

  • Together we have four parents, my stepdad, my two stepsiblings, his sister, his grandparents, and my paternal grandmother who hangs out with my mom more often than anyone else in the family. I always felt a little weird with the “honoring” part of weddings (it’s one day, and I’m not going anywhere, guys), but we’re accomplishing this by having all these people walk down the aisle before us, and then my fiance and I will each walk down alone. That way no one has to stand or do anything, but they maybe get some extra recognition.

  • Ana

    Two bride wedding here. My parents divorced when I was 21 and remarried when I was 25. I got married at 30, her parents are still together. I have few friends, she has many friends. 127 guests at our wedding.

    My wife and I walked in at the same time, from opposite sides. Before us, my parents walked down the center aisle with their spouses, dropped said spouse off in the front row, then stood in the front of the ceremony space. Her parents, then my brother-in-law and his wife came in, followed by my sister by herself. They all took a traditional “groom” role, watching my wife and I coming down the aisle. It was a sweet moment and we got to hug and kiss everybody as we walked to our places.

    We didn’t single out anyone else, because we just couldn’t choose. We did a ring warming ceremony so everyone present got to bless/touch our rings and modified the Quaker marriage certificate (signed by all present) to make everyone included. We also made enough rosemary boutonnieres (a Serbian tradition) for everyone to wear, if they chose.

    I invited my two best friends from college to come watch the dress zipping-up moment, which in my mind is the sweetest, least drama-filled part of being a bridesmaid.

    • scw

      I love the idea of walking toward each other simultaneously!

  • SamanthaNichole

    Okay so our wedding is in 1 month, to the day! and I haven’t had the guts yet to talk to my Dad. My fiance and I are planning on walking down the aisle together, which is very important to us as a symbol of the commitment we have for each other already, of us making this choice together as two adults, as us walking to our common future together, etc. I’m worried that as his only daughter, my Dad has been looking forward to this and I don’t to “rob him.” Also my parents have been going through a messy divorce over the last few years, which has effect my Dad and my relationship – just in the fact that we have a hard time communicating, but we have recently been working on that. I don’t want this to be seen as a response to my relationship with my Dad to people at the ceremony and I kind of feel like I know the wedding is a community thing, but the ceremony is really ours – it’s about us – it’s our moment to get married. I guess I just have to get over it and call him. Has anyone else navigated this terrain before?

    • april

      I think this is a conversation you need to have with your dad ASAP. But before you do, is there another special role you could give him in the ceremony? Maybe he could be planted at the end of the aisle with your officiant and greet you with a kiss and your partner with a kiss or handshake before taking his seat?

      • SamanthaNichole

        This is an interesting idea . . . Thank you for giving me something to think about. And yes, I need to bite the bullet right away.

    • april

      p.s. Sounds like we’re wedding date twins :)

    • Kat

      Okay how about this idea?

      Have your dad walk you a third of the way up the aisle, you walk on your own the second third and then your fiance, who is already waiting for you at the last third, walks with you up the rest of the aisle… that way there’s the symbolism of life, dad gets a small walk up and you both still get to walk each other up the aisle. OR if you dont’ want to do the second third on your own walk half way with dad and half way with your fiance.

  • Amy March

    When I’ve been honored outside the bridesmaid/reader role I have enjoyed: dancing with the groom, planning the bachelor party, holding the bouquet for a while, a phone call the night before just to chat, and post-wedding with an invite to come over and christen the new china and chat about the wedding. I haven’t enjoyed and now say no to: manning the guest book (um, have we met? It isn’t an honor to this lady to keep her from getting a cocktail), taking a centerpiece (on the subway? Not fun) and helping serve the pie (see also I wanna be eating that pie).

    But the best way of making me feel like a VIP is making a point of seeking me out at
    the reception and spending time with me.

    • post-wedding with an invite to come over and christen the new china and chat about the wedding.

      This is an especially awesome way to honor someone.

    • CII

      I haven’t been to very many weddings (says the lady who is now planning one). But I’ve seen two comments on this thread relating to guest-book supervision. What does that entail / why is it done?

      • I was a bridesmaid and manned the guest book at the last wedding I was at. Most guestbooks don’t need an attendant- it’s often just a “You’re special to me and I want you to feel like you’re special so I’ll give you a job… Um… You can man the Guestbook!” If you’re doing a creative guestbook (think thumbprint trees, or notes in a photo album) it can be helpful to have someone there to give instructions and encourage guests to actually take part (some people can be nervous about being first.) If your guestbook requires restocking supplies, it’s also good to have someone check on it every once in a while. All it all, it wasn’t an awful job for me (I’m pretty comfortable meeting new people) but it definitely felt like I was working instead of enjoying the party. That’s why I’m not having anyone do this job.

      • Amy March

        It involves standing near the guest book, smiling, and asking people to sign it. I HATE it and think it’s completely unnecessary, but also know people who LOVE doing it :)

        • TeaforTwo

          It’s not a necessary job, but it can be perfect for your auntie who knows everyone on your side of the family and loves meeting new people, and so can’t wait to get to talk to everyone on the other side, too. I have completely missed the guest book at a few weddings, so I think it could be nice to have someone who will know lots of the guests standing nearby and encouraging people to sign. If it’s a well-connected guest, they will like getting to chat with people, and people will like chatting with them, so it’s not like being stuck in Sibera.

          Asking your colleague to stand in the corner, though, and hand a pen to a series of strangers is not a nice thing to do.

          • KC

            Also: having people who already know/like each other pair up at “island” roles (handing things out or gift-hovering or cake-serving or getting-people-to-sign-the-guestbook) can be a good plan; then they’re not having to stand around awkwardly during any “slow” times (this also helps with cocktail procurement, a problem mentioned above) and one can be chatting with people while the other is corralling people to sign. Bonus points for people who know different parts of the crowd and who are extroverts. :-)

            If you don’t have anyone “attending” the guestbook and the venue is reasonably crowded with no choke point to use to file people past the guest book, you may not get a high proportion of participation unless there’s a sign visible over peoples’ heads that tells them what to do (or an announcement or something), because people will just sort of flow past it and many will not ever know it’s there.

            But yes, guestbooks can be unattended (although if so, make *sure* there are extra pens at the table and preferably put some sort of sign up!), and as is the general case, make sure that the people you’re asking to do something would not see it as The Worst Wedding Job Ever. (ditto for toasts or readings or candle-lighting or cake-baking or whatever – people are different)

          • I love KC’s comment of having people man the guestbook in groups. That would really make it more enjoyable, and thank goodness for cocktail procurement!

      • It’s a made up job that a lot of people hate doing and some people (apparently? rumor has it?) enjoy. But it basically means standing by the guest book during cocktail hour, making sure people sign it.

      • Alison O

        Instead of the approach others have discussed here, at a wedding I recently attended, instead of having someone man the guestbook station, the aunt of the bride or someone just circulated around the reception while people were seated before/during/after dinner and asked people to sign it when they got a chance. (There was a special sort of craft along with the guestbook which they were reminding us to contribute to, as well.) So, if it’s really important to you that lots of people leave you messages in your guestbook, this is another option to try to compel them to do so!

        • dawn

          Some people may not want to get others to sign a guestbook, and they should say no when asked, but when someone took the pens (?) at my reception, it cut into the guestbook signing.

          Passing the guestbook around is a great work-around for those who don’t want to make people wait to sign, but in retrospect, I would have a couple of people take turns trying to get people to sign the book and keeping an eye on the pens. That would have slowed people down a bit, too, which would have been nice.

          • KC

            Who takes pens from the guestbook??? I understand that fancy-schmancy matching guestbook pens often break down *fast*, but… swiping the pens? So weird.

        • KC

          That is a genius idea. Especially with named/numbered tables, you could even do it a bit like office birthday cards, where you’ve got the list of tables with checkboxes attached to the front of the guestbook-or-equivalent, and it moves on to the next table when done… but you’d still sort of want the equivalent of an office manager making sure it does in fact keep circulating, more or less.

    • Kat

      Just want to add that I’ve rarely seen a guestbook done at the reception and almost always at the church (in the lobby as people are entering/leaving the ceremony and waiting to go through the receiving line)…I find the ceremony provides a good natural choke point (as someone else here mentioned) and that it doesn’t get lost in all the other reception activity/hoopla.

  • SamanthaNichole

    Oooh I got another one. Anyone have ideas on how to make my MOHs (two of them) stand out from the other bridesmaids? I got the classic sash or different bouquet, but has anyone done anything a little different?

    • InTheBurbs

      Maybe the two of them have something fun in their hair?

    • You may have already chosen dresses so perhaps it’s not an option, but I love when there are two varieties of dresses to signify this…i.e. the bridesmaids would all wear light pink, and the MOHs would wear dark pink (or whatever).

      • I’m another big fan of this look. And if dresses are already picked out, maybe shoes? I’m not a fan of mandating a specific shoe (everyone’s foot is different!) but, for example, say your brigade is all wearing navy blue. You could tell your bridesmaids to wear nude shoes and your MOHs to wear fuchsia (or whatever – I am terrible at colors).

    • Lisa

      Maybe some kind of fun, glitzy hair piece, or a statement necklace.

    • Kat

      Slightly different flowers maybe? Either a bigger bouquet than the rest of the ladies or a flower that is in your bouquet, have less of them in the MoHs boquets, and none in the bridesmaids bouquets.

  • Sara

    I made a difficult decision to keep my bridal party to a small, close-knit group (2 siblings and 1 best friend), which meant not choosing a childhood friend whose bridal party I was a part of. I think she’s aware of how our relationship has changed in the three years since her wedding, but I’m not sure what her expectations are. Do I need to specifically tell her she’s not a bridesmaid? Is it more rude to leave her wondering or to make it super obvious? If I do say something, what do I say?

    • I think it depends on your relationship. This past summer, I was a bridesmaid in a close friend’s wedding. She is not going to be a bridesmaid in mine (we’re just doing siblings in our party). Since our relationship hasn’t changed, and she’s been really active in helping me with wedding planning, I did tell her. It wasn’t awkward (I called all excited about being engaged. She got excited that I was engaged and asked about my sister being maid of honor. I said she was and that we were only having siblings in the bridal party, apologized briefly, and said that it was still important for her to be a part of my day. She understood, took it very gracefully and has been wonderful). The situation is a little different for me that it sounds like it is for you though. I probably wouldn’t have told her if she hadn’t brought it up. It’s common courtesy not to assume that you’ll be in the bridal party for someone else’s wedding so hopefully she won’t be planning on it.

    • Katie

      I had a similar situation, and I decided not to say anything. It was a difficult decision because normally I’m one to be very open and forward about these things, but I knew my friend, and knew that this sort of conversation would not be helpful or beneficial to her. That type of communication is just not her thing. So, know your friend’s style and go from there.

      But I think you are right in that her wedding was three years ago, and your relationship has changed since then (it sounds like it is less close than it was), so chances are it will not be a surprise to her.

  • Beth

    In the Hispanic tradition there are padrinos, or sponsors of parts of the ceremony. It was a great way to involve aunts and uncles on both sides and my brother and sister-in-law. Usually there is a couple who each bring in a bible, the kneeling cushions, the rosary, and the coins that symbolize good fortune. I’ve heard of weddings with padrinos of everything from the cake to the dress to the invitations. It can be a great way to honor people, and in some cultures it also comes with monetary donations from the padrinos.
    In the special dance category, I danced with my dad, my husband with my mom and then we switched, so my folks could dance together, and we could dance again. (This was great to not leave out the husband who’s parents have passed.)
    My husband and his brother placed their parents picture at the front of the church, facing the aisle as I walked down, and then turned to the altar for the ceremony. That was very touching way to remember them for all of us.

  • Jo

    My husband and I eloped (in the traditional sense, it was just us, no one else there). Now we’re throwing a celebration. We obviously don’t have any bridal party, and there won’t be a ceremony or anything like that. On the one hand, we’re approaching this whole shindig as one big way of honoring all the people that matter to us (ie, they’re the only reason this party exists), but i’m thinking about whether there are ways we could honor any VIP’s.
    Anyone have any ideas?

    • Alison O

      Hmm… if your VIPs are married (or widowed but were happily married) and you are having a toast-y section of the party, you could ask them to prepare to share some brief words of wisdom (or a reading) on marriage. (Note: single and divorced folks might have good advice, too, but in the case of my people this would be really awkward I think.) This is something I’d like to incorporate into my ceremony (someday).

      You could toast your guests and name/describe the importance of these VIPs in particular…

      You could display photos (incl. weddings) of them somewhere…around the guestbook, cake…

      This would not be public, but you could just write them each a personal heartfelt note of thanks/whatever to let them know how you feel about them.

      Also simple – you could have them sit near you if you are doing assigned seating.

      This is quite involved but you could make a video (or more simply, a slide show) that honors them somehow and show that at the party.

      • Mallory

        We had family photos of previous weddings (our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents) around the card box and guest book. People thought it was a great touch!!!

        • MK

          I’m stealing this idea!

  • Gina

    This may be slightly off topic, but what about honoring those who have passed away? This is one element I’m still struggling with. I was thinking of having our officiant say something, because I know if I do, I’ll burst into tears (my grandmother died very recently). I want it to be genuine but not so deep that it makes people uncomfortable, perhaps a short reading. Something I read–“the happiest marriages end in death”–sticks in my head, but is that too morbid to say during a ceremony? Any suggestions?

    • InTheBurbs

      We’re doing a bouquet at the front of the church with a mention in the program – and then will include something in the Prayers of the Faithful (doing a full mass).

    • TeaforTwo

      I have been wondering how to do the same thing. My mother died 9 years ago, and I am struggling to find a way to honour her on my wedding day that doesn’t seem macabre or make other people uncomfortable (my fiance and his family never met her, as we have only been together for 3 years).

      I think that after my fiance’s mother is seated, when my mother would traditionally have entered the church, I will have her younger sister light a candle on the altar in memory of my mom.

      As to “the happiest marriages end in death,” I don’t think it’s morbid; I think it’s part of the traditional wedding vows. I remember Meg posting somewhere that weddings are about death, and that is the whole point.

      • Gina

        Lighting a candle is a beautiful idea to honor your mother. I’m sure your aunt will be so touched by that, too.

        And I’m glad you don’t think mentioning death is morbid!

    • CB

      Yeah, this is playing on my mind too – so many emotions flying around already. My Dad passed away a few years back now, I’m planning to have a photo of my parents together on their wedding day and have my FH mention my dad and others that can’t be with us in his speech. I’m also planning to speak but font trust myself not to completely lose it when I mention my Pa, so delegating the task.

      • Gina

        Beautiful idea. I love how you have something private and something to share.

    • nikki

      A friend of mine bought tiny (maybe 1″x1″) decorative frames with ribbons that she’s hanging from her bouquet and they contain pictures of deceased loved ones. I love the idea of them being present with you, without it being a focal point. I’m pretty sure she bought them from etsy.

      • Mallory

        I did this, both of my maternal grandparents have passed away. It was really lovely for me to know they were there with me…..curse these Internet onions! They get me every time ;)

    • Alison O

      My mom’s partner also passed away and they were extremely close, so I think a lot about how we might address that in a future wedding.

      I don’t think anyone else mentioned quite this exact thing… you can leave a seat empty where your loved one would have sat with a sign, object, or flower arrangement that says “in loving memory of so-and-so”.

      You could also have a reading that is something that the deceased loved and applies at least somewhat to the wedding setting.

      One reading I would love to have someone do in my case is “On Joy and Sorrow” by Khalil Gibran. I think “On Love and Marriage” is nice, but this one is REALLY bittersweet in a beautiful way if you have a loved one who can’t be there. It ties nicely into the “for richer or for poorer” kind of framework, as well.

      On Joy and Sorrow
      Khalil Gibran

      Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
      And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
      And how else can it be?
      The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
      Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
      And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
      When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
      When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

      Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
      But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
      Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

      Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
      Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
      When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

      • Gina

        Wow what a beautiful reading that would be! I’ve never seen that one before. Thank you.

      • Alison O

        oops and I actually meant to say…my partner’s mom

    • Emer

      I’m getting married this fall and my dear mother died 7 and a half years ago. I bought a collage frame with four slots and filled it with four happy photos of her & me together at different ages. I’ll display it somewhere in the reception area with a candle and a note that says “celebrating with us in spirit,” her name, and her life dates (and then display it in my home afterward!). I haven’t decided yet whether we’ll put a note in the program.

      I think I would break down at any mention of her during the ceremony or if I had to look at an empty chair in the front row. It’s really different for everyone. Another friend who lost her mom hated my idea of displaying mom’s photo! She said it would be upsetting to me day-of, but for me it’s what feels right, so that’s what I’m doing.

      I went to a wedding that had collage frames with at least eight departed relatives and friends, along with little descriptions of their relationships and something special about the person. They also had a moment of reflection during the ceremony where the officiant read all of their names.

      • Emer

        Oh, and I’m also wearing her locket and earrings!

    • Jade

      We are working on the ceremony now for our May wedding and this is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Currently our plan is to have the officiant thank everyone “for being present on this joyous day” and perhaps have a moment of silence in memory of those who cannot be here. Another idea I like (possibly in addition to a moment of silence) is to leave a front row seat empty with a sign saying that “This seat is left empty in memory of those who cannot be here today.”

    • Kat

      we have a lot of deceased parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and special family people who we want to honour and include in a spiritual sense. A few months ago on Pinterest I saw a tutorial on how to carve initials into candles (mechanical pencil without lead) and then paint the letters in with dollar store black acrylic.

      So we have a LOT of pillar candles with many initials on it that will be the “backdrop” to our ceremony at the front of the church.

      You could do a write up in the program listing who they’re for or make a simple statement that they’re in honour of people who are in spiritual attendance (or something else if that sounds to hippy dippy) or just leave as is…people who know will know, and others who can see the initials will figure it out.

      Also we have different sized pillar candles depending on if it’s a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, friend.

    • Rachel

      We have been struggling with this as well! My fiance’s mom passed away in June from a terminal illness. Our wedding is next month in September. She walked with us through so much of the planning process (the end came suddenly and much sooner than we expected) and I know we’ll be thinking about her all day, so it means a lot to have ways that honor our sorrow within our joy.

      This is the current plan: We’re placing a small table at the side of the chapel with a couple of photos of her, and us with her. After we walk up the aisle at the beginning of the ceremony, my fiance and I will take a minute to lay a rose by her photo and light a candle. We’re using thin tapir and standing them in a bowl of sand, and we’ll provide extra candle so if other family want to light candles during the peace or after the service they can.

      I want to have more than just that moment, but I don’t really have anything yet.

      • Gina

        I’m sorry for your fiance’s loss. I think giving people a place to look at those photos and have a moment to remember her will mean a lot.

    • Sarah

      At my friend’s ceremony, their names were reading during the prayer of the faithful. Then at the ceremony, there was a table with all the grandparents’ wedding portraits framed with a little handmade plaque saying their names and their wedding dates. It was really cool to see all the wedding portraits from so long ago in the nice sepia-toned photos, and it was a nice way to bring them into the reception.

      • Gina

        I love this idea! There’s something about old-timey wedding photos.

    • Liz

      If your ceremony is outside, I saw a wedding where they released a few floating paper lanterns in honor of different family members who had passed way. Those are really beautiful. I love the names etched in candles idea here too.

  • fragglerock

    Good timing! A few ideas and some advice please!

    Ceremony – My dad is going to walk me in to the room (no aisle, more of a crowd splitting vibe). We’re having a somewhat non-traditional wedding party, in that there is none. Just a friend marrying us (his) and a friend doing a reading (mine).

    Toasts – I have a huge family and plan on my siblings (all five) doing toasts at the reception. He has one sister (introverted) who we asked to give a toast and I think I may rope a few of his best friends into toasting too since they are slightly less introverted. I don’t want that part to feel unbalanced like it’s all about me and not us. I think I will speak up at the rehearsal dinner on both of our behalf since my FH is not the public speaker. Who else gives a toast at the rehearsal usually? Do we ask his somewhat estranged and shy dad? My mom? His mom (also quiet)?

    Flowers – So far we only have flowers for us and the two people in the ceremony. But now I’m having doubts that our moms won’t feel special if we don’t do a corsage, and then there’s the dads, the step-mom (not close) and mom’s lesbian partner (not the flower type). Oh jeez…

    How do I honor our shy family members without making them feel awkward? How do I deal with all the flowers for the various parents?

    PS. I love the color handfasting ceremony with all the relatives contributing. I’m going to talk to the FH about this… I love APW!

    • Gina

      I have a ton of siblings too! So fun. The way we’re handling toasts during the reception and rehearsal is just to let the bridal party/parents/siblings know ahead of time they can give a toast if they want to, so that way they have time to prepare something but also don’t feel pressured if that’s not their thing. Perhaps mention to your siblings you want something about your hubby included in any toasts if you’re worried about it seeming unbalanced.

      We’re not doing corsages either (they give me bad flashbacks to prom days) but we are trying to involve our moms by asking all parents to stand and “affirm” at our ceremony, after our vows– something like “do you promise to support this marriage in prayer and by example?” and then they say “we do.”

    • R.

      The corsage thing is causing us difficulty too, in that the only person who said she wanted one (in her words, she “deserves” it) has been extraordinarily difficult throughout this whole process, and is just getting worse as we approach the home stretch, which really makes me not want to go out of my way to do something special just because she wants it, when the other moms are fine without it. But then the tutorial a little bit back made me excited about the pretty, so now I’m not sure. I wish corsages weren’t a thing and I didn’t have to think about it at all.

  • Emmy

    We aren’t having a wedding party, but we are recognizing my best friend. She is the only person who has never had a problem with our relationship (we have a large age difference) and she was our first champion. She’s reading our Quaker marriage certificate.

    My father isn’t walking me down the aisle because my fiancé are walking in together. I asked him and two of his brothers to play recorder for the prelude to the ceremony. This is actually much more meaningful to me because this trio has played at many family events over roughly the last 50 years, including my parents’ wedding!

    We’re thanking our friends and family publicly during the reception. We’ll also be thanking our nearest individually during private moments.

    • “We’re thanking our friends and family publicly during the reception. We’ll also be thanking our nearest individually during private moments.”

      This is how I feel about things too. Having people involved in the ceremony is awesome and special, but it’s so simple and so meaningful to give a “thank-you toast” at the reception to call out friends and family, and make sure to tell your other VIPS “Hey, I just wanted to make you knew how special it is to have you here/that I could count on you/that you exist in this world.”

      I’m sure we’ll involve others in our ceremony, but I know I’m prone to trying make everybody’s part “equal,” so I’ll rely on a good, heartfelt note or private word with all my special-est peeps.

  • Anon

    We opted not to have official attendants in lieu of “People of Honor.” This took a LOT of care and planning.

    They were honored as such:
    – Parents and siblings walked down the aisle and stood under the chuppah with us (in Jewish weddings both the bride and groom are escorted by both of their parents)
    – Moms/sisters carried very small bouquets (which I thought was unnecessary, but my MIL wanted)
    – The rabbi read the traditional 7 Hebrew blessings that are part of the official service, and then my 7 BFFS each read one of 7 contemporary blessings (in English – below, in case anyone is interested) that we adapted from various online sources. They sat in the front row, stood up together to read, and then sat back down.
    – We had two friends serve as “ring witnesses” – during the ceremony they were called up to confirm that the rings were legit – this is a Jewish custom that I hadn’t heard about before, but it was super cute
    – Two sets of close friends signed the ketubah (all 4 people signed, but each couple “counted” as one witness since there were only two spaces to sign on the document)
    – Another set of close friends served as “yichud guards” (standing outside of the room where we convened briefly and privately after the ceremony as is customary)
    – My friend made the chuppah and was acknowledged verbally and in the program for this – it was gorgeous and I treasure it
    – Relatives who had passed away were mentioned in the program and during the ceremony (Also, a graceful way of acknowledging someone who is living but not fit enough to travel: “We want to acknowledge Grandparents A&B, who are no longer with us. We also want to acknowledge Aunt C, who is celebrating with us from New York.”

    – POHs were prominently featured in pre-ceremony photos
    – POHs were invited to speak at the rehearsal dinner if they wanted and many ended up doing so (which we filmed informally on a camcorder/tripod and I LOVE watching on anniversaries)
    – We honored the people who introduced us at the rehearsal dinner – warm words, and we gave them a framed custom paper cut with Song of Songs phrase on it (it was amazing: http://www.etsy.com/shop/woodlandpapercuts)
    – We created a slide show for the rehearsal dinner with photos of us with (almost) all dinner attendees, and then a photo montage to display at the reception (This was a good task for delegation. We selected the photos, put ’em in dropbox, and and then a POH made them into a slideshow)
    – One uncle led a blessing over the bread before the meal started we had sound problems,but I think he felt honored anyway)
    – My dad was honored/surprised when we played one of his favorite songs from his days in Latin America during the dancing

    CONTEMPORARY SEVEN BLESSINGS – feel free to adopt/adapt!

    1) May you be best friends, better together than either of you are apart.
    2) May the honesty of your communication build a foundation of understanding and trust.
    3) May your sense of humor and playful spirit continue to enliven your relationship.
    4) May you be blessed with a loving home filled with warmth, laughter and compassion.
    5) May you continually learn from one another and from the world.
    6) May your life be blessed with art, beauty, and nature. May you find happiness together in adventures big and small.
    7) May you continue to be blessed with a loving, supportive community. May there be many future occasions for rejoicing together.

    • Anon

      Just want to add that much inspiration for the blessings came from:

      as well as other sites.

    • fragglerock

      I love the seven blessings! I had the spontaneous thought – what is seven people just stood up one by one and read each one out loud during the ceremony?

      • rys

        I’ve read one of seven blessings at several weddings and been to many more where 7 people read them (or 14, if there were hebrew speakers among the friends — they don’t have to be read by a rabbi). The programs usually indicated who they were (and sometimes why they were important to the couple).

  • Meg

    Ooh, I have a question! I got married a few months ago, so that’s all done and under control.

    But looking back at it, I have a couple of friends who were INCREDIBLY helpful and just overall really great during the wedding planning/wedding itself, and I want to do something to say basically “hey, I know you weren’t a bridesmaid or anything, but you were really amazing, and I wanted to thank you.” These are people that if I were re-doing the wedding, they would be my attendants.

    What’s the best way to do this? A gift card and a note? Telling them so in person (maybe with a private hangout time)? Reenacting the wedding and letting them stand in as attendants?

    • I don’t think a gift is necessary. I tried to tel my aunt & uncle the gift I was going to give them (He was our officiant, she made all twenty of our centerpieces. In general they were beyond amazing.) and he refused, saying, “We did this because we love you both. We don’t want anything else.”

      So! Think of their time and energies as a gift to you, and accept it graciously with a sweet note. Also, invite them to hang out and buy them a drink. And hug them really hard, if that’s your thing.

    • I personally really liked the idea above of having people over to break in wedding china and talk about life. Some quality time is probably the best gift I could imagine receiving if I was in their position. After all, they did it because they like you- so I bet they’d like spending time with you too!

    • Kat

      Take them out for a high tea at a fancy pants hotel, or some place that puts on high teas, you could also add in a mani/pedi for all or just the ones who were extra awesome.

      Also the breaking in the china party at home sounds amazing too.

  • moe

    A few things I did and a few I didn’t get to do but hope someone else can:

    I wanted a personal way of honoring my dad who passed away but one that wasn’t so public that it would make cry or upset my mom who cries easily at his memory. I walked myself down the aisle with their wedding photo in a locket in my bouquet.

    I recognized ALL the marriages of my wedding guests by collecting their wedding photos, framing them and using them as centerpieces.

    I wanted to do a mass cake cutting. Each reception table was supposed to have a small cake as part of the centerpiece and I wanted to have a married couple cut each one, including my husband’s two uncles who have been together over 20 years as a way to honor marriage equality but my cakes got cancelled.

  • Reesa

    This post comes at the most perfect time for me – thanks APW.

    My fiance and I had planned on honoring each other’s siblings in other ways than in the wedding party because we’d like to keep it small. My brother will play his guitar for the ceremony and his sister was going to be a reader. I had two very close girl friends that I wanted to ask to be bridesmaids in addition to my other 3 friends, but something made me hold off – good thing, because my fiance’s sister was hurt that she hadn’t been asked. We had a good, honest talk and she is now happily a bridesmaid.

    Side note: Don’t make my same mistake. Talk about this early on in the planning process. Talking to my future sister-in-law was a lot more difficult realizing that her hurt feelings had been brewing for awhile.

    However, this leaves me wondering how I can include my two close friends that I am now not going to ask to be in the wedding party. I suppose a reading is obvious, but are there any creative suggestions for including people who are not relatives? Anyone else have a similar situation?

    • KC

      You can also ask them “we won’t be having a large wedding party, but you’ve been so meaningful in our/my life, and we really want to include/honor you in the wedding – are there things you enjoy doing or that you don’t enjoy doing?” or something to that effect. Readings, lighting the candles for unity candles, ushering, etc. are all options, but there are all sorts of random things (going to buy shoes with you! helping you open gifts!) that different people find meaningful to them. I don’t know if there are any cues from your relationship with them as to what things they like or don’t like, but maybe having some options that you can think of, and then asking them if something sounds good or if they have different ideas might be good. (obviously, if you already have something specific and big/awkward covered by Aunt Matilda or whatever, like officiating, then mention that to start with as well)

    • I’m going to agree with KC (I’m doing that a lot this thread!) that you should ask what they want to do. I’m having a small party with siblings only, but still want my friends to be involved. Since I live far away, we decided the best solution was to spend the day together. They’re my bridal brigade- we’re having brunch together and getting ready together while singing (loudly and badly) along with guilty pleasure songs. I’m also making sure there will be pictures of me and each of these ladies- taking special time to do that was meaningful for both of us and allowed the girls to not have to talk in front of large groups of people.

  • Ron

    Most of have what I like to call a “Modern Family”, not unlike the show. Many different dynamics and it’s tricky to keep everyone happy at a wedding. Especially when it comes to pictures!

  • Mandy

    Funny how these posts seem to pop up when you need them most. This may be slightly off topic but it feels on the nose for me..

    A little back-story: My mom and step dad had an exceptionally messy breakup nearly 7 years ago that completely rendered our family in two. When they were together he and I developed a very close father/daughter relationship that neither of us was willing to lose when they broke up (my dad at that time was largely absent so he really stepped in as a dad for me). Our continued relationship has proven to be a massive hurdle for my mom to deal with in that she can’t deal with it. We don’t speak of him and when his name comes up she completely loses it. The only fights she and I have ever been in were in reference to him and my unwillingness to cut him out of my life. This alone is traumatizing in that we have a really beautiful and loving relationship and these fights are extremely out of character.

    Now, with my wedding 2 months away, she’s threatening not to come if he is there. I’m heartbroken because I can’t imagine not having either of them there and don’t know what I can do.

    I planned on having both my dad and him walk me down the aisle (they’re both supportive of this as they understand the roles they’ve both played in my life) and having 2 father/daughter dances (although after reading through these comments I like the idea of having dances with each of them but without emptying the dance floor to do it – maybe just have the song they’ve chosen start and that’s our cue to do our thing. I think I’m going to be a mess so it’d be nice not to have the spotlight completely on us. Plus I think it would be easier on my mom).

    I feel like I’m in an impossible situation of choosing between having my mom or someone I see as my dad at my wedding. I’m hoping if I can find ways, large and small, to honor her throughout the day she’ll realize how important she is to me and push past her anger to be there. The usual things will be there for her (a corsage, getting ready, zipping up the dress, etc.) and I thought a mother/daughter dance to one of her favorite songs she says reminds her of me would be nice. Any other thoughts or ideas would be greatly welcomed and appreciated.

    • marbella

      I’m so sorry for you. I had a similar situation before mine, though my mum didn’t outright say she wouldn’t come if he was there (she knew he would be there) she did tell me a couple of months before that she had just decided ‘not to come’ that it would be easier for me and less stressful for me! She wouldn’t admit that the reason was because she was stressed and anxious about seeing him and my step-mum and just kept trying to say that it was for my benefit and that she knows she stresses me out so it would just be easier for me! (Pro at the guilt trip, eh?)
      It was massively stressful and something I still haven’t really forgiven her for in my heart. I had to ‘persuade’ my own mother to come to my wedding and that I wanted her there. She took so long getting ready herself and her daughter that she wasn’t there to help me get dressed at all, but wandered in at the end while I was frantically getting my dress done up by a friend who was trying to help me out, and said ‘oh and who are you? I’m her mother!’ to the friend and ‘took over’ doing up the dress which made me so annoyed. She lives in the UK and we had to pay for her flight and accommodation (we knew we would have to do this if we wanted her to come, and had offered it right from the start.)
      Sorry, getting lost in a rant! Anyway, after all the massive pre-stress over how things would be, my mum was actually pretty well behaved around my dad. (She heckled him during his speech, but we can’t have everything, can we?!)
      I think you need to sit your mum down and explain to her how much you want her at the wedding, but that you also need your dads to be there and that she is putting you in an extremely unfair and impossible situation. She’s probably scared (like my mum was, but wouldn’t admit it). See what you can do to mitigate any concerns – I made sure ours were on tables at opposite sides of the room facing away from each other during the meal, so they wouldn’t have to worry about being watched. I also split them up during the ceremony – we didn’t do ‘bride/groom’ sides for guests in general, but we had my mum sit with T’s parents while my Dad and step-mum sat on the other side.
      I wish you the best of luck!

      • KC

        And once again I am silently grateful that the divorced parents and grandparents in our family always behave kindly and appropriately to each other in public. Yikes. I’m so sorry that happened.

  • marbella

    I had only two attendants – my older sister and a bff (in the top tier!). My two young half sisters were flower girls. I asked 3 women that were very important to us to do the readings. T asked his father to be best man (he is one of six boys) and one of his older brothers to be a groomsmen. We had the other brothers, and my brother, wear matching ties so they were kind of a cohesive group. The oldest brother and his wife we asked to bring the gifts up during the ceremony. I also asked all the women that were important to me to wear something blue (my bridal brigade). All these people also helped out in various ways – making bouquets, helping set up the reception, helping me make the cake.
    Our mothers were walked down the aisle by a son each and lit a unity candle. My step-mother helped me make boutonnieres a few weeks before hand. I now wish I had thought of another way to honour her in the ceremony but I was so afraid things were going to be really awkward with my divorced parents who hadn’t spoken or seen each other in years (my step-mum and mum had never met at all). I didn’t think until afterward that my dad was walking me down the aisle and her daughter was a flower girl also walking down with me, so she may have felt a little left out at the ceremony’s start, but her parents and sister were there so she wasn’t alone at least.
    I think that we managed to incorporate everyone we wanted to, even without having a load of attendants.

  • Ali S

    One of my friends from college just got married and kept her bridesmaids just to two girls (also from college), since her husband had two sons and they were the only groomsmen. I was invited to get nails done, coffee, approve of the hairdo’s, and have brunch with them before the wedding. And then myself and all the rest of my college group helped clean up afterwards. It was really nice to be included, and I felt honored and not awkward or left out at all. Just wanted to give the other perspective here!!

  • Donna

    A little late to this party (one of your european APW readers here!) so sorry if this is repeating what has already been said… We have fairly straightforward family structures, but we still aimed to involve as many people as possible in our ceremony and the rest of the day. First, my little cousin ‘trumpeted’ us into the ceremony and did a fantastic job. We both walked up the side aisles simultaneously, each accompanied by our own mums and dads. Our bridesmaids (two, friends) and best men (three, friends) were standing at the front awaiting our arrival, but didn’t have much of an additional role in the ceremony. However, both goups gave speeches later on (not typical in Scottish / German weddings, as ours was) so they got their say! Two other mutual friends did readings, and our brothers were our witnesses. We also had 8 friends/family read our ‘Story So Far’ (rather than the celebrant) which was a great way to up the inclusion numbers! We chose people from different parts of our lives, and they each read (in their own language, as it was a sort-of bilingual affair) a small paragraph of our story. They didn’t come to the front, they just popped up in their seats and read their part. The Story was written out in the Order of Ceremonies, in either english or german so our guests could follow along in their own language. This was one of my favourite parts of our ceremony, as we didn’t know where everyone would be sitting so it was fun to spot them! It also seemed more personal than having the celebrant read it out, especially as some people were involved in the part of the story they read. For instance, we got engaged while on holiday in Florida and we were there for a friend’s wedding, so he read that part. Perhaps a shared reading of the couple’s ‘Story So Far’ could even be a good way to include step-parents and siblings?

  • Riah

    For us this part of things actually worked out pretty smoothly. We’re each having 2 attendants stand up with us (my sister and a very close friend from Peace Corps on my side, his two brothers on his). We’re also having 2 readings during the ceremony (one by my closest friend from college, one by one of his step-sisters). He has two more step-sisters, and we gave them roles based on what their strengths were and what we thought they’d enjoy, so one is in charge of overseeing our ringwarming and the other one is giving a toast at the wedding (in lieu of the best man toast, since he didn’t want to choose one brother over the other, and because she was a kickass toast giver at her sister’s wedding a couple years ago). I’m planning on walking down the aisle with my dad, and my mom is stage-managering for us along with her sister. My uncles are also helping out with set up. All three moms (mine, his, his step) are part of the processional. We’re having a combined parent dance, with me and my dad and him and his mom simultaneously, but inviting the rest of our families up to join us part way through the song. We’re also having a dear family friend of mine serve as our MC. So that covers the people we wanted to include in special ways, and everyone was really excited and touched when we asked them to do the part we thought they’d be best for, so that was really a blessing.

  • jessbuu

    I wanted to just do my SIL and FSIL as attendants, only because I have SO many friends I’d like to honor, and choosing among them is really difficult. (I know, sob story to have too many friends– I am very blessed!) But FH has five guys he wants standing with him, so I have had to make some tough calls. I’ve decided on three friends in addition to the SILs, and I plan on asking my other close friends to be my “something blue.” (You know the trope, something old, something new…) and asking them to wear blue, and assigning them tasks if they’re up for it (handfasters/energy keepers/ readers/etc). The thing is, I haven’t exactly asked them or told anyone what their roles are yet (wedding is in 9 months, so it’s not like I’m springing this on anyone with short notice)… I’m worried I’ll be hurting some feelings big time. Example: some of the “blues” include folks for whom I was the MOH/Best Woman/bridesmaid. I’m working on the whole idea of just accepting and doing the best I can in a tough situation.
    Also, I wanted to note that I lost both of my parents (15 years ago, mom, and 2 years ago, dad), and my brother will be walking me down the aisle (as was his idea, and what I want). But now I’m also worried my grandfather will be upset if I don’t ask him. Or maybe I’m projecting? I’ve been so worried about offending people that I’ve been frozen from doing anything.
    Dang, this is tough!

  • Anon

    I’m getting married in April, and while the bridal party is set, I’m trying to figure out how to honor parents and family. My family is simple; my parents have been married for over 30 years, and neither of my living grandparents have remarried since their spouses passed away. My dad will be walking me down the aisle, and I will be wearing my mother’s bracelet she made from a broken necklace given to her by my dad.

    But my fiance’s parents are divorced; both are remarried, though one is in the process of divorcing the new spouse. His grandparents are all divorced; his grandfather has a restraining order against his grandmother, so only one of them can even come to the wedding. And at the end of the day, it was really his aunt and uncle who raised him anyway! The aunt and uncle are the ones hosting our rehearsal dinner the night before.

    All that to say: how in the world do I honor his family in a way that doesn’t disrespect another member of the family. Above all, I want to find a way to honor his aunt & uncle, but I know his mother does not like them (& the feeling is mutual). I’ve made the cousin (daughter of the aunt & uncle) a bridesmaid, but I want to find a way to show how much they mean to us (especially to my fiance).

    • Jennifer

      So much for anon, I forgot hide my email address. Oh well!

      • jessbuu

        Sticky wicket for sure! I would imagine the most important person’s opinion in all this is your fiance, and whatever feels appropriate to them. Looks like no matter what you do, you could end up bothering someone. Maybe it will be best to do most in private via heartfelt side conversations, perhaps with small gifts to show your appreciation?

        • Jennifer

          Yes, I’m sure we will do something like that. I just wish it wasn’t so complicated. But I guess that’s life, huh?

  • Steph

    Oh gosh am I too late for this? I have a question! What about when a family member demands a level of honor that you don’t feel they deserve? In this case it’s my stepmother, who has no children of her own, demanding to basically be treated as the second mother of the bride.
    She and my dad married when I was 19 and pretty much already mothered. She and my dad have had a pretty rocky relationship over the past few years (in part due to her mental illness) and while I’ve always been nice to her I wouldn’t consider us close. Dealing with her is extremely stressful. I’ve been doing my best to make her feel included (asking for her help with decorations, making sure she gets a corsage like the other mothers etc.) but when it comes down to it she’s not my mother and I’m not going to treat her like one. Both of my parents have roles in the ceremony- my Dad walking me down the aisle and my mother is doing a reading. . I’m kind of worried she’s going to meltdown during the wedding because she’s not getting enough attention from me or my Dad.

    Any ideas or advice?

    • MK

      I don’t know, but I’d love to know the answer. My interloper-mom isn’t even family–she’s a friend of the family, and declared a month ago that she’ll “help with the dress and, Oh, you know, all the Mother-of-the-bride things!”

      …Nope, sorry, I’ve got a mom, and you’ve got two daughters of your own you and MOB for!

    • Katie

      I’m sorry to hear this! I wonder if your Dad can help you set realistic expectations with her? It sounds like you are trying to be thoughtful (with the corsage), but unfortunatly she sounds like someone that no matter what you do, it’s never going to be enough. Is there anything specific that she wants?

      My mother-in-law is the same way. So, don’t put too much effort into this because what you do will never be appreciated. At a recent family wedding, some relatives had a contigency plan to physically remove my mother- in- law if she caused a scene- maybe your family could prepare something similar?

  • Katelyn

    I should have put this up yesterday when the thread was still active, but in case someone comes back and looks through the comments, I wanted to mention something I haven’t seen in the comments yet – honoring religion and the beliefs of extended family.

    To stay true to ourselves and our beliefs (or rather, lack thereof), we’re doing a secular ceremony. This has been pretty disappointing to my (very Catholic) mom, but she respects that it’s our decision.

    I’ve offered up the olive branch of integrating a prayer or blessing into some other part of the day – before the ceremony with family, leading a prayer of thanks at the reception, etc. Since it’s not something that we’re actively engaging in, I’m happy to let our families bless our union with whatever method they find most meaningful.

    • Steph

      My fiance’s mother was pretty upset about the non-catholic wedding business, so we’re letting her read a prayer during the ceremony. I don’t love it but it made her way happy so I can deal.

      • Katelyn

        Yeah, I can understand how upset people can be over the issue because I would rather be unmarried for the rest of my life than to get married in a religious ceremony. I feel very strongly about that and can understand how people can feel very strongly in the opposite direction.

        If having a prayer during your ceremony makes your FMIL happy, and you aren’t actively engaging in that prayer, I think it’s a great way to show respect and honor familial traditions without being untrue to your own views.

        Maybe I’ll add that to the list of options for my mom to choose from – I would be fine with a prayer mid-ceremony as well. Need to check with the fiance, as I think he would be less comfortable with it, but it’s a great idea!

  • Katie

    My dilemmas involved long term friends. I was in their weddings years ago, and while I still value their frienships, it had been several years since we were truly close. I also wanted a small bridal party, and chose my three best friends who are all friends with each other. I made that choice to keep things simple and stress-free for me. So, I worried that the people that included me in their wedding party years ago might feel slighted.

    What I have learned in the past year-plus of wedding planning is that your real friends are the ones that just want to support you and make this easier for you- not the ones who make your wedding about them, or somehow think that you are making a purposeful effort to exlude them. Some people I didn’t expect have felt hurt and caused drama as a result. Some other people who I expected to make a big deal/cause drama have been great and our friendships have gotten closer because of this. So, the way your friendships change during your engagement can truly be unpredictable.

    Ultimatley, make your wedding about what feels right to you and your partner. Your true friends will support this.

  • I have been involved in the wedding planning industry for over 20 years and one thing I think that is the most important to remember when it comes to your own wedding is, it is your wedding. Yes it would be great to honour everybody on your wedding day but some times you can’t and if your family or friends can’t understand this that is their problem not yours. Beating yourself up over issues that are out of your control can detract from your own experience! It is your day after all.

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  • dezy81

    My fiance doesn’t have a lot of close friends. He has a few but most of his friends are people from high school, people from an old job, people from his new job ect. So when we were choosing the bridal party and he could only come up with his best man and two groomsman plus a junior groomsman I knew someone was going to be left out. I had a man of honor, my sister my MOH, my best friend a bridesmaid, and my cousin and close friend who was also going to be a bridesmaid and another close friend from high who I wanted in my wedding party as well, plus my little sister who would be my junior bridesmaid. So S and I discussed the possibility of his sister being in his wedding party for my man of honor. (We are still unsure if she is even coming to the wedding but that’s another story.) But I still had a friend I needed to stand with me on my wedding day, so I asked her to officiate. She agreed and was very thrilled and S likes her as well and she has no or little fear of public speaking.

    I am also having my mom and dad walk me down the aisle. My mom asked too and of course I said yes. She is letting go of her little girl as much as my father is. My stepmom will walk in the place as mother of the bride.

    I want to honor those who are going to be there. With a small wedding, about 60 people, I want to make sure that no one gets left out.