Absent Friends

When I am preparing a vow renewal or wedding, I often ask the question whether the couple would like absent friends mentioned. Almost invariably, they do.

Of course, by “absent friends”, we mean friends or relatives who have been prevented from attending because of illness, infirmity or death. These are likely to be people who would certainly have wanted to be part of the proceedings and who would have been more than welcome to have attended.

There are exceptions, but the couple usually wants to mark the fact, but not make too much of it. Understandably, they don’t want to bring down the atmosphere of a happy ceremony.

I often proffer a few words, naming the individuals and stating how much they are missed. Sometimes a candle is lit or a brief silence is observed. We usually do this early on, so that the sad tone does not impinge on what follows.

Occasionally, people do want a more significant commemoration, so here are a few suggestions that might suit.

Symbols commemorating a Loved One

  • You might include one of their favourite type of flowers in your buttonhole/bouquet.
  • You might choose to wear something connected to (or worn by) your loved one. Perhaps it might be earrings or cufflinks, or even something sewn into the inside of your dress/suit.
  • You could place some flowers at the place where your loved one would have been sitting, possibly with a note or poem.
  • You could also place a photo of your loved one somewhere (it might be – but doesn’t have to be – prominent). You might even place candles there (bearing health and safety in mind, of course!).



Instead of a present, you could ask guests to donate some money to a charity loved by, or associated with, your loved one.

Some of the above are a bit ‘over-the-top’ for many people, but, instead, you could drink a toast to your absent friends at the reception.


My advice (but I accept that it is a personal decision for the couple concerned) is to keep the commemoration reasonably low-key. Guests don’t really want to hear a long list read out, especially if they’re excited about the ceremony to come. Moreover, the mood of the proceedings should be happy. We are marking a celebratory event, rather than what might appear to be a memorial service.


However, as we have seen, there are tasteful and meaningful ways of acknowledging your absent friends, and these certainly have a part to play in the big day.