How the Dearly Departed Usher Couples Down the Aisle

When Nicole Pellegrino was married on Sept. 4, she wore an opal ring that belonged to her mother, Diane Pellegrino, as her “something blue.” But for Ms. Pellegrino, 28, the tribute to her mother, who died from cancer in August 2017, did not end there.

At the wedding in Annapolis, Md., the bride also “saved” her mother a seat at the ceremony. “We ended up doing a dedicated high-top table for her near the ceremony seats, so when people walked to their seats they saw it,” said Ms. Pellegrino, the senior marketing manager of Betches Media and co-host of the “Betches Brides” podcast, who lives in Hoboken, N.J. “It had flowers, photos of her, and a candle on it.”

She also fastened a charm with a photo of her mother to her bouquet, so that she could “walk me down the aisle.” And at the reception, which was held at the Annapolis Waterfront Hotel, she offered “Diane’s Dirty Martini,” her mother’s go-to drink, as a signature cocktail, and ensured that the band play Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” one of her mother’s favorite songs.

Ms. Pellegrino’s husband, Michael Freas, who works in brand partnerships for sports betting company DraftKings, paid homage to a deceased relative at the wedding, too.

The grandson of Bob Pellegrini, a former professional football player who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Football Team and died in April 2008, Mr. Freas “wore his grandfather’s special cuff links from when he played on the Eagles and won the 1960 NFL Championship game,” she said.

Brides and grooms these days are finding increasingly creative ways to honor lost loved ones. There are now even businesses dedicated to this pursuit, like Eterneva, a company started in 2017 in Austin, Texas, that produces lab-grown diamonds from the carbon in cremated ashes (or hair). Clients can choose the color of the stone and even have a person’s name engraved on the diamond’s edge.

Another business, called Love, Amarie, based in Cedar Grove, N.J., creates heirloom clutches from family wedding gowns and veils, sometimes adding a quote or wedding date on the lining.

For many couples, feeling like their loved one is there with them for such a momentous occasion is central to these tributes.

When Kimberly DeAngelo Kaminsky, the director of public relations for the Milk Bar bakeries, got married in December 2019, she was looking for ways to channel her grandmother, Harriet Fields, an artist who died in May 2019. “My husband, Andrew Kaminsky, had the brilliant idea to drape my grandmother’s artwork over the huppah,” said Ms. Kaminsky, 30, who lives in Jersey City, N.J., and was wed at the Village Club at Lake Success on Long Island.

“It was an abstract piece, mixing red, turquoise, white and gold tones,” Ms. Kaminsky added. “We based our entire ceremony room design around the piece, keeping everything else simple to let the art shine.”

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The bouquet, though, is one of the most natural ways for brides to carry memories of the dead with them.

Arlene Murray, 38, of Rockaway, N.J., was very close to her grandfather John Matlag, who passed away in February 2008. “We had dinner together every night for as long as I could remember and he always had these fun ties,” she said.

For her September 2016 wedding at the Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough, N.J., Ms. Murray, a cake artist and the owner of Polkadot Cake Shop in Lyndhurst, N.J, used one of those ties to hold her bouquet together and serve as something both old and borrowed.

The bouquet of Morghan Cope paid tribute to her great-grandmother, Rose Seno, who died in May 2001, with an array of special pieces. “My grandma took pieces of jewelry, brooches, and pins that were my great-grandmother’s and made them into a beautiful bouquet for my wedding day,” said Ms. Cope, 29, who lives in Arlington, Va., and was married in July 2016 in her hometown Johnstown, Pa.

Ms. Cope, who works as an internal communications strategist at Higher Logic, a software company, added that “the base of the bouquet was wrapped with pieces of my great-grandma’s wedding dress,” which she once dreamed of wearing at her own ceremony, but ultimately did not.

The wedding gown is another place where brides can keep the dearly departed close. Lindsay Tigar’s father, Frank James Tigar, died five months before her June 2021 wedding in Asheville, N.C. “He used to say how much he looked forward to walking me down the aisle and seeing me in my wedding gown,” said Ms. Tigar, 33, who lives in Asheville and is a freelance journalist and the founder of Tigar Types, a content strategy company.

At the recommendation of her photographer, she asked a seamstress to sew a patch of one of her father’s T-shirts into her wedding gown. “We took one of his blue ones (something blue) and she sewed a heart-shaped patch next to my heart.”

Some brides’ and grooms’ tributes can even involve their guests. Kate Mishara, an education and leadership consultant, and Michael Silverman, an entrepreneur, had two people they wanted to honor at their wedding celebration on Oct. 16 at the Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, Calif., which they held a year after their intimate legal ceremony on Oct. 10, 2020.

One was the Denver-based couple’s daughter Jordan Lynn Silverman, their first child, whom Ms. Mishara, 35, and Mr. Silverman, 34, lost minutes after her birth on Nov. 25, 2020. Another was Mr. Silverman’s sister Samantha Silverman, his only sibling, who died in a car accident in 2015.

Ms. Mishara’s best friend, Michaela Baruch, came up with the idea of tossing flower petals to honor them both. With help from Ms. Mishara’s planner and florist, that idea was realized in the form of a “petal bar.” The display included rose petals in five shades of pink to symbolize love, gratitude, grace, admiration and joy, and in two shades of white to symbolize innocence and purity. Guests were given bags to fill with the petals, then tossed them into the air as the couple walked through the grove.

“The petal toss is not only a celebration of our love, but an illustration of Samantha and Jordan always being all around us,” Ms. Mishara said.

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