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Second marriages are much the norm today. Some of these marriages are a result of divorce, while others involve either a widow, widower, or both. Especially when children are part of the wedding party, the mention of a spouse or spouses is certainly appropriate. Couples may be concerned that any additional ritual which makes mention, even peripherally, of death will put a damper on their celebration, but this has been shown not be the case.
The situation is certainly a delicate one and may entail the use of imagination, creativity and perhaps the design of a new ritual. It certainly cannot be inappropriate to acknowledge that earlier happiness is the foundation for present joys and future optimism of and for this new union. When the deceased spouse died young, it is not uncommon and certainly appropriate to include beloved former in-laws as part of the wedding party family, unless of course they are uncomfortable in that position.
The key is to establish a happy medium between recognizing a former spouse, and families, while not minimizing the joy which is the focal point of any wedding. Its best to follow community custom, if there is one. If not, using good judgment and a heightened sense of sensitivity, will form a good basis for the decision-making process. Remembrance rituals run the gamut from lighting a candle, to reading a poem, to the recitation of a special reading, to making mention of the spouse in the wedding program. Other options are the inclusion of a late spouse in general prayers which are a part of the wedding ceremony. Candles or flowers discreetly placed, before the ceremony, in the “altar” area are also appropriate. For candles and/or flowers to be part of the ceremony proper, a child from each family may place the candles or flowers on the altar as part of the processional. While roses are commonly used for many symbolic purposes, it might be even more meaningful to choose a favorite flower of the deceased, or perhaps a flower used at the first wedding.
A truly discreet way in which to make the late spouse present is to ask each of the attending children to wear something that memorializes the absent parent. This ritual becomes especially significant because it involves the offspring of the late spouse and shows the children, in a caring way, that the past will not be forgotten in order to build a happy future.
Whatever ritual or rituals are chosen, it is best to limit an explanation to a short sentence or two in the printed program. Ideally, close friends and relatives will recognize the memorial and be touched by it, while others will simply see a beautiful ceremony and may be surprised and delighted when they more closely examine their programs.
Sensitively in appropriately including the late spouse in a wedding ceremony is an outward demonstration that love is timeless and that love for one need not preclude love for another.