How to Set Up an ‘In Memory Of’ Chair for a Wedding


If you’ve lost someone special, it’s common to want to include their memory in life’s biggest events or changes. Your wedding day is a time for celebration and togetherness, but it’s also a chance to reflect on the past. One easy yet meaningful way to honor a deceased loved one at a wedding is through an “in memory of” chair. 

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A “memory” chair is a symbol for someone who couldn’t be there in person but is present in spirit. Those we love never leave us. By including mementos of these individuals in your wedding, you keep their memory alive on this big day. As you say “I do,” make sure you have those closest to you by your side in person or in spirit. Here’s how to set up an “in memory of” chair for a wedding. 

What Is an ‘In Memory Of’ or Memory Chair for a Wedding?

First, what is an “in memory of” or “memory” chair? Why is this something that’s common at weddings? When you lose someone important, like a parent, grandparent, or close friend, you want to include them in life’s biggest milestones. This is a sensitive matter, and it’s powerful to honor them at weddings. 

Whether you’ve lost an immediate family member or someone who meant a lot to you, having their memory close throughout your wedding day can be a source of peace. Grief can hit especially hard during weddings. The right wedding memorial ideas bring their memories to life, keeping them close in your thoughts throughout the day’s events. 

A “memory of” or “memory chair” is a chair specifically set aside for someone who is deceased or who can’t be present at the wedding for some reason. This chair usually faces the wedding altar, “watching” over the ceremony in spirit. Some brides and grooms also include these chairs at the reception, holding a physical space for someone’s memory. 

» MORE: Your family has 500 hours of work to do after you die. Learn how to make it easier.

How to Set Up a Memory Chair for a Wedding

Are you considering a memory chair for a wedding? If so, there are a few steps to take in advance. These ensure this is something that won’t upset other family members, and they take into consideration your wedding day events. 

1. Talk to your family members

First, it’s a good idea to talk to your family members about your idea for a memory chair. Though this is ultimately the bride and groom’s decision, it could make some people uncomfortable to have a reminder of death so front and center on the wedding day. 

For example, if a surviving spouse has to sit next to the memorial chair during the service or reception, they might not feel comfortable with this. At the end of the day, it’s your decision. However, warning close friends and family of your plan in advance helps them make preparations. 

2. Gather your materials

When you’re ready, gather your materials. You can choose exactly how you’d like to design your chair to honor your loved ones, but most include some kind of photo or memento. You will need:

  • A photo of the deceased
  • Photo editing software or app (optional)
  • Cardstock
  • Frame
  • Styling materials
  • Flowers (optional)
  • Candles (optional)

3. Print your photo

Once you’ve gathered your supplies, print your photo. This is best when it’s printed professionally using a printing service or professional-grade cardstock. You can print directly from social media, your phone, or a computer. 

You might wish to print additional elements, like wedding memorial poems, family photos, or a title for the image. This is why editing software makes all the difference. 

4. Frame and decorate your image

When your photo is printed, it’s time to frame your image. You can use any type of frame that works for your wedding theme. There are no limits. If you’re working with a wedding planner, he or she might have suggestions for the type of frame that suits your setting the best. 

Consider how you’ll arrange the frame on the chair. You might need to attach a ribbon, chain, or some form of adhesive to keep it upright. Finally, decorate your image with any extras like paper, flowers, stickers, or tiles. 

5. Plan for the big day

Last but not least, make plans for arranging your memory chair on the big day. This isn’t something you should set up yourself, since you’ll likely be busy before the service or reception. Instead, task your wedding coordinator or a close friend with placing the photo in the right space. Make it clear that the seat is reserved by placing it upfront and reminding your guests. 

Finally, add flowers, vases, and candles around the photo to create a special space. This is optional, but lighting a wedding memorial candle or placing a special flower can be a meaningful symbol during the service. 

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Memory Chair Sign and Decoration Ideas

While you can keep your memory chair as simple as you wish, it might make sense to decorate your chair. This helps create a special memory, and it also fits the theme of your wedding. 

Sign ideas

Placing a sign near your memorial chair is a way to signal to guests that this seat is taken. Not only that, but it reminds your guests to reflect on their own lost loved ones. Some sign ideas include:

  • “Gone but not forgotten”
  • “Here in spirit” 
  • “Watching over us today” 
  • “Rest in peace” 
  • “In loving memory” 
  • “In our hearts forever”
  • “Carried in our hearts” 

Decoration ideas

Similarly, you can decorate your memorial chair with special details. These all carry their own symbolism, helping the surviving loved ones make the most of this special chair. This is also a great opportunity to DIY a project for your wedding:

  • Floral garlands
  • Floral wreath
  • Heirloom jewelry
  • A single flower
  • A hat or accessory
  • Multiple photos
  • Ribbons
  • Charms 
  • Personalized cards

Again, this is a highly personal decision. Your wedding is a special event for you and your loved ones to celebrate joy, togetherness, and love. It’s also a chance to reflect and honor those you’ve lost. Decorating an “in memory of” chair is a form of remembrance, and it can be a touching tribute. 

Alternatives to Memory Chairs for Weddings

There are so many ways to say “in memory of” someone special, especially on your big day. It’s okay if you’re not comfortable with having a chair to honor your loved one who’s no longer here. There are many alternatives to memory chairs that are just as special. Depending on the size or theme of your wedding, these might be a better fit. 

Make a note in your program

First, you can make a small note in your charity program or invites. Though small, this is still something everyone will read. It allows you to keep the actual ceremony and reception joyful without ignoring your loss. 

Create a memory table

Another common option is to build a memory table for your reception. This is a designated space for honoring deceased loved ones. You can share multiple mementos, photos, and more in a space that’s separate from the wedding activities. You can also invite others to share their own memories of the deceased on a card or in a guestbook. 

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Eat a favorite dessert or meal

Though most people opt for a traditional meal or wedding cake, there are no rules when it comes to your day. You can always serve a favorite dessert or meal to honor a loved one. Who wouldn't want to eat grandma’s famous cookies or your dad’s special chili? Food is a symbol of memory and togetherness. 

Use a special flower

Did you know flowers have their very own language? It’s true, and you can use this language to tell the stories of your loved ones. By incorporating a special flower into your wedding arrangements, you hold a piece of your loved one close. For example, rosemary symbolizes remembrance, while tulips are a sign of friendship. 

Play a song

Music is also a powerful form of remembrance. Choose a song that means something to your loved one, like a parent’s wedding song, and play a special tribute during the reception. This is a subtle yet meaningful way to feel closer to those who are no longer with you in person. 

Donate to a cause

Last but not least, if you’re not comfortable sharing personal photos or mementos on your big day, that’s not the only way to honor loved ones. You can also request a donation in lieu of wedding favors or a registry. This could go toward medical research, a cause they cared about, or anything that makes sense to you. 

Take Your Wedding Day to Heart

Life’s biggest moments are a chance to not only look forward but also look back. If there’s someone who can’t be there with you to celebrate your special day, consider these ways to include them in spirit. An ‘in memory of’ chair might be small, but it’s a reminder that our loved ones are always closer than we think. 

Focus on the happy details of the day. What are things your loved ones would enjoy if they were there with you? By focusing on their legacy, you include them in your new memories. It’s like they’re with you the whole time—because they are.


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