The Style Blog

How to Navigate Wedding Traditions without Your Mother or Father

By Kristen Jones on 2023-05-31

Trendy bride and groom in a vineyard making their own traditions without father of the bride at wedding.

Weddings are a time-honored tradition, with customs and rituals passed down through generations. However, some traditions may not fit into every family dynamic, especially when a parent has passed away or isn't in the picture. The loss of a parent can make wedding planning an emotional process. However, there are ways to honor those who have passed, create new traditions, and prioritize what works for your family, your relationship, and your wedding day. This guide is here to inspire wedding traditions without the father or mother of the bride, groom, or marrier.

Alternative Walking Down the Aisle Ideas

Traditionally, the father of the bride walks her down the aisle, and the mother of the groom walks him down the aisle. If one or both parents are not present, there are still plenty of ways to create a memorable entrance. Some great examples are:

  • A grand entrance: Have the bride or groom make a grand entrance with their wedding party to their favorite song, either walking formally or dancing down the aisle together.
  • A couple's procession: The couple can walk down the aisle together, symbolizing the unity of their partnership.
  • Family processional: If the mother or father of either member of the couple has passed away, isn't part of their life, or isn't able to attend for any reason, consider having their siblings, grandparents, or another family member walk them down the aisle.
Bride walking down the aisle with groom in navy tuxedo at farmhouse chic venue as a giving away the bride alternative.

Honoring Loved Ones

Weddings are a time to celebrate the love and joy of the newlywed couple and their families, but it can be a real challenge to celebrate without all members of those families. Here are some ideas to help you honor their memory or keep them there in spirit on your big day:

  • Display their photo: Create a special space for a framed photo (or many!) of your loved one at your wedding ceremony or reception. You could also include a memorial table with pictures and other treasured keepsakes and items that remind you of them.
  • Wear something of theirs: Incorporate something that belonged to your loved one into your attire, such as a piece of their jewelry or a handkerchief. A great example we’ve seen is having a bride wear a memorial rosary around her bouquet, or a groom using his loved one's tie bar with his wedding suit. 
  • Light a candle: Light a candle in memory of your loved one during the ceremony or reception.
  • Dedicate a song: Choose a song that reminds you of your loved one and dedicate it to them during the reception.
  • Include a moment of silence: Take a moment during your wedding to honor the memory of your loved one with a dedicated silence as special tribute.
Father of the bride tie with hidden photo to honor loved ones.

Alternative Father-Daughter Dance Ideas

Traditionally, the father of the bride and the bride dance together during a special moment known as the father-daughter dance. However, if the father is not present, there are still ways to create a special moment on the dance floor. A few meaningful options are:

  • Dance with a family member: If the bride has a brother or uncle who she is close with, she can dance with him instead.
  • Dance with a friend: You can choose a fun and still special moment by sharing a designated dance with a close friend who has been a support system.
  • Mother-daughter dance: Instead of the father-daughter dance, the bride can dance with her mother or another important female figure in her life.
The full bridal party shares a wedding dance together as an alternative to the father-daughter dance.

Alternative Mother-Son Dance Ideas

Similarly, if the mother of the groom is not present, there are plenty of alternatives to the mother-son dance. Here are some perfect options:

  • Dance with a family member: The groom can dance with his sister or aunt.
  • Dance with a friend: The groom can choose to dance with a close friend who has been a support system for him.
  • Father-son dance: Instead of the mother-son dance, the groom can dance with his father or another important male figure in his life.
Two friends dancing and twirling each other as mother-son dance alternative for wedding where parent has passed away.

Glass and Grain Photography

Include a Special Reading or Poem

If a parent is not present, consider including a special reading or poem during the ceremony to honor them, express what they mean to you, or represent a special memory. It can be serious or more lighthearted, whatever feels best and most like what your parent would appreciate or what represents them, you, or your wedding. There is a variety of beautiful ways you can pull this off successfully. Here are a couple to try:

  • Have a close friend or family member read the passage or incorporate it into the program or ceremony script. There are many beautiful poems and readings that can be chosen.
  • Write your own poem or passage to express your feelings and pay tribute to your loved one.
Man in light grey suit at wedding reception reading a speech to honor the loss of a parent.
A joyful tribute to a lost parent at a wedding reception.

However you chose to maintain, break, or create traditions to honor any missing loved ones and keep your wedding true to yourself and your family, suit the whole group in style with SuitShop.

About the Author

Kristen Jones

Kristen is Director of Marketing at SuitShop. Prior to SuitShop, Kristen worked for startups like Yik Yak and Uber Eats, and has helped develop marketing strategies for over 500 eCommerce stores throughout her career! Ultimately, she’s a well-rounded creative and adds a little extra heart + creative touch to our team.