How to Refer to Deceased Parents & Step Parents in Wedding Programs

When a parent has passed, what’s the appropriate way to recognize them throughout the wedding invitations, programs, etc? And what happens if the surviving parents remarry? In this article we break down:

  • Wedding program wording etiquette
  • How to honor deceased parents throughout the written wedding materials
  • Any exceptions to the rules

The Question: How do I refer to deceased parents/step parents in my wedding program?

“On my wedding program I am listing, under the heading of parents, “Parents of the Groom” The Late CE and Mr. and Mrs. WE” and “Parents of the Bride, “Mrs. GQ and Mr. and Mrs. AQ.”

My aim is to make the names of both sets of our biological parents stand out. We are also honoring his mother at our ceremony, along with all of our deceased grandparents. Is the way I listed the parents appropriate? Does one have to name the step parents??

Our Answer

It isn’t appropriate to write a deceased person’s name under the heading of “Parents” because he/she wouldn’t be attending. The program informs the guests of the principals’ (those who are there) names and the order of events. This may confuse other guests that don’t understand the situation.

If you wish to include the name of a parent who has passed, you could list it at the bottom as ‘in memoriam’. The grandparents could be listed here as well. You could include a candle lighting for those who have passed and this could be listed on the program also. If so, you wouldn’t need the ‘in memoriam,’ in addition to the candle lighting.

It isn’t mandatory to list step-parents’ names. But, it is polite.

Another Perspective

A small mention in your program is respectful and can mean a lot to both families.

  • Decide where in the program you want to mention it. Placement is recommended at the end of the program, potentially on its own page. It sets it apart from the happy tone of the rest of the program.
  • Decide on a heading or introduction, something like “We Remember” and “In Memory Of.” Instead of a header, you can also write a sentence or two, such as “We remember those who are no longer with us.”

Here is a sample found at Inviting Invites.

In this example, the Father of the Bride is deceased and the Mother of the Bride is remarried. If the mother was deceased instead, you would list her first, above the living father (and step-mother if he was remarried). You can list them under the wedding party section in the following way:

Parents of the Bride

Mr. and Mrs. John William Doe

The Late Mr. Roger Smith


You can just list the living parent in the wedding party and put something under the dedication like this:


On this special day in our lives, we lovingly remember Mr. Roger Smith, Father of the Bride.

…or something like this..

The flowers on the altar are placed to the glory of God and in loving memory of Mr. Roger Smith, Father of the Bride.

…or this…

The candle in the narthex burns brightly in loving memory of Mr. Roger Smith, Father of the Bride.

“Its important that the parents of the bride and groom, whether living or not, be remembered on your big day. To do so, where you mention parents of the bride and groom on the program, you will say, “Parents of the groom…the late Robert & Sarah Brown.”

If the groom’s parents are recently deceased, you might choose to honor them during the ceremony by having a memorial candle placed near the front of the ceremony area. Other couples choose to place a long stemmed white rose on the empty pew or chair where they would have been seated. The groom can walk in carrying the roses, then step over and place them on the pew or chairs. If you do either of these things, be sure to mention the significance in your program.” – Forever Wed

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