On December 21, 1947, Elaine Brooks said “I do” to Gerry Aidem. That night, they honeymooned at the legendary Drake Hotel, the swankiest spot in Chicago. For the rest of their lives together, Gerry would joke that he chose the 21st as his wedding night because it was the longest night of the year.
I wasn't alive in 1947 but I'm grateful for that wedding because it was the moment my grandparents committed themselves to each other (and because I literally wouldn't be alive with them). While there's no commandment that says “honor thy grandparents,” I think it's beyond important to make sure you’re honoring your grandparents at your wedding and beyond.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to honor your grandparents whether or not they're able to attend your wedding.
If your grandparents are still part of your life, count your blessings. Invite them to your wedding and thank them profusely in front of all of your guests. Between my wife and I, we had three grandparents attend our big day and we were so happy to be able to celebrate with them. Seeing them in the front row during the ceremony made me cherish the journey that generations of my family had taken to get to that exact moment. My wife and I were even able to include my wife's grandfather into the ceremonial parts of our wedding as he said the blessing over the bread (known in Jewish culture as HaMotzi).
If your grandparents are no longer around, it's much more of a challenge to honor them at your wedding. The easiest way to do it is to acknowledge that you wish they were with you. Some couples do this with a mention in the wedding program. We made a verbal announcement to recognize all the loved ones that weren't able to celebrate with us. Just saying their names brought the memories of those we've lost into the room. While a single mention may not seem like much, it's a simple way to include them and pay tribute.
There are more creative ways to give a shout-out to those you've loved and lost. If you inherited a piece of jewelry or a tie, go ahead and wear those for your special day. My wife has a ring given to her by her grandmother, who passed away shortly after we started dating. She wore it proudly on her finger as a physical reminder of Grandma Bev while she accepted another meaningful ring from me.
Sadly, Elaine and Gerry – known to me as Ma and Pa – were no longer with us for our wedding. They would have loved it and, more than anything, they would have loved my wife. Without them there, I felt like I had to do something more to include them in my marriage. That's why we packed our bags and flew to Chicago for a weekend retreat at The Drake Hotel.
The Drake is a study in the elegant opulence of Chicago's past. The moment you walk in the revolving doors, you're greeted by a grand entrance up a staircase leading to a graceful lobby featuring oversized floral arrangements and crystal chandeliers. It's hard not to get swept up in the historic glamor of this place as you stroll through the Palm Court, an iconic lounge famous for serving afternoon tea, and the Coq d'Or bar that's been serving thirsty Chicagoans since Prohibition ended in 1933. Even the elevators exude charm with their upholstered seats for anyone who cares to sit between the lobby and the 10th floor.
Knowing that I was walking the same hallowed ground as my grandparents during their honeymoon made me feel closer to them than I have in years. There was such satisfying symmetry to be able to celebrate my new marriage in the same place where Ma and Pa celebrated theirs. They weren't able to be with us when we walked down the aisle, but they were certainly with us in spirit as we explored The Drake—and it felt right to honor my grandparents even after my wedding. Losing family members is a sad fact of life, but if you get a little creative, you can always find ways to include them in your