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Four Ways to Incorporate Family Heirlooms into your Wedding

Over and over again, I talk to my brides about how best to capture the spirit of her and her husband-to-be in their big day.  Encapsulating their personalities is one of my favorite parts in bringing the event to execution.  But the logical extension of bringing these two people together is bringing two families together.  Making sure to acknowledge and incorporate your families into the big day will not only be appreciated by the two families involved, but also makes the day more special and sentimental for every guest there!

1. Family Linens

One of the most simple, and perhaps the most sentimental ways to incorporate family heirlooms on your wedding day is to wrap the bridal bouquet in a handkerchief that has been passed down.  I carried a handkerchief that my mother carried that was given to her by a family friend who's mother also carried it.  That woman was a former First Lady of New York State.  This was special to me both because my mother carried it at her wedding, but also because I live in New York (though I did not grow up here).  There is likely to be at least one significant item like this that the bride can have with her as she walks down the aisle.  This is not the most visible of ways to incorporate these items but it is so meaningful for those involved.  

Other ways to incorporate family linens?  Sew a patch of something significant - an old quilt, your mother's wedding dress, your dad's favorite t-shirt - into the lining of your wedding dress.  It can even serve as your something blue!  Alternatively you can use a set of napkins or a special tablecloth for the head table at your reception, or maybe even your entire reception, depending on the size of your event (and the size of your linens set). 

2. Family Silver

I love using this heirloom monogrammed mint julep cup even after my wedding day!

I love using this heirloom monogrammed mint julep cup even after my wedding day!

Family silver can come in many different sizes and quantities.  My go-to way to incorporate it into a wedding (or in reality any party I host to this day where it seems relevant) is to repurpose mint julep cups (above) as containers for flowers.  Flowers are already an eye-catching part of any event and so being able to add additional texture and detail is so lovely.  This principle can be applied to weddings - if you have a set of mint julep cups or any other silver implement that could hold flowers, use them as containers for the florals in the cocktail reception.  If quantities are limited, you can focus your use on the head table or on the bar.  (It would be incredibly appropriate if you had flowers in mint juleps cups on a bar where mint juleps would be served - Southern brides take note!)  If you don't want to use your silver to hold flowers, consider using serving dishes to display favors at the end of the night or to be carried by servers passing out your late night snacks!

3. Family China

Image via  The Knot

Image via The Knot

I find that many people have china that is rarely used because they don't feel the various occasions are "special" enough to warrant the use.  But then families pay to rent china for their weddings, one of the most special days in most couples lives.  The quantity problem is a limiting factor.  So if you are having a small reception and have a large quantity of china - this may be your opportunity to shine!  That being said don't feel limited by having enough of the same type of china to outfit everybody at the reception. You can alternate patterns (if they both match your color scheme, of course) to add more depth to the tablescape.  Alternatively, you can mix and match with other patterns from a rental company or only place the heirlooms on some plates and use solid plates on others. This will depend how vintage, boho, or delicate you want your place settings to look.  One thing to consider: if guests will actually be eating food off of your china, budget an extra amount for the catering staff to hand wash those plates, otherwise your heirloom china will be going in an industrial washing machine!!

As a guest and a planner I have always whole-heartedly appreciated the events where couples have made an effort to include their family in the event in ways small and large. These small details can provide another way to include your family in your special day!