blue butterfly on fingertip
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
May 13, 2024 ·  4 min read

Incredible moment butterfly lands on father’s hand during moving tribute to late daughter

Butterflies hold a special significance for Max Van Gorder and his family. His sister, Vanessa, died in a car accident several years ago, and the winged insects have become her mementos. So, of course, they had to bring a butterfly or two when Max married his wife Lydia in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. The couple wanted to honor Vanessa and bring her presence to their ceremony by releasing monarch butterflies before they said their vows.

At the wedding, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” began playing, and the butterflies flew over the venue. Everyone expected the insects to flutter away, but they stayed throughout the ceremony. One butterfly even perched on the finger of Scott Van Gorder, Max’s father.

Honoring Vanessa At the Wedding Ceremony

This is probably the most emotional thing I’ve witnessed at a wedding,” wedding photographer Jessica Manns wrote on her Facebook page after sharing photos of the beautiful event.

There’s a common belief that deceased loved ones could visit their family as butterflies. Whether or not that is true, Vanessa’s presence was definitely felt at this momentous occasion through these beautiful insects. After their release, the butterflies flew to the family. Several landed on Max’s mother’s dress, with one in her hair. However, one landed on Scott’s finger and remained there, as if it were holding his hand.

They clung all over them and even stayed on their bodies the entire ceremony and well afterward into cocktail hour,” Manns wrote. “This same butterfly on his finger stayed there the entire ceremony and then flew onto the bride’s bouquet after the recessional. Lydia, the bride, even walked down the aisle with two on her dress.” Additionally, a butterfly rested on Lydia’s bouquet during cocktail hour. The insects seemed to know they were needed at this wedding.

In an interview with HuffPost, Manns described the atmosphere after the butterflies came out. “The family’s reaction seemed to be a mixture of awe that they were hovering around them so closely and reverence for the butterflies and what they were witnessing. There was just a lot of emotion as they thought of Vanessa and her spirit.

Read: The Story of the ‘World’s longest Down’s Syndrome marriage’

A Butterfly Landed on the Bride

After everyone was seated in the barn, speeches began. Determined not to be forgotten, a butterfly flew in from nowhere and landed on the bride’s neck. “Everyone in the room who could see gasped, and Lydia had such a surprised reaction,” Manns said. “It stayed on her face for the remainder of the speeches. It was pretty remarkable since the reception happened hours after the ceremony inside an enclosed barn that was a good distance from the ceremony spot.”

Lydia, the bride herself, commented on the viral butterfly post, expressing how magical the event was. “Thank you again, Jessica Manns, for capturing such a special and loving moment during our wedding. Vanessa was with us there and throughout the night. I relive my wedding day every time I look at your photos. You captured every moment so beautifully! You are the best!”

Source: Boredpanda

How to Honor a Deceased Loved One at a Wedding

While a butterfly tribute was Van Gorder’s way to remember Vanessa, there are also other methods to honor a loved one at a wedding. According to, “Honoring a loved one who’s passed is completely personal—it’s a private moment for others, a display table for some, or an ode in food or music choices to some,” explains wedding planner Tay Wall of Bixby + Pine. “There are different things that are more popular, but when it comes down to it, do what feels right for you two.

Of course, every relationship has its own special elements that could become long-lasting mementos.

Here are some general ideas:

  1. Wear something that belonged to the loved one. This could be their wedding dress or something small, like a necklace or cufflinks.
  2. Save them a seat at the ceremony. This could be as simple and subtle as keeping a chair with a reserved sign in the front row. Or you could decorate the chair with flowers and a photo of the missing person.
  3. Make a toast in their honor.
  4. Incorporate their favorite flowers or colors into the bouquet or wedding palette.
  5. Play their favorite song during the ceremony or during the dancing after announcing its significance to the guests.
  6. Write a sincere message about the missing person for the guests to read about in the Ceremony Program.

Focus on the happy, special details they loved and would get a kick out of—not the fact that they’re gone,” says Taylor. “Instead, make sure they are actually very present in the day.”

Keep Reading: Bride Has Her Wedding Gown Cut Into 17 ‘Angel Gowns’ For Babies Lost Too Soon


  1. “Groom’s family releases butterflies during wedding to honour sister who died in emotional ceremony.” Independent. Narjas Zatat. July 2, 2019
  2. “They Released Butterflies For The Groom’s Late Sister, Then This Happened.HuffPost. Brittany Wong. July 10, 2019
  3. “Groom’s Family Releases Butterflies During Wedding To Honor His Sister Who Died, One Lands On Father’s Hand.Bored Panda. Neringa Utaraitė. July 2019.
  4. “8 Ways to Honor Deceased Loved Ones at Your Wedding.” Brides. Jillian Kramer. October 14, 2020