Madeleine Owens knew she wanted to get married in Pootilla cemetery, Victoria, from the day she got engaged to her now husband Corey Stevens.
It's where her brother Tom rests. He left this life on Mother's Day 2013 in tragic circumstances at the age of just 23, but he remains a big part of her family and as she tells Mamamia, the day wouldn't have felt complete without him.
When her brother first died, Madeleine, 27, says she found it hard to visit his grave, but as time went on she became more comfortable with her grief.
Tom's final resting place – with its pretty country setting – became a normal and integral part of the family's celebratory occasions.
It took four rescheduled dates thanks to COVID-19, but finally Corey and Madeleine tied the knot in February, 2021. They had a full Eucharist wedding ceremony at St Brendan’s Catholic Church in Dunnstown, about 15 minutes outside of Ballarat, and then headed to the nearby cemetery.
"There we had a simple and rustic style celebration which oozed heartfelt emotion, joy and love. On arrival all of our guests were offered champagne and formed an honour avenue, which we walked through as we made our way up to Tom’s grave," Madeleine explained.
"As a nod to my mum’s heritage, we had a lady lead the way as she played the bagpipes. It was so loud and moving and every guest said they felt this moment hit their soul. She played 'Forever Young', which was the song we carried Tom out of the church to, at his funeral.
"The priest then gave a blessing at the grave and we all placed flowers on by the headstone and said our family prayer. The same family prayer we said when Tom was lowered into the grave at his burial, the same family prayer our mum said to us every night when we went to bed as kids, the same family prayer my sister says to her daughters every night and the same family prayer that was said to mum as a little girl, so it is a really special prayer within our family."