Juggling wedding planning and grief

October 3 | Guest post by Melissa

Stressful as wedding planning can be, doing so after the loss of loved ones brings up so many more painful questions and emotions. So, how DOES one juggle grief and wedding planning?

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Tilliebyrd's in memory tattoo

I'm struggling with wedding planning. Normally I relish assembling a massive event since throwing elaborate parties is my THING. However, my parents died recently, and the planning is a rasping reminder of their absence. Reconciling grief and wedding is so difficult that I want to quit.

We were very close, in fact my mother was my best friend. We could talk candidly about anything, especially sex. (Word to the wise: don't freak if your parents get freaky. It makes them happy, and sometimes it means that you get to sleep in.) I don't know my extended family well, nor am I associated with any social groups. For these reasons, I'm slogging alone. However, being alone means I think too much. Fun parts, like aggressively interviewing venue candidates, are over, so I must do things that leave me wedding-blocked: invites, cute DIY, crap and the dress.

My mother made all my formals growing up: costumes, prom dresses, bridesmaid's dresses, and Renaissance Faire gowns. I tried making my gown; my mother's hands might not make it, but hands that my mother made would. Unfortunately, I designed the original dresses but never before made a 3D pattern.

So I acknowledged my skill-level, found a seamstress, then went fabric shopping. However, my thoughts spiral downward when I wander the stores. There's no one to offer personal advice to questions like "What color white looks best with my skin tone?" Who thought THAT would be an issue? So I leave sniveling "I want my mommy!" like a child. Favors and décor get a similar reaction: I visit craft supply shops and get fresh reminders that this was SO her thing.

My father is equally missed, though he was ill. I decided to walk down the aisle alone for his health. However, I desperately wish to consult with him on the logistical/financial aspects of the wedding and travel. He took me to Tahiti when I was eight for the most magical vacation ever, and I've wanted to go back all my life. Chris and I planned our Tahiti honeymoon before they died. I regret that now, because I'm scared of past memories making me miserable.

Finally, I broke down and asked Chris to consider eloping to Alaska and use the venue deposit for a nice party instead. I always wanted a big, fussy wedding, but if it makes my grief raw, what's the point? Ultimately, we decided against eloping for various reasons, so wedding planning it is. Now, I keep striking these blocks:

I'm trying my best to be mature, and remember that life isn't always easy, but I keep struggling… And I know I'm not alone; there are many brides who've wed with their ghosts in mind.

  • How many "lates" do I want in my invitations?
  • Will I mistreat my seamstress because she's not my mother?
  • What kick-ass ideas would my mother have had?
  • Where is my father's cosmopolitan advice?
  • Will childhood memories sour our honeymoon?
  • Should we say screw this whole mess?
  • Will I bawl at the altar?
  • Are my compromises healthy ways to handle grief?

I'm trying my best to be mature, and remember that life isn't always easy, but I keep struggling. I don't want to be a spoiled child, and I don't want my feelings to impact the experience for everyone involved. And I know I'm not alone; there are many brides who've wed with their ghosts in mind.

How do other brides (and grooms) handle similar feelings with loss and wedding planning? How do you get around them and still manage to make a happy event?

  1. I was very lucky – as my mother was dying while I was planning our wedding, the hospice reached out to me and said that I should do anything I needed to, including having an earlier wedding at the hospice for my mom if I wanted.

    So we did just that – had one wedding at the hospice for my mom and a few of her closest friends, and then had another wedding as originally planned 3 months later.

    The hospice workers were amazing, they knew all the right things to say to me, they let a caterer come in and do a wedding supper for us in the family room, they made me not feel guilty for still wanting my original wedding to go off as planned. It's certainly not how I would have wanted things to go, but I count myself and my mom fortunate to have been surrounded by such great health care workers.

    23 agree
    • First, I am very sorry for your loss.

      Your story was wonderful. I'm sure she wouldn't want you to cancel the big day either. What a great hospice.

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    • I too lost my mom. Now a little over three years later I am planning my wedding and I feel like there is a big huge gaping hole in my life. I had my daughter 2 months after my mom passed and I remember after my daughter was born I sat in my hospital room sobbing because she wasn't there. I am pretty sure that I will have mixed emotions on my wedding day. Great Joy because I am marrying the man that I love, and a deep sadness because my mom will not be there. I can't direct you on what to do. I can only say what people have told me in the monumental moments in my life. She might not be there in person, but she is there in spirit.

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  2. I cannot answer most of the questions that you ask here, except for one. "Will I bawl at the altar?" The answer to this is most likely yes. Even if you don't at the altar, you most certainly will while you are getting ready. And a few other times during the day. Wear waterproof mascara, and resign yourself to it. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

    I lost a very dear grandfather the week before my wedding (on my birthday as well, but that's not all that relevant here.) This is the man who asked me if I was married yet, every single time he saw me from the time I began to walk. By the time I got married he was ill, and would not have made it to the ceremony. I consoled myself a little by saying after the ceremony "yes, Grandpa, I'm FINALLY married, and you had the best seat in the house" But ultimately it will weigh heavy on your heart. It doesn't have to steal all your joy, though. Your parents loved you and wanted you to be happy, so be happy. Show your new husband all the wonders of Tahiti, and share your memories with him. That way your Dad lives on. Find ways to honor them, and share the gifts they gave you, and know they are smiling down upon you, even now.

    29 agree
  3. I'm so sorry for your loss.
    I think you're extremely self aware in theses issues as they arise, and kudos to you for reaching out – not many are as brave.
    I also think that you've won half of your battle with the "will I…" because you're aware of them. If you don't want to mistreat your seamstress, you're already aware that you may have that tendency and can check it, so to speak. Your emotions are real, raw, and completely valid – if it would help you to speak with your seamstress, just giving her a head's up with something like, "I'm so happy that you're able to help me with this, but I do want to let you know that my Mom recently passed and she was a wonderful seamstress…if I seem out of sorts when we meet, it's no reflection on you or your work."
    As for traveling to Tahiti….go, and make new memories. Take something with you that can be a momento of your father, and let it drift out to sea one night. There is no reason you should have to hide your grief, but you can create more closure for yourself by recognizing him in the place you both loved. It may help you recoup some more and then let you feel at peace with creating new memories with your partner.
    Your father's advice and your mother's creativity is still around. It lies within you…you don't have to go far to know exactly what they'd say. Look at some of your mother's past creations…photos of things she made…take inspiration from that by looking at color schemes, placement of fabirc/rouching/pleats/accents…and remember what your father told you about certain situations, as advice rarely applies to one thing alone.
    The best piece of advice I ever received was that "You are allowed to be in whatever space you need to be, at any given moment." Tempering the need to grieve with respect to yourself, and others…I think it will be okay. I hope you feel that way too. Hugs and blessings to you.

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  4. Not to Pollyanna out on you here (bc not everyone is a shining beacon of awesomeness), but sometimes, if you're in a store and you feel yourself spiraling about things like whether a color will go with your skin, just ask someone. And you can say you miss your mom and her utterly brilliant perfect advice, and that you're planning your wedding alone, and you miss her horribly. You may be surprised at who would respond, how they'd respond, and how many hugs and help you'll get. If they don't, then all you have to do is say thank you and walk out of the store.

    And I'd fucking go on your honeymoon as planned. Your partner knows what's going on, and sometimes coping with grief happens in weird ways. Tahiti was beautiful and magical for you for one set of reasons when you were 8, and if it brings back memories of your father now, then I'd just let it happen. If you find yourself more drawn to beachside yoga at 6:30 AM than to the late night bar scene, go with it. It is what it is. I get the feeling that going someplace else isn't going to be the thing that makes you stop grieving. This honeymoon may not be the most purely joyous occasion of your life, but whatever it is, it'll be real. Your trip when you were 8 was eye-opening and it set you up for where you are now. There are other vacations in your future, so don't stress about how you may or may not feel when on this one.

    You know that your mom and dad would have had a bajillion suggestions. But you are the product of their upbringing, so I doubt you're as in the dark in reality as you may be feeling. In this case, I say trust yourself. You may bawl at the alter, but everyone knows what you're going through. Again, I'd just do what it was I wanted and planned for. You are struggling, and it is harder than it should be, but your parents were clearly kickass. And you are their product.

    So, I'd buy myself some waterproof makeup and go hard to what it was you wanted to do. Maybe cut a few DIYs here and there to make your life easier, or outsource them. Talk to your partner's people. Maybe use this as an excuse to get to know them better. You never know who's out there. No one will ever "be" your mom other than your mom, but you might find someone or some people who can help you fill in a few holes, shore up your foundations, and just help you do whatever it is that's in your head.

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    • I just wanted to extol one of the last things you said:

      "Talk to your partner's people."

      Since I lost my dad three months ago, there's all sorts of things that I now take to my partners parents, not necessarily in the same way I would ask my dad stuff, but it sometimes fills the basic need for parental support. I'll go over to their house sometimes and they'll have advice or suggestions for things we talked about weeks ago.

      Obviously, your in-laws are no substitute for your parents. And there's a good chance they have an entirely different set of skills than you would expect from your parents, but they probably have your best interest in mind and want to see you marry their child and be as happy as you can possibly be.

      Maybe they can't make your dress, but perhaps one of them is great with words and can help you word your invitations or maybe one of them has lost a parent and can help you through that grief at least a little bit.

      1 agrees
  5. I'm terribly sorry for you loss. I think one important thing to keep in mind is that your parents loved you and they would want you to enjoy your wedding planning, wedding and honeymoon as much as possible. If you had an amazing time in Tahiti with your dad as a child, I imagine that he'd be dismayed to think that his death might keep you from having an equally amazing (but totally different, more grown up) time with the new main man in your life, your husband. Getting married won't entirely erase your grief, but I'm sure that you and your new spouse will be so ecstatic to finally be married that you'll enjoy the honeymoon plenty! (If you and your mom talked frankly about sex, I'm sure she shared with you how great THAT part of the honeymoon can be!)

    I lost my father when I was a teenager and I know how much it can hurt. But (and I know you've heard this before, so forgive me) your crippling grief will lessen in time. Eventually, you will be able to make it through each day without sadness. But you and your fiance will only get one shot at this wedding and honeymoon, and I would advise you to try to make it your dream wedding. You'll be looking back on this day for the rest of your lives, and while your grief will always color it slightly in your memory, you probably won't want it to be THE defining factor (i.e. "I always had dreamed of a big fancy wedding, but when we got married 25 years ago I was so devastated by the loss of my loved ones that we did x, y, and z instead, so I never got the big fancy wedding.") Your parents would probably want you to have that big fancy wedding!

    At our wedding, we had a table set up in a corner with pictures of my father and my husband's father (who passed away a little over a year before). At the end of our weeing program we had a who's who type listing, with the names of our attendants and our immediate families, and then "In Memoriam" with both our fathers' names. We avoided using "Lates" in wedding invitations and went with a simple, "The pleasure of your presence is requested at the marriage of Kisså and Todd…" I knew that my father and Todd's father would be in the minds of our living guests without us needing to remind them, and we didn't want to cast a pall on the joy of the day by making it too much about who was unable to be with us. I think we managed to strike a good balance, keeping out late loved ones close without making it too hot and heavy. I didn't tell anyone but my mother, but I carried my father's wedding band in the pocket of my dress all day, and that was enough for me.

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  6. I so needed this. I am in the same boat. I lost my dad earlier this year and feel like there is no way I can enjoy my wedding because he won't be there. I am so sorry for your loss and I think you are being very brave. Thanks for posting this.

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    • I was going to pretty much mirror this comment. I too just lost my Dad almost 4 months ago. I hate just sitting here waiting for the next thing to come up that will set me off into a spiral of depression and sadness, even though I'm supposed to be ecstatic. The most dreaded question I get is "How is the wedding planning going? Aren't you SO excited?!" Yes, to a point, I just am aware of how tough it's going to be. Thank you Melissa for writing this, and thanks Erin for your comment. You are both brave and we will get through this, and WILL cry… but there will be tears of joy as well when our day comes.

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      • I'm in a similar boat too, having lost my dad just a week ago. My fiance and I were supposed to get married in December but postponed it when my dad entered hospice care. Everyone's still asking when the new wedding date is, and I have the heart neither to set one nor talk about weddings. Maybe that'll change after the holidays.

        1 agrees
  7. I am also in the same boat. As you might have heard: "Welcome to the club which no one wants to be in." I am so sorry for your loss. :-(

    If you don't mind, can I add one more question to yours – "How am I going to respond to people on my wedding day who will bring up these tragedies?"
    I feel like I will SNAP if someone says "it's sooooo sad that they can't be here with you todayyyy….." No $h!t it's sad!!! Why would you bring that up to me?!?!

    *Ahem* So, as you can see I do not have any great advice but for better or worse, you are not alone. *Hugs*.

    12 agree
    • I am not in this position, but a way to avoid this conversation might be during the cerimony to have a brief pause for all those who could not make it. Everyone would know who was implied without having to out and our say how sad it all is. This could also be for other missing individuals who where just plain unable to make it out or for grandparents/aunts/uncles who also had passed. I would imagine that could end all conversations about it because you went ahead and did something about it. Or in my mind that is how it'd work.

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    • On our wedding day, surprisingly few people mentioned my late father or the groom's late father. I think most people know that it's a happy occasion and they should try to keep it upbeat. My one cousin (who looks a lot like my dad did when he was in his 30s) did tell me that he wore seersucker specifically because that's what my dad wore to his wedding 15 years ago, and we had a fond chuckle over that. I think only one other person brought up my dad (my aunt, his sister) and she said something like, "He would be so happy for you" and I just replied, "I know, and I think he's here in spirit." and left it at that. So it really wasn't a huge issue. Also, I was so happy to have just gotten married that I don't think anything could have burst my bubble! Everything will turn out lovely, you'll see!

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  8. I am not in the same boat particularly, but the support for other human beings I see posted here has restored my faith in humanity today.
    We are working on ways to honor my fiance's mother who passed 10 years ago, how to make it clear yet not overbearingly heavy.
    I send you all hugs and best wishes.

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  9. Trying to plan a happy occasion whilst grieving is difficult. And though many can offer their own snippets of advice/wisdom/experience, you are the only one who can really cope with it in a way that suits you. I used my wedding planning to get through my grief, but it sounds as though your planning is compounding your grief. How can you use that in a productive and constructive way, rather than a debilitating way? Can you pay homage in some facets rather than bringing it into every aspect?

    I don't mean this to sound harsh if it does, but grief is difficult. And no two instances of grief are the same. The overwhelming feeling of isolation after losing a parent, especially when it occurs during the wedding planning process, can be crippling. The key is to find your own way of making it a positive process rather than one that destroys you from the inside out and makes what should be a joyous occasion a mournful one.

    1 agrees
  10. I know absolutely how you feel as I'm in a similar position. I lost my mum 2 years ago and thought I'd be cool with the whole wedding without her thing – until we attended 2 weddings this year and I balled at the idea of the lack of her at my own :o(
    I also did the begging the fiance to elope and just have a party later but that means his family and my Dad missing out so we can't do that to them.
    Instead, we're marrying abroad next year, in Venice, Italy – a city my mum loved and so do I. My dad and I will light a candle at a church she had remembered her own parents at on the morning of the wedding and I'm resigned to the fact that I'll bawl on the day.
    I guess in the end you are everything you are because of your parents and whether you believe they will be with you on the day spiritually or not – in the very fact of you – they will. So as others have said, make your own memories and if you can, bring little bits of them into the ceremony – I'll be including a small photo of my mum in my bouquet.
    And as for responding to others who will bring it up on the day – I have my fiance and several others primed to warn anyone to leave it alone – I'm aware enough of her absence and will remember her in my way – with the flowers and in the speeches – others who miss her presence can do so without mentioning it to me!

    1 agrees
  11. Melissa,

    First, may your parents' memories be for a blessing.

    My mother died 2 months to the day before my wedding. My small advice from someone who faced a very similar situation is as follows: remember that your parents may be dead, but the thing they loved most in the world, YOU, are not.

    * Will I mistreat my seamstress because she's not my mother? Of course not. You are a considerate woman, and you know full well how to treat other people. This woman is your partner in crime. Talk to her about the situation as well as what you want from your gown. She'll work with you, and if she won't, find another seamstress who will.

    What kick-ass ideas would my mother have had? The hard (so awfully hard) truth is: you don't know, and you won't. But you do know the things she loved, and the things she did in the past. You are your mother's daughter, let the past be your guide.

    Where is my father's cosmopolitan advice? In your head already. Listen closely, those words of wisdom are right there waiting for you. You are your father's daughter.

    Will childhood memories sour our honeymoon? No. But grief is part of your new reality, and expecting it not to be present in such an emotionally charged placed is foolish. You are not a fool. Let the joy of those memories shine as brightly as the grief while you make new memories with your husband. Tell the stories. Re-visit the places. And then visit the ones you've never been to before, and make new stories to tell.

    Will I bawl at the altar? Probably. Wear waterproof mascara and carry a handkerchief or three. Let your officiant know about the emotionally charged nature of the day and ask him/her to pace the ceremony accordingly. PS. Don't knock yourself for getting emotional and possibly crying. Getting married is a hugely emotional event without adding grief to the mix. Be present in your emotions and let them flow through you.

    Are my compromises healthy ways to handle grief? The only 'right' way to handle your grief is the way that works for you. If you've found a way to honor your parents the way you think they should be honored and at the same time not feel like you are leaving yourself out or making compromises that degrade you and their gifts to you, you're done and no more obsessing is healthy.

    25 agree
    • "Remember that your parents may be dead, but the thing they loved most in the world, YOU, are not."

      Thank you for that, Anna. You'll never know how much that sentence really helped me.

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  12. My mother-in-law died quite suddenly even though she had been unwell for a few months, just a few weeks before we got married. I can only hope I gave my husband the support and space he needed to grieve while we continued with the occasion. I know he spent many evenings sitting with my b-i-l (married to my sister) talking and letting it out in a 'man way'. What will happen will happen, give yourself permission to eperience whatever you are going through. Your wedding is one day. Your marriage and this partnership you are in – that is forever.

    Peace be with you.

    1 agrees
  13. I lost my Grandad this year and his birthday is Christmas Day, so I can appreciate how a joyous occassion can be marred.

    Like another commenter said, your wedding planning seems to be adding to your grief and I get the impression there's a lot of guilt in your emotions.

    Tell yourself it's ok to enjoy wedding things. And if perhaps you're doing something wedding related and you're getting upset, put it down and walk away. It's almost like teaching yourself not to associate the sadness of bereavement with your wedding.

    I know it wont get things done as quickly, but if you can limit the wedding = grief thought processes, you open up opportunities to take pleasure in things. When you're feeling low, try to rephrase in your head, so instead of "I wish Mum was here to help with flowers" think "Mum will love these flowers" and then go out and do the same kickass job your mother would have done. By using the wedding planning as opportunity to do your parents proud, they begin to show themselves in you and you've created.

    2 agree
  14. I'm getting married next month, and my dad passed away about a year and a half ago. I've had a pretty hard time with the grief, but for the five months or so that I've been engaged, I've tried not to think about it. I've also had more time to grieve and accept things, but every now and again it passes through my head that my dad won't be there to walk me down the aisle or have the dance – something that he talked about my whole life and was always really excited for.

    My brother is going to walk me down the aisle and my uncle (pretty much my second dad) is going to dance with me. We're dancing to "My Way" by Frank Sinatra – my dad was a big fan he even sang that song karaoke once at Thanksgiving dinner in his booming New York accent lol. We will also have a table with pictures commemorating him.

    As far as talking about it with people…I'm going to pass the word around that I would prefer anyone who wants to mention him in a speech just run it by me first as a courtesy. Apart from that and his memorial table I dont want to think about it much. Maybe that's not the right way to handle grief but I don't want to focus on the what could have beens and just focus on the day. I know my mom's going to be a wreck.

    Anyways, that probably doesn't help you, but thanks for providing the forum to vent. Even though it sucks I'm glad I'm not alone.

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    • So sorry for you loss. Having your bro walk you down the aisle is a great idea. Since my dad wasn't there to walk me, I used that as an opportunity to involve some of my other beloved male relatives in the ceremony (who probably wouldn't have gotten to play a role if Dad were still alive). My maternal first cousin walked me down the aisle, and my two paternal first cousins (my closest living male relatives on Dad's side) gave me away. We made the best of my father's absence, I hope you can do the same!

      1 agrees
  15. I'm so sorry. I lost my father quite suddenly three months after getting married, and it's only now, a year later, that I can think about the wedding without feeling terribly sad. My husband's mum died three years ago, and it was hard sometimes planning without her. The day before the wedding, things got complicated and emotional and we both got a lot of crying out of the way. I think that helped to keep the grief in check on the day itself, although of course we thought of her throughout the day.

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  16. My situation is not quite the same but presents similar issues. My baby brother who was born when I was fifteen was taken away by social services and adopted by another family who does not allow me to have contact. For me what makes it hard is that he is not dead and I have hope of seeing him again someday. At the same time I would give anything to have him be part of my day and I know there is no way he will be. I am doing my best to remember the joy of the day without forgetting that someone I love dearly will not be there. I am thinking of ways to incorporate him into the wedding without making it so prevalent that it puts me in a grief tailspin. I know I will have a moment of tears over the fact that he won't be there but I think that release will be necessary.

    I think you should let yourself grieve but not to let it overtake the joy that you deserve on your day. Just take a deep breath and remember that your mother and father are still with you but in a different way.

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    • Jennifer:

      I am the offspring of an anonymous sperm donor, and I was able to find my half-sibling (brother) through a genetic testing site known as "23andMe.com." You may try investigating those types of ways of finding your brother. It's a long shot, but it's all I had, and while I was looking for my father, I found a brother I didn't know I had. He might be trying sites like that to find you? A lot of us don't find people though, so please take it with a grain of salt. It can be emotionally disappointing and re-open the wound…I was waiting for about 2 years before the sibling showed up for me.

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  17. I understand, I so understand. My mum passed almost 15 years ago…doesn't change how much I miss her tho.

    My Advice: Warn folks. Whenever I feared someone may tear into that wound unintentionally…or intentionally: I let them know nicely ahead of time. It's not carte blanche to be a monster, but it's a fair warning for folks who might not know the inner workings of your family. My mum really pushed the feminist agenda on me as a kid (no Flintstones), so a nod of the hat between me & mom: ain't nobody giving me away. Everyone except my hubby challenges me on it. Ok, Dad doesn't challenge me either.

    So look deep into your relationship and know that the number one thing they wanted was your happiness.
    Thank you for your courage in posting, it truly helped.

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  18. I just went through a similar experience. My mother-in-law was killed in a car accident 2 months before our wedding and a week before what was going to be our (pre)honeymoon (which had to be canceled). Planning in the midst of mourning is extremely exhausting; I never managed to find a way around it. I don't believe there is one. It will hurt, you will cry, but don't forget you are getting married. Don't forget to reach out to your spouse when things are particularly tough (anytime for that matter). I know that our grief is still raw and we still cry but it hasn't stopped us from cherishing the moments from our wedding. We're very happy we continued to move forward and we know his mother would have wanted that. I can only wish the same for you.

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  19. I too am sorry to read of your loss and impressed by your strength and self-awareness. Many commenters have given you amazing support and advice and I would echo them.
    I do however have one word of advice that they have not included: hemorrhoid cream. I know it sounds weird, but pat a bit around your eyes because it reduces the redness and puffiness from crying. Use waterproof makeup, pat with a tissue or handkerchief (don't rub!) and have a makeup repair kit handy. Although none of this will assuage your grief, cry when you feel it and know that you can pull yourself together when you want to.
    Losing your parents would be difficult at any point in time, especially awesome parents like yours, but they want you to be happy – every day!
    Marriage is a joyous occasion and you may cry tears of happiness too!

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  20. Thanks for posting this. I just lost my dad three months ago (a month or so before I got engaged) and I'm having a rough time of it.

    And I'm so, so tired of people's suggestions of how I can "involve" my dad. Sure, a memorial table would be nice, but … I don't want one. I'll carry a locket or something, but he isn't here, and I'm not going to pretend he's here, hanging out at the table.

    And yes – it seems like every single person, the second I got engaged either mentioned my dad, or asked who was going to be walking me down the aisle since he's dead.

    And now I feel sad that dad isn't walking me down the aisle, even though I never intended him to do so when he was alive.

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    • This is *exactly* why I wrote this post. Because I can't pretend they're hanging out at the party when they're not, and because I don't want to make it about them or my loss.

      1 agrees
      • You don't have to say anything, or do anything, if you don't want to. And firmly tell those well meaning but painfully irritating people that something will present itself and change the subject. You do NOT need to explain your actions to other people, only your intended. You do not owe them a peek at your grief, your mourning process, how you're coping, or anything else. A lot of that is emotional voyeurism disguised as concern, and your emotional state is your own business.

        For us, a memorial was important but we didn't want to do a memorial table for exactly the reasons Erica stated. So my mother's best friend served as our Flower Child and lead my mother's horse down the aisle (we're horsey and got married on horseback).

        Please forgive my vehemence on this subject – it is a raw nerve of mine.

        Much respect to you both.

        1 agrees
  21. I believe your parents would be very proud that you are moving along with it, regardless of the pace. It will be a very emotional day, however I believe that pushing through and having the day you had always dreamed of is exactly what they would have wanted for you. It is a great way to honor the closeness you had, take a moment before the ceremony to have a personal conversation with them, thank them for their time with you, and enjoy your day!

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  22. I lost my grandmother, who pretty much raised me by herself, 5 years ago. I'm getting married this weekend and have been thinking of her a lot this past month. She always talked to me about the perfect man finding me and sweeping me off my feet and it saddens me that she never got to meet my fiance. I know she would have loved him. So to have her, and my other grandparents, with me there on my special day, instead of some speech or memorial table, I have put both my mother's parents' and father's parents' wedding photos in a locket I will wear. I'm sure people will ask me if there are pictures in it and it's okay. They are beautiful and I will show them proudly.

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    • the locket…yes.

      my favorite half's mom passed a week before last xms, and the only time i got to spend with her was in her hospital room, with her incoherent. this kills me inside. i had decided to ask if she ha any lockets, so that i might attach one to my bouquet (i'm having a silk one made, so it'll forever remind me of that day) and another to be woven into a handfasting cord. just a couple weeks ago, at a memorial dinner on her birthday, i was given one of her lockets and informed there were many others, as she was a collector of them (i had no idea), and i hadn't mentioned my desire for a locket of hers to anyone.

      melissa, reading your story reminded me that my grandpa has been gone 10 years, and he won't be there to see his little pookie get married. i bawled…it's horrible. if you need a friend to bounce idea's off of and you're in so cal, give me a holler :)

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  23. I can definitely relate. I got engaged in June 2010. Within two weeks of getting engaged, BOTH my dad and a friend of mine got the terrible news that they had cancer and were not expected to live very long. I lost my mom to cancer in 2003, and my dad and my friend died two months after they got sick (and within two days of each other).

    I started a thread on the Tribe about my experience, if you want to read it: http://offbeatbride.ning.com/forum/topics/planning-a-wedding-in-the

    Basically, I pretty much started planning wedding stuff the day after I got the ring, and by the time I had heard their news I had already set a date, and booked a venue for the ceremony. I do realize that I could have done a courthouse ceremony or something so that my dad and my friend could have seen me get married and then have a big shindig on the date I had set, but I didn't because I thought that if I did they may not be well enough to attend anyways, and if they were there they might be depressed about the fact that they were going to miss the "real" wedding.

    It's kind of strange though. As far as planning the wedding while grieving, I think I had the complete opposite reaction that you seem to have had. I found that having a wedding to plan actually helped me. It was a reminder that even though things suck now, there are still things to smile about and be grateful for. That summer, between working full time and going from one bedside to the other, I didn't have a lot of time to plan the wedding, but when I did have time, I took advantage of it because it gave me something to be happy about instead of being consumed by misery. I learned how to avoid letting the small wedding details get to me and I didn't let people's negative reactions about our wedding get to me either (I had a very unique, rock and roll themed wedding).

    I could write a novel about my experience, so I suggest if you want to read more, just go to the link. Hope this helps you. Big hugs and sorry to hear about your loss.

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    • Those of us who are not in the Tribe cannot access your link….:(

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      • I copied and pasted what I wrote in the thread below. Mind you, this was written quite some time ago, and the wedding has occurred since:

        Hi everyone. I have not seen this topic on here, and while it may not apply to everyone on this site, I thought I would post this part about my wedding planning experience, in the hopes that maybe it might help fellow OBT-ers.

        I got engaged in June 2010. My engagement ring was my birthday present. I totally KNEW Dan was going to propose, lol. When he did, I was so happy that I started jumping up and down and I even managed to smack my head against the living room wall.

        I immediately started planning the wedding. I fell in love with one of the very first dresses I saw, and four months later, I still know that dress THE one, and I wasted no time in buying it. Dan had his heart set on a particular park to get married in, so I booked it right away. Two weeks after I got engaged, tragedy struck.

        I got a phone call from my friend Melissa. She called to tell me she had colon cancer. She did not give me a lot of details about it at the time, because she did not want to depress anyone, so after she told me that she started asking me about the wedding plans and about a concert I had seen the previous week. About two weeks later, when I went to visit her in the hospital, I found out that the cancer was terminal.

        Three days after the phone call from Melissa, I got a phone call from my father. He just found out he had liver cancer and it was terminal.

        I literally went from being a super happy bride to be to being completely heartbroken in the course of a few weeks.

        It would be understandable if I had decided to put the wedding plans on hold for awhile, but I decided against doing that. Because I was heartsick for the two of them, continuing with my wedding planning was very therapeutic. The wedding was something happy I could focus on when I was not at one of their bedsides. And I could tell that it made them happy to know that while I was sad for them, I was not completely drowning in misery.

        Sadly, I lost them both two months ago. They died within two days of each other.

        Because I started my wedding planning under such tragic circumstances, one thing I have managed to avoid for the most part is letting the smaller and more typical wedding things get to me. The last thing I needed while they were dying was to put up with negativity, or spend time going crazy about invitations. I learned how important it is to 1. take time for YOURSELF once in awhile, and 2. do not let the negative shit get you down. I mean, for example, SO WHAT if the floral arrangement you have had your heart on is bloody expensive. You have other options – you can splurge on this, or you can find something similar at a lower price, etc. And yeah, I have had people suggest things that I do not like, and had to deal with some negativity from a couple of people on top of all of the other stress, but that is not the end of the world. There are ways to deal with that shit too. It is so important to remember when you are planning a wedding that if some shit happens, it is normal and perfectly okay to get a bit stressed out, but at the same time, it is not the end of the world either.

        So that is just my experience, and I thought that if there are some fellow offbeat brides who are in a similar situation, it is perfectly okay to feel what you are feeling. It is okay to try to have the wedding while your loved one is alive, and it is okay to wait too.

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  24. Hi,
    Firstly, i just want to thank you for being brave enough to post this.. I lost my Dad a year ago, and I"m planning my wedding for next year, so I really appreciated reading this. My Dad and I were very very close, and I'm realizing my own patterns of avoiding certain wedding decisions because he can't be here for it. Anyways, I also agree with a previous suggestion on here to just put it out there with your seamstress about what you're going through. I don't know the seamstress, but I bet they'll understand, and I'm sure it'll help to diffuse the situation. As far as the honeymoon, I also agree that you should still go as planned; the good thing is that this trip was a happy one for you and your father, and so I'm hopeful that this will bring about happy memories.
    Is there some sort of momento of your mom's or dad's that you can have with you at the wedding? Maybe something that you yourself could carry with you that day?
    And as for your question of whether you'll bawl the day of; chances are likely, yes.. And, that's OK!!! The people who love and support you will get why, and they'll only support you through that.
    Again, thanks for posting. And really, as a new member on here, I'm so encouraged to see all the support you're getting on here.. I am happy for you for that!

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  25. I am so sorry for your loss. My future mother in law passed away suddenly in july, and we're getting married next week. I am very far away from my family and took it harder than I expected. And his father isn't in the picture at all. I can't tell you how the wedding will be, but I can tell you that the planning process is f*cking hard. We both lost our minds at a few points, but we've made it through. Take some time out from wedding stuff so you can have time for yourself. Don't hold it in, it will just be worse when it comes out.
    Go to Tahiti, make memories with your significant other, and try to remember the good, not the sad. But don't beat yourself up if you think of the sad.
    Good luck, darling.

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  26. Remember they're there with you. Always.

    It's not the easiest thing to do, and frankly that hurts more than seeing a loved one sick. But do know that loved ones aren't ever disconnected. Physically you cannot feel and talk to them…but in that special space between dreamland and 'reality' is where this world and others still connect.

    When you get lonely, ask silently for encouragement. Or even just a hug. Be open to the universe and what comes your way, as it will help…

    And don't be afraid most of all, to cry and say THIS FUCKING SUCKS. Because it does, Admitting that is the only way to accept it. At the same time do know that it will always hurt.

    Thanks for this post too! Losing my bff earlier this year was a complete surprise…and it still hurts.

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  27. You are very courageous for sharing your emotions about your parents passing and your upcoming wedding.
    My husband's mom had passed away a couple years before we were married, in fact before him and I ever met. When we were wedding planning we shared in many decisions and work, but he was fairly hands off in terms of the ceremony, while I wrote and designed every detail; just not his kind of thing. I asked him if he would like to include mention of his mother as my parents and his father would be introduced. He said yes, but thought nothing more of it. When the time came in the ceremony, he was a bit surprised at mention of his mother. He let out a sob and a few tears flowed. It was raw and real, even a few years later. I squeezed his hand and we carried on. Our friends and family did not judge him for a second. And he thanked me after our ceremony for including his mom and in some of our quiet time together that day, we talked about her and how she would have loved our unique and offbeat wedding. In planning it hadn't mattered to him much, but on the day of it for us, it was important that we honored her memory that day rather than trying to pretend it wasn't part of our story.

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  28. I have just had a weekend of complete meltdowns over this very issue – I am really struggling to deal with the mixed feelings of grief and excitement. We're four weeks out from the big day and my fiance's father passed away 2 weeks ago. He was the most amazing, beautiful man and in many ways I was closer to him than my own father. It's so hard to not feel guilty when I have the bursts of excitement over dress fittings and hair trials etc.

    I am constantly being told that he would have wanted us to go ahead and be happy blah, blah, blah – which is absolutely true and I do know it with all my heart. But even knowing that can't take the feelings away.

    Life happens and you can't change these things but it's just shit that you have to go through so much sadness – especially at a time that should be the happiest in your life. It's just shit!

    So I'm so sorry that you are going through this in the lead up to your wedding, but thanks for your heartfelt post – it really struck a cord.

    As for how I'm handling it – not well! Crying a lot and really leaning on my girls around me.

    We still haven't worked out how we are going to deal with remembering him on the day without making it too sad. I'm hoping I can better deal with this in a couple of weeks.

    So sorry – I've got no words of wisdom. But am sending you happy thoughts and best wishes for your big day.

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  29. I finally married at 37 years old, after taking care of my parents. My dad died 4 years ago from cancer and my mom, well I like to say she died of a broken heart, 10 1/2 months after dad. I bought a throw bouquet for my parents and placed it on their grave the morning of. My parents siblings were in the processional and there was a memorial quilt and carnations ( forgot to buy 2 roses) placed on a bench my dad made. I cried, I think mostly because after a year of drama with my sister, I was finally saying the words that I'd waited so long to say.
    Not going to lie, wondering what my mom would have helped with, wanted or encouraged was hard. There were many tears over the last year. Yet, the gentle rain that fell all through our ceremony as we were on a covered bridge told me that they were happy tears of joy from above!!
    Good luck, you will make it…and just do it the way you both want!!

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  30. My Dad passed away shortly before I turned 21, and it is making the wedding planning really hard. I feel guilty for not having a part of the wedding at home so he is 'there'. The thought of walking down the aisle makes me want to run and hide, and I always start sniveling when the father daughter walk down the aisle stuff on movies come up, or seeing friends dads can even set me off. I think that whatever you choose to do you will not regret though.

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  31. My father died when I was 14, and just thinking about making wedding plans actually makes me feel ill. I hope that thinking it all through with so much time between now and then that it will be less painful… but so far no luck. I hope that your day is beautiful and magical that you feel your loved ones around you.

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  32. Melissa, I am very sorry for your loss.
    I want to offer a brief story that may help you. Not too long ago, I learned that my uncle, my mom's brother, was murdered about 3 or 4 months before her wedding. Randy was mom's only sibling, and I told her that I can't imagine suffering that loss, and not having him there for that day, etc. All she could really say was "It was hard, but I really just wanted to be married, to be married to your dad."
    She doesn't remember much of he ceremony, the flowers, any of the stuff, but she is still married after almost 30 years.
    Are weddings important and joyful and what we want? Absolutely. But I hope that you can focus on the love you feel for your fiancee and the life you're gonna have together and let that be your comfort.

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  33. I'm sorry you lost your parents like that. I lost my mom a couple of years ago, and we had a difficult relationship, but I still miss her every day. Your post resonated with me especially today. I had lunch with my big sister, and she was going to drop me off so I could get my wedding dress altered on my own. I was really stressing about getting everything together and going and getting it done and I was really struggling with it for some reason, and my sister finally asked me why I was getting so upset, and I just broke down and wailed, "I want Mom!" I had no idea that that was even what it was that was troubling so much, but it was absolutely true. I wanted my mom to be here to help me make decisions and to argue with me about those decisions and to be proud of me. My sister decided to go with me so I didn't have to go alone, and we spent the whole time talking about how Mom would be acting if she was still here, and I felt a lot better. You never stop missing them, but you do start remembering the love you shared more than the pain of your loss. I hope you have a lovely marriage.

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  34. I'm so sorry for your losses, but thank you for sharing your experience. Reading your thoughts alongside these comments has made me realize I'm maybe less alone in this than I thought. My dad died five years ago and my mom only five months ago, and my wedding is in September. Sometimes I am so jealous of my FI because his parents will be there. It's crazy. I had time to reconcile that my dad wouldn't be there, but it's so hard knowing that neither will.

    Though FI and I will still have a wedding, we eloped this weekend and it was wonderful. Not a sad thought at all. Without all of the family and reminders, we had a very joyous occasion. I'm not sure how I'll react in September, when my sister and aunts are there, but I feel so lucky to have purposefully made a happy occasion.

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  35. I know this post is from some time ago but I just came across it as a friend sent me to this site to help me write invitations. No advice but reading your post has caused me to sit down and bawl. Something that has been building as I try to plan my wedding. I don't no how this is going to go. I miss my mum so much.

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  36. First of all, I want to tell you how sorry I am about your truly terrible loss. I lost my mom three months ago and got engaged three weeks ago. I appreciate you sharing.

    I've started a website that I wanted to share with you. It is BlissfulBrideGrievingDaughter.com. It is my reflections on love, life, loss and wedding planning.

    This year has been the happiest and saddest of my life. Within three months, I lost my Mom suddenly and the love of my life asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. These two life-altering events are two that most all people will experience at some point. Mine happened at once.

    I am sharing my story as I plan the happiest day of my life while coping with the death of my Mom. It is a new project and largely a cathartic practice for myself. But my hope is that my small perspective on grief and love will inspire anyone dealing with a loss or planning a wedding–with or without the help of a mother.

    This is a blog about the joys and details of planning a wedding as well as insights I've discovered in losing my Mom.

    Anyway, I hope you take a look and let me know your thoughts

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  37. i just want to reach out to you and give you a huge hug.. you deserve the absolute best when it comes to your wedding. and i am sure. no i am POSITIVE your parents would want you to go through with a very happy day. there is a lot of ways to honor your parents. have you though about using some fabric of your mother's into your dress ? or playing your father's favorite song ? pictures in the bouquet maybe ? these are all little ideas but either way i know that you will find good things to mix in with the wedding. i wish you and your future husband the absolute best!! and i really hope everything works to your favor!

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  38. i'm having issues with who to have walk me down the aisle, who to dance with etc.

    My father died when i was 3, my uncle/godfather when i was 19, my best friend (and the person I dreamed would be there) when I was 27

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  39. This post and the comments have helped me so much. Thank you. I hope my story helps others too:
    My mom didn't die but she had a stroke when I was fifteen. It was like she had died and left her body wheel-chair bound taking on a new personality, much different and younger than the mom I had known for the first part of my life. I am getting married in a month and now that a lot of the stress of coordinating vendors, finding a new venue after my dad pulled our original venue right out from under us, and finalizing dress alterations, there is finally space for my grief to come up. I knew that huge life events would trigger my grief as it has in the past with graduating college but I thought that since it has been 17 years since her leaving, I would make it through this with little emotional damage. I know I miss my mom–I can feel it all over sometimes; but part of me forgets her and it's hard for me to imagine what she would say or do to help me. That makes me more sad.
    Planning a wedding without her may be one of the most difficult things I have experienced–to the point of questioning whether it's all worth it or not. I've gotten so sidetracked by the stress, details and expectations of what it should be like that I forget what the point is. I don't have my mom to pull me out, give me perspective, or help me with the things that shouldn't be so freaking difficult. What I have discovered though, is that in the last few months of this emotional roller coaster (unbeknown to me at the time that a huge part of that was not having her here), is that there is a support network of people who love me and are here for me. Those people have stepped up especially when my mom couldn't. Part of them are from my new family (yay in-laws!) and part are friends, old and new. Not having had mother love for a long time and only perceiving father love sporadically, I am truly surprised by how much people can show up for me. I don't want to let my grief or lack keep me from letting that in. Because that is real and it is what is available for me. I wouldn't have experienced that with her here because her presence and light were so big, there wouldn't have been any room. I'm not saying I prefer the former over the latter but I'm trying to recognize the love and support that have presented itself to me as I lay broken open. That is a gift. I'll carry that with me as I walk up the aisle and hopefully it'll sustain me throughout the ceremony.
    There are so many expectations of this day having to be perfect. I don't want to let the expectations take over the real thing or make me forget why we are doing this to begin with. It'll be beautiful because the love is real. And whether it manifests as joy from officially joining our lives together or sadness from the loss, love is present. That makes any wedding the most beautiful and meaningful.

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  40. For the love of all things holy, THIS. This is my life right now. I'm in the process of planning my wedding for next fall. My mother passed away suddenly two months ago. It has been one wrenching, exhausting ride. Will I bawl at the altar? Yes, probably. Would I have done that anyway? Likely. Will I be able to pull off selling my mother's house and closing her estate while trying to pay for my wedding? God, I hope so. Will I manage to save some sliver of my sanity (alliteration!)? Let's hope.

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  41. Aw, Melissa! I think one step to be able to pull through is to not feel guilty you are pushing through with this or will be celebrating your marriage at all. Your parents want you to go for this because you deserve this. Certainly they don't want you to stop living because they've departed. You can honor your parents on your wedding day by with you a part of them, such as a jewelry or even a hair pin. Or in the case of your dad, go on with the honeymoon in Tahiti. You will feel a little bit sad for a moment, but surely all that will disappear when you're finally there. Best wishes!

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  42. When we found out my mom was dying of lung cancer 3 1/2 years ago, my family went to a grief counselor together and I surprised everyone (including myself) by breaking into tears over the fact that she'd never get to see me get married. In fact, she'd never even get to meet the person I'd end up marrying.

    I just got engaged in early October, and it's been sort of hard to do most of the planning myself, though I've become accustomed to doing things without her now. However, I don't think that any girl should plan her wedding without what I've been referring to as a "Wedding Mom". I asked an aunt that I'm close with to be mine, and it has a lot of meaning for both of us.

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  43. My Mother died after a long battle with cancer right after my fiance and I met. I will always regret and grieve the fact that she never met him. We are getting married in a month. Every step of the process has had its own phase of grief. At one point (Dress shopping) I canceled the whole big wedding and decided to go to the court house. My mother always wanted me to have a big wedding and if it weren't for my boss (who has stepped in like a mother for me) taking me dress shopping I wouldn't have been able to have the beautiful wedding we are planning. It is hard to not feel angry and numb about it all. Around the year anniversary date- right after our engagement- I plummeted into a deep depression and literally couldn't get out of bed. A new job and pushing forward got me out of it. I'm very blessed to have all of her friends helping but with every decision I'm still asking- what if she were here? Would she hate my dress? How will I be able to live without her?? It is coming on two years since her death and I'm still a mess part of the time but less than I used to be.

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  44. I am SO sorry…there really is nothing else for me to say, but I know you didn't write this to get comments like that back, in fact, I'm sure it bugs you if your anything like me. let me say, I am so so appreciative you decided to share this. I didn't lose my mom, but I lost a very close and far too young family member very unexpectedly almost a year ago, 2 weeks after my FH proposed. to this day my soul is crushed, but we all know we get better at hiding it as time goes by. I've never told anyone, even my fiance', but the reason I so readily wanted to wait a few years to get married, and so easily settled for a small elopement with 20 of our closest family and friends at a closer date, was me avoiding all the raw, ugly and excruciating feelings your dealing with now. its so much easier to attempt to side step a heaping pile of tears by rationalizing the elopement with "oh, with this small a wedding, I wouldn't have invited him anyway if he was still alive…" to avoid his empty seat and lack of invitation. too late, just writing this, I'm now a blubbering mess. Thank you so much for sharing. even though it rips the imaginary band-aid off my own loss, somehow it makes me feel better knowing my hurt is shared, and accepted by other women like you and me.

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  45. Thank you soo much for this post, as it's just what I needed.
    I lost my mom in April 2012, 6 days after our engagement. In fact, our engagement video (lovingly caught on tape by my best friend) was the last thing she watched before she quietly fell asleep for the last time.

    We have yet to make ANY wedding plans, over 2 years later, as I cannot imagine that day without her.
    It's gotten to the point that when people razz me about when our wedding is, I am now just asking them if their mother was at theirs…

    I find strength in your story…knowing that it's possible to do it after all, so thank you.

    And please, go to Tahiti.
    This winter, my fiancé took me to my mom's FAV vacation spot in Mexico where we went together several times. It was hard, but left me with a little more peace and sanity than before. I felt connected to her moreso there on the beach than anywhere, and you may find a similar experience. At least, I hope so.

    Thank you again,
    Dee

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  46. You've gotten very good advice. Best of luck to you and your fiancé. And take the time to get to know the part of the family you haven't really known. You may find yourself close to someone in your extended family or your in-laws. I'm lucky enough to be quite close to my mother-in-law.

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  47. I'm really glad to find articles like this. I think a lot of people go through these issues…but we often don't hear about them. I'm in the same boat, my wedding is in five months, but my Mum just passed away less than two months ago- and now this week my soon-to-be brother in law just passed away too, so we're dealing with grief on both sides of the family.

    The only consolation for me is that I am very fond of my mother-in-law to be, and already feel like she is a second mother, plus my best friend got married recently so I have people to ask advice from when I need it.

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