Juggling wedding planning and grief

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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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?

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Comments on Juggling wedding planning and grief

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  3. 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.

      • 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

  10. 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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