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?


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. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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,

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. I have been with my girlfriend for 18 years and we are getting married in May. It will be our 19 year anniversary. We have been together since I was 21 and it recently became legal for us to marry. I have overseas family and have had the wedding date set for three years. My mother was very healthy, until she was diagnosed with cancer on Halloween of 2014. She passed away March 12, almost 3 weeks ago. My mother was my best friend, also a dress maker, and had been helping me to start to plan the wedding. My Mother asked me not to postpone the wedding, but she was ok with me postponing our honeymoon, which we were just about to book. I am a nurse and drove her the 3 hour round ride for her appointments etc. during one of those rides she told me that she wanted to be at my wedding but is she couldn’t she knew I would miss her but she wanted me to enjoy the day as best I could. She told me that was her wish for me on my wedding day, to be able to enjoy it. I am also a person who keeps much to herself. Your situation sounds so similar to mine I was wondering how it worked out and if you have any words of advice. Obviously, I am having a hard time, hence finding your post.

    • Deanne,

      I was just married in December after losing my mom in August. She died suddenly and VERY unexpectedly, and I was not given the opportunity to say goodbye or speak to her about how I would deal with her death. I am envious of the conversations you had with your mother before her passing.

      I did mention my mom in my vows, because she was a huge part of my life. We wrote our own, and when I mentioned what a pillar of strength and endurance my mom was in my life, I started to cry. I wanted her there so much. I wore an heirloom locket from my great grandmother my mom had given me with a small portion of her ashes in it. Although I planned everything fairly well, a few things went wrong during my wedding. It is a hard thing to go through after losing mom. (I was very DIY and didn’t have a planner…if it feels tough for you, I would recommend getting a coordinator at least for the day to run things and that might make it easier.) But overall, our wedding was very simple, small and beautiful, with focus on what matters. It wasn’t a Cinderella style thing like some women that seem to get so worked up in details and spending a lot. It was meaningful though.

      Me and my fiance had been together, (sharing a mortgage) for almost 5 years prior to the wedding, so it was more about sealing the deal for us, which is probably how it is for you after so long. How beautiful: you have been together forever!! 🙂

      I think mine went ok. I’m sorry your mom can’t be there. I think it’s wonderful that you and your future wife are able to be married legally. Don’t put too much pressure on yourselves, (REMEMBER TO SNACK ALL DAY – I FORGOT TO EAT AND FELT VERY SICK AT ONE POINT) and just enjoy it the best you can. You can’t take away the pain that will float along with you…it’s part of our reality now in the absence of our moms. Oh, well. It’s still a nice day. Just take a moment to close your eyes and remember your ma and smile with her in your heart for a beat before smiling at everyone else who is there to show you their support and love. <3 Congratulations, and good luck.

  9. This is a little helpful. I think I was looking for something more specific.
    My baby sister passed away last week at the age of 20. I just flew back to Idaho from visiting family in my home town and for her service. I am so devastated by her death, partly because her and I never had the closeness that I have always had with my other sister. She had been struggling with mental illness and drug abuse for a long time; longer than anyone really knew because she kept a tough/no nonsense exterior at all times.

    She has made life difficult for my parents in the past few years. We had a few close moments but I really hoped my wedding would bring us together. My two sister were to be my only wedding party. They picked the color of their dresses and I made them necklaces to wear just a few hours before her passing. I dreamed of her as being my maid of honor that night and could hardly believe that drugs had finally taken her when I got a call from my dad early that morning.

    There is comfort and pain in that she also left behind a wonderful, beautiful two year old daughter.
    Her absence will be so hard to bear at my wedding in 4 months.

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