Losing my mother and honoring her memory through my own offbeat wedding

Guest post by smallblondeone

farmers' market flowers & my mom's dressI have been engaged for over a year, and Offbeat Bride has frequently been a sanctuary from the Wedding Industrial Complex.

I was expecting my wedding to be non-traditional in many ways, but I have to say I've been surprised by one way in which our wedding will be offbeat: traditional wedding blogs and magazines rarely talk about how brides have honored their absent loved ones.

I have taken so much joy (if that's even the right word) in seeing how other Offbeat Brides have made touching, bittersweet acknowledgements of those who can only be there with them in spirit. Why are these rituals are surprisingly absent from “traditional” wedding magazines and blogs?

Some of this may be that the wedding industry demands of us that we gloss over, not only our physical blemishes, but also the “imperfection” of an incomplete family. However, I have to wonder if the honoring of memories also shows up so much more often on Offbeat Bride because losing someone close to us has given us the “YOLO” mentality that empowers us to break tradition in the first place.

My mom passed away almost two years ago, and her absence would be a gaping hole in my life, even if it weren't for the fact that I have been planning my wedding. She and my dad were life partners for almost 30 years, but they didn't get married until four days before she died.

She had been divorced once before, and had no interest in signing another marriage contract or being held to the gender normative ideals of being a “wife” ever again… until the legal hassles of dying of a terminal illness made her reconsider. (I can't pass by this point in the story without acknowledging how unjust it is that, had she not had the privilege of being in a cisgendered heterosexual relationship, she would not have had the freedom to make this choice!) Ultimately, she and my dad decided to turn lemons into lemonade and threw themselves a wedding.

It was an inherently offbeat shindig: I “emceed” the wedding. She wore a red tunic and leggings (because she was a classics professor and red was the color worn at ancient Greek weddings), and my dad wore stovepipe black jeans and a tuxedo tee shirt. And they had a daytime, Quaker ceremony with a potluck reception.

Everyone there saw past the immediate sadness of knowing the circumstances of her illness, and it was incredibly joyful celebration of their 30 years of love for each other and their amazing contribution to their many communities. It would not (and I would argue could not) have been that way if they had felt obligated to have a “traditional” ceremony.

I know that being a part of that wedding has empowered me to craft an offbeat wedding that I can proudly take ownership of.

Will you be honoring departed loved ones at your wedding?

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