Weddings When You’ve Lost a Parent

Weddings When You've Lost a Parent

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- weddings are stressful. And what’s more stressful? The planning. Yet we dive right in and move forward because of how special they end up being. What’s that saying? Nothing in life worth having comes easy? That’s true for so many things in life- weddings included (and marriage, of course lol). But what makes it even more difficult for some? Throwing a wedding all the while knowing your parent/s won’t be there. Even if they’ve been gone for some time, spending these big life milestones without them can bring up so many emotions. Here’s what I learned (plus some advice) about weddings when you’ve lost a parent:

  1. During the planning process, vendors will most likely assume that your Dad is walking you down the aisle. I feel like I got real lucky with this one because none of my vendors point blank asked me about it, but I did have to fill out some questionnaires that explained the situation. Of course, this is their job and it’s good to get this information out there to avoid any awkwardness on your day, but it’s a very surreal experience having to explain that your Dad is dead and won’t be able to be there, over and over again. Get prepared for this part by setting time aside with your partner to make filling out these questionnaires as fun as possible. Most of the questions are lighthearted and just ask about things you both like, so you can make a fun date night of it. Then, when those other questions do inevitably pop up, you’ll have support there with you to keep your spirits high. 
  2. And with that, I think it’s also important to note that you’ll probably think you’re a unique case that a vendor has never dealt with before- a parent dying? No way. Every other person has a perfect family that’s never been through anything… NOT. As isolated as you may feel in planning this big event and not being able to live out some of the traditions you once thought you would, it helps to realize that so many others have (unfortunately) walked this path before you, and will after you, too. Take this as an opportunity to create your own personal touches and traditions and make it special and customized just for you guys. 
  3. Random things will happen in the years/months/days leading up to the wedding, and your big day will act as a reference point that will make you miss your parent even more (as if that was possible?). You’ll think about how they may have handled a certain situation, what they might have said to help you through, and how it would have made everything, including your wedding, so much better. Not a whole lot of advice I can give on this one other than just be prepared and remember, you can still vent to them whenever you need. I like to think they’re listening. 
  4. After the wedding you’ll likely run through all different kinds of scenarios for how things could have gone better, smoother, whatever, but the main one that will continue to stick out is how your parent would have been if they were there. What they might have worn, how they would have interacted with guests, if they would have given a speech, or cried when they saw you in your dress. How they’d laugh and smile and joke with you and make you feel at ease. Even just typing this makes me tear up. I can see my Dad so vividly. I can picture him on that day and how special it would have been to have my first dance with him. It’ll hurt when these thoughts pop up, but that’s okay. Let them. 
  5. As much pain as you may feel leading up to (and after) the big day, I can almost guarantee that when it’s finally here, you’ll feel them there and you’ll be over the moon. They may not be there physically, but I know my Dad was with us on our day, and being surrounded by so much love made all the pain disappear. It was an overwhelmingly magical, beautiful day and that’s exactly what I’ll remember it for. Before and after the wedding, it’s hard not to worry about the details, but during, if you can get your mind real quiet, you’ll be present for all the beauty that takes place. 

Sure, my Dad didn’t get to walk me down the aisle, but my Mom did. And no, he wasn’t there for our first dance, but my Mom was. Appreciate whoever steps up to be there for you on that day. Don’t take it for granted just because you were stuck on how things “should have” or “could have” been. I wrote a note to both my Mom and Dad the morning of my wedding. It was my way of acknowledging them both in the roles they played that day, and throughout my life so far. It was a moment to quietly honor my Dad, while showing my Mom how much I loved making those memories with her. Because I did- nothing taken for granted. 

Losing a parent sucks, and so does them not being there for the major life milestones that come up after they’re gone. But you know what also sucks? Wasting your life away wishing things were different. That doesn’t mean you won’t spend time thinking about them or paying tribute to them, but it hopefully means that you’ll also live your life as fully as possible at the same time. You deserve that. Remember, nothing in life worth having comes easy. And yes, this is applicable to weddings in general, but I’d argue even more so if you’ve lost a parent. No, it won’t be easy to plan and celebrate while feeling sadness for their absence, but those feelings are what will make it all just that much more worth it. Because even though they aren’t here physically, it doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the happy times, or that they won’t see you in those magical moments and smile. 

If you’ve made it through the loss of a loved one, I’m guessing you have a greater appreciation for life than you did before. A knowing that all magical moments must end, just like every other kind of moment. Planning and having a wedding can be stressful and incredibly overwhelming, but it is also full of things to appreciate and enjoy. So do that- appreciate everything and everyone who has gotten you to this point, and enjoy it all for what it is now. It may not be what you pictured, but it still sure is beautiful. 

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy: Wedding Recap: Part 1.

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