Planning a wedding as a fatherless bride

Guest post by Kelsey Munger

I was practically dancing, I was so excited when I told my sister that I was engaged. But just two days later, I was hit hard by the reality that I couldn't tell my dad my happy news. I sobbed like I'd only just been informed of someone's passing. And it hurt just as much.

I was thrilled about being able to inject “when” instead of “if” into sentences related to our future, excited to upgrade my relationship status on Facebook, but I was grieving, too. Life's messy. Sometimes weddings are messy.

I'm sure it's always heartbreaking to feel like there's going to be a major hole in the guest list, but it's awkward when you're a fatherless bride because so many wedding-related traditions involve dads…

I can't even begin to tell you how many people told me about dad-related wedding stuff that ripped me to shreds, as I politely smiled and nodded. I heard about the touching speeches their proud fathers made, how their dad is ordained and will not only be present at the wedding but will even perform it, their special father/daughter dance, and so on. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

There were also the awkwardly painful but well-meaning questions: “Are your parents excited about the wedding?” or, “Does he get along with your dad?” or, “Will your dad be walking you down the aisle?”

And sometimes the grief just sort of snuck up on me. While checking out possible wedding locations, my now-husband Ian and I had gone to a park with a view of the water that I went to regularly with my family. Ian and I stood there, holding hands, pretending to be in the middle of our vows, when I suddenly burst into ugly crying (the kind of crying where you lose every sense of propriety as you wipe your smeared eyeliner, tears, and probably a few boogers on your significant other's favorite shirt). I felt like a wreck. The grief was so bad my chest physically ached.

Some people suggested doing something to honor my dad at the wedding — lighting a candle, taking a moment of silence, or displaying his picture — but I knew that stuff would just bust that hole where my dad's supposed to be wide open. And that spot was already pretty raw.

I also knew my dad would have wanted the wedding day focus to be on the fact I was getting married to a man I was madly in love with, and not the fact that he wasn't able to be there. Dad wouldn't have wanted to steal the show. So I felt like keeping the focus on Ian and myself was actually my way of honoring and remembering my dad.

However, acknowledging the fact that I did miss my dad tremendously was also important.

A friend of mine, whose dad died when she was young, said she made it through all of the wedding planning without a single tear. But, after she'd put on her dress, the fact her dad wasn't going to be there punched her in the gut. (She said her maid of honor encouraged her with: “Once the ceremony's over, there's alcohol.”)

Ian was extremely helpful. He reminded me that, whatever happened, it was okay. And that if I cried during the reception, that was alright, and it didn't mean the wedding would be ruined.

I cried some, the day before the wedding, but then the rest of the day zoomed by as I was busy finishing last-minute things. The day of the wedding I felt like I was walking on air; it went by like one big predominately happy blur.

Yes, there were still some ouch-moments. Like when we were taking pictures with our families and Ian had just taken one with his parents, and then I took one with my mom — just my mom. And later that evening, as we were trying to relax by watching TV on the couch, I did cry. I cried that my dad hadn't been there that day. I cried because I missed him.

Despite the joy and enthusiasm I felt about getting married, not having my dad there meant there was a shadow, which for me made wedding planning — especially some of the emotions and complexities — as if I were planning both a wedding and a funeral. Death and life. Beginnings and endings. Joy and grief. It was all wound up together in a giant ball of messy emotions.

As a result, I learned throughout the wedding process that, despite what the movies and glamorous wedding photo shoots suggest, normal life in all its messy, beautiful, sometimes-heart-wrenching glory doesn't take a break for weddings. Things aren't always picture perfect and sometimes you'll need to cry when you'd rather just be happy, but that's okay. It's okay to cry because you miss your dad… even on your wedding day.

For those of you choosing to honor a family member who has passed, you may want to browse our wedding memorial archive.

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Comments on Planning a wedding as a fatherless bride

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I’m in the middle of planning my wedding without my dad. My dad who loved weddings, loved me, and would have wanted to walk me in, have a first dance, and would have tried to give a toast but probably ended up crying too hard to finish. Not having him here is agonizing, just as not being able to pick up the phone and call him when I get a job rejection, or need advice about my taxes, or want to talk about my future hopes and goals is agonizing. I also lost my grandmother a year ago (who was a big part of my life) and even though I am as nontraditional as it gets, not having her around to fuss over the napkins matching the tablecloths is very hard.
    I’m glad to know I am not the only one who feels that all the father/daughter traditions surrounding weddings make it even harder.

    • “I’m in the middle of planning my wedding without my dad. My dad who loved weddings, loved me, and would have wanted to walk me in, have a first dance, and would have tried to give a toast but probably ended up crying too hard to finish.”

      Jade, that’s how I imagined my dad being if he’d been able to be at my wedding, too. Although, he also would’ve been terribly when it came to the father / daughter dance because dancing was not his strong suit. I found myself missing everything when I was wedding planning. Not just the things he would’ve been good at or been able to help with (like listening when I was feeling overwhelmed) but also the funny, quirky, sometimes embarrassing things he did that made him him.

      Thank you for taking the time to read my post. It’s nice (but also horrible) to know other woman out there can related. But I’m so sorry you can relate. ((HUGS))

  2. As someone who’s lost her mom and has had her dad abandon her, I really appreciated this article today. Thank you for being so honest about your feelings. hugs

  3. This was beautiful and spot on. I wish I had been able to read this before my own wedding. Thank you for writing it and sharing it. My dad never got to meet my wonderful husband. I knew I had to honor him in some way so I carried my favorite pictures of him as lockets on my bouquet and I made sure that we still got our “dance”. He had always said he would dance with me at my wedding but only to the song “You talk too much” by Joe Jones so it was on the playlist twice.

    • Thank you for reading my article. That is so beautiful. I love that you carried a small picture of him as a way to remember and played the song he wanted to dance to at your wedding. I started getting teary eyed just reading over your comment. ((HUGS))

  4. Thank you for this article! It’s so hard to hear about all the father daughter things for weddings. My dad has been gone for almost 9 years and it still just hurts to think he won’t be there. My brother and my mom will be walking me down the aisle which means a lot to me but still hurts that my dad won’t be there.

    • Amanda, thank you for taking the time to read my article. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with the heartache, grief, and messiness of being a fatherless bride. It’s soooo hard to hear about all the father / daughter wedding things! I found the questions from well-meaning people I didn’t know well — “What do your parents think of him?” — to be painful. That painful little “s.”

      Even though my own wedding was almost a year ago, it’s still helpful to hear other brides share their experiences. But I’m so sorry that you can relate. ((HUGS))

  5. beautifully written and will make me appreciate my parents being there just a little bit more, I treasure every day with them as they grow older and ache at the thought that one day they won’t be.

    • Lowri, thank you for this. Thank you for commenting, but I love hearing you say it’ll make you appreciate your parents a little bit more. 🙂

  6. Thank you! I just lost my dad in March (roughly a month after getting engaged) and this is something that comes up for me constantly- how to honor and remember my dad without making our wedding a memorial service. Luckily it’s still two years our so we have some time to reconsider any choices if we decide they were made out of grief instead of celebration.

    I will cry that day, just like I’ve cried at the 3 weddings I’ve attended since March, whenever the bride gets walked down the aisle or gets that dance with her dad that I had all planned out for myself. I have gotten on the habit of “checking out the patio” after the first couple dance so I can try to mitigate it, but just end up sobbing on a patio with a cup of whatever free beer this wedding had and the handkerchief I’ve acquired since I’ve started crying all the time.

    But my fiance stands on that patio with me, so things will probably work out.

    • This is exactly how I feel! My dad passed 4 years ago this December- we weren’t on the best of terms as he had an addiction problem, but he was still my dad.

      Luckily he met my fiancé, but we’d only just started going out and he didn’t get to know him (I tried my best to keep them apart).

      I’ve been to so many weddings since he passed, and every single one has made me sob uncontrollably. Some where the dad was so proud that set me off, others where the bride was so thoughtless towards her parents, but they all ended up with me disappearing somewhere. And shortly after my fiancé would find me with a big glass of wine and a tissue.

      I don’t know how I’m going to get through my wedding – there’s a lot of guilt (I feel I shouldn’t be upset because we weren’t close at the end), but he was still my dad.

      I don’t want a memorial of any kind as it feels hypocritical. Plus there would be so many people I’d have there that there would probably be more people’s memorials than live guests (wow that’s an awful thought).

      Reading this (and your comment Kristin) has made me realise it’s ok to feel like that, and that I’ll get through it. Thanks so much for being honest and giving me hope

      • “I’ve been to so many weddings since he passed, and every single one has made me sob uncontrollably. Some where the dad was so proud that set me off, others where the bride was so thoughtless towards her parents, but they all ended up with me disappearing somewhere. And shortly after my fiancé would find me with a big glass of wine and a tissue.”

        Thank you for reading my article. I can relate so well with what you said here. So so well. Wedding are so painful, sometime gut-wrenching when you’re missing a parent. And there’s so much emphasis on the father of the bride at weddings, which draws even more attention to the already very painful hole where he’s supposed to be.

        I had a very small elopement-style wedding (10 people, including the hubby and me). So I didn’t what a memorial of any kind either because if I’d done it for my dad and my grandparents and his grandparents, there probably would’ve been more photos than actual guests. And I felt like I’d remember all of them, especially my dad, without something specifically there to help me remember (remembering really wasn’t the issue).

        Part of why I wanted such a small wedding was actually because I didn’t want to look into the crowd and see the hole where my dad was supposed to be; I knew that I’d know he was supposed to be there. I felt more like I needed to not have visual reminders because it all felt so fresh and raw if I was going to get through the day. Just do what’s best for you.


      • Helen,

        I just got engaged almost two months ago and will be getting married in September 2017. I just found out that my dad took his own life on Sunday and it is so heartbreaking. He was an alcoholic and had even gone through rehab just a year ago. His alcoholism was at its worst in the past three years and that’s when we lost touch for a bit and didn’t get the opportunity to spend a lot of time together. But like you said, he’s still my dad. It’s going to be so hard to get through my wedding day and the rest of my life knowing I won’t be able to see or talk to him again. I hope you’re getting through the planning process and feel a bit more at peace. I know it will take some time, but it really really sucks right now.

    • “I just lost my dad in March (roughly a month after getting engaged) and this is something that comes up for me constantly- how to honor and remember my dad without making our wedding a memorial service.”

      Thank you for reading my article, Kristin. I can relate so well with what you said — trying to honor and remember your dad without making the wedding a memorial service. I found being engaged to be an exciting but also heartbreaking and very awkward season of life. People acted as if I was walking on a cloud, but I was also grieving. Sometimes the fact that I was also grieving made being engaged feel isolating.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. That would be so painful to lose him so close to getting engaged; I’m sure it makes wedding planning even messier and the father / daughter stuff even more agonizing. ((HUGS)) =(

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I’m having a really rough time with wedding planning at the moment. I lost my mother when I was young, and my stepmother and father have made a decision to not be involved with my wedding, (although still expect to be invited and honored as the parents of the bride). My mother’s siblings and parents are also deceased, so I’ve been feeling like a bit of an orphan lately. And so much of wedding stuff is the relationship between you and your mom or your dad. It’s really hard. I don’t know what to do. I miss my mom and her family, and I hate that my dad won’t be involved, and reading this post made me feel less alone, so thank you.

    • Thank you for reading my post. I’m glad it made you feel at least a little less alone. You’re so right, so much wedding stuff is between the bride and her mom or the bride and her dad. I’m so sorry that all of the parent-related wedding stuff is painful and awkward and messy. ((HUGS))

      • I’m with you too. I’ve lost both my parents and my grandmother who I was very close with. I’m also an only child, and so while I have great friends and my fiance’s family is wonderful, it’s painful and lonely. I still haven’t figured out how best to honor his family at the reception while not drawing so much attention to the fact that mine aren’t there (which will set me to that ugly crying I’m sure). I’m excited about being family with my fiance (officially) but it’s hard without him ever knowing my parents or having their support through the whole wedding process.
        Sending all the good energy and love I can at the moment (though i’m crying, of course) to you. Stay strong.

  8. Thank you for writing this. My mom passed away a couple of years ago and planning this wedding has been very bittersweet. There are things that I want to call her up about or things I want to plan to do with her. Not being able to do that is heart breaking and steals some of the joy from the event. I know I have ways in which I’m honoring her during the ceremony but I’m afraid that if it’s too much, I’ll just break down crying. From the sounds of it, there’s no easy answer but it’s good to know that when the day comes, life will go on and nothing will be ruined, no matter what tears may be shed.

    Hugs to everyone!

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom. =(

      Bittersweet is the perfect way to describe it — that’s exactly how I felt about wedding planning, too. It makes things messy. Sometimes I felt kind of isolated by it because people who didn’t know me well assumed that wedding planning was just happy but it was so much else, too.

      I decided not to do something to remember my dad because I was afraid I’d completely break down. It sounds like you’ve found way to remember your mom without calling too much attention to it either — that’s so person-specific, so it’s good you’re doing what’s best for you.

      And, yes, tears don’t mean the wedding is ruined. I did cry the day of but I also had a great, happy wedding.

  9. My Dad died when I was 5 and this article particularly home hard. I did the ugly cry thing when we found our wedding location and I’ll do a couple things in the ceremony to represent him. I don’t want people to think he isn’t there because of a feud or divorce or he doesn’t like my FH. I want people to know there is hole in my life and to see how strong my Mum and I are for carrying on.

    We’d both taken our parents along to see all the different places we were interested in. It was all lovely and fine when we were out. But after we got home that night he was complaining about his parents and how annoying they are because they had bickered a little (they split up, but fortunately get along better now) and I just feel apart, he was complaining about something I’d love to see because it would mean I’d still have my Dad. I just feel apart, while he was complaining, I ugly snotty puffy faced cried and sobbed until I fell asleep that night.

    I’ve decided I’m going to have an empty seat at the start of the parents side for Dad and my Poppy with a rally car and rally bunting to represent Dad and a glass buoy and sailing boat for my Pop. I’ll also walk down on my own to a song my Dad loved if I can manage on the day and have my Mum standing at the end to give me away because it’s what she wants. I haven’t decided what to do about the father daughter dance though but I do like the idea of just not having one.

    The article was great and I know on the day it’s ok to cry. I’m glad I’m not the only one who has fallen apart in planning for the day our Dad’s don’t get to see and be a part off.

    • Thank you for taking the time to read my article. You’re not alone! I did the ugly crying thing several times throughout the wedding planning process (the first time it hit was a few days after getting engaged, when I realized I’d told everyone — but couldn’t tel Dad).

      Having someone complain about parents would be so hard! I would’ve cried, too. Honestly, even though my wedding was almost a year ago, I’d likely still cry if someone was complaining about parents.

      I did cry some on the Bid Day, but not a lot. And the tears certainly didn’t ruin the wedding. I still had a lovely day, even though I did really miss my dad. I hope that’s true for you as well. ((HUGS))

  10. So many feels! As awful as this sounds, it is nice to hear that I am not the only one going through this.
    Beautifully written post.

    • It doesn’t sound awful at all. I’m really appreciating reading through all the comments for the same reason.

      Thank you for reading my article. You’re not alone in this. ((HUGS))

  11. Thank you Offbeat Bride for posting this. I was 10 when my dad & grandad were killed simultaneously in a freak accident. On the build up to my wedding it was like grieving all over again a day I had longed for, yet dreaded so much. So many times I wanted to cry, to drain the tears a bit before the big day. But I couldn’t, the tears would sit and collect – I was scared if I let them go they would free flow, as they had years before.

    I am blessed that my family and I are very close, and my dad is very much a part of our lives still. We always talk about him, laugh at the silly things he would do, the naff jokes he made – even his annoying habits! On the build up to my wedding my mum and I did this still. My heart yearned so badly for him…4 months a wife it still does.

    My mum gave me away, having her walk me down the aisle I know she did it for them both, and I know my dad was walking right beside us. He even helped with my something borrowed, a handkerchief my mum gave me after his passing. I know he would’ve laughed his head off when one of my brothers came running down to the alter to deliver my wedding ring in a giant white rabbit suite (Alice in wonderland theme…). I know he probably wouldn’t have approved so much of my blue hair!! And he would have been thrilled with my mums speech. It wasn’t easy, but remembering him with laughter is the only way he would’ve wanted it – and that’s what I did.

    I was the calmest bride in the world, but as soon as I put on my dress…it hit me – and despite being so over whelmed with happiness, my heart was breaking too. To read another bride, who felt this bittersweet edge is such a comfort.

    Thank you Offbeat Bride, for reaching out to brides like me. And if anyone else reads this, who is in a similar boat, I promise it will be ok. Of course it will be sad, but if your dad was anything like mine his words may resemble “here lass, stop ballin’ – you can’t be crying over your wedding dress. Now get down that aisle!”

    • “I was the calmest bride in the world, but as soon as I put on my dress…it hit me – and despite being so over whelmed with happiness, my heart was breaking too.”

      Thank you for reading my article. You put this so well — that’s exactly how I felt. Overwhelmed with happiness but my heart was breaking, too. I love that you thought of funny things — I did that, too. I thought about how my dad would’ve tucked his pant leg into his dress sock by mistake (my mom always had to check his pants before letting him out the door) or how he would’ve gotten a kick out of the LEGO wedding topper and the fact that our wedding cake was frosted watermelon (I have a lot of food allergies). It helped to remember my dad — my goofy, supportive dad.

      I still miss him. Eleven months a wife, and I still wish he was here to be celebrating my one-year anniversary next month and everything else. Not having a dad makes major milestones messier, sadder. ((HUGS))

      And on a less serious note, love the Alice and Wonderland theme idea. I’m a huge Alice fan.:)

  12. Thank you for this.
    My Dad is very much alive but also very much in prison, and so not only have I the hurt and all the huge gaps that should be ‘me and my Dad celebrating my wonderful day’ to deal with, but also the shame and pain of having to explain at every turn that no, he’s not dead, he’s a criminal, (because I made the decision not to lie about it, I have done nothing wrong).

    Most of all though, I am continually amazed by the reaction I get to my decision to walk myself down the aisle. I’m not brave, I am giving myself to marriage freely and so happily that I don’t need to be ‘given’ to make that special, in fact, I can’t wait.

    What I do need is the care and understanding that despite it all I am grieving, for what I wish I had, and the ‘so near but so far-ness’ that life seems to give out to us so often when the big emotional times come.
    It makes me feel a lot less alone, as my wedding day speeds towards us, to know that I’m not the only feeling a big dad shaped gap in what is otherwise going to be an amazing day, no matter what the reason.

    • “I’m not brave, I am giving myself to marriage freely and so happily that I don’t need to be ‘given’ to make that special, in fact, I can’t wait.”

      Well said! I found the “being given away” part to be painful when people would talk about it (“Is your dad giving you away? My dad gave me away …”). But, thankfully, that wasn’t a specific tradition that was near-and-dear to my heart. In fact, I felt like as an adult I didn’t need anyone to “give me away” — I wasn’t a child who needed permission or an object to be given to someone else. And I think that helped a lot, at least with that specific tradition.

      That must be so messy to be experiencing all the grief over the way things “should have been” but also the awkwardness of having to explain a complex situation. After reading the comments, I feel like being a fatherless bride — whatever the reason — is hard. As you said, there’s a big dad-shaped gap. ((HUGS))

  13. I’m estranged from my father, which was my decision (a difficult decision I’ve ended up having to make twice), and even though I’m opting out of having my father present at my wedding day, I’ve had such a similar experience with the father-daughter wedding stuff that for the majority of this article, I couldn’t tell if the author was in my situation, or if her father had passed away.

    Basically, thank you. Even when we’re fatherless by choice (although it’s not really a choice, if you know what I mean), it can still really hurt to have no father as a bride.

  14. Beautiful post. We lost my dad when I was a teenager. My older sister got married about 10 years ago and I found out later that she had attached this tiny (like thumbnail-sized) portrait of our dad to her bouquet. It wasn’t widely known; it was definitely a detail that she included just for her. It was a beautiful, touching, and personal way to remember him on her big day, and to have him, in a sense, walk her down the aisle.

  15. It was slightly the other way around for me: my husband’s mother died soon before we met. It was hard not having her there. The only time I’ve ever seen my husband cry was the day before the wedding, when he and his dad had a huge fight because we asked that his dad’s girlfriend not be in all the family photos, standing where his mum should have been.

    My own dad died three months after our wedding, and it was a very long time before I could remember the wedding day with anything but sadness. It was the last time I saw him, as we were living abroad at the time.

    It’ll be four years on Friday, but sometimes it still feels so raw and fresh.

    • “It’ll be four years on Friday, but sometimes it still feels so raw and fresh.”

      I can relate so well with this. It’s been four years this December since I last saw my dad, but sometimes it still is raw and fresh. And special events / milestones have a way of bringing it all up.

      Thank you for reading my post and for sharing. ((HUGS))

  16. All of this! I can’t believe how much I feel like I’m re-grieving for my father I lost 5-1/2 years ago now that I’m wedding planning. I nearly burst into tears when my fiance’s mom started talking about a mother-son dance (hoping to find an alternative for her). My maid of honour lost her father when we were teenagers so at least I have someone who understands why it feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest.

    • Re-grieving is such a good way of putting it. That’s exactly how I felt when I started wedding planning, too. I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest, which made the whole being engaged thing hard because everyone assumed life was so happy and perfect and wonderful. And I was excited and madly in love, but I was also grieving.

      Thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to share. While it’s been almost a year since my wedding, it’s still nice (but also so sad) to know I wasn’t alone. And that I’m not alone when it comes to milestones and celebrations bringing it all up again. ((HUGS))

  17. I lost my dad two months ago. I’m not engaged, but would like to marry one day. My dad always promised me he’d be there. He won’t be, not in body. And I don’t know how that’ll affect me on that day down the line. Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings.

    • Oh, Katherine, I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. That’s so recent. =(

      Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I’ve found that major life events are so hard, they sort of turn up all the grief and feelings again. It makes things messy because there’s always that hole. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. ((HUGS))

  18. This article is SO timely for me. I haven’t lost my father, but my mom died a month and a half ago and we got engaged about a month ago. My boyfriend actually brought the ring on a vacation and intended to propose when we were there, but the the day he had picked out was the day we found out my mom committed suicide. Like others have said, so much of this planning process is bittersweet. I still have so many moments of “I need to text this to mom.” I’ve had a few moments where I’ve broken down, primarily triggered by a picture on pinterest where someone had a photo on a chair at the reception. All I could do was imagine being at my own wedding and staring at an empty chair where my mom was supposed to be sitting. I’ve figured out some subtle ways to incorporate her without it feeling like another memorial service. Anyway, thanks for this article and sending virtual hugs your way.

    • Annie, I’m so sorry about your mom. My father committed suicide almost 6 years ago and some days I feel physically nauseous that he never got to meet my future husband and share this adult part of my life. I’m struggling to think of ways to honor him, but I know he’ll be there in presence. I can’t decide if bursting into tears during a should-be father/daughter dance with my mom would kill me, or if I should embrace his memory. But something that has helped is that my fiance also lost his father about the same time as me (before we met) and we can help each other. Since your boyfriend-now-fiance knew your mother, I am sure it hurts him too and you two can help each other get through the hard times. As a fellow survivor of suicide, I don’t have much knowledge to share other than this: know that nothing was your fault and take joy in the fact that your mom is at peace, as hard as it is for you. Hugs!

      • [Hugs back] Thanks so much for the nice reply. I’m really grateful my mom was able to meet The Boy, my aunt actually forwarded me an e-mail recently where my mom talked about how happy she was me and what a great guy he is; it was really nice to read. I have a somewhat similar situation to yours as The Boy lost his mom too, but about 20 years ago. We used stones from his mom’s engagement ring and stones from a ring of my mom’s to create the engagement ring and wedding band, so I’m really excited for that, a way to keep them both close.

        • You could read that email at the wedding. It might be nice to share some of your Mom’s thoughts about your relationship on your wedding day.

          And (hugs). I know how much suicide sucks, and I’m so sorry.

  19. Oh, Annie! I’m so, so sorry to hear about your mom! That’s horrible. So much to process, so much grief, and right in the middle of wedding planning. =(

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and share about your own experience. I saw a picture on Pinterest with a chair and a black and white picture of a missing loved one on; I ended up bawling. That’s when I decided I didn’t want anything at my wedding that felt like a memorial service — I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t end up doing anything specific to remember my dad at my wedding because I knew that I’d remember him just as well without any specific reminders.

    Wedding planning is so messy when there’s grief thrown into the mix, too. ((HUGS))

    • Thanks for the kind words in your reply! The chair is when I pretty much confirmed in my head that anything that I do will be subtle, like using her favorite flowers in my bouquet. Something that I’ll know and maybe a few other people, but not an overt tribute. I also want to make sure I don’t draw a ton of attention to it, “Hey everyone, look! Look at that empty chair with the black and white photo and feel awkward all over again that you don’t have the words to ease the situation!” Dress shopping is next week and I’m already stocked up kleenex.

  20. I am so sad that my husband and I didn’t get together when my daddy was still alive (which should have happened.) I tried to make up for it by playing Walk Through This World With Me by George Jones which was one of his favorite songs. It helped a little.

  21. This article made me consider getting back in contact with my step dad. I don’t know my real dad (he chose to abandon my pregnant mother, bravo) and haven’t spoken to my step dad for years because he is very difficult to get along with. This article made me decide the time had come to reach out again.

    • Thank you for reading my article. I’m sorry your relationship with your step-day is strained; that sounds hard and messy. I wish you the best of luck reaching out to him again.

  22. I’m so sorry that you went through that…My father situation is a little different but this article really helped put some things in perspective and was absolutely beautiful to read. It’s weird because I only met my father once when I was 14 and never heard from again…granted sometimes I feel like a chubby girl with green and black hair, tripp pants, and an Alice in Chains shirt was a bit much for him to handle. But throughout my life I never really noticed that he wasn’t around and I didn’t get that sadness that some of my friends in the same position felt as children. Even fathers day wasn’t ever that bad, mainly because if he didn’t want to be a part of my life then screw him. But when I got engaged I got incredibly sad about the lack of a father in my life. Not because of the whole to be “given away” because I don’t feel that I belong to anyone but me…but vendors, and my fiance’s family keep asking about my father giving a toast or doing a father/daughter dance and I’m really surprised by how much it affects me as an adult. Even when we went to get our marriage license they were asking about parent information and I had to say that I didn’t know for my mother (long story) and my father. My fiance comes from a very loving home with very loving parents and he never knows what to say to comfort me when these situations arise, so he tells me dirty jokes until I laugh and I love him dearly for that.

    • Thank you for reading my article.

      I wasn’t sad about not being able to be “given away” either for the same reason. I found all the questions about it hard though, and the father / daughter dance and the dad speech and everything else. I’d always know that if I got married it might be hard and messy because it’d bring up all those feelings, but I’d never realized before getting married how much emphasis is placed on a bride’s dad when it comes to the wedding.

      It seems like even when the specifics are different, there’s a lot of emotional overlap when it comes to being a fatherless bride. ((HUGS))

  23. Thank you so much for writing this. Although the circumstances are a little different, the result is still the same, my father won’t be at my wedding. He left when I was 6 months old and I’ve never even spoken to him. I’ve struggled my whole life thinking about my wedding day without a father figure. Who would walk me down the aisle, father-daughter dances, and all those adorable traditions that I’ll never get to take part in. This post brought me to tears but also helped me so much. Thank you for showing me that I’m not alone.

  24. Thank you for reading my article, Anna. After reading a lot of the comments I feel like even when the specifics are different, there’s a lot of emotional overlap when it comes to being a fatherless bride. ((HUGS))

  25. Thank you so much for writing this article and articulating what I haven’t been able to. My mother passed away suddenly a few years ago, and while my dad is still alive we have been estranged for well over a decade. (He missed my highschool graduation, has never called on birthdays or holidays, and called one time when my mother died in order to find out about something he believed he’d left in my grandmother’s garage. I am his only child.) My 91 year old Memaw is my only relative, as both my mom and I were only children. It completely destroys me when wedding talk centers around this or that family member rallying around the bride to make things happen, be it decor, providing day-of support, cooking etc. I guess it’s probably small or petty to be filled with such sadness over the family details of someone else’s wedding, but I can’t really help it. 🙁

    • Thank you for reading my article. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing and your dad being estranged. I find that I notice my dad not being there the most at major life events — like my graduation, etc. I’m so sorry you don’t have either parent at things like that. ((HUGS)) =(

      And, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s small or petty at all that hearing about wedding stuff brings up the grief and sadness. That completely makes sense.

  26. I’m in a weirdly similar situation – my father passed away, but he was a traumatic and abusive person in my life. I certainly don’t want to be reminded of him when my wedding eventually comes, but I’m not sure what to say or do when the subject inevitably comes up. I’m perfectly happy with the way my family is now, but I feel like it will be hard not to reminded. In normal conversation when people ask about my parents, I usually say “Well it’s just my mom…” and go from there, but I just don’t know how I’ll respond when well-meaning people ask about my father in regards to wedding things.

    • I hate that little “s” — parents — in well-meaning but awkward and hurtful questions. I usually answer them the same way as you, “Well, it’s just my mom …” or I’ll try and just respond saying mom and see if they pick up on it (sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t). My dad stuff is messy — I miss him immensely but, thanks to a degenerative brain disorder that completely altered how he acted, he became abusive towards my mom over the last few years. I miss the dad — my daddy — from when I was young. But over the last few years there was trauma. It makes it messy, so I usually don’t like to talk about it.

      But normally avoiding talking about my dad wasn’t as bad because so many parents are divorced and might not even live in the same state that it wasn’t as odd that I only talked about spending the holidays with my mom, etc. But sometimes people were a lot more direct when it came to wedding stuff. =/


  27. This was a lovely post and reminded me of how I often felt when planning our wedding. My father passed away when I was 16 and so never got to meet that wonderful guy I married. My husband’s father also passed before we got engaged (I only met him twice; they were estranged but had just started to rebuild their relationship when he had a heart attack).

    We didn’t want our wedding day to be all about The Sads, but we also didn’t want to deny that there were people missing who should have been there. We tucked a table into a semi-out-of-the-way spot in our reception venue and put up a couple framed pictures of our fathers. I had my two cousins (my father’s sister’s sons) give me away as my closest living male relatives to my dad. But the most special thing I did for myself, and I don’t think anyone but my mom and my husband knew about it – I carried my father’s wedding ring in the pocket of my dress.

    My parents had a great, strong marriage and even though she has been with her current beau for some years now (he was at the wedding too) my mom still wears her matching wedding ring. Carrying my dad’s ring reminded me that he will always be with me in my heart, and that he would have been so happy to see me and my husband starting a great marriage too.

  28. My dad suddenly and unexpectedly died 5 days after Christmas last year. I’m getting married on Oct 31st and I’m sure at some point I’m going to have a melt down about him not being there. It kills me that he is in my brothers wedding pictures but he won’t be in mine, that he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle. He was never one to dance so I never pictured a father daughter dance or toast, he just wasn’t that kind of guy. I am lucky that he got to know my FH and they got along really well, even though FH didn’t propose till after dad was gone.

    Im planning on having a framed picture of him and my Grandmother, she died in December the year before dad( mom no longer acknowledges Decembers), I’m also going to tie his wedding ring to my bouquet so I can slip it on my finger as I walk down so he can “walk me down the aisle. We are also having a moment to remember all who couldn’t be there. I worded it so it will be funny not sad(I hope)

    My cousin who is marrying us will start by saying, “Before we begin Robert and Liz would like everyone to take a moment to remember anyone who could not be here that we wish were. Know that they are here in spirit, that Grandma would be saying there isn’t enough glitter and Larry(my dad) would want to know why there was no coffee?!”

  29. My husband died when our daughter was 16. Im planning my remarriage wedding now (hence being on these sites) but when I run across articles like this, my heart breaks for my daughter. I dont know if there is anything I can do to help her now or when her life milestones come along. Her HS graduation was hard as will many things Im guessing. Please tell me if you have suggestions.

    • For me, it’s just a matter of remembering and reminding me that it’s okay to cry and be sad.

      I’m not sure if this is helpful for you, but one of the parts of grieving for my dad that was incredibly difficult for me was realizing that all of those big, important happy moments that I have coming up will never be as happy as they would have been if my dad was still alive. That doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t be happy and those moments of sadness can serve as a reminder of how much I love my dad and the role he played in my life.

      My actual advice would just be to remember him and the happy times and to remind her how proud of her he is and that he loved her.

      Congratulations to you and your fiance. It takes great strength to go through this all and be able to find happiness again.

    • Don’t not talk about him! But don’t only talk about him at holidays or in conversations that end in tears. My family does both of these and it always makes me feel like I’m a horrible reminder. Also, I’d suggest having a conversation with her along the lines of ” I hope you know this already but I want to remind you that I love your father very much and am in no way trying to replace him, he’ll always be a part of us.” Thirdly, tell her she doesn’t always have to be strong, it’s okay to cry no matter how long it’s been since he passed away.

  30. Kelsey, I’m not sure if you ever check back on these comments, but I wanted to tell you how much this article means to me. My dad has Alzheimer’s disease, and although he’s still alive, he’s also gone. It’s amazing how hard this makes wedding planning. Even things that I never ever wanted- like my FH asking my dad for permission to marry me- I’m suddenly so angry and sad that I can’t have. This is multiplied when it comes to the things that I always dreamed of, like a father-daughter dance. I’m also super confused about things like how to word invitations, since my dad is alive but won’t be there. I am struggling with how to get through my wedding day as a happy day instead of a memorial service without feeling like I’m forgetting or not acknowledging my father. It is a thin, and very tricky, line to walk. In any case, your article made me cry, and articulated a lot of what I’m feeling, and helped me to feel less alone. So thank you.

    • Micki, I am so sorry to hear about your dad. I am going through the same thing. My father has Parkinsons Disease with pretty severe dementia. He will (hopefully) be at my wedding, but not really as the man who raised me. In some ways it makes the dad-shaped hole even more painful, as the only thing preventing my dad from fulfilling the typical dad role at my wedding is a horrific illness. I am generally very private about his condition, but all 250 of my closest friends and family will see his illness on display that day. No one wants to be the object of pity on her wedding day. I try to remember that my dad would absolutely hate to know that he is in any way involved in me being anything but blissful on my wedding day. So in his honor I try not to let it get to me – It’s not his fault. Praying for you and your dad!

      • Unfortunately, my dad passed away last week. As to your confusion about how to word invitations, I plan to write mine to say: The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of (MY NAME), daughter of (MY MOM’s NAME) and the late (MY DAD’s NAME) to (FIANCE’s NAME), son of etc. etc. That way my dad is still included in the invitation, but it does not expressly state that he is throwing the reception. It does sound a little bit like our two families are both hosting, but it was worth it to me to have my dad’s name on there, rather than just (MY MOM’s NAME) requests the honor of your presence – which just didn’t seem right to me. Looks like you may have already had your wedding, but hope this helps another bride reading who is missing her dad during this stressful time.

  31. I’m really happy that I found this post. I lost my dad a little over two years ago and started dating my current boyfriend a little after, so they never met. We only recently started discussing timelines relating to getting engaged and married, so we aren’t engaged yet, but I’ve known since my dad was alive and sick that I was going to want to do something special when the time came for me to tie the not. I adore the photos around the bouquet in that photo.

    I’m so sorry for your loss — all of you, both original poster and commenters, and I’m so happy you’ve all had or are planning beautiful days and coming up with these great ways to celebrate those you’ve lost.

  32. Thank you for this article. I really bawled my eyes out reading it, and the comments too. I lost my dad when I was 14, and it’s been 20 years since he died. That’s a long time ago, but sometimes it’s like my imminent wedding has taken me back to when the grief was still quite raw. Part of me is dreading the wedding in case it’s too painfully incomplete without him.

    I’m worried I’m going to REALLY cry on the day, and not in a pretty, touching way. Is there something about the day that stops it getting too out of control?? Or am I going to have to periodically stick a fork in my leg to distract myself??

    Anyway, thanks to everyone here, it helps to know that others can understand because they’ve been there xxx

  33. The other crappy aspect of not having your father around is when they are just a lousy parent. My Dad was AWOL most of my life and although now he’s around more, he’s still not a very nice person. I’m having such a hard time with people just assuming he’ll walk me down the aisle or give a speech. I’m inviting him but he’ll just be another guest. I know it’s my choice, and I’m not comfortable with him doing those things, but I’m sad that I’ll miss out on these moments; it still breaks my heart every time I think about it. Every bride deserves to have these moments, and losing out on them because you have no father (either by choice or by circumstance), is really hard.

    And to top it all off, my SO’s parents are lovely and will definitely give speeches and stuff, so I’m already stressing over the inevitable “what will the neighbour’s think” drama from my family. Sigh.

  34. thank you for posting this.
    i am in a similar situation however my father has chosen not to come to my wedding as i only wanted him there, not the woman he left my mother for (who i have never met). its a family occasion and i wouldnt want strangers there and he never invited me to meet her, seemed to want to keep the two lives seperate.
    so i totally get that all the dad wedding traditions can make things sad, i have a mix of sad and angry. its like a new beginning but also a end, as i know once i see he really isnt coming on the day, and it hits me, it will be the end of me and him. my father will be dead in my eyes as no “father” should do that to their only daughter in my eyes.
    its a sad situation but he made his choice. he will live with it forever. lots of dads would give the world to walk their daughter down the aisle. not mine.

    Im owning it and walking down the aisle to my dream man on my own. i dont need to be “given”, i go where i wish to go.

    congratulations to all you beautiful brides, and dont let anything dampen your amazing day! do you girls!

  35. My daddy suddenly passed away at the end of November this past year. I was always daddy’s little girl growing up, and he’d always dance with me at family weddings, ever since I was a baby. I have been with my boyfriend for 4 years now, and I remember telling him that I wanted to get married while I still had the chance for my dad to walk me down the aisle. While he would talk about marriage with me and how he had so many ideas for a proposal, it never came. Now all I can think about is how he put it off too long, and now my father won’t get to be there for me. I have an older brother who can walk me down the aisle. But I really don’t think I would be able to emotionally handle the whole father-daughter dance, and mother-son dance. (I’ve had depression and anxiety issues in the past.) Would it be wrong of me to request that those dances be omitted from the reception? I know I’m not even engaged yet, and it might be a little early to even be thinking about this. I just can’t stop thinking about these things.

    • That is not wrong at all.

      Long ago, the ONLY thing I had planned for my wedding was the father/daughter dance. Then my dad passed away just a month after my engagement. My brother is going to walk me down the aisle, but I’ve completely eliminated a father-daughter dance and my FH isn’t too interested in a mother-son dance so that’s gone.

      Anyone who knows you will understand your situation and may not even notice it’s missing.

  36. I’m not engaged or married but I do hope to be one day. The only part I fear, is well…this. My dad passed when I was a newborn and facing major life moments (my first day of HS, getting accepted into college, and buying my first car, etc.) were all really difficult to face. Thank you times a million for this post!!! I really needed the reminder that I’m not alone and, if i’m blessed to be engaged one day, I won’t be the only fatherless bride who doesn’t get a father-daughter dance but it’ll be okay.

  37. I can’t thank you all for posting and sharing your stories. I’m currently engaged to a wonderful man. And we just picked our venue for our wedding. The day we picked the place I fell apart. I was doing well until I saw the flowers part and picking flowers for the father and mother of the bride. My father committed suicide in 2006. And my mother died of a heart attack last year 2015. We’re approaching a year that she has been gone and it doesn’t feel like that at all.

    Weddings and the planning…girls make such a big fricken deal about every minuscule detail and in the beginning I just wanting it all to be over with. And then I realized I shouldn’t be this way. I’m marrying one of the best men there is. I should enjoy and relish this day but getting there is so damn hard. The mother of the bride comes with to pick the dress and that in itself is a moment you share with your mother, there’s bridal showers…my mother was suppose to be my back up for the father/daughter dance and giving me away, and watching me come down the house stairs like my father wanted to see for his daughters and I had come to terms with all of this after my father died. But now there’s no one and my older brother has completely disowned what is left of our family after a petty argument which is another story. It’s like he’s alive but he’s also dead to our family but he’s still my brother. He grew up with me most of my life. Either way this whole planning of things is painful. I’m the oldest of 10 siblings not including my older brother. I’ll be the first to get married of the girls. And sometimes I feel like I’m thinking too much about it and I’m in the pity me party but pain is pain and we all have our own different experiences. This is beautiful and difficult. Tomorrow I set up bridal dress appointments at 2 different shops for their sale, not expecting to find anything but still remaining hopeful. I used to dread this moment because like I said, mother/ daughter moment. The only saving thing is that my sisters are coming. We will see how this goes. But for once I’m kind of looking forward to this. I get to look like a princess and play dress up.

    As for the reception I’m getting so many great ideas on how to honor them both and my aunt, and grandmother who I knew in my much younger years. Either way I wish more than ever they could all be there on that special day when I celebrate the love I thought I’d never find.

  38. I am getting married in a little less than one year. Today was the first time since our engagement (in March) that I had a total breakdown. I am getting ready to send out the rental agreement for the property we are renting for the reception and I made an appointment to try on wedding dresses. My father passed away (you can tell I have practiced exactly how to say it over the last 21 years) when I was 7. I can’t help but wonder how he would have reacted to my happy news. He died when I was so young that I never had a chance to really get to know him. Was he a good dancer? Would he have approved of my fiance? Would he have enjoyed the music we picked? What would he have picked to play for our dance? All of these thoughts are so painful. Losing a parent is difficult, it’s funny how the happy times always make it feel worse.

  39. This post is just what I needed to read. I’m 2 weeks away from my wedding, as I’m finalizing the song for my dance with my step dad i cant help but start crying. My dad passed away 9 years ago , but it feels like just yesterday. Every wedding since his death has made me cry uncontrollably during the father daughter dance, and now as i plan my dance without my dad i feel as if there is a hole in my heart. My step dad is awesome he is like my best friend but we dont have that bond of father and daughter because I was already an adult when he came into our family. Thank you for sharing this post I thought i was the only baby out there.

  40. I needed this. I got engaged on Christmas day and my dad was SO EXCITED. He wanted pictures of the ring to show all of his friends and our family. Less than a week later he was admitted into the hospital for 2 brain tumors that metastasized from his lung. He had no idea he had cancer. On January 9, the hardest day of my life, he passed. Along with the normal emotions, I am having the hardest time coming to terms with him not being at my wedding that he was just so excited to walk me down the aisle 2 weeks prior.

    This right here is what I needed to read. To know it’s okay to be sad and to wish he was there. Thank you a million times.

    • Oh my gosh, I am so sorry to hear about your story. My father was admitted into the hospital in November for a broken leg, and learned he had metastatic liver cancer all through his bones, and he too did not realize he had cancer. I am so sorry for your loss, and you have my prayers for strength to work through your wedding planning.

  41. Thank you for this article. My boyfriend and I are moving towards engagement, while at the same time my father is dying of terminal liver cancer, so my impending wedding and his impending death are like two freight trains bound for a head-on collision. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I will handle his passing when I have my wedding, and I found your article in the course of that search. He is a retired police officer, and his badge number was the same as my birthdate, so I am planning to incorporate his badge into something I carry down the aisle so that he is with me. Unfortunately, his brother predeceased him and I have no other adult male father figures to walk me down the aisle or step in for the father/daughter dance. My father and I have always been very close and it is heartbreaking to imagine this process without him.

  42. Thank you for writing this. I periodically revisit this article. I’m starting to plan my wedding, and my dad died about 4 months before I officially started dating my fiance. I had a difficult relationship with my dad, but I know he would have been quietly thrilled with the prospect of my engagement, would have grumbled about the price of my wedding throughout the process, then would probably have helped with all the planning and purchasing to the best of his ability. He would have walked me down that aisle and I would have had mixed feelings about it. Now that he’s not here to do so, I wish more than anything I could have all of that. I never stop having moments of grief roll across me for thoughts like that. It’s good to know you’re not alone.

  43. Thank you so much for sharing this. My Dad passed on February 15 and I’m getting married in less than two months. My heart is completely shattered thinking of him not being there and I’m so worried I won’t be able to keep it together on the day of. I know he wanted me to have an amazing wedding and I’m going to do my best, but right now I’m planning a memorial and tying up the finishing touches for my wedding and it’s just all too much. I have a pain in my chest that won’t go away every time I think about the wedding. We knew he was terminally ill, but he was trying to so hard to make the wedding. It was his goal and we rushed things to try to make it happen. He had our song picked out, how we’d walk, his outfit – everything. It’s all he wanted to talk about and now he’s gone. Trying to think of love and happiness and a future with my fiance should be this amazing beautiful thing, but I can’t seem to get passed the fact that my Dad won’t be there and he tried so hard to make it. Hearing of other women who went through a similar situation helps a lot. To know I’m not the only one trying to juggle a wedding and funeral somehow makes it hurt a little bit less – so thank you!

  44. I have saved this in my notes on my phone and I read it every now and then. I have been engaged now a year and half and my dad has passed three years. I still haven’t book my wedding and think the dread of all these feelings and thoughts is stopping me. I don’t want to forget about him on my day and want to include him every way possible. I am afraid of how this will affect my mum I don’t want her to be awkward or feel on her own. I have a big family 5 sisters and 3 brothers I am second youngest which I know I will have their support, reading your article I feel every ounce of your emotions. I feel like I am getting punched in the stomach each time I think of my day, the planning, walking up the isle. I just honestly don’t know if I can ever go through with it and I know my dad would want nothing more than me to get married and be happy. It hurts today as it did the day he passed. I just hope I can someday find the strength to make a move and plan my day

  45. This was so absolutely comforting to read. It was my dad’s birthday yesterday and I had to print out the photo of him to put on my bouquet locket. I have kept it together through wedding planning but I just lost it yesterday. It ripped the wound right open. Today is the anniversary of his passing and I again feel like that hole in my heart is enormous. I get married June 30th. I hate that he won’t be there. I hate that I have to print out a picture. I hate that he is gone. It makes me feel content knowing other women know the struggle. Thank you for all being so brave and sharing your stories.

  46. In 2014 I followed a boy and moved out of state and across the country. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because it meant leaving my family but mostly my dad, my best friend. I came home last June 2018. The night before I left, my boyfriend asked my dad permission to marry me. That was the last night I saw my dad. We got engaged the next week and then began wedding planning. We wanted to have the wedding in my dads beautiful garden. Everything was going perfectly, I was 2 weeks away from flying back home to find my wedding dress.. then I got a horrible call, next thing I knew I was sitting on a plane staring out the window trying to wrap my head around what happened. My dad unexpectedly died in October from a heart attack. He was gone. And since then I haven’t known what to do. We planned my whole wedding together. With his death we had to sell the house, I had to find a new venue, change my wedding date and my complete view of my perfect day. I have tried so hard to hide my feelings but even putting stamps on invites brings me to tears. Luckily I have my brother who will walk me down the isle and they asked me in a very cute and special way. But a big part of me doesn’t want anything for a father daughter dance.. I have a step dad, many grandfathers uncles and my brothers but I just feel like that dance to our song was meant for us and only us… I’m just looking for any advise on what anyone else has done for a father daughter dance.

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