The beauty of simplicity: When a family member gets a terminal diagnosis, your wedding priorities shift

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This weekend I attended the wedding of my brother-in-law Chris in Missoula. He and his fiance, Sacha, had intended to get married in September … but when they got the word a couple weeks ago that Chris's mother's cancer was back with a vengeance and her time is limited, they moved the wedding up by four months. The whole event was planned in about 10 weeks.

Aisle, Montana-style

Vows in hand

The wedding was positively beautiful, and lead to me to think about how in many ways wedding planning will expand to fill as much time and/or money as you want to throw at it. If you have two weeks to prepare, you strip it down to the most important things and the result is deeply meaningful. In the case of this wedding, the top priority was that the mother of the groom be present. And she was.

Jerry & Sallie look on

The bride and her cheekbones

I acted as stand-in wedding photographer:

Big Sky wedding

More of my pictures of this backyard Montana wedding are over here.

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Comments on The beauty of simplicity: When a family member gets a terminal diagnosis, your wedding priorities shift

  1. Wow. You my dear are pretty f’in talented with the camera. You took all those great pics? Ever think about doing some engagement photos? I’ll hire you 😉

  2. We are trying to keep our wedding as simple as possible and it has made the whole process so stress free. Our parents keep calling and offering to help and there just isn’t anything that they need to do- it’s awesome.

  3. Congratulations to them… now I am going to go hide in the bathroom and have a good cry.

  4. Congratulations to them both. We are having to push forward our wedding date due to family members with cancer too. It may not be the wedding I dreamed of, but its more than worth it.

  5. Where did she find the beautiful dress? It is simple and perfect, just like the rest of the day, by the look of it.

  6. What a beautiful wedding. Really hits home that weddings aren’t so much about the party details, but celebrating with those you love.

  7. Hi Ariel – Beautiful job on this post! Your sister-in-law’s dress is amazing… I’m in Montana as well and have had the toughest time finding an casual/elegant tea length dress. Any idea where she got it? Thank you!!

  8. I am the lucky sister-in-law who had the good fortune of having Ariel snap all of her amazing pictures. I found my dress in Portland, OR. It was made by a local designer, Lena Medoyeff. Her dresses are handmade, fair trade and amazingly affordable.

  9. So beautiful, so bittersweet, so very real and true to life rather than a fantasy wedding.

  10. Ahhh! This post is great, the pictures rock and I LOVE Sacha’s dress- I will check out the website she posted under her comment…I am living in India right now, getting married in October, and am going to get a dress made here. The tailor’s here can make anything I want…is it possible to get a pic of Sacha in her dress? I want the top of mine to be like hers!!

    • Would Sasha be willing to sell her dress? We are planning a very simple wedding in the next 4 months as well also due to cancer in the family. If she was willing to part with her dress and if it might fit me, I’d love to hear from her!

  11. We also moved our wedding up because my Grandfather was diagnosed with brain cancer and given 12-18 months to live. We went from 15 months of planning to 3. Our wedding was definitely cheaper and more simple because of this, but it was still a lot of what we wanted and very “us”. It did, however, mean that one of the groomsmen couldn’t make it because he wouldn’t be back from Singapore and we cut the guest list a lot, none of our friends were invited. It also means that our happy day will always be tainted in my Mother’s mind as the last family event my Grandfather attended. When she speaks of our wedding, this is what she talks about. I am really glad that he was able to be there, but it does make me a little sad.

  12. This article comes just at the right time for me – as we are also going through the exact same thing. I had 6-9 months to plan and now I have 30-60 days. Thank you – now I know I’m not the only one who has ever gone through this.

  13. My partner and I struggled with the idea of moving up our wedding when his dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We had to use our wedding fund to move 200 miles to take care of his parents. Ultimately, we decided that we didn’t want to rush anything out of a sense of obligation; being able to pay for it ourselves, make our own decisions without anyone else’s input, and invite whomever we wanted without playing Friendship Survivor while still having an open bar was all pretty important to us.

    His dad knew we were headed toward getting married eventually, and I know my partner asked if that was an important event his dad wanted to attend. Pops said he’d rather that everyone go about their lives as normally as possible, and not rush major milestones on his behalf. As a result he never got to see any of his kids get married, and will never meet any future grandchildren. But that was, in part, his choice. If he’d asked, I’m sure we would have “rushed” it and still been happy with the results.

    I’m not sure either decision would have felt entirely “right,” but at least we can rest assured the decisions were organic and authentic, and on our own timetable. Besides, after getting through the tribulations of that 2 1/2 years WITHOUT being married, I think we have a deeper respect and gratitude for the commitment we are making. I think if we’d been married for that, some of the almost-breaking points would have resulted in resentment and possibly divorce instead of re-evaluation, contemplation, introspection, a little cold feet, and a lot of make-up sex. I’m not fooling myself to think that was the worst life is ever going to throw at us or some trite salve that if we can handle that we can handle anything. However, I think that we learned a lot of skills that are going to come in handy the next time it’s raining lemons. (Lesson one: buy a lemon squeezer. Lesson two: gonna need some vodka for that lemonade. Lesson three: it is actually possible for US to talk through a lot of stuff including hurt feelings and cold feet. Lesson four: if I’m throwing things, feed me.)

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