Moving forward with wedding planning after losing a parent

Guest post by Faeflora
Cladagh ring
As a memorial, Faeflora will wear her mom's cladagh ring at the wedding.

After experiencing an amazingly beautiful moment when my dearest asked me to be his wife, I am now trying to cope with the unexpected loss of my mom, and the deep need to move forward with my wedding.

My mom, who was also my very best friend, passed away on Good Friday. She was 85 and vibrant. She had an amazing social life and a network of very interesting friends. Mom was independent, beautiful, and loving. She was everything I hope to be as I age. Although we all knew she had some heart issues, no one knew that she would leave us this year.

My mom was a constant in my life, she always supported me, and she understood me in ways that no one ever could — that is until I met my partner, Neil. She was thrilled to hear that Neil and I were engaged. When she heard the news, she bought herself and friends a cake and toasted our engagement. Two days before she passed, she was out buying baskets for our wedding gifts. When I arrived in her home for the funeral preparations, I found a note with a list of shopping activities for the wedding — including purchasing votive candles and yarn to tie the decorations to the porch rails of our beach rental.

The question I have been asked constantly since the passing of my mom has been, “are you still getting married this year?” My answer has been emphatically “yes.”

My mom would have wanted this wedding to happen as scheduled. She would want us to be a family. She would want me to be planning the final details and enjoying the celebrations.

I am ten weeks away from the wedding and still receiving sympathy cards while I plan this event. Neil and I have decided on a double ring ceremony, and to honor my mom and my dad we will get married in their claddagh rings — a small tribute to two people who raised me to be the woman I am today.

I have never felt as grown up as I do now. I have never felt so aware of my life decisions and the importance of being a part of a family as I do now. Not having her at the wedding will be painful, but knowing that she was so happy that we were getting married is a beautiful gift. And I keep telling myself that she will be with us in spirit, and that at least she was able to be part of the planning.

This month I am learning balance. How to plan for a wedding to my dearest love and how to say good-bye to my beloved mom.

If you are looking for more balance between wedding planning and mourning your own loss, check out these posts:

Have you lost a loved one during your wedding planning? How are you coping? How are you honoring them at your wedding?

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Comments on Moving forward with wedding planning after losing a parent

  1. My mother passed away one month after me and my fiance got engaged. I did not get to see her after my engagement, and the last time my fiance saw her was when he asked her for her permission to pop the question. Losing her, very suddenly, was intensely difficult right after getting engaged.
    When we first got engaged, we decided to wait, indefinitely, to get married and have our wedding. The view point being, we’re in love, we’re happy, what’s the rush? But after my mom passed, I knew that having our wedding this Summer, and only waiting was the best choice for me and my healing process. I look forward to celebrating this Summer with my family and friends. And while she will be incredibly missed- I think we all need an excuse to smile and laugh and see the beauty that exists in this world.
    I respect you so much for going on with your wedding plans, and am sorry to learn of your loss. Enjoy your planning/wedding!

  2. My mother passed away one month after me and my fiance got engaged. I did not get to see her after my engagement, and the last time my fiance saw her was when he asked her for her permission to pop the question. Losing her, very suddenly, was intensely difficult right after getting engaged.
    When we first got engaged, we decided to wait, indefinitely, to get married and have our wedding. The view point being, we’re in love, we’re happy, what’s the rush? But after my mom passed, I knew that having our wedding this Summer, and only waiting a year was the best choice for me and my healing process. I look forward to celebrating this Summer with my family and friends. And while she will be incredibly missed- I think we all need an excuse to smile and laugh and see the beauty that exists in this world.
    I respect you so much for going on with your wedding plans, and am sorry to learn of your loss. Enjoy your planning/wedding!

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I lost my mother 9 months before my wedding due to a terminal illness. She was too sick to really plan with me and not having her be a part of the planning was difficult (our relationship was rough, but I thought we’d be able to have “normal” mother-daughter activities such as wedding planning together). To honor her/have her be a part of my wedding, I put a bit of her ashes in a charm and pinned it to my wedding bouquet. I wanted to have a place at the ceremony seating/family table at the reception for her with a framed picture, but on top of wedding planning semi-solo, I was also in the thesis semester of my Master’s degree program and getting the right picture of her framed fell by the wayside. I still wish I had done that, but oh well. Maybe you can do that for your mom.

    • I lost my mom 10 months before our wedding (this coming August) due to contaminated medication she received. I am also in the thesis semester of my Masters degree- I defend about a week before the wedding. My fiance and I are using some of her jewelry to make our wedding rings and plan to have a framed picture of her at the wedding. I miss not having her involved in the planning and will miss her terribly at the ceremony. So sorry for your loss.

  4. I am so sorry for your loss, My step mother suddenly passed away a little over a month ago at the age of 46. Are wedding is in 2 months and I have been having a really hard time continuing the wedding planning I have always had 2 moms and having one less so suddenly is proving to be difficult. With so many little things to do and wedding planning being so painful. It sounds like you have a great support system and your wedding will be beautiful and your mother will be there with you the whole way.

  5. My mother passed 6 years ago, but it was important to have her still feel Like a part of the day. I used lace from her wedding dress in the hat I wore and we set aside a space at the reception ancestor altar. We used photos of loved ones set with votives in front of them and I brought pieces of my home altars to include. We left extra votives & matches on the table & included an invitation in the program for guests to light a Candle for someone they wanted to remember. It was so touching to be able to look up and see all of the candles lit & know we’d all shared that throughout the night. One guest even brought a pendant that had belonged to my fiancé’s best friend & added it to the altar.

    our reception decor was a collection of “found” objects & a good 70% of it were small things I had inherited from my mom. Mostly figurines & her collection of antique books. Most guests didn’t know but it was a special moment for me.

  6. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    My Mom passed away in January, and I graduate from college in 10 days. A big part of me did not want to do the ceremony, and I’m still really afraid that I’m just going to cry and be a horrible mood (Like on Mother’s day and my birthday in March). But I was talking to my brother on the phone and he started to tell me that he was so proud of me and he started to cry. I realized that my Mom would want me to do the ceremony, because she knows how hard I worked for my degree. So I’m going to try to do it, and try to be happy and not just sad. I think we honor the people we love by by celebrating life as often as we can.

  7. My Mom just passed away on Saturday May 11th (2013), the day before mothers day and 4 days after my birthday. My fiance proposed to me on my birthday, so I am glad I was able to tell my Mom I am engaged before she passed. I told her I have someone to take care of me now, and I will be ok and told her I would take care of my brother, and step dad. I had been at her bedside for over a month watching her get worse.

    As excited as I am to be engaged to the man of my dreams, the pain is unbearable from my loss. So on one hand I am mourning, but at the same time I have to try and be happy go lucky and plan a wedding. Its so hard especially when I randomly burst into tears. I hope I can find the strength to get through both of these majorly big life events.

  8. I too am facing wedding planning without my parents. My mom passed the week after my fiance proposed. We had gone out to CA to see her as she had been transferred to hospice care and we knew our time with her was very short. Mom was in and out of consciousness and clarity, but we were able to spend those moments with her. It was the first time my fiance had met my family and at one point when I was taking a break, he asked my mom if he could marry me. She told him “of course” and then he went to ask my dad. My fiance proposed to me under one of my parents’ orange trees and I knew how hard planning this wedding without my mom was going to be.

    Little did I know that my father would pass suddenly a little over a year later. Planning a wedding after losing both my parents (we were VERY close) sometimes seems impossible. At certain points in the planning I continue to just sit and sob as I’m not getting to share those moments with them. I was so used to talking to them just about every day, despite the 1,200 miles between us, that at times I go to pick up my phone and remember they aren’t there. It’s definitely a mixed bag of emotions and I didn’t realize that life had one more big knock for me as my brother-in-law would also pass suddenly just a few months ago.

    I’m torn as to how to honor their memories without turning my wedding in to a memorial service. Dad gave my fiance and I my mom’s rings and his wedding band not too long before he died, so we will be exchanging those as one way to honor their memory. I want to have pictures of the three of them framed and seated on their chairs along with either flowers or candles, but I don’t want to be morbid or upset people…so, I really haven’t decided what we’re going to do.

    Thank you for this post. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom. I know how hard it is trying to plan a joyous occassion around such a loss. However, it is comforting to see that I’m not alone. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

  9. love this post…is there anything similar on offbeatfamilies about dealing with loss right before giving birth? I am in this situation now and would love to hear how people dealt with grief right before that experiance.

  10. I’m so sorry for your loss. I think many of us are planning a wedding knowing someone we love won’t be there. Different types of losses but the same feelings still apply. I’m really struggling with my grief and once again, offbeatbride makes me feel less alone. I’ll be checking out those links. Thanks for posting, and I’m sending healing vibes to your broken heart.

  11. As someone whose mother shows no interest in her upcoming wedding, I can see how blessed you have been having such a sweet mother! I wish you hope, joy, and eternal love! ^_^

  12. I’m so, so sorry this is a thing that you’re facing… but I’m so glad you’re talking about it; myself and the Mansnack just postponed our wedding by a year because my family (myself included) is focused on helping my Dad through palliative care. I couldn’t find the strength to go through with it while we’re all mourning, but it’s left me mourning my wedding plans a bit as well.
    It’s crazy to see how many of us there are… sort of bittersweet.
    Thank you for sharing your story.

  13. My father passed away the week before our engagement party last summer. Our wedding is in three days. I wish he could be here, but I have felt him with me throughout the process.

    I’m sorry for your loss. I know you’ll have a wonderful wedding.

  14. I am so, so sorry for your loss. I’m not planning a wedding, and my boyfriend and I aren’t even thinking engagement anytime soon. I found this site when someone posted it on my friend’s facebook page, and this article immediately jumped right out at me. (and for the record, I too love Doctor Who, music, art, and Shakespeare, and I’m a writer.)

    We’re coming on the two-year anniversary of when my dad died. Like with your mom, it was sudden, and although he had some lifelong health issues, he was in good health overall and no one expected him to suffer a pulmonary embolism and leave us before we had any chance to say goodbye. I’m still trying to handle it. To Coral, who said your mom just passed away right before Mother’s Day, I am so sorry–I lost my dad the week of Father’s Day in 2011. I was engaged once before, and it didn’t work out, and I’m thankful that my dad was able to meet my current boyfriend and see me happy again, regardless of what happens in the long term.

    I can only imagine what it will be like to plan a wedding without my dad around, and I wish all of you courage and support. I know that someday when the time comes there will be a great community here to help me along.

  15. I’m so sorry- all the very best to you during such a difficult time. My experience was very similar to Coral and Kristen. My mum passed away on Tuesday 7th May. On Monday 6th, knowing that he wasn’t likely to see her again, my fiancée proposed as we drove up to the hospice to her.
    Although my heart was breaking to see her slipping away, it was an amazing gift to be able to tell her we were getting married before she died. She was on lots of pain medication, but she seemed fairly lucid and she was looking at me as I spoke. When I told her, her expression did seem to soften a little so I think, and hope, that she understood.
    There’s nothing that anyone can really say or do to make this situation easier, but it’s certainly a comfort to be able to discuss it on here. Thanks so much ladies!
    It’s hard to imagine just how much our loved ones will be missed come the big day, but it’s so nice to see so many creative ideas for remembering people on here. Wonderful people deserve beautiful tributes!

  16. My fiancés father died at the beginning of the month. He was only 62 and had been so excited for our November wedding. When he got sick he told us “come hell or high water I’ll be there.” When he got worse at the end of April we started throwing together a quick civil ceremony that was going to happen over this past weekend, just so he could be included in something. But now we’re facing the reality that he won’t be there and my soon to be husband is really devastated. We applied for and now have a marriage license that we’re just going to have to let expire and have to answer all the questions from people wondering if our plans are going to change. It’s tough and not at all what we thought it was going to be like this year. I’ts a little comforting to know that we’re not alone in this and others are out there feeling just like we are right now.

  17. You are not alone in your struggles. My mother has late stage terminal cancer and we are planning the wedding hoping will be here but bracing ourselves for the very real possibility she will not. We were lucky enough to be able to throw together a quick ceremony on Mother’s Day for her. She cannot stop talking about how wonderful it was. She says it makes her smile even on her bad days.

    We did not tell 90% of the people that are invited to our fall wedding. My mom said in person or in spirit she’ll be able to celebrate with us but either way she’ll be there.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story. I just lost my mom on February 27th, 2013, then my grandpa just died on April 22nd. I’m an only child and was the only grandchild, and I was very close to them both… so it’s been a really shitty couple of months. We’re getting married on July 13, 2013. My mom had been sick a few years ago with Cirrhosis, but made a miraculous recovery, so her passing was very sudden, as was my grandfather’s. We’ve continued with the wedding as planned for the same reason as you – it’s what she would have wanted. I miss her and love her and will have to do something great to honor her at the wedding. Thanks for all the suggestions!

    • I, too, am an only child/grandchild; my mom passed away on May 1 2013, and my grandfather (her father) passed away on May 30. I’ve been struggling with keeping up with wedding planning because at time it feels so pointless, but your comment inspired me to keep moving forward 🙂

  19. Wow. Thank you for this article. I’ve been feeling so alone with everything I’ve been dealing with, but seeing this article and reading the comments has been incredibly moving. My mom passed away on May 1, 2013, a little over a month after my fiance and I got engaged. The last time I spoke to her, I told her I was getting married, and she was so excited. I’ve been struggling to find ways to include her in the ceremony without it feeling too much like a second funeral, and so many of these ideas are just fantastic. Also, I’m sorry for the losses everyone here has experienced so close to their weddings/engagements—but it hast made me feel so much better to know that I’m not the only one going through something like this!

  20. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    I just lost my dad in March. Our last real phone conversation was me calling and waking him up from a nap to tell him we were engaged.

    I’m lucky in a way that we were already planning a long engagement and there was never any question about whether or not we would continue planning since it was so far away, but it feels hard because with every decision there is the moment when I think “I should call my dad and tell him we found a venue” or grieving the loss of being walked down the aisle by dad or hearing the song I had picked out for our dance. We’re making some plans to remember him on that day but it all feels a little empty knowing that there is really no way to honor a person who was so influential in my life.

    Even more so, I grieve the relationship that my future husband could have had with his father-in-law. They were a great pair in the times they were together and I was looking forward to a long lifetime of great times with the two most important men in my life.

  21. I am so sorry for your loss, and I understand what you are going through. By age 15, I had lost my dad and both sets of grandparents. I am an only child and my mom passed away one week after I got engaged last month. She was my best friend in every sense of the word. I am just struggling with managing the estate and the thought of planning a wedding brings me to tears, but that seems to be what everyone wants to talk about to take my mind off of my loss. I just don’t know how you found the stregnth to push through.

  22. I am 2 days away from my wedding day and the unthinkable has happened. My future father-in-law was in a bad car accident. The doctors are giving him a 50/50 chance and everyone is distraught. We’ve spent countless hours, days, months and money planning for this day. Some thinks that the wedding should go on and others are saying it should be postponed. I am numb. I don’t know what to do or say about all of this. I don’t want to seem insensitive either way but I don’t know which direction to take. My fiance is stressed but hasn’t said how he want to handle this situation. It took a lot for us to get this wedding together financially and we would lose everything we put in to it should we postpone it. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think of how this may not be such a joyous occasion should our families disagree on whether we should proceed or not. I don’t know where to go from here. What would you do?

    • I feel like this is so personal to you and your family to decide that all of us in the interwebs can’t really choose for you.

      But I wanted to share the advice I gave to my friend after her father passed a week before her wedding. He’d want her to have her wedding and be happy, he had been looking forward to it and was excited about it, he wouldn’t want to be the reason things were cancelled. With that being said, I think with everything so close, it’s best to move forward, and maybe say some kind of prayer or well wishes for your father-in-law.

      Not knowing the families or situation, I think it’s ultimately up to you and your future hubby to decide and I feel like people should respect your wishes either way.

  23. I lost my mom in March,and my dad 4 years ago in August. I’m thankful he met my fiancé before he passed and told him to take care of his little girl.we got engaged in December and we wanted to have a wedding before she passed away but her dementia declined so fast that we didn’t get to make it happen.
    Dealing with my mom was harder I watched her last breaths. I haven’t mourned either of them yet but miss them terribly. What things ani so to make my wedding special for them.any help appreciated.

    I feel numb almost like it’s still not real

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