Hi guys, Claire here!
So as regular BM readers will know, I got married over the summer (I'll be sharing lots more about our wedding soon!).
Photo by Navyblur
It was, by far, the happiest day of my life, I had so much fun, and as so many people had told me beforehand, it was pretty overwhelming to sit in a room surrounded by all the people you love most in the world.
But as with every wedding, not everyone could be present (in person, at least).
And the person most missed at our wedding was my mam. She passed away two and a half years ago.
I've been wanting to share a post on getting married when you've lost a parent for a while now, (it's proving tougher than I thought and we're still only at the start of it!) as I had lots of ideas for ways to include my mam and her memory in our day.
But I figured, it would be better to wait until after the wedding, so I could let you know how it all worked out. And I think it worked out well.
Of course, my mam was missed by all of us, and some of the moments and occasions leading up to the wedding were harder than others.
But the truth is, on the day of wedding itself, I didn't miss her – because I truly felt like she was there.
Photo by Navyblur
Now, everyone believes in different things, and I'm not particularly religious, but if you saw how the sun shone on our wedding day, (like we were in Italy even though we were in Ireland, where had we stood in drizzle, keeping our ceremony backdrop out of puddles, just a few hours before it all kicked off!), you'd also think she was up there somewhere, pulling some strings.
As soon as the sun came out, I knew she was at the party.
My mam loved Marko, she wanted nothing more than to see my sister and I married to great people who loved us and who'd look after us, which of course gave me a lot of assurance in the lead up to the wedding and alleviated any guilt about celebrating happy news like our engagement, after she passed away.
(Which if you've lost a parent, or anyone close to you, you'll know is tied in with all the happy/sad emotions around your big day.)
It's never going to be easy to throw a big family party when there's someone important absent, and while I wouldn't say I have any ‘tips', and every bride and groom will be different, I do have a few nuggets that made things a lot easier, both in the run up to the wedding, and on the day itself.
Don't Let Your Loved One Be The Elephant in the Room
Of course you don't want your entire celebration to focus on your late parent, but chances are, they're on everyone's mind already, so don't pretend they're not.
We asked our wonderful friend and celebrant Dan, to open our ceremony by asking our guests to keep my mam and others we've lost, in their minds during the day. The way he spoke was so eloquent and inclusive, that it really put everyone at ease and acknowledged my mam in an authentic, yet unfussy way.
Skip The Traditions
The thought of getting ready for my wedding gave me a lot of anxiety the months ahead of it. I'm not great at getting ready for a night out with a gang of girls at the best of times, let alone with bridesmaids, in-laws, a photographer, and of course, the absence of my mam to contend with.
I always love those pictures of a bride and her mother, fastening her dress or fixing her veil, and knowing I wouldn't have that, was a bit of a sting.
So instead of going with the formalities of pre-wedding prep, I ditched it all. I went to a salon with my sister, sister-in-law and Marko's mam to get our hair and make-up done, and then got ready on my own with Marko, some music, and a glass of bubbly back at the hotel. (He was able to help me into my dress and pin my flower crown like a pro!)
It worked out well, and it meant there wasn't this obvious moment when I turned around to look at my mam and she wasn't there.
If there are certain moments of your wedding that you're particularly anxious about, whether it's your dad walking you down the aisle, or your mother/groom dance, just work a way to leave them out altogether.
Your day should be as joyful, relaxed and easy for you as possible, so plan around alleviating as much pressure as you can.
Talk About Them A Lot (And Let Yourself Get Sad)
Photo by Navyblur (That's me drying my eyes with the napkin during my dad's speech. There wasn't a dry eye in the room).
While I don't think you should spend your day with your tissues in hand, you shouldn't be afraid to talk about your mother or father in the lead up to your wedding; what they'd think about the flower choices or what they'd like on the playlist, or of course, how you feel about them not being there.
Make sure your partner knows that it might be a tough time for you, and be open about which moments in the lead up to, and at your wedding, that you're nervous about, so they can have your back.
I didn't bring anyone to my first dress fitting, partly because I was worried I'd get upset without my mam there, but I ended up getting upset anyway, and was outside the dress shop crying on the phone to Marko because I hadn't brought a friend. I wouldn't advise that!
Talk to your family about how you might honour your loved one at your wedding, and get their input too – they'll be missing them just as much as you are.
And don't be afraid to shed a tear (or ten). I went to my mam's grave the day of our civil wedding for a pep-talk, and the day after our wedding to leave my (rather bedraggled) bouquet. And I cried, (a lot). But getting it all out beforehand made me a lot stronger for getting through my vows in one piece.
As you can see, I didn't quite make it dry-eyed through my dad's speech though!
Have Some Kind of Memorial or Memento
Photo by Navyblur (Our ‘Here in Spirit' sign)
I've seen so many lovely ideas for ways to acknowledge a loved one at your wedding. Having a charm on a bouquet, wearing a favourite piece of jewellery, leaving a chair free at the ceremony, a picture of them at the top table, or filling a glass in their honour.
Anything at all works, as long as it feels like a good fit for you, your partner and your families.
For us, we've actually lost a few close relatives over the last couple of years, so it was really important to us that all those people, who should have been sitting beside us at dinner, were acknowledged.
So we created a simple ‘Here in Spirit' board, with photographs on perspex, which sat on an easel beside our seating plan. Again it wasn't fussy, just a subtle acknowledgement to those who were missed by us and our guests.
Let People Make a Fuss Over You
Photo by Navyblur (Me and my Beautiful Sister!)
Okay, so this last one is kind of just me being a brat, but why not! Of course every bride and groom should be made a fuss of, but I think my friends and family really went above and beyond to fill any void I may have been feeling around our wedding.
From the three hen parties my friends threw me, to the incredible bridal brunch my mam's sisters hosted, to the tear-filled chats I had with Marko's mam, and just the all-round awesomeness and understanding of my sister (who had the difficult task of being there for me, while missing my mam herself).
And of course my dad, who with all his DIYing, calligraphy-ing, decorating, centrepiece-sourcing and speech-making, was just the ultimate parent of the bride, let alone father of the bride.
And I just lapped it all up, and felt special, and loved, and while there was of course, someone very crucial missing, it was clear she had made her mark with the generosity she evoked in everyone she's left behind.
Photo by Navyblur (Me and my Wonderful Dad)
Okay, I need the tissues again, so I'm going to wrap this up.
But I'd love you guys to share this with someone you know, who it might help or leave any ways you're honouring loved ones in your wedding, in the comments below or on our social media.
I'd love to hear them!
Read Claire's Wedding Planning Posts here.