Loss & Love - Missing a Loved One on Your Wedding Day
There’s no denying getting married is one of the most important and significant days of your life, one of celebration, of family and sharing a special moment in time with all of those you hold dear. So, what if a special person is no longer here? The hole that they have left behind can feel more overwhelming than ever. How do you face your wedding day without them?
Life is, in no uncertain terms, a bitch. And this means that people die and sometimes they die way before we are ready and it’s on a day like your wedding day that you may feel this the most. Juxtaposing grief and joy is not easy. Looking to the future, loved up with your partner, while your heart is heavy with the absence of someone from your past and present, is a scary prospect and sometimes a reason that people experience extreme anxiety about their wedding, in parts dread or even put off the day itself.
Firstly we have to say, you must know that this is normal and ok to feel this way. Even though you are bursting with excitement at the thought of marrying the person of your dreams, you are still going to miss the one you love who is no longer with you, why wouldn’t you? You can feel both those things at the same time. But it’s not easy. So secondly, here are some ways you can deal with these emotions on your big day as well as ways you can make sure that person is represented and honoured, whether a grand, open gesture or a personal moment or momento. For this article we spoke to wedding suppliers to glean ideas from services they offer and examples of things they have done for many people in this position, as well as real life rock n roll brides who have tread this path. Then, in our next article three bad ass brides who were missing their mums with all of their beings on their wedding day share with us the individual ways they coped and wove both loss and love into the proceedings.
One overriding concern was of respecting other’s feelings on the day, or not being a ‘downer’ , with the pressure of a day geared towards happiness and, of course, the missing loved one may be other attendees’ missing loved one too. This is a fine balancing act but as with many decisions, this is your day so play it how you want to play it. It could be an idea to talk about it with relatives if you think it might blindside anyone but you may be surprised how much they love your ideas or feel the same too. Similarly, if the thought of physically or publicly representing the person in some way is just too upsetting, don’t feel you have to. People won’t forget them just because you haven’t made it obvious. Perhaps you can light a candle or visit their grave or a significant space beforehand and say what you need to say, or say nothing at all, but finding a way to be with them in the build up could help. One bride wrote her father a private letter to get the words out in the weeks leading up to it, another took a replica of her bouquet to her best friend’s grave the day before the wedding. Rituals do not have to be grand, but they can be helpful, a physical event no matter how small can make you feel like you have included that person as you go into this next stage of your life.
If you feel brave enough you can take a minute before everyone sits down and have a moment of silence for absent loved ones and light a candle at your wedding breakfast. Others feel they would like to have an empty chair for them at the reception, perhaps with their name or photo, or just a token object that represents them. On the flipside if the thought of that empty seat is too much, follow your gut instinct on what you feel is right and don’t be too swayed by others. You can always go for a round top table or no top table at all if that would ease the prominence of their absence.
One point of deep sadness and anxiety is the walking down the aisle without your dad. A common idea is to have a locket with their image, worn as a necklace or perhaps woven into a bouquet or even on your shoe, so they symbolically ‘walk’ with you. And specifically for the Rock n Roll Bride, a real bride told us she had bluebells tattooed on her arm on the side her dad would have been, as they were his favourite flower. You can always forgo the tradition entirely and walk with your fiance, your mum, a sibling or friend, or heck its 2019, you can walk it on your own!
Symbolic flowers come into play a lot, with brides having their loved ones favourite blooms in their florals, flowers from their garden, or even saving flowers from a funeral to dry for confetti. You can go full circle and donate your flowers to a care home or meaningful place, after the event. Many dress designers, such as Story of My Dress, or veil makers like Daisy Sheldon can embroider a chosen flower, motif or names/initials on to their work. One clever bride even used her Grandma’s sheet music to create origami flowers for her big day. You could also do this with the sheet music of meaningful songs, or of course have them actually played at your ceremony. On a similar note, talk to your minister or celebrant about them saying a few words about your loved one in the ceremony. This not only means it it someone else’s job (one less thing for you to worry about, particularly if you don’t feel able to speak about them on the day) but it means they are spoken about early on and you don’t have a feeling of them being left out or their absence being the elephant in the room.
We spoke to suppliers who work with grooms and the grooms themselves who will be missing a loved one at their wedding; One company, Man Pins, create cufflinks, tie pins and lapel pins from wood and a beautiful idea is that the piece can be made from a significant wooden object, a floor board from an old house, musical instrument or tree from a garden and they even run workshops where you can go and be involved in making it your self. There are also workshops to smelt down special pieces of jewellery to create your wedding rings or another piece to be worn on your big day and there are companies that can even incorporate ashes into jewellery.
A favourite tie or piece of clothing can be custom made into something new, like a handkerchief or bow tie. This can also be done for the bride with many dress makers telling us how fabric from a mother or grandma’s wedding dress can be sewn into your own. One bride had a piece from her sister’s dress sewn into a heart shape and placed where her own heart would sit.
Weddings are about love and family and in ways honouring those who have led us to this point, to be the person we are before we set off into our future for the next chapter. So it is no wonder that grief can hit hard in these emotionally charged times if any of those people are missing from us. But as anyone who has suffered a great loss knows, it is the love that remains. So no matter how you decide to show their importance, personally or publicly, you will feel that love with you on your special day.
An edit of this article appears in the current issue of Rock n Roll Bride magazine, written by Most Curious founder Becky Hoh-Hale