Loss & Love on your Wedding Day - Three Brides’ stories
Following on from our previous article we spoke to three bad-ass brides who were missing their mums with all of their beings on their wedding day and they share with us the individual ways they coped, and how they wove both loss and love into the proceedings.
Zara Vernazza, from Portraits Bridal Hair and Make Up, who married Henry in 2017.
It’s been 5 years since my mummy passed away now, the words still don’t ring true. This blistering pain that stays with you, stalks you and holds you to ransom. The impact of loss goes on to have a profound effect on your life and of course any future life event is tinged with sadness that can overshadow you for what feels like eternity. In my mind my mum was going to be there with me through every step of the way, she was so ingrained into the vision of my future, she would be there to comfort me on my wedding day by being quietly helpful and supportive of our decisions and not like some of the critical mother of the bride types I’ve heard a few of the brides complaining about on certain internet forums (always feel a tinge of jealousy that they have the option to complain)! Unfortunately, this dream never happened for me.
Henry and I got engaged on holiday in 2014, around 6 months after mum had passed and I had begun going through the stages of grief and the process of healing. As soon as Henry proposed and I had calmed down from the initial excitement, the first person I wanted to call was my mum and while I felt so elated it was definitely a bitter sweet moment and probably the start of me really picturing the process and day without mum.
I had started to consider how I would make sure she was present on the day and how I could include her as I started to imagine that even though her physical body wouldn’t be there her spirit most certainly would, and this is how I managed to turn the negative thought process around and focus my energy on giving her a space to be part of the day. I wanted mum and Henry’s dad (who he lost when he was very young) to have a seat at the venue! I think she would be really happy with our choice, we brought a gorgeous vintage, seventies rocking chair from Ebay, which we decorated with feather fairy lights and ivy, in keeping with the festive season! We displayed snaps of our loved ones surrounding the chair and it was an absolutely beautiful and memorable display, that seemed to be surrounded by a kind of magical energy that made it feel extra special on the day. I remember looking over at my nan taking it all in and I was so pleased that she was able to spend some time in the area and hopefully feel, like me, that they had been given the opportunity to attend in spirit! Now, when I look back over the pictures I see the shots of the chair and I just adore those images so much, it means the world. I now keep this chair in my home and it still represents all of those magical qualities I found it exuded on the wedding day!
The journey is real, the journey is a constant battle and it is a journey that tips our worlds on it’s head and scatters the contents of our heart across the floor but, ultimately, we will always have those sweet memories and the nourishment our loved ones gave us to keep and take into our lives and hopefully then pay forward into our families and our friend’s lives.
Cheryl Eltringham of Velvet Johnstone bridal wear, who married Simon in 2013.
I lost my mam just as me and Simon were getting together. We kinda knew from the off we were in love and would marry each other but we each separately knew how difficult this would be without my mam. He knew not to ask too soon and I also needed him to wait because there was a part of me afraid he was only with me because my mam had died. Also I couldn’t really imagine getting married without her, there would be a massive hole that I simply didn’t think I’d be able to cope with. He did propose after 5 years and it was perfect timing and we couldn’t wait any longer! He proposed end of January and we married end of November.
The first thing we did was to wobble all traditions! The wedding party, the format, the seating, everything was not quite as it ‘should’ be so there was never an obvious absence where my mam should be.
The view of the Tyne bridge was always one of my mam’s favourite things and being close to the river made me feel close to her. In the end we ended up getting married - from ceremony right through to the evening - literally on the Tyne, at The Baltic, with the bridge being the view all day.
Simon was beyond incredible organising pretty much all of the wedding. I also lost my groma, my mam’s mam, 2 months before the wedding which was very hard. He took the reins with the logistics of the day and planned the whole thing to keep the day as relaxed as possible, to keep the focus off missing pieces and instead embody them within the entire essence of the day.
I was afraid I’d cry walking down the aisle, so the layout was re-arranged to a shorter aisle simply by having wider rows - perfect! We did the speeches early ... before dinner (after substantial geordie canapés) with the idea of getting them out the way so everyone could relax as we knew they would be emotional. Within the speeches my dad and Simon both spoke of my mam and this really helped set the vibe for the day, there was of course sadness but it really opened the occasion to her presence and memory without a feeling of dwelling. It meant everyone felt comfortable bringing my mam up in conversation, which many were anyway, she was very much missed but honoured rather than mourned.
We also ditched the top table, as the idea of that without her was too much to think about so we stripped this back and had no seating arrangements whatsoever. My dad also gave me his wedding ring (from my mam) to wear as a something borrowed and we had thistles as a nod to my Groma and my Granddad as he was Scottish. My mam’s sister, was like a ‘stand in mother of the bride’ - not to take her place but more a case of representing her and making sure all the little things that can be taken for granted still happened, like getting her hair and make up done with me. She also bought me my garter, apparently this was a must for the something blue in my mam’s books.
I missed her but she was a big of part of that occasion as she would have always been. She was with me all day, in fact I feel like she gave me strength throughout.
Tara Scott, of @tarastarlet , who married Gimi in summer of 2018.
My mum passed away in October 2011, we were two peas in a pod as a single mum and only child family, so her absence from my life has been deeply felt. I remember when she died, in the early stages of my grief it was thinking about the fact that she would be missing from important life events like my wedding and having babies that really broke my heart. Having had a few years for the grief to settle in and get used to life without mum, it wasn't until the date drew nearer that I started to feel the pain of knowing she wasn't going to be there with us on our special day. I wore a pair of her earrings, had my bridesmaids dressed like Frida Kahlo (whom she loved), and included a Frida Kahlo reading in the ceremony too. These were lovely ways to represent her but they felt so surface level and my pain was so deep in my core.
I became worried that I would be an emotional mess on the day, just so heartbroken by her absence that I couldn't focus on the happiness and love I had standing in front of me. So I decided that I wanted to do a healing ritual on the morning to honour her, giving my grief a space of it's own so I could deeply feel and face those emotions, and then move on to the afternoon with a clear focus on our bright future together.
The wedding venue was set by a beautiful mountain stream which had a rocky swimming area. I went down to the water with my bridesmaids (who spontaneously started singing "oh sister lets go down, down to the river to pray"!) and I actually had brought with me some of my mum's ashes. We sat on the rocks like mermaids while my dear friend Aly lead us in a beautiful prayer. As she was speaking I made a paste out of the ashes and the river water, and I rubbed it into my skin. It's not for everybody but I felt I had to do something that was really confronting, to fully immerse myself in my grief. Like healing through exposure. When we finished the prayer I dived into the water and washed off the paste, washing away my grief, my pain and my past.