Last April, I was lucky enough to marry a wonderful man who understands me, supports me, and makes me the happiest person in the world. While our wedding was absolutely perfect (read all about it here) there was definitely a big missing part of our big day: my beautiful mother.
My mother passed away from lung cancer when I was 22. It was the hardest year of my life, and even then I knew it would come with an even harder future as I pictured all the things she would be missing from. My wedding was always the first thing that came to mind. The mother-of-the-bride is a significant part of the whole wedding process, from planning to the bridal shower to the big day itself. How would I ever make it through the whole event without her?
But how do you get through anything with a deceased parent? You push through that stinging pain in your heart and get it done. One day at a time. Even three years later.
I knew the best way for me to not be overwhelmed with her absence was to embrace it head on and not to ignore it. So when Dylan and I were finalizing a date and my parent’s wedding anniversary fell perfectly on a Saturday, I knew that was the perfect time. Since Mom had passed, we had spent every anniversary with my father so that he didn’t feel alone. And when I asked him if Dylan and I could use the date, he said of course. He thought it was a great way to honor their marriage and said that Mom would’ve loved it. I thought so too.
Another way I embraced her absence was by honoring her on the day of. We, of course, had a memory table for all of our lost loved ones, but I also carried her wedding and engagement rings on my bouquet. It was nice to have a piece of her so close to me throughout the entire day: from walking down the aisle, to saying my vows, to stuffing my face with donuts, and dancing all night. Having those rings with me reminded me that she was with me, even if she wasn’t physically here.
These are all things that I would advise any motherless bride to do. Look on Pinterest, find the right way to honor her, and do it. But know that it isn’t gong to be enough. Nothing will. There will definitely still be trigger moments throughout the planning, rehearsing, and actual day that will leave you in puddles of tears and constantly asking yourself why me, why my mother.
These triggers come out of nowhere, but don’t fight them. If you’ve lost a parent, you know that holding in that stinging pain leads to all-of-a-sudden, uncontrollable breakdowns on birthdays, deathdays, holidays, Tuesdays, and they always to happen at the most inconvenient time. Be prepared for the triggers, the meltdowns, and the tears and let them happen. They’re going to happen anyways.
Finding the perfect dress was a trigger for me. Growing up, my mother was always the one who found the most unique and stylish clothes for my sister and I. Whether it was a new skirt or putting black hair dye in my blonde hair, she always supported and encouraged our new ideas. So when I had to apply this encouragement to finding my wedding dress, I froze. I couldn’t decide what kind of dress I wanted and I probably tried on over 50 different dresses. My mother found her wedding dress at a second-hand store so I knew she would tell me that I was overthinking the whole thing, and I would’ve given anything to have her here to tell me that. Not having her opinion was definitely a trigger I battled.
Don’t worry, I did eventually get it together and found a great dress that I absolutely love.
Another trigger for me was at the beginning of our wedding ceremony. I was already crying–it is such an emotional moment to see the love of your life waiting for you at the end of the aisle–so it was a fitting moment to be triggered. Our pastor, Phillip, asked my father the traditional: “Who gives this woman to this man?” And he answered: “Her mother and I.” It was so simple, yet such a sweet way to include her into the moment. I know my father felt the pain of her absence too… She was supposed to be waiting for him in the front row and they were supposed to “give me away” together. But with my father’s four simple words… they did give me away together. I loved it and it still makes me cry to this day.
Although the triggers will probably make you shed unhappy tears on your wedding day, it won’t take away from the immense happiness you will also feel when you marry the love of your life. Though my wedding was nothing like I pictured without my mother, it was still one of the happiest days of my life. And the best advice I can give to anyone going through the same thing is to cry those tears, feel that sting in your heart, let yourself embrace that pain… and then soak up as much of your day with your spouse, your family, and your friends as you can. Because if anyone in this world knows how short life really is, it’s the ones who have lost the someone who was most dearest to their heart. It’s the motherless bride.
So don’t look back and see who was missing, as hard as that will be. Look back and remember what you gained: a spouse that will love you and support you throughout all your future triggered moments.