Ask Team Practical: Family Illness and Wedding Planning

Five weeks away from my wedding, we found out that my dad is going through kidney failure. He will soon be starting dialysis and beginning the process of searching for a transplant. There is no concrete plan, anything could happen, but overall it’s not looking good, and all we can do is hope for the best.

I’m a complete wreck of emotions right now. I live in New York, and all I want to do is move home to Georgia to take care of my family and enjoy the time we have left all together. Instead I’m up here, dealing with the daily pressures of work (at a job I love, but is extremely stressful), feeling alone in my grief, and getting increasingly nervous and fearful about the wedding.

For the first time in five years with my fiancee, part of me wishes I wasn’t with him, so I could make all these decisions about moving home and taking time off from work without having to worry about another person. On one hand, I love him with all my heart, but on the other, being alone gives more freedom to deal with a crisis like this in a more “selfish” way. For the record, he is amazingly supportive, I just feel guilty that my decisions affect him. Yes, I’m aware that is part of marriage—I’m just scared to start our marriage during such an unbalanced time.

The wedding is two weeks away. The invitations were sent before we got this news, and my father couldn’t be more excited about the event. I’m so thankful that it looks like Dad will be able to attend my wedding, but also dreading having a big, family wedding filled with having to be tactful as people try to talk to me about Dad.

I don’t know what is the right thing to do; I don’t even know what’s right for me. I just don’t know how I’m going to get through the next four weeks of everyone expecting me to gush with excitement, despite circumstances, and then dealing with the weekend-of. And then I’m scared to suddenly be going into a wedding with this fear about how this will affect my relationship.


First off, Melissa, I am deeply sorry for your circumstances and I truly hope that the transplant happens soon and goes well. We’ve covered this before, but this is important and it bears repeating.

My first suggestion is to go to a grief counselor. Yes, you still have your father, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not experiencing grief. Go now; if things get harder you’ll already have a support system there to help, and if they get easier then you’ll go a little less. You said that you’re alone in your grief, but do not let yourself be. Talk with your family, and, especially, talk with your fiance. How hurt and sad would you be if you knew he was hurting so badly and he didn’t let you in? He can’t fix it, but he can do the best he can. And, guess what? He’s been with you for five years and he’s about to get married to you. This is already his family, too. Maybe allowing him to air some of his own feelings about your father’s illness would do you both some good.

There’s nothing wrong with thinking about how things might be if you were single; it’s way more common than you’d think. But when your brain starts focusing on it, keep remembering that you are not the person you’d be if you were single. Thinking of the “if only’s” might make you feel more in control right now, but who knows if things would truly be better? Logistics might be more favorable for you to move and be closer to home, but maybe not; single Melissa might have had a chance to move out of the country and be even farther away. Hell, single Melissa might have suddenly turned into a jerk who only cares about shoes and teacup poodles and would not even be thinking about her family right now. So let’s keep the thoughts about what-might-have-been’s as daydreams to keep you occupied while waiting for the bus, and stop feeling guilty. Having someone to worry about—your father and your fiance—is a beautiful thing, despite how painful it is right now.

This sucks. It sucks in a big bad giant way and it’s not fair and I wish there was a way to change that, but there’s not. But I promise you, there is no balanced time in which to get married. You’re getting married so that you can help each other through hard times and so you can grin your faces off at each other during the good times. Do your damnedest to make sure that you’re not cowed by this. Your father’s illness is going to color the rest of your wedding planning, but it does not have remove your joy from it. That’s the last thing your family wants.  Meg said it best:

So many of you have been writing me lately, and leaving comments, worrying about your wedding being frivolous or not something you deserve. And let me tell you now: you deserve it. But more than that, your community needs your wedding almost as much as you need your wedding. They need it for hope, they need it for joy. When people are throwing bachelorette parties, bridal showers, and engagement parties for you, when they buy you gifts and they ask if they can help you with anything, it’s simply because they want to participate in your joy. They want to lift you up, and in so doing, let themselves be lifted too. And your responsibility is simply to let them (and write thank you notes afterward) and then to pass it on. That’s it.

Give yourself and your family strength by continuing to plan for the future. Gush if you feel like it, but if you don’t, don’t. Talk to a professional to help you sort things out and then kick grief’s a** by embracing the happy and the joyous and the ridiculous and the frivolous as much as you can. And remember that we’re all here, quiet little internet elves, lifting you up.
Team Practical, time to rally! How do or did you handle family tragedy during your wedding planning? Did APW’s previous posts help? Give Melissa some words of wisdom and virtual hugs.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Alyssa at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com.  If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted.  Though we prefer if you make up a totally ridiculous sign-off like conflicted and rageful but deeply in love in Detroit (CARBDILID, duh).  We’re not kidding.  It brings us joy.  What, you don’t want to bring your editors JOY?!?

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  • That’s really sound advice, both about reaching out in your grief (especially to your fiance) and also allowing the wedding to be there despite the terrible news about your dad.

    If you are worried about your family continuously bringing up your dad’s illness during the wedding, then you could consider talking to your dad and jointly asking the family to only respond to you in a way that makes you not feel uncomfortable. That can be by asking them to not bring up your dad’s condition, or perhaps to only speak about it in a certain way.. Your dad, too, may appreciate that. If he is present, he may want to spend that day focusing on the happy occasion, allowing himself to forget his health for a few hours and revel in your happiness and his pride as a father. This may feel selfish, but if you can make your dad and yourself more comfortable and give both of you some respite from the grief and worrying, I think it is a great thing you could do for both him and yourself.

    Much strength in dealing with this sad situation. I hope that your father can soon experience relief, through dialysis or a donor.

    • I 100% agree about asking guests not to bring up M’s father’s health. First of all, I think serious health issues are very personal. Unless you know the ill person well, it’s probably best to stick with a simple but sincere “How are you doing?” and let that person respond with as much detail as he/she wants. (An easy out to that question is still “Oh fine,” if he/she doesn’t want to talk about it.)

      Second, like you said, a wedding should be a happy occasion for the whole family, regardless of health. It’s about a growing family, and I would hope that guests would want M’s father to enjoy that.

      Of course, people probably will still be nosy or just overwhelmed and want to ask/talk about it. But getting the word out earlier to guests that this isn’t an appropriate topic to talk about at M’s wedding is the best way to block those negative vibes at the wedding.

      • Ruth

        I also agree that it is ok to ask guests not to discuss a difficult health situation. Weddings are wonderful and happy events for families to get together and can provide welcome relief from otherwise difficult and sad times.

        At my now brother-in-law’s wedding, his mother was hospitalized and recovering from a recent very serious cancer diagnosis and surgeries. She wasn’t able to be there and her recovery was still up in the air. As guests entered the ceremony location the bride’s brothers and ushers said “This is a happy day and that’s what the bride and groom would like to focus on.” It didn’t necessarily keep guests from thinking about it or discussing it amongst themselves but it made them think twice before asking the couple about the situation and how they were doing.

        Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! It will be a joyfilled day, just like you deserve!

        • My husband’s father is terminally ill and was extremely sick during our wedding. We weren’t sure if he was even going to be able to attend but some family members pooled their strength and got him there, thankfully. Since Hubs and I are very private people, we only told our immediate families that he was ill but somehow over time, everyone seemed to figure it out.

          We were more than anxious that people would act awkwardly and possibly even mention it to us or to him but I was extremely happy to find that everyone sensed how inappropriate that would be without us needing to tell them. Actually, everyone was very kind to him, and not in that “you poor thing” kind of way. There were lots of people there who had problems with him, sick or not, and even they behaved admirably. Maybe I can credit this to only inviting our closest family and friends. It’s possible that because all our guests knew us well that they knew how we would want things to play out…but I kind of doubt it. I really think those you love are so ready and willing to celebrate with you that they will naturally avoid dampening the spirit. At least this has been my observations at all the weddings I’ve attended. If you’re really worried, though, I don’t see any harm in asking people not to bring it up, as others have suggested.

  • I had just about the flip-side of this situation at my wedding – the hubster’s father has kidney failure, is waiting for a transplant and has to go in for dialysis every three days. That has been an ongoing situation for us for a while, however, so the shock and adjustment I can only imagine you are feeling and going through are surely different.

    What I want to say though is – the dialysis itself and his father’s health didn’t substantially affect our wedding. We simply picked a place that was close to a treatment center and his father was able to schedule treatments around the wedding events. While he certainly couldn’t get up and boogie on the dance floor (honestly, most of the older people didn’t either), he enjoyed watching everything and has a huge smile on his face in every picture I have of him from the wedding. Weddings are joyful and sometimes that’s exactly what we need when we’re going through life’s hard times.

    Good luck to you, your father, and your family through this and congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

    • Mari

      Seconded. My dad went into kidney failure about 7 years ago. While there is absolutely no doubt that dialysis sucks, it does mean that kidney failure does not have to be fatal or even make life unlivable. He may not be on top of his game, but he will be there.

      I’m just going to throw this out there. When my dad got sick, my mom told me that he’d never let me donate a kidney because of the risk to me. I got tested anyways. There were a lot of fits and starts as other potential donors volunteered, but ultimately, I was the best candidate. We did the transplant 5 years ago and other than a bout of rejection at the beginning, it’s been very successful. When he was sick, I felt grief stricken too, worried about losing my dad before he was even gone. Getting tested as a donor helped me feel a little more in control, like at least I had a chance to help. Once your wedding is past, maybe you can look into getting tested to be a donor. My dad may have wished that there was another option, but he reminds me every time I see him that it saved his life.

      That said, donating isn’t an option for everyone and NO ONE should do it unless they freely choose to do so. Getting tested was, for me, a way to deal with some of that grief and regain a touch of hope. For us, we were lucky and it paid off.

      • M

        “M” here–

        Thank you so much for writing about your experiences. I’m in the same boat with my parents saying they won’t “allow” me to donate. Ultimately, I’ll need to make that decision myself (my sister is diabetic, so there’s also the feeling that I should “save” a kidney for her), but your story was a needed reminder that I am an adult and I can do whatever I want, even if it’s not originally what my parents wished for. I know it sounds silly that I need reminding, but I guess I did. :)

        • Mari

          This came up on Indexed the other day:

          As my dad said, it’s not really an either/or situation when it comes to kidneys. I wasted a lot of time worrying about whether or not he’d let me donate. Ultimately, I think I should have sat down with just my dad and said, “I want to find out if this is an option. I’m going to take the first step (which is a simple blood test) and we’ll go from there.”

          I don’t really know how to get you my contact info in the comments, but if you’d like to talk more down the road… reply to this and we’ll figure it out.

  • I think you did such a fantastic job with this one, Alissa. It’s sometimes hard to remember, even when we’ve heard you all say it many times, that the wedding is not just for us. When you all remind me of that it’s so much easier to let go of the guilt. I’ve been experiencing a new wave of grief over the loss of my mom (ten years ago) since we got engaged, and I’ve had a few omg-I’m-such-a-basketcase-what-are-you-getting-yourself-into conversations with my lady. I’ve also wondered how I’ll get through the wedding weekend, knowing how much my mom will be on everyone’s mind–particularly since we chose to get married on her birthday. Alissa’s right–this stuff is super sucky. But I’ve found that talking openly about my conflicting emotions with both my lady and the rest of my family is surprisingly helpful. They don’t think I’m crazy, or self-centered, or ungrateful–they’re just happy to be included in all aspects of this milestone, even the ones that are hard.

    I’m sending you lots of hugs and good thoughts, Melissa. My best friend’s 60-year-old father had a kidney transplant last month and he’s feeling better than he has in decades. I’m full of hope that your family will have a similar experience. Take care of yourself.

    • ka

      I think the new wave of grief is totally normal. I’ve been experiencing it since we started wedding planning—both for my mom (6 years gone), and the grandparents who raised me (13 years gone). Good work on talking to people—so not easy, but so worth it. Hugs.

  • Melissa I am so sorry, sending you a hug through the comment form. I think finding a grief counselor would be a wonderful first start-to have a place to go to that is just for you and your thoughts and concerns can only be a good thing. My husband and I had the how-can-I-possibly-have-a-wedding-now feeling and we battled with the emotions around planning a party while going through something so huge. What we found is that, as others have said, our community rallied around the wedding. They wanted something joyous and celebratory and I love the idea of putting out the reminder to the wedding guests that this day is about you and your fiancee and your families, and not about bringing up illness. It will be there, but it doesn’t have to be what the day is about.

    We found out Mike’s mom was sick about a month before the wedding and I didn’t know how we were supposed to move forward. I am sure you have an amazing group of people around you, but if you ever want to reach out, we’d be happy to And I don’t know where in NY you are, we’re in Astoria just outside of Manhattan (but we have a car, we can travel), but a meet-up even after the wedding is possible if you want someone to talk in person. The first year of our marriage was hard (not “we’re not going to make it as a couple hard”, just hard) and the loss and grief and pressure were all factors, I wished we knew people who had been there or who were going through it. We felt pretty alone. From two people who pulled the wedding off and now have put the year behind us, we’re here if you want us.

    Sorry to be long winded, keeping you in my thoughts and wishing you an amazing celebration with your family and husband. You deserve it.

  • Elissa

    I just went through something very similar this past June at my wedding. My father has struggled with a kidney disease for the past 15 years that every few years manifests into acute kidney failure but most of the time does not impact his life.
    My fiancee and I had planned a destination wedding (like I said, my father usually is fine, his last bout with this was 6 years ago) and 5 days before we were to leave my father was admitted to the hospital with double pneumonia & acute kidney failure. That first night the staff discussed hospice care but wonderfully, rounds of antibiotics and good care helped him make it through. I struggled with the plans of going through with the wedding or canceling it as it was obvious my father was not well enough to travel. I talked to him about it and he wanted us all to go. We did and I carry a guilt with me that I got married without my father there, his only daughter. But honestly, that day was filled with a joy I had never felt and can’t explain, the days leading up to it I wasn’t overjoyed and that’s okay.
    I was already seeing a therapist when this all went down for dealing with other life stressors. It helped enormously, Alissa is right on with her advice. No matter what you will make the right choices for you both.

  • Abby C.


    I am so sorry that you have to be experiencing this, and to have it happen so suddenly and so close to your wedding makes it extra tough.

    But your family and community, I would bet, is probably also experiencing alot of grief surrounding your Dad’s diagnosis. They may actually need the wedding, perhaps even more than you do. One thing weddings do well is reunite families in joyous times, to share happiness and love.

    I agree with other commenters, I think it’s a good idea to quietly pass the word around that it would be polite to avoid any mention of your Dad’s illness. Your Dad has also probably been fielding so many inquiries by worried relatives that I’d bet he’s ready for a break and a change of scene, with attention focused somewhere other than his illness for a while.

    Many wishes to you and your family. While my own family health problems were diagnosed before I even met my FH, my father has Parkinson’s and his mother had a stroke and was in a coma 2 years ago. We’re having to plan wedding events around whether or not they will be accessible to my future MIL in a wheelchair. It’s a different kind of sadness, but it still hurts. What I’m glad about now is that both will be able to attend, and that’s worth it to me.

    Sending you much love.

    • “They may actually need the wedding, perhaps even more than you do. One thing weddings do well is reunite families in joyous times, to share happiness and love.”

      Yes yes yes. In the face of all the grief my family went through last spring, cancer and two deaths and all, the wedding was someone wonderful for the whole family. A break in the darkness, if you will, and while it was hard (oh so hard) it was worth it.

  • Dude, I am so sorry about this.

    My grandma was very, very sick in the middle stages of planning our wedding and she died of heart disease several months before the wedding. It was pretty much a foundation shaker for everyone in the family (small, tight nit group that we are). And I have to say that Alyssa is so right…

    1 – Let your fiance in, let him help and support and grieve with you. I never realized how integrated my then-fiance was into my family, and he was so.supportive, but also so much part of it that he needed my support (in a way), as well.

    2 – We all play the what-if game, and running away always sounds easier, but I think maybe we realize (hopefully before it’s too late) that it’s ten times harder to come back. If you know what I mean.

    3 – Continue to celebrate. My grandma actually subscribed to one of THOSE wedding mags while she was sick, just for me. In the midst of her illness, she thought only about my getting married. And it seemed so f*ing stupid, but looking back now, I realize that it was her way of being part of it, when we all knew that she wasn’t going to BE there. And I really hope that your dad will not only be there, but be so incredibly happy for his daughter that he and your mum can enjoy themselves, and everyone can feed off of their joy, too.

    4 – Unsolicited advice…? I think a simple, “Yeah, it’s too bad, but we’re so happy that he’s here today (insert appropriate statement)” would politely shut down that kind of talk. I’m the queen of crass, so maybe I’m out of line, but I don’t think people need to bring it up and/or continue to make you dwell in it – not really tabloid, news-worthy kind of party talk, is it?

    Yikes, I wrote a book. Again, I’m sorry for the situation, but best of luck!

    • FawMo

      The flip-side of crass is that it typically shuts people up! Maybe a sassy sister/cousin/family friend can be called in as Official Shush-er and Duchess of Redirection to the Dance Floor?

  • Anonymous

    This is hard.

    Six weeks before my wedding, my father was in an accident and broke his ribs in 14 places. He spent weeks in the hospital, and for a while it looked like he was going to need surgery just a week or so before the wedding. We didn’t know whether he’d even be able to be there, let alone walk me down the aisle. Invitations had been sent and friends were coming from overseas, so we didn’t feel like we could postpone. My Dad didn’t want us to, although the idea of missing my wedding made him so sad. On the one hand I was super excited about getting married, but on the other it was so hard to see my father in so much pain, and I was exhausted and scared.

    Like everyone else said, don’t discount your fiance’s support, even if that means him supporting your spending time with your family. I was lucky enough to be able to take two weeks off from work right after my father was hurt to spend time with him and my mom and help my mom run her business (if you don’t have that much time off, check out the Family Medical Leave Act). My now husband spent a few days there with me, and then came back home to work and take care of our cats.

    In the end, my father didn’t need surgery. He walked me down the aisle and even insisted on the father-daughter dance, which I’d nixed. He missed the rehearsal dinner and a lot of the reception, and in the pictures I can see his pain just below the surface. That’s hard. Our guests were very good about not asking too many questions about my Dad, at least not to me, and we didn’t specifically ask them not to. Everyone was simply thrilled for my husband and I and we had a blast toasting and dancing. Our wedding was largely a DIT affair and family and friends pitched in to do the before and after work that my Dad couldn’t.

    This battle isn’t over, and I know that yours could go on even longer. My Dad is much better physically, but the subsequent loss of his job after his injury sent him into a deep depression. I’m still trying to balance the thrilled to be a newlywed feeling with being scared for my Dad and trying to help him out as best I can (from afar this time, I’m back at work). But I’m married, my husband is right here with me, and I choose to focus as best I can on the parts of our wedding that were wonderful.

  • carrie

    Big hugs to you, and like Alyssa said, we are all here cheering you on. Meg also makes such a wonderful statement, one I wish I had seen throughout my wedding planning. It feels selfish to be planning a huge celebration while something so major and SERIOUS is happening. But getting married is also important. Establishing your baby family is super important. Your father wants you to get married and be HAPPY, no matter what. That would make him happiest.

    Two days after David and I got engaged, his mother almost died en route to the hospital as she had an acute case of c diff. He called me crying, b/c she had passed out in his car and he couldn’t wake her up as he waited for an ambulance to get her and subsequently save her life. That night, we were literally cleaning s**t in his parents’ house (c diff is a very unhealthy imbalance of bacteria in your gut). He initially told me not to come b/c he could clean, he could deal with it. I told him eff that, I was coming over b/c we were a family and I was going to be there for him even if I was squeamish. It was the best thing we could have done together, it started us off on the right foot. Moral of the story (Mom in law is now totally fine, thankfully), please let your FH be part of this. Like Alyssa said, he wants to be. It’s such a wonderful foundation for your baby family, and you will love him even more for the support he lends you.

    Best wishes to you, SO much support coming your way via vibes. Or unicorns. Whatever. :-)

  • M-I am sending you big internet hugs to you! I understand how hard this is-my grandfather (the preacher who married us) had a massive heart attack a month before the wedding and was in the hospital for days. He did recover and was able to preach our wedding, my older drove him into the park where we had the ceremony and they sat in the AC until it started! I guess what I am trying to say that is that people are accomodating and understanding. Make changes to make it easier on your dad/grandfather/whomever. Nobody cares, promise.

    More hugs and love!

  • I can’t offer anything more to add to Alyssa’s advice. But know that I am thinking about you Melissa and sending good ju-ju or vibes or prayers or whatever you call them your way in hopes that you can find spots of joy during this time.

  • Mary

    Considering I was married in ’09, I’ve been planning for *forever* to write my graduate post about this very thing. Within the 3 months leading up to my wedding, my grandfather with whom I was extremely close had a stroke and though he lived was still on life support, unable to speak, eat, breathe or swallow on his own, my brother-in-law hit an IED in Afghanistan and was seriously injured, my nephew began having apneic seizures where he had to be given rescue breaths every time, and my dad’s unmedicated bipolar disorder tailspinned as a reaction to all of this, ultimately getting him hospitalized for several weeks. Those were the central disasters, though a slew of extended family members were having their own health concerns.

    I constantly had family members apologizing for all of this happening so close to my wedding, and I always said and always felt that there was no need to apologize. It was no one’s *fault* and as hard as it was and as stressed as I was… I was utimately glad that as a family, we all had this happy thing to look forward to.

    My mom and I could leave the visiting hour in the mental health wing and go work on a wedding craft together to get our minds off of it. My grandfather was unable to attend, but he was still lucid and I was able to share my wedding photos with him. The desire to be truly present at my wedding was a huge impetus for my dad to get his illness under control, and it became so much more meaningful when he walked me down the aisle and when we danced, because I was unsure for a little while that he would.

    The memories of those difficult times will always be attached to my wedding, but in the context that my wedding was part of the healing process for all of us.

    • Please write your graduate post, I’m sure we will all be glad to read it! :)

  • Class of 1980

    Melissa, I’m sorry this is happening.

  • Maggie

    “Having someone to worry about—your father and your fiance—is a beautiful thing, despite how painful it is right now.”

    This is making me tear up. It’s tough sometimes to remember, but absolutely true.

    Melissa, my thoughts are with you… your wedding probably won’t be the same event it would have been before, but I believe it can still be beautiful and joyful. I sincerely hope your father makes it through this–it is wonderful that he’ll be able to attend the wedding.

    It’s true, you are starting your marriage during a tough time… but if you’ve been together for 5 years… you’re not starting your relationship, you’re continuing it. And if it brought you to marriage, it must be something important and vital and strong–hold tight to that.

    • ka

      Gah, I loved that line too.

  • kashia


    I feel for you, I really do. I’m a week out from my wedding and my dad is dealing with some really serious health issues right now. It’s hard. Really hard. The only thing I would add is to allow yourself some time to grieve, and the space to not feel guilty about it.

  • Rachel

    I was in this situation. It is difficult to be concise!

    My husband and I both were raised by our grandparents.

    At the time of our wedding, both of our dear grandmothers were ill. His grandmother has Parkinsons and a hip replacement a few weeks before the ceremony. My husband committed to fly cross-country the week of the wedding and carry her onto the plane if that is what was needed, then take her home after the ceremony. In the end, two of his aunts escorted his grandmother. My husband had a breakdown in the parking lot after the rehearsal dinner. His grandma was so ill and heavily medicated, she was hardly recognizable.
    For the wedding photos, she demanded to stand, and we held her upright.

    My grandmother knew she was dying. She gave me her wedding ring to wear as my own. In practically all of my wedding photos, I am doing my ‘ugly cry’ face. My grandmother died 2 months later.

    What advice would I give?

    Lean on your husband. My husband held me when I cried myself to sleep and woke me from my nightmares. He knew what I was feeling because he had weathered the struggles with me. Those first months of marriage were precious. We grew together, not apart.

    Do not postpone your wedding. Put on your gorgeous dress and your brave, loving, smiling face, and make those big vows to your new partner. The wedding itself was SO difficult and full of sappy demonstrations of love. It bonded our entire family together. Working through all of these challenges and emotions at the wedding prepared me for my grandmother’s death, for all of the time spent going through her possessions and saying goodbye to my childhood home.

    Appreciate that your father will get to witness your commitment to the man he’s watched you grow to love so much. Whether they are young or old, frail or healthy, our time with everyone we love is limited. Allow yourself to focus on celebrating the time you have with all of these special loved ones, your fiance and father especially. Celebrating your marriage and supporting your father are not mutually exclusive.

    Tell your boss if you need a day off. Call your dad and enjoy a long conversation together. Go to that grief counselor.

    You are strong. You are surrounded with support. You can face both struggles and triumphs with grace. Don’t give into the temptation to run away or hide. This is a life-affirming moment of ‘fight or flight’, and you should choose to fight. Best of luck to you.

    • ka

      YES, this:

      Whether they are young or old, frail or healthy, our time with everyone we love is limited. Allow yourself to focus on celebrating the time you have with all of these special loved ones, your fiance and father especially.

    • carrie

      Tears in my eyes. So many beautiful stories, but this one especially struck me. And such wonderful advice.

  • Raqui


    My thoughts and prayers are with you! It’s great that you wrote in because it’s very important that you not feel yourself alone in all of this. Besides Alyssa’s great advice and the lovely and supportive comments today I was just looking through the archives and there is great support here for so many of life’s hardest situations + getting married. It’s helping me today as I’m dealing with death in the family + getting married right now. But yes, talk and share def with your fiance and also whatever form feels good to you – with a counselor, friends, kind strangers on the internet. It’s such great medicine. I’m always surprised at how tender and understanding other human beings can be.

  • Sara

    About five months into our engagement, just after we had chosen our venue, someone very close to me fell ill…I did. The pain in my hands forced me to take months off work until I was eventually terminated. So far it appears that the condition is debilitating but not life-threatening, but we are still waiting on a diagnosis so nothing is certain. It’s been a rough few months for both me and my fiancé. Illness has put a lot of stress on our relationship, but we never stopped planning the wedding. For me, it has become something positive to focus on despite all the negatives going on. Of course our budget is changing and my DIY plans have basically fallen apart. I’m plagued with guilt and doubts about using our resources for something as frivolous as a big wedding, but reading this post has made me realize that maybe it’s not as frivolous as I thought.

    We’re still many months out from the wedding and I haven’t told most of my extended family about my illness so I can’t comment on those topics at this time. I’d love to read a Friday post some time about illness in the couple and how that affects weddings/planning.

  • “But more than that, your community needs your wedding almost as much as you need your wedding. They need it for hope, they need it for joy.”


    Melissa, I am soooo very sorry for what you’re going through. I’m like you, and tend to internalize things when they’re bothering me. Learning to lean on my fiance has been a process, but I can honestly say he’s been my rock through most of our planning.

    Not nearly as serious as what you’re going through, but my Dad is currently out of work due to a corporate lockout. My parents have had no income for 6 weeks, and the wedding is in 6 weeks. When we had no clue that this was coming, they offered to pay for the majority of the wedding, and now I feel terribly. They keep assuring us, though, that “the wedding is what we’re looking forward to, while everything else is so low.”

    Your dad is looking forward to seeing his daughter married to the man she loves, and knowing that no matter what happens, you’re taken care of.

  • Melissa,
    Best wishes to you, your fiance, and the rest of your family. And I’m really excited for you that it looks like your dad is going to be able to be there for your wedding.

  • Tegan

    I wish I had some advice to offer, but I can only give hugs. I wish you luck, and I hope that your dad’s transplant goes well and SOON and that you all wind up a stronger family for it. And hey, at least you’re not stressing about whether the florist gave you blush or baby pink roses, eh? :-P

  • I feel for you, Melissa. This must be tough tough tough. Weddings are so much about family, and having such recent family troubles must hurt more than it might usually. But I have two thoughts. One, try to let the fact that family will be all around soften that blow – I know you worry about people being tactless and asking you about him, but most people tend to be able to gather how they should be. Bask in the fact that you have so many people around you who will be caring for you and for him. Two, don’t push your fiance out of the picture before you really really think that through. You say that you feel selfish for wanting to make a move to be near your family – maybe you actually should seriously consider subletting your apartment, taking a sabbatical from work, and going; ask your fiance to go with you too. Or take a long trip home without him, but know that he’s waiting for you and ready to come be with you whenever you need it. Be selfish. Part of the joy of being partnered up is that you have someone to be there with you in these times. There will surely be a day in your future together where he needs to be selfish, and you will be honored to be the one person equipped to support him through that.
    Wishing you well.

  • I found that everyone was very tactful at my wedding about my father’s recent death. Most of what needed to be said was said at the wake a few short weeks earlier, and everyone tried hard to not upset me. Actually, the only people who said anything directly to me were my father’s siblings, who individually took me aside to tell me how proud he was of me. (And to threaten David with death if he hurt me, but that’s my family for you.) People can be surprisingly tactful about situations like this. \

    And anyone who starts to say something you think might upset you? You’re allowed to interrupt and say “oh, I see the caterer/DJ/my mother is calling me, I’m so glad you were able to come” and then bolt away. Especially on your wedding day, you’re allowed to avoid conversations you don’t want to have.

  • ka

    Huge hugs to you Melissa.

    I think, as you can see from these comments, a lot of us have been through tough things on our way to the altar.

    Even Meg—as per usual—has said some amazingly wise and calming things in her own undergrad posts:

    You will get through this, and you and your relationship will be stronger for it. It’s soo hard to let people in and lean on them—I know, I’m trying to right now, a month before my wedding. It’s uncomfortable to be vulnerable. But the payback of being vulnerable, and experiencing people rising up to support you is IMMENSE. It sounds like you are a “do-er” and want to take action in some way to fix the situation, which of course makes it incredibly different when you’re far away and the one action you can take is to have a wedding. But as everyone has echoed—having a wedding is an amazing action to be able to take in the midst of difficult times. Sorry this wasn’t more coherent. I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you the best. And if you need any local NYC /LI help—discerningdilettante [at] gmail [dot] com.

  • Also! Trust your partner. Lean on him, cry on him, tell him what you need. You’re getting married for better and worse, right? This, right here, is the worse part. And it sucks, it sucks terribly, but it’s slightly better when you have someone firmly on your side, who loves you and hurts with you.

    I do not know how I would have dealt had I not had David. Can`t even imagine. It sucked, and we both cried, but yeah, in the end, dealing with all the awfulness and sadness brought us closer together, and made us confident in our relationship. If we could survive unemployment and cancer and death and grief, well, we should be able to survive whatever the next 50 years throws at us too.

  • Lynn

    On Sunday, one of my bridesmaids–and oldest and dearest friends–called to tell me that her husband had been in a terrible, freak accident and was facing paralysis from the chest down. After she told me the nuts and bolts of the problem, she said, tell me about the wedding…tell me about the wedding plans. I felt like such an ass for talking about such frivolous plans but she laughed a couple of times during that conversation.

    And when i came back in, crying, my PA could not have been more supportive. His family too. I have been on my own for a long time, and it’s very hard for me to accept that support. They just keep offering, though, and it becomes easier to accept it. .

  • Hillori

    My father was in a horrible accident the Saturday before my sister’s wedding. Despite it all, he walked my sister down the aisle– Dad would not have it any other way. Yes, he was in pain and popped codeine through the reception. But that night, my quiet, reserved father was the proudest, happiest man alive. Fifteen years later, after watching him suffer through radiation and chemotherapy finally succumbing to cancer, my sister still has the memories and photos of my father beaming—black eyes, stictches, neck brace and all.

    The point is that life is unpredictable. Only you know what is right for you, but having your father’s joy captured in those pictures is irreplaceable.

  • I am so sorry to hear this news. Planning a wedding through fear and grief is so very difficult. I wish I had some words of advice to help, but I don’t, not really. My mom has had leukemia for about 7 years now. The weekend after we sent out our invitations, she was hospitalized, and everyone feared that the fluids pooling in her lungs meant that the cancer had spread to her lungs. Even if it hadn’t, the prognosis was pretty grim, and she would not be able to travel to our planned wedding.

    We made the difficult decision to scrap the wedding we had planned (August 1 was supposed to have been our wedding day) and move the wedding to where she is. I’m glad we did, even though it has stretched out the planning to October, and we now have lost a lot of the people who we were counting on being there, but I couldn’t stand the idea of excluding her from the wedding. Under the circumstances, we had to let everyone know why we had canceled/rescheduled the wedding for a new location and a new date.

    What I found was that people, once they knew what was going on, were more than happy to help. Sure, we lost a few guests who can’t travel or who were more interested in coming due to the location (San Francisco) than to support us, but we gained peace of mind and the presence of someone who was essential to the wedding. I’m always a “full disclosure” person, so my instinct is to let it all hang out, even the sad bits. Weddings aren’t just a celebration of a couple, it’s a celebration of life, family and love, and an integral part of all of that is the Bad News, the Sad News. In sickness and in health, and all of that. So be happy your dad is at the wedding, be sad about the circumstances, and don’t be afraid to laugh and cry. If there is any day where that is appropriate, it’s certainly your wedding.

    Also, if you ever need an ear from someone who understands, send me a note. I respond.

  • Rachel T.

    I agree with everything above – let this lift you up. Use it as yet another chance to make beautiful memories including your father. Know that as his child, he has probably been waiting for this moment for your whole life, so make sure that you let him rejoice with you, allow yourself to be happy for him if you can’t do it for you, and above all, remember to include your fiancé. It’s easy to feel like trauma is just ours, that no one understands, and our fight or flight instincts rev up. But remember that he’s there for, as has been said, he loves you, and for sure to let him into all of this. Let him be your shoulder right now and remember, very importantly, that he is a part of your family, whether he’s next to you on the couch or down in Georgia with everyone else. Keep that chin up!

  • There are so many great comments on here already, that I’m not sure what to add except that I second (and third and fourth) them all! My fiancee proposed to me two weeks ago, in the face of my father’s terminal cancer. He could have waited until a different time but I refuse to believe he could have waited until a “better time.” With his father having passed away two years ago, we are facing the very real possibility of a “fatherless” wedding.

    Let me be blunt: this sucks. Watching a parent suffer can’t ever be easy, but watching while the rest of the world expects you to be in a happy honeymoon state feels like a cruel joke. I’ve had to constantly remind myself that fiance is just one role in my life. I’m also a daughter and a sister. And my fiance is on his way to becoming a son and a brother (in-law.)

    Take strength in your family. They are the only ones who can truly understand how you feel.

    Luckily, weddings are all about family. As hard as my father’s illness has been, it’s good to have something else to talk about besides pain medicines and oncology reports.

    And the wonderful part of this all, is how special it has made each and every decision regarding our wedding. Knowing that my father might not be able to share in the actual day has made me hypersensitive about including him in every step so that no matter what happens, I won’t be without him on my wedding day. On a day when he felt good, we went to a local bridal shop and ended up buying the very first dress I tried on. I’ll always treasure the pictures I have of my dad in his wheelchair with me in my wedding dress in this small little shop.

    Regardless of what happens, even if my family is shrinking, my family is also growing. And in the face of tragedy, that’s the one blessing we both have.

  • Kristine

    I am so sorry you are going through this. I’m getting married in October after losing my father four years ago. I miss him so much right now. Then my grandfather dropped dead (completely unexpectedly) in June, just a few weeks after I saw him and he told me how excited he was about my wedding. Needless to say, planning has taken a backseat to family.

    However, I am finding that this new process is helping me refocus on what’s important. We are having a very small ceremony and we’ve decided to add little touches throughout to honor the family members we love. Your dad will be at your wedding and that is wonderful, but rather than worry about being tactful or avoiding the sadness, maybe there are ways to incorporate your closeness to your family even moreso into your wedding. We are having a song sung in special remembrance (my fiance also lost his mother a few years ago). We are recessing to a song that was special to my parents and their wonderful marriage, which is a model for my own (I hope!). We are serving oyster shooters at the cocktail party in honor of my grandfather.

    All of these details will certainly add to the emotion and intensity of the day. But to me, marrying Steve is about creating a family and also honoring the families from which we come. Whether they are physically with us or not.

    I wish you a joyful wedding surrounded by the people you love!

  • img

    I’m right there too, and am having a hard time even reading the comments, though I know I will soon and I know they’ll help us. My partner and I are getting married in two months, and we’ve had a terrible year. Both of her parents, who were older, passed away within the year. And last weekend, my dad (who’s pretty young) had a massive stroke. He should recover fairly well, but we know for sure that he can’t be at our wedding. Our initial reaction was to cancel it or postpone. But now we’re leaving open the option that we’ll have the wedding as planned (assuming my brother can still make it from overseas). A friend pointed out that some people get married without their relationship ever facing any tests, while ours has been through the worst and survived. And I know that if we go forward with the wedding, our wonderful friends will help put everything together and pull us over the finish line. At the moment, though, the decision still feels overwhelming.