My Fiancx Almost Died, So Our Wedding Party Happened Without Us

Now... what?

Trigger Warning: Medical Trauma

Q:Dear APW,

I’m writing to ask for a bit of advice. Here is the situation: We had our wedding set for this past Saturday, Sept 14th at a gorgeous lodge. It was the night before the wedding: our friends were there, we had already had our Friday the 13th pre-game bash, and were back at the lodge hanging out around the campfire. After everyone went to bed I noticed my fiancx (who has struggled with asthma his entire life) was very wheezy and not breathing well. I ended up having to wake up one of my best friends in the room next door, who happens to be an ER physician, and I jumped in the car and rushed him to the hospital. It was an extremely serious attack, he almost died of respiratory failure in the car. They said if he’d been even a minute later he might not have made it.

I emailed the owner of the lodge and our day-of coordinator to let them know the wedding was unlikely to happen, and the next morning my best friend sent an email to the entire guest list letting them know so that those who hadn’t left yet could decide whether they still wanted to make the trip. It was too late to cancel the caterer, the bar team, the buses to take everyone from their hotels to the lodge, so we decided to still have the dinner and just give everyone a chance to be together and commiserate. I missed most of it since I was at the hospital, but apparently the food was really good. Anyway, he is fine now, after a week in the hospital, and I am grateful that he’s alive.

But now that we are out of the woods, we are wondering HOW DO WE BEGIN to try for a do-over? We spent all of our money on catering that we didn’t even get to eat, and we are still not married. I made them hide all the flowers and all the little surprises we had planned (I am an artist, I made all of the arrangements out of crepe paper so at least we still have those) because I didn’t want it to feel like the wedding, but it still kind of feels like they had the wedding without us. Everyone gave toasts around a fire that we didn’t get to hear. We paid for all these rentals but they never even put up the tables. It just sucks all around, trying to imagine planning another wedding is causing me a lot of pain because I already planned the one I wanted, and now we have to start over. Everyone promised they would come back for a do-over but I feel skeptical.

The owner of the lodge offered to waive the venue fee for when we try again, but she likely won’t be able to accommodate us for a really long time and we are eager to be married. I don’t know if you have any advice for how to deal with something like this, but I am feeling very overwhelmed with what to do, and frankly pretty depressed. My fiancx proposed just doing something simple in the park by our house in about two weeks and then having a reception much later, or possibly in December, but the thought of that makes me so sad. If I wanted to get married in a park, or inside because it’s freezing instead of outside under my favorite tree, that’s the wedding I would have planned, you know?

It’s causing friction between my fiancx and I—I feel guilty for sounding like a bridezilla brat when of course my overall feeling is just gratitude that we are not in a very different situation, but when asked about the detail stuff of how to plan another celebration I get so depressed that I shut down. Maybe I should just accept that I will not get to have the wedding I wanted and do something completely different. I am not sure what to do but I am hoping someone on your team will have some creative solutions.



Dear Anonymous,

Do NOT feel guilty for being upset, this is an unmitigated disaster! Seriously, this is a true wedding nightmare. Your feelings are so valid! I get the tension of wanting to be married right now now now, but also feeling like oof, you need space from the whole thing and all the resentment it stirs up.

It can feel like a lot of pressure to make a new event that replaces the old, that negates your bad feelings, that undoes this awful experience. So relieve yourself of that pressure, please. That non-wedding happened, that moment passed, you can feel fully sad and terrible about that, while also planning a whole new, completely different, not-at-all related event. Try as hard as you can to separate and distinguish the two things, because if you can do that, you might have an easier time allowing yourself to be sad about the one already-happened event, without that sadness spilling over into this next one.

Your experience was truly next-level, but most weddings don’t go as planned, in one way or another. Even if you had been there for the dinner, your lovingly crafted centerpieces might not have made it onto the table (this happened to me!), or the wrong band might’ve shown up (also me!), or your outdoor event might have been rained out, or it might have been too cold, or the cake might have toppled onto the head of a three-year-old. All of these things would’ve been super disappointing, and you would’ve had to carry that disappointment around until it became (hopefully, eventually) a funny story. If you plan some sort of do-over, even that won’t be perfect. So go ahead and plan an entirely new event that will be flawed and terrible and wonderful and unpredictable in all new ways (which might be easier if you acknowledge that old event probably wouldn’t have been perfect, either). But also? It likely won’t be a near tragedy, and that might mean you really don’t sweat the small stuff.

And listen, the only thing people love more than weddings is sad stories where they can help. So I mean, boom, sad wedding story, this hits everyone right in the heart. I suspect you will have no problem getting a bunch of folks to help out with this. Check in with your venue again. You’re right, they may not be available for another Saturday for a long time, but maybe there’s a weekday or Sunday or one of those bank holidays coming up. Tell your caterer and rental company what happened, and see if they can cut you a deal for rehiring them. One neat thing about fast turn-around events is that often, if the date isn’t booked yet, it isn’t going to be. So that venue, caterer, and rental company would be missing out on the cash anyway, and might be willing to offer a discount just to fill an otherwise un-sellable date.

I know you also have doubts about your guests making it to yet another event. That’s fair; maybe those who traveled far or don’t have many vacation days won’t be able to attend. But I’m sure most of your people will try their damnedest, no matter what date you choose. Like, I’m not a Thanksgiving wedding person, but if my friends had to plan a second quick wedding because of a near-death experience, you can be sure I’d be at that frigging Thanksgiving wedding.

I’m so sorry this happened to you guys. Your disappointment and frustration are completely fair. If there is anything I can give you, I hope it’s an understanding that your feelings are valid, what happened to you was awful, and you should try to stop beating yourself up. You’re not a bridezilla brat (please don’t call yourself that anti-feminist anti-womxn word). You’re a human who just suffered a really traumatic experience, and lost the wedding she’d planned as collateral damage. Please give yourself the love and grace you’d give anyone else going through this.

I hope you can find a way to be sad for the old event, while also making room for joy for a completely new one.

—Liz Moorhead

Editor’s Note: The letter writer sent us an update on this, and we wanted to include below. We’re so happy for this couple, and thank you for sending us the update!

Thank you so much for your advice—and for all the compassion, both from you and all the commenters. A bit of an update: I found a therapist who is helping me sort through the trauma. We are getting married this Sunday in the park by our house (yes I am wearing my dress), just ten people or so, followed by a dinner party at our house (we want to cook for everyone to say thank you for how supportive they were during such an awful time). Our new wedding is scheduled for the end of May—we decided to choose a new venue that isn’t so loaded for us, and is a little more convenient to get to. I realized that trying to rush into a new wedding just because we had momentum would have caused me way too much stress and probably would have been re-triggering, so with a little time and distance between what happened and the new celebration, I think we will be in good shape. Plus, now we get to have two weddings, which I feel like we definitely deserve. And we’ll have three anniversaries to celebrate: our asthma anniversary, our paper anniversary, and our people anniversary.



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