Tina & Morgwn

So, by some odd coincidence, both of our wedding graduates this week got married (once, at least) in Munich. Crazy, no? After Lynn wrote about being a motherless bride, Tina emailed me about planning her wedding(s) as her dad was dying. She was in the middle of the process, and I asked her to email me back when all was said and done, and she knew what she really wanted to say. So I’m honored to bring you Tina’s absolute bravery and wisdom today, in two parts. The first she wrote after her legal wedding at her fathers bedside, and the second she wrote after her more celebratory wedding, three months after his passing. Tina writes at Melbourne Vintage, and you can read more about her wedding there (also, she says if you want to get in touch, do!). And with that, here is Tina:

My husband is Australian and I am German – we got engaged last Christmas while on a break in Paris. We’ve been together for ten years. My dad loved my husband. My husband loved and respected my dad. When my parents picked us up from the train station in Munich when we got back from Paris, everything seemed perfect.

I remember so vividly and clearly how my dad’s eyes began to shine when I showed him my ring, and how he told me he had hoped we were going to get engaged in Paris, and how he took my arm and marched me off to the car, skipping, and how excited he was. It was pure joy. We almost instantly made plans for our weddings, we were going to get married in Australia in June, and in Munich in Oktober.

In May I got the phone call that changed my life – my dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I quit my job, and my husband and I temporarily relocated to Munich to be with him, in what turned out to be the last few months of his life. Since we knew how important it was to see us get married, and knowing it would be impossible for him to travel to Australiain June for our intended first wedding, we had to cancel my parents’ tickets to Australia, and, with completely broken hearts, cancelled the entire wedding.

Instead, we embarked on the horrible journey of trying to get past what seemed like mountains of German red tape to be able to get married in Germany, so my dad could witness our wedding. Since my partner isn’t German, it wasn’t easy, but we made it happen. We got married on the 2nd of June, a few weeks before my dad passed away. The most important thing about the day was, and is, that my dad got to see us get married. It is so special to me that we made this possible for him. But this means that for me, our wedding day wasn’t about me, or my husband, or celebrating our relationship.

When the day was over, I didn’t know how to cope with the fact, and I didn’t want to admit, that our wedding day was the saddest day of my entire life. And how, as we sat through the brief ceremony, I could think of nothing else than the fact that I was going to lose my dad. I was completely heartbroken and unable to feel anything but overpowering grief. I was wondering if there was something wrong with me, that I felt so unable to feel any joy that I was finally getting married to the love of my life.

Now, after my dad has passed,  and we’ve rescheduled the wedding celebrations for later this year, I can’t stop thinking that my dad won’t be able to walk me down any aisle, or dance with me. He was a fantastic dancer. I can’t believe I won’t get to experience the utter joy of having him dance with me on my wedding day. It breaks my heart every single day. And I think that maybe we rescheduled the celebrations to soon, and that by the time they happen, I still won’t be able to feel how I “should” feel – overpowered by joy and pure happiness.

So how do you re-claim your wedding after an experience like this? How do cope with having the “wrong” emotional response to your wedding? And how do you make your wedding about your relationship in the face of grief and loss?

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realised that the answer lies in the relationship my husband and I had with my father – and thinking of his initial overjoyed response to our engagement.  When I think of my wedding in the years to come, I don’t want to remember it as a sad and grief-stricken event. I want to remember joy and happiness – the same joy my dad felt when he learnt of our engagement.

Maybe I will never feel the same joy again, and maybe, when we have our celebrations in Oktober and November this year, 3 months after my dad’s passing, I won’t be able to feel joy either. But I think I will. Because my wedding is a celebration of my relationship, and ultimately also the relationship my husband and I had with my father. When we dance we will think of him dancing, and when we cut the cake we will think of him enjoying a piece of cake, and when we toast we will remember him and remember how much he loved and was able to feel and share the joy of celebrating the good things in life. So in his honour, I think it’s important to enjoy and celebrate my wedding, even in the face of grief. I think it’s important to realise that it is ok to have a wedding celebration for your relationship’s sake, and that it can be done even if you feel that everything in your life centres around grief for the time being.

Well, we just came back from our trip back home to Munich to celebrate with our friends. Against the odds I had an amazing time.

I was so nervous and anxious in the lead up and I couldn’t quite work out why – I’d made all the arrangements and planned everything and I was relaxed about my dress and all the other “bridal” stress factors. It was only after the wedding that I realised that I’d been terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy myself because of my dad’s absence and because his death has occupied all my my brain space for the past months. I somehow felt like I wouldn’t be able to let go of the grief and spend the night stone faced and in agony.

But as the day went ahead and I was getting ready, saw friends arriving and got excited phone calls from friends and family, I started feeling relaxed, and happy. This is what it was all about – celebrating with the people we love, against the odds. I had a bit of a quiet moment before I started to get ready and took the time to have a little mental chat with my dad to get the ok that we were going to celebrate without him. And then the magic happened – we had a fantastic dinner, our friends surprised us with gifts and a photo show, we had cake, we waltzed to “Rainbow Connection” sung by Kermit himself, and we rocked on the dance floor till 5:30 in the morning. It was an amazing party. We got to see all of our friends enjoy our wedding and have a complete blast – that was the biggest joy factor for me.

We incorporated memories of my dad, too: my mum set the tone for the evening by honouring him in her amazing speech, reminding me of how much my dad loved me, and how much he would have wanted us to have this celebration.

There was a photo of him, and when my husband gave his speech he spoke in the present tense, to both my parents, of how grateful he is to them. It was the most amazing thing – it made my dad’s presence in our lives felt. It was a wonderful way to commemorate him without killing the joy. I felt the entire night was just filled with friendship, laughter, happiness and love, love, love, and there wasn’t a second I didn’t feel overjoyed and ridiculously happy. I am so sure that my dad had something to do with that. He would have loved every minute of our wedding.

I’m so pleased to share this little story. As insignificant as it may seem to other readers to the ones who have lost a father or a mother or another loved one so close to their wedding I hope it can be a consolation. It’s ok to let go of grief for the time you are celebrating with your loved ones, just know that whoever you’ve lost is present. Lots of hugs from me!!!

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  • It’s 7:35 am in Ontario (where I’m reading this entry) and I’m crying. I am so sorry for your loss and happy that you were able to find joy on your (second) wedding day.

    There is so much I want to say but I don’t know how, so instead I’ll just start singing….someday we’ll find it, the lovers the dreamers and meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! (I love that song and I think it is beyond charming that you danced to it).

    • omg yes! The Rainbow Connection! Lovely choice.

      • Agreed! I LOVE THE MUPPETS! Especially Kermit. :)

        • Now I want to know why I never thought of that. It would be a great laugh for everyone. :)

          Thanks for your lovely story. Tina. You did your Dad proud :)

  • Inspiring how brave Tina and her husband are. Celebrating your father’s love through your mother’s speech, the music, and your husband speaking in the present tense are wonderful ways to honor him. I’m sure he was very happy to see you so happy.

  • Richelle

    7:45 a.m and crying in Boston. I have been there Tina, and… You did it! Congratulations to you and your husband, and i’m so glad that you feel your dad with you and especially on your wedding day. Hiding from grief only makes it grow tenfold. You embraced and honored your dad and his love for you on your wedding day, what beautiful joy that is. You are so clearly full of love for your parents, your husband and your community and all of that has come back to you. Hugs from here to you, and thank you for sharing your wisdom. For others who are planning while grieving, I wish you moments of acceptance in between the hard times, and also encourage you to do whatever is right for you as you plan and decide how to honor and include your loved one. My experience was the inclusion parts were some of my favorite parts of the day, and I also felt like my dad smoothed over all the planning troubles we had so we could sail on in to the church and be happy.

    • Meredith

      In Boston and crying too.

  • 14:04. Crying in Cape Town. This blew me away.

    (and I love your arm corsage)

  • I’m so glad you were able to have an amazing day.

    My grandfather (who was the father figure in my life; my dad was not in the picture) died 5 years ago, before I even met my FH. I was heartbroken that he would not be at my wedding. I even did a song dedication to him and my grandmother (who IS alive, but was unable to be there for other reasons – we’re having cake with her and showing her pictures this weekend), their wedding song (Unforgettable), and insisted that everyone come and dance to it.

    The day we got married, it had been overcast. During the ceremony, as the bagpipes started (bagpipes – also for Grandpa, though I like them, too!), the sun streamed through the clouds with an incredible force for 6pm in September, and sparkled in the background along the lake. It comes through in the pictures as an amazing site, though in person it was even more spectacular. In my heart, I know my Grandpa WAS there to see the wedding. :)

    • ka

      ditto on pretty much all of this. :)

      when my grandpa passed away, i decided that i would be walking down the aisle by myself should that day come, because it wouldn’t be right for it to be with anyone else. i just recently realized i should walk down to “unforgettable,” because that was his song. i’m so happy you were able to find wonderful ways to have your grandfather present–and enjoy the post-wedding recap with your grandmother!

      • That sounds awesome. :)

        Initially I was going to walk myself down the aisle, too, but then Hubs and I walked each other down the aisle, which was also awesome.

  • Rachel

    Wow! I am crying also! What an incredible story. I am so sorry for your loss but I think it is so special that you were able to have an amazing day with those you love while keeping the memory of your dad right there
    with you. I’m sure he was smiling down on you all, enjoying every second of your beautiful celebration.

    Thank you so much for sharing, your courage to put into words all those thoughts and feelings is incredible!

  • MissT

    8:28 and crying on the east coast. I am so blown away by your grace, dignity and compassion for yourself in facing your wedding after your father died – and how you welcomed him to be there.
    You also looked beautiful as well as brave!

  • Dear Tina,

    Thank you for sharing your experiences. My greatest sympathies, but also, congratulations! I know that’s exactly how you said – he was present!

    Also glad you were able to navigate the mountain of red tape that is marrying a foreigner in Germany – I had to wade through it myself, and endured many a visit to the Munich Heiratsamt and KVR.

    Herzliche Grüße,

    • Ah yes – the KVR… but it was all worth it in the end and they were actually pretty helpful!
      Vielen Dank for your comment!

  • Wow, also crying. Tina, you are amazing. I am so glad your second wedding was so joyful, and that your father’s spirit was so present.

  • Steph

    so beautiful. I’m so glad you were able to claim your joy while still honoring your father on that day. I’m sure this post will be so helpful to others!

  • Stephanie

    So beautifully written, I was very touched by this as a girl who could have lost her Dad to heart complications before our wedding. It meant everything that his surgery could be postponed until after our wedding, and he was there to walk me down the aisle. I think this post brought out tears from that time. My heart aches for you but it is absolutely amazing to read of your bravery. Congrats!!!

  • I want to reach through the internet and give you a great big hug. I think I may have gotten a tear or two in my oatmeal this morning. I’m so glad for you that you were able to experience joy, and your father’s presence on your wedding day.

    • I also wanted to say that that dress is stunning.

  • 9:14 on the east coast. This is the first APW post to make me cry. But in a way, they’re partially happy tears. I’m so glad that you were able to make your wedding a celebration. Absoultely beautiful post.

    I’m sure I can be more eloquent about this later in the day.

  • Maddie

    Thank you so much for sharing this Tina. Reading the APW posts on weddings and grief have been such a cathartic experience for me even as I deal with my own twelve year old grief, a year past our wedding.

    So many blogs talk about the physical ways that we can honor the departed. There are photos, tokens that we carry with us, even DIY projects devoted just to commemorating the deceased. But almost nothing is written on how to reconcile the emotions of your loss on your wedding day. We lost my sister when I was in middle school, and since I am the oldest and first to wed I was terrified that my mother would not be able to enjoy our wedding since it would only remind her of the wedding my sister would never have. I’m so glad that you and APW are talking about these natural concerns in a way which acknowledges that grief can be a normal part of any hugely emotional day, even a happy one.

    You are brave, eloquent and intelligent and I’m sure your father is immensely proud.

    • Ellen

      It’s true. When acquaintances who maybe didn’t know my mother passed away just before my wedding ask me how the wedding was I say “um, well, it was complicated.” And they look troubled. But while the day itself was joyful for me, the time before the wedding was excruciating.

      • Morgan

        Yes! That was my experience too.

        • Yup, same here – although it only all made sense afterwards, looking back at it I realised the grief was why I’d been so nervous all along!

  • This post made me cry and smile…thank you so much for sharing this!

    I find myself having quiet moments and conversations with some departed family and friends in times of need – when I need guidance or, like here, permission to feel a certain way about things. It’s nice to know that others find solace in the same practice…

  • Dropping big fat tears on my keyboard. What a beautifly written post. I’m sure your dad will be proud of you for having such a wonderful day, celebrating his life and sharing it so beautifully.

  • I am so glad that you got the chance to see your father see you married and that you were able to celebrate the joy of it all later with your friends and family. It takes courage and strength to seek out joy in the presence of deep sorrow, but I think that is when it is most necessary. Thank you for bravely sharing your story and I wish you all the best.

  • Michelle

    It’s a total cryfest over here in DC. You’re a beautiful lady both inside and out. Best wishes to you, your hubby and your family.

  • Liz

    thank you, tina.

  • Sarah

    Ok, I think it’s safe to say we’re all crying today. =)

    Thank you so much for this, Tina. I lost my grandmother not too long before meeting my husband … and never felt the loss so acutely as when we got engaged, and were planning the wedding. But on our wedding day, there wasn’t the grief. We included her, and her presence was felt … just like your experience.

    I am so thrilled for you that your father was able to meet and love your husband … and see you two get married. What an absolute gift. =)


  • Kat

    ohhh, i’m just crying along with everyone else in these posts while I’m here at work. How. Beautiful. You have great strength. Go you!

  • Kristen

    Also crying at my desk at 10:04am in New York City.

    Thank you for this post and for your honesty. Such a beautiful tribute to your family – your family of origin and the one you’ve just created. Hugs and love.

  • A fellow Muenchnerin, crying at my laptop.
    This is heartbreaking but also beautiful. It makes me think of something someone once said to me. ‘Sometimes things happen in life that help you feel where your very deep gladness and your very deep sadness meet’.
    Love to both of you.

  • The one thing that I’m taking away from this post is that feelings are not absolute. It’s totally possible to feel grief and joy, love and sadness, hope and regret all simultaneously. My daughter’s dad passed away when she was 12 and on her wedding day, I reassured her that she “had a guardian angel and would never be alone”. And so I say the same to you. May the joyful spirit of your dad live on in your marriage.

  • After reading quietly for months, this is the post that made me comment.

    Thank you so very much for expressing – so beautifully – something that a less brave person might have just hidden away or ignored.

  • Estrella

    So touching and beautiful. And how special, amidst all the pain and grief to have felt such profound love.

    You said something that really hit a nerve for me, about the emotions we think we “should” feel on our wedding day. I struggled (and still do!) with this one tremendously. I felt like I could let go of all the wedding industrial veils and cake toppers and expensive caterers (no offense to all you brides for whom that stuff is important, it’s just not my/hubby’s thing!), but what I couldn’t seem to let go of was the expectations I had for myself about what I would feel on that day. It’s supposed to be the best day of your life, right, when you’ve never been happier? And yes, there were moments when I felt this way. During the entire ceremony, in fact, I was calm and radiant and felt oh so grateful to be marrying my love in front of so many people who had touched our lives. But there were so many other times that day that I was rushed, stressed, exhausted, irritated, and overwhelmed, that I can help but feel that somehow I didn’t do it right. We’ve been married for almost two weeks now and I still can’t shake the feeling of disappointment that I did something wrong, or that I let myself down somehow. My hubby and I keep saying, “The next time we get married we’ll…” as if we could have a do-over, which is ridiculous! But I do think this is something that I wish I had been able to put aside, to let myself feel whatever it was that I was feeling and to forgive myself for not living up to my expectations, however unrealistic they may have been. Because in this mixed up crazy world of ours, things don’t turn out like we may have imagined, but isn’t that some of the beauty of love in the first place?

    Anyway, enough rambling from me. May you feel peace in your heart and held by the love that surrounds you. And thank you for sharing.

    • Maddie

      I couldn’t agree more. There is such a pressure to be the embodiment of “happy” on your wedding day, that any sadness, fear, or insecurity feels like utter failure.

    • meg

      I always get so sad when you guys say this :( I’ve tried so hard to articulate all the ways that wedding days can be really surprising and disorienting and intense… and somehow or other everyone always ends up surprised anyway. Maybe that’s just the way it is, till you’ve walked through the fire, you don’t know. But I so WISH I could take away the part where you feel like a failure.

      Wedding days are intense. There is a reason I’d never want to do it again… joyful as it was.

      • Don’t worry, Meg. Once the surprise is over… you remember those things you read here that tell you it is totally okay that you felt that way. And you go back and read them again, and it helps you process it all.

        • Maddie

          Caitlin = Less wordy version of what I attempted to say.

          You know when you stay up until 4am to write a paper and the last few pages are just a vomity mess of every word in your vocabulary because your brain didn’t tell your fingers to shut up? Same goes for writing comments on three hours of sleep. Silly Maddie.

      • Maddie

        You totally do good work preparing us for most stuff and I think anything you can’t prepare us for is a direct result of your inability to read our minds individually. :) I knew going into our wedding that it would be an intense mixed bag, but what caught me off guard was which intense feelings cropped up. I knew that our wedding day wasn’t supposed to be the happiest day EVAR, but I was totally unprepared for my mommy issues to rear their ugly heads two days before the wedding (which as I write it, is just silly. Of COURSE it would be mommy issues). I had secretly been harboring a desire for all of our problems to disappear on this most important day and when they didn’t, I was disappointed. The key was not to let this overshadow the killer joy of the day.

        I think the important piece of it is being able to reconcile with yourself after you’ve walked through the fire and not feel guilty forever.

  • merryf

    11:17 in New Jersey and I’m crying too. You are so brave to share your honest and deep-felt emotions with us. You are very wise and have such inner beauty and strength.

    I almost was in your situation. My father was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia 6 weeks before my wedding and was in very bad shape. I ran to Florida not knowing if I would have to schedule a funeral and cancel the wedding. I promised him that he would see me get married, if not in New Jersey then we would be married in his hospital room. He rallied and was able to be there, but just having all of the thoughts that he wouldn’t stay alive to the wedding day made my planning full of stress and worry. Now I know, from your wise words, that I would’ve gotten through it, and that it’s possible to feel joy amidst pain. Thank you for your wisdom. And congratulations to you and your husband!

  • Faith

    You are inspiring.

  • This post made me cry. I’m so glad you were able to enjoy your day, and your description of your husband’s thank-you speech to both your parents is amazing.

  • Kathryn

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful story Tina! (I’m crying too.)
    I lost my dad a couple years ago, and it kills me that he will never meet my wonderful future husband, Erik. When we first started dating, my sister Lorelei googled Erik (he was a Marine Officer at the time) and found out that the First Lady talked about how Erik is giving back to his country in one of her commencement speeches at Vanderbilt U. Lorelei called me and said “Dad would have LOVED that, and would have been so proud he is part of our family.” That was so nice to know, and I cry every time I think about it.
    As we get closer to the wedding, I share a lot of the same feelings of grief since Dad won’t be there. I guess what I’m saying is I totally get it, and hugs back :)

  • Kim

    Wow. Crying. Tina – thanks for opening up a window into your world for us all. Your father sounds like an amazing man, and your husband seems like a very wonderful guy himself.

    My whole extended family still struggles with the loss of our beloved grandfather. He was a patriarch in every sense, and my wedding was the first of my generation where he wasn’t there. I didn’t know how important it would be to me that he be there in some way. But I couldn’t put my finger on how we could make his presence felt.

    In the weeks leading up to the wedding, while we were sharing memories of him on the anniversary of his passing, one of my aunt’s mentioned that she misses seeing him dance with a glass on his head (our family has particularly large heads, perfect for balancing things on, apparently. go figure!). And with that, it was settled. We did an awesome “dance with a glass on your head” tribute to my grandfather’s favorite song (Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” at our wedding reception. My husband had a tougher time balancing a glass on his conical head, but we had a good laugh once he finally got it! And my whole huge family had a blast honoring him, the best way we knew how.

    Tina – thanks again for being so brave and sharing this. I’ve had friends struggle with the sudden loss of a parent during the wedding planning or even the first years of marriage…keep us posted, ok? I’d love to know if there’s a way we, as friends, can be as supportive as possible. If you have any suggestions, let us know.

    Hugs from Philly!

    P.S. I can’t read wedding graduate posts early in the morning any more, I’ve learned. My coworkers always seem to find me crying!

  • april

    8:52a.m. on the West Coast (California) and just sobbing at my desk…. very sorry for your loss – your dad sounds like a peach of a guy! You are all so brave; you and your husband, your mum, all of you… thank you so much for sharing your story.

    And you and your husband looked absolutely radiant and filled with light and happiness in the photos above at your party! Blessings & hugs.

  • Alyssa

    I’ve been looking forward to this post because I knew it was going to be wonderful and I didn’t want to cheat and see if beforehand. And I probably should have, because I’m a snotty mess now.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us Tina. You looked lovely and beautiful, at both of your weddings!

  • Meagan

    Thank you for writing this. You are so brave (and beautiful)!
    My own father passed away from pancreatic cancer in June. As you said, “his death has occupied all my my brain space for the past months.” Before he passed away, my boyfriend and I started talking more seriously about our future and marriage. After, I can barely think about getting married without my dad there. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. It is certainly helping me to see a way forward.

    On a somewhat related note, I’ve been reading APW for a long time and all the discussions that have gone on about making the day and tradition true to yourself actually helped me plan my dad’s funeral. That is an occasion also marked by intense feelings, religion, and various family members with different beliefs. Having read APW helped me to stand up for my mom as she made the choices that were right for us, for my dad, and for the way he lived his life. Thank you all for your strength and wisdom and for sharing it with all of us lurkers out there.

    • That’s SO true Megan – we played a song called “All at sea” by Jamie Cullum at the funeral and started worrying it would be too unconventional… but we did anyway and it was beautiful!

      • Meagan

        We made a mix of music my dad loved to be played at the wake, and one of the good memories of that day was someone sidling up to me and asking quietly if we were playing Steppenwolf. We were! All the music was pulled off my dad’s ipod, and even if it wasn’t “funeral appropriate” it was true to my dad.

        • Ellen

          Funeral appropriate *is* what was true to your dad.

  • Crying in Canada (Edmonton, to be exact)!

    Tina, I must tell you that I disagree with your statement, “As insignificant as it may seem to other readers…” Although I have lost a parent, he died 14 years ago, your words, your strength and your forthrightness touched me deeply. Your feelings on your wedding day resemble how I feel when I think about mine, and you, in spite of the difference in time and experience, still embodied my feelings about the loss and my wedding day through sharing your own.

    However, I think your story is such an important one to share and one that will affect everyone who reads it, whether they are grieving or not. Thank you for sharing it with us. :)

  • There is NOTHING INSIGNIFICANT about this story. I was sobbing 3 paragraphs in and laughing and smiling by the end. Tina, you are so brave for sharing your story. Thank you.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s so amazing to see all that you did to include your father in your wedding.

    My dad died suddenly and unexpectedly 4 months after my wife and I were engaged and 8 months before our wedding. My dad was my hero and almost 2 years later I’m still heartbroken about losing him.

    I wasn’t at all sure how my wedding would feel without him there. I was able to surround myself with family and friends who knew my dad. My godfather and one of my dad’s oldest friends came up to me before the ceremony and gave me huge hug and whispered that it was from my dad. I still cry thinking about it.

    Losing a parent has been the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced. And I don’t think I could have made it through without my wife. It’s somehow comforting to see other couples navigating similar experiences…

    • Yes – it makes you feel very small and very old at the same time!

  • Tina, I am so happy for you that you were able to let the joy seep in in spite of the sorrow. I’m sure your dad was with you the whole day.

  • Morgan

    Thank you. This was beautiful and true and wonderful and I cried.

  • Caitlin

    Oh my, this is beautifiul. I have had a wedding graduate post written for the past month about losing my mother in law the week before our wedding, and I have just been waiting on photos without photographer’s logo to come our way, but this was everything I was feeling and so much more that I think I don’t have to submit mine now. Absolutely wonderful post.

    • Morgan

      I disagree. You have to submit it! There are so few spaces where people talk about this, and the more reasources the better. When my dad was dying as I was planning my wedding, I couldn’t find ANYTHING, and here now we have Meg building communication for this kind of thing. I remember feeling so crushingly alone when I wrote in January asking for help finding resources that talk about death and weddings. Now I know that I’m not the only one who has had to plan weddings and funerals close together, but we have to tell our stories to fill the silence. No one else will.

    • meg

      DISAGREE. As y’all know, I think it’s a total cop-out to use someone elses hard work as an excuse to not do your own/ put yourself on the line. No one can tell your story but you. No one can make other people feel less alone after hearing your story but you. You have to show up. You have to do the work. No one can do that for you.

      • Caitlin

        I’ll send post soon, it’s written and ready to go, just waiting on photos. I did do the work and it was hard and sad to find words to put it all together.And so maybe it’s just that it still seems surreal, that after a year and a half of reading simliar stories on this site, that this has happened to us. The loss still feels fictional and I guess when I read this beautiful post, I thought, well there you have it…someone said it better than I could. I just sometimes doubt myself but you’re right, I do realize how important it is for us to share our stories, what a community it is here, so I will send as soon as I have photos.

  • Tina

    I’m going to comment before reading the others because otherwise, I’ll never find time.

    Tina, I am so so sorry for your loss. I’m crying my eyes out after reading it. Not because of sadness, but because of relief, hope, and inspiration. I’m also Tina, and I lost my dad to cancer almost 7 years ago. I think what you speak of is really important for those recently experiencing a loss, but its meaning does not diminish for those of us who have experienced a loss in the past and often feel that loss the most when special moments occur in life.

    I lost my father my senior year of college, and he wasn’t present for the major milestone of graduating from college. A few years later, I attended my friends wedding, and during the father daughter dance, I erupted into a mountain of tears and had to race to the bathroom to control the sobbing mess. It was completely unexpected until about 5 notes in. Those pangs of grief and loss can surge at moments that you are not expecting. Sometimes the loss feels more present and new five or six years later than it did at a few months or one year.

    The point of this is not to be depressing or to say that one won’t overcome their loss. Because it happens. But, your inspiring words also help those of us that worry about how to honor someone who has been gone for a while and still find the joy in the day. You’ll always wish that a loved one was there no matter how long they have been gone. The ways that your family helped to include your father were so special. Your story also shows that what that loved one would have ultimately wanted is your happiness. I think that’s important to remember as well.

    Thank you for being brave enough to share your story. I hope writing this post has helped to bring you peace. Best of luck in your new marriage!

    • Clairelizabeth

      I’ve been quietly reading APW for about a month now, and the essays and discussions here – particularly on loss, mixed feelings about engagement, and small deaths – have been hugely helpful in convincing me that I’m not an anti-wedding nutbar.

      Tina’s essay and Tina’s comment above are so wise and so true. My father died 4 and a half years ago, and while my mind is no longer completely consumed with his absence, Tina’s point that “Those pangs of grief and loss can surge at moments that you are not expecting. Sometimes the loss feels more present and new five or six years later than it did at a few months or one year”, mirrors my experience.

      Planning our wedding (or more truthfully, planning to plan our wedding) has tapped sadness I didn’t know I still held and has exposed fault lines in the relationships I have with my mum and brother. The simple absence of my dad at my wedding is hard to come to terms with, but marrying my fiancee feels, at times, like I’m leaving my mum alone and breaking up our little triumvirate.

      I know these feelings will pass, or morph into other, more complicated feelings. And it’s not that I’m un-joyful – I’m thrilled to be marrying my love – but yeah, it’s harder than I expected.

    • ka

      i too had a total breakdown during the speeches of the first wedding i went to after losing my mom. it was so out of the blue and confusing, it took me about 20 minutes to work out why i was even crying!

      at least now when some part of wedding planning is hitting me unusually hard, i know to do a mental check-in on whether it has to do with that kind of thing.

      • DtotheQ

        Rocking horses make me cry of all things, because my Grandfather used to build amazing ones and once he died my children could never have one he built. What puzzles me greatly about this (10 years later, when I still get sniffly over a good rocking horse), is that I have been pretty sure that I will be child free forever, I don’t actually have a hankering for children, but that rocking horse is still so damn important! Grief manifests in strange ways sometimes.

    • Renee C

      I cannot thank you enough for writing this. I think it’s amazing how you found ways to honor your dad that worked for you. I like how you sat down and had a little “conversation” with him before your day started :).

      I lost my dad to stomach cancer when I was 26, and now I’m 30 and getting married in about 10 months. Even though it has been a few years, I’m worried I won’t be myself on my wedding day. It seems to me that, no matter how long it has been or how much we have moved on in our daily lives, we maintain this little internal box of pain and sadness — all the memories of my dad in so much pain when he was dying, and the sadness that he won’t meet my children, everything — locked up inside. Certain events touch close to the heart and open that box right back up again.

      One part of me wants to just acknowledge my dad in my heart, and know that somehow he knows I’m thinking of him. The other side of me wants to tangibly, visibly acknowledge him, but I’m scared that will make it too hard.

      • Clairelizabeth

        KA: I’ve been to seven weddings since my dad died, and I had (brief) moments of losing my shit at each of them… but not at the same moments in the ceremonies or receptions. It’s funny how words or music or images or whatever, hit hard at different points in time. When I tried to explain this to my brother, he paused for a minute and then deadpanned “Well, at least grief’s not BORING.”

        On honouring the absent ones: I think (because we haven’t even gotten there in our wedding planning) that it’s likely a delicate tipping point between what is enough to handle, and what will set me/us/you over the edge. And I’m trying to remember that it is ok to be sad for a little bit on my wedding day.

        • Morgan

          Please thank your brother for that line, because I’m totally stealing it. That’s perfect.

          • ka

            yesss, me too!

            (and incidentally, thank you Morgan for your original email to Meg that started these conversations about death and weddings. it was through that post that i found this site, and thank goodness I did. :) )

        • I’m sorry, it seems so completely wrong, but I have tears of laughter rolling down my face at your brothers comment.
          How completely brilliant.

          • Clairelizabeth

            Heehee…my brother will be thrilled that the internets has finally acknowledged his brilliance! And yeah, though totally dark and likely inappropriate, that particular line has gotten me through some really tough times. Please steal it as often as possible.

  • Count me in for the tears too! I was smiling by the end when the joy overcame the grief & you celebrated. Beautiful, beautiful post.

    My Dad died when I was 13 &, during our engagement, sometimes the grief feels as fresh & raw as it did so long ago. I wish he could be here, really be here- forget the ‘he’s always with you’, it’s not enough!, for our engagement & wedding. I hope I can let go of the sadness & celebrate. I find myself searching for the perfect way to gracefully honor his memory at our wedding & I haven’t found it yet. We’re dedicated an arrangement of Bells of Ireland (we’re Irish) in his memory at the altar & maybe that will be enough.

    HUGS to all bravely & beautifully facing their wedding without a loved one!!!

  • Thank you for sharing this. This was heartbreaking and inspiring to read.

  • Jen

    Thank you so much for sharing this.
    I am bawling at my desk.

  • Ariel

    Like so many other people, I’ve been crying at my desk at work while reading this post.

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’ve not had the same experience, but have been struggling through a difficult situation with my fiance being very ill while we’re planning our wedding.

    What you said: “it’s important to realise that it is ok to have a wedding celebration for your relationship’s sake, and that it can be done even if you feel that everything in your life centres around grief for the time being” touched my heart so deeply. I’m adopting it as my new wedding mantra.

    Also, your honesty in allowing yourself to feel what you were feeling throughout the whole process is absolutely inspiring. I think it takes a lot of strength to do that. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.

  • This is completely heartwarming, touching and painful…and all I can say is that I’m glad you could celebrate with a second wedding day! Thank you for sharing your lovely story..

  • I just woke up in Melbourne and read all your lovely comments – thank you so much! I’m so glad we’re all in it together! Um that sounds weird… but you know what I mean!

  • ka

    oh, i read this and cried. then came back later to comment and found myself crying again! i’ve finally got it together to say tina, i am absolutely blown away by your grace, courage and strength. thank you for telling us about how you handled everything that has been thrown at you in the last year in such a very human, vulnerable way. it reminded me that it soo OK to just feel how i feel and it will all work out (a recurring theme here on APW that i can’t get enough of). i can’t get over how many of us have lost close loved ones here, and it feels wonderful to be surrounded by that kind of “getting it.” :)

    oh, and i’m obsessed with your dress. (and thrilled that, you know what, it’s OK to be crying over your story and lusting after your dress simultaneously.) you looked so radiant and relaxed. congrats to you both!

    • Oh thanks! The dress shopping was hard too! All i could think was “my dad won’t see me in this” and it freaked me out! But I do love my dress, I really do. I totally agree with you – so much of the wedding anxiety is about the “shoulds” but it’s a great experience to actually see that goes away on the day!

  • Oh Tina, you are amazing. This blew me away. You have such strength and courage, and grace in an impossibly difficult situation. (Also, as a side note, your dress is STUNNING. Wow!)

    I have to admit though, that before I read any of your story, I was thinking “What. WHAT. Another Melbourne APW-er?! ANOTHER MELBOURNE APW-ER!!! YESSSS!” I really really hope you can come to the Book Club meetup on November 7th, because it would be so fantastic to meet you!! Details are on the Australia facebook discussion board – we’re doing brunch in the CBD at 10am, I think. So far there are just two of us! I really hope you can come!

    • Oh yes please! How exciting!!!! I had no idea there was one coming up! I will definitely check the facebook right away!

  • Tears were steaming down my face as I read this. People talk about crying reading APW posts a lot, but I don’t usually cry.

  • DtotheQ

    Sobbing here in Sydney Australia, I think we are all sobbing for this beautiful beautiful story.

    Thank goodness i didn’t do a sneaky read at work today!

  • Seraina

    11:40 in Zurich Switzerland and also crying…

    Very brave and very touching…

    I also married a foreigner (New Zealand) in Europe (Switzerland). We had a year to organise all the paper work and i honestly wouldn’t want to do it in a hurry…

    Grüsse aus der Schweiz

  • Louisa

    Another thank you for writing this.

    Among the many complications in “planning to plan our wedding” (thanks CLAIRELIZABETH for that expression) is the lingering grief from my father’s passing three years ago. Every wedding I’ve had to attend since then has been a miserable experience for me; partially because my mother is incapable of hiding her grief in public places (slow songs are her trigger) and the whole father-daughter dance was really hard to watch for me the first billion weddings since losing my father. I’m also insanely jealous of people who still have their fathers, let alone on their wedding day. That is such an icky feeling that I hope goes away soon.

    At some point I’ll write a wedding undergraduate (or graduate if hell freezes over any time soon) post about my experience dealing with this. Your very wise words to accept these emotions helps a lot. Thank you so much for that. On a side note, one thing my not-yet-fiancé and I are planning to do is a non-traditional wedding that will not have the first dances, the walking down the isle with a parent, the speeches or anything that resembles something my father will be missing out on (I know he’s there in spirit, but yeah…). We’re hoping for a true celebration, not a reminder of our loss. We might elope to achieve this goal…

  • 5 days later, 9:06 am, crying in Chicago. Years after my wedding I still struggle with the fact that my father passed away before I met my husband, and they never knew each other. It was wonderful to read how you were able to find happiness again in the midst of deep sorrow. I want to hug you both. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Alexandra

    Thank you for sharing.

    My father died when I was 22, I’m now 33 & planning my wedding. Only one wedding I’ve been to since then had me crying at the father-daughter dance, but Oh Boy, did I ever.

    Blessings to you!