Wedding Planning In The Face Of Serious Illness And Even Death

So. I’ve been getting some really emotionally weighty reader questions of late – ones that I think need addressing. I don’t want to leave you feeling sad and glum, because weddings are wonderful wonderful things (just open the wedding graduates in another tab if you need a reminder). But weddings are also big complicated things, and they seem to make the complications of regular life more painful and difficult. So, today we’re going to tackle serious illness and death during wedding planning.

Towards the end of our wedding planning, when I started to get seriously stressed, and slightly depressed, my mom was very ill. I don’t want to go into it in great detail on this not-at-all-anonymous website, but what I can say is that it was painful and confusing and totally overwhelming when combined with a wedding. That said, I really believe that weddings are about hope, and that is part of what pulled me through, I think. So with that, the question:

The problem I’m facing is one I’m not finding a lot of information/help on the internet, probably because talking about death is hard at the best of times, let alone at a wedding. But I’m sure that I’m not alone in dealing with a loved one’s illness during wedding planning, and I’m wondering how anyone else got through it. My dad was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer 3 months before Dave proposed. We decided to have a relatively short engagement, only 7 months. Now, more than halfway through the engagement, my father is now really sick. Like, end of life sick, like, hoping he makes it until March sick. You can imagine how this influences everything, including wedding planning. It’s hard to plan a ceremony when you don’t know if your dad will be able to walk, let alone walk you down the aisle, for example. Or, you know, not be there at all. I guess I want to know how other people got through this. Or even that I’m not alone, if I’m being honest. How do you deal with illness in the face of joy? Or worse, how do you handle things if the worst happens? Or the practical – how do you plan a wedding when you can’t plan major details like aisle walks and dances and even photos until days before the wedding? Are there books and resources out there that I’m missing? Any words of wisdom? Because I’m pretty much stuck with how much it sucks, you know?

First of all, I want to say that *nothing* is going to make it not suck, nothing in the whole world. But saying out-loud and claiming it not pretending that bride-mind has somehow blinded you to pain, well, that helps a little. As does knowing you’re not alone – that other people have gone through it before you and are going through it now, and that even people who have never gone through anything like this, are virtually holding your hand. Kind commenters? Words of wisdom? Hand holding? Affirmations of how much this sucks? Having been there? (and yes, if you want you can leave a lovely anonymous comment on this one).

And if nothing else, I think I’m calling out Team Practical in full force. You’d be amazed at what virtual hand holding can do, even, maybe especially, when faced with the very worst… and the very best, all at once.

I’ll leave you all with this, which helped me through some of the worst:

“Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, the loss of a job… And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another – that is surely the basic instinct… Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.” – Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson

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  • I am so sorry for what you are going through. My dad's death will be 6 years this coming March. I will get married in May. My fiance didn't get to know my dad which breaks my heart. I am planning on including dad in the ceremony.
    I know this doesn't actually help you, I just wanted to let you know there's someone out there thinking of you, grieving with you.
    Wishing you all the best, susi

  • I am not currently in this situation but this one of my greatest fears. We've had lots of loss and change in my family recently. And it definitely overshadowed lots of important and otherwise joyous events in mine and my siblings lives. My only advice is to learn that nothing is permanent, some things should be immediate and even in death there can be light and hope, a weight lifted. Do not be afraid to take comfort in laughter and keep the ones that know your situation intimately close to your heart. Be at peace.

  • you have my most sincere condolences… and not that this is exactly the same, but my granny passed away 2 weeks after our engagement of cancer. and it was amazing what a little hand holding from your future spouse can do for you when you are leaning over to kiss her goodbye. i have little mini-meltdowns now + then about how she won't be at the wedding… but you know what? she will be… because we will be thinking of her all day.

  • Anonymous

    my heart absolutely goes out to you. in my 10 months of planning my little sister and would-be made of honor has been struggling with the ugly disease known as addiction. while her prognosis is good, as long as she's sober, i try to take it one day at a time. some days i find serenity with it. some days i start bawling inappropriately.
    what helps? the hubby to be has been so understanding of a disease that is impossible to understand, and it shows me what a rock he is and reminds me how thankful i am to have him.
    that said, when i mentally plan for a wedding day without my sister (if she's not sober) i try to remember that it will be a joyous day, even if tinged with sadness.
    all the best in this tough, tough time.

  • Anonymous

    I know this may be incredibly painful, but perhaps you could begin talking with your dad about ways he could be "present" at your wedding in the event that he cannot walk you down the aisle like you've planned. My dad suffers from mental illness and is also physically disabled, and the combination made it impossible for him to attend my wedding. I asked him to write something that could be read during our wedding, and asked his sister to read it. It was very moving and it worked well for us. My grandmother died a few months before my wedding, and I used a handkerchief of hers to wrap my bouquet. It was such a nice reminder of her. So those are a couple of things. Something written by your dad, or a small object (jewelry maybe?) of his that has a symbolic place in the ceremony, just in case he is too sick at that point to do the walking. It might make him more comfortable to. Maybe this isn't helpful at all: I don't know you or your dad, I'm just sharing what I did.

  • Oh darling – hugs to you! Yes, it does suck. And you aren't alone.

    My mother passed ten years before my wedding (July 2009). To further complicate things, my father's health was seriously compromised before my wedding. His lung function was weak and then he got pneumonia. We were getting married in July and I just prayed that he could be there. He recovered from pneumonia, but lost even more lung function. Due to his condition I didn't have him walk me down the aisle. Even a short walk would leave him breathless so he had a place of honor to sit. I asked two friends to walk up with me. We chatted and kept things light. After the ceremony, I stopped as I walked by and kissed my dad.

    While it does suck, I say plan your wedding. Tell your dad each little detail of the wedding planning. Make him part of the plan. Most of the wedding is the planning; the day goes by so fast. Since my mom wasn't there – I threaded things of her into the plan. One of the biggest is I put her favorite herb in my bouquet.

    My dad just passed away just a week ago. I still feel joy in things, and if he hadn't made it to the wedding, I still would have gone ahead. Our culture makes us too wrapped up in weddings with the ideal picture of both parents there. Have a wedding that reflects your life. Don't let people make you feel inadequate for not having mom go with you to pick the dress, a father daughter dance, etc. etc. Weddings are joy amongst sorrows.

  • Kendra

    First of all, I wanted to comment on how incredibly courageous and humble you are. And how you the decisions of your marriage timing is incredibly mature and shows the two of you are more than ready for marriage. In this cyber world of 'perfect weddings' and 'smitten-worthy-details', you, my dear, have it figured out.

    Marriage is about dealing with these awkwardly horrible events, because they will continue to happen throughout your lives together. Dealing with the timing of your father is no exception. Yes, it plain out sucks. Yes, the thought of losing someone with as much significance as your father overshadows any room for excitement for little things like what type of cake you'll eat or what 'country' your wedding theme belongs to. But as much as the media tells us (and clearly photographs to show us) that these things make up a wedding, they don't. And they don't matter as much as your emotional processing of death and a new life in marriage.

    My mother lost her grandmother the day before her wedding. My fiancee and I got engaged because my energetic 75 year old grandmother got terminal cancer. We personally chose not to start planning until the storm of her illness calmed, which it did when she died over Thankgiving, but if it were one of our parents we would be in your shoes.

    My advice? Take every moment as it comes. Plan the wedding as quickly as you can this month, and set it on the back burner as much as possible. If you don't have a dress and are still dress shopping, find a privately own dress shop and ask them if you can take your favorite selections home to show your dad, or if he's feeling up for it, bring him with. Take pictures with him in potential dresses. Take pictures with him kissing your cheek. Forget about the wedding as much as possible (which will help you not stress over little details as well…read this ) and fully experience each moment, good and bad, difficult and joyous….right….now. Go forth on your plan A, and have a plan B, and plan C. What is meant to happen on your wedding day will, and everyone I mean everyone, will understand.

    Even when we grieve, we need moments of hope to cling to. When our bodies ache with sorrow, we still need to laugh. Balance is what our bodies need.

    No matter what happens, he will be there. And your wedding will be a beautiful symbol of a father who has more than obviously prepared his daughter for a selflessly solid lifetime partnership with the one she loves.

    Now that, is a beautiful wedding.

    • Kendra, that was an excellent response! I just wanted to acknowledge that. Right on point and beautiful in every since.

      I am a wedding planner. Yesterday, I met with a bride’s parents who is in this very situation. It is so sad, so difficult and so loving all at the same time. I, myself, may be in this very same situation as well. Although I am not yet officially engaged, my SO and I are/were in heavy talks of tying the knot. And now his mom has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. This is beyond tough. I understand those that move up their dates in order to make sure that their loved one is ‘less’ ill on the wedding day and I understand those that postpone altogether due to the illness. There isn’t an easy solution to this one. At all. But with prayer, understanding, compassion and togetherness, you will get through it. Take care.

  • Anonymous

    i lost my mom over ten years ago, and even now, the thought of her being absent at my wedding one day is heartbreaking. the one thing in all this sadness that offers any kind of comfort to me is the perspective i've gained on life. it's truly a benefit i don't think i could have gained any other way.

    i don't have wishy washy feelings about what's important. i know exactly what's important.

    i know enough to pay attention to what's important and to keep the rest of it simple.

    your wedding isn't about flowers or dresses or prime rib. it's about you. you can't have a celebration of YOU without acknowledging both the joys and sorrows YOU are experiencing. you're allowed to be sad when sad things happen.

    i agree w meg that nothing – no manual or magazine or zen-inducing mantra – is going to make this easy. but this is the life you have.

    maybe instead of searching for the impossible, pure happiness we're told to feel, you prepare yourself to just feel what's real. all of it. and just let go of the things you can't plan. ultimately i've found it's a waste of very important time.

    the very best of luck to you.

    • Meredith

      I’m so sorry to hear. I also planned my wedding during difficult times. My mother was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after I graduated college in 2008. My husband proposed soon after and we quickly began planning. I had high hopes that she would make it to my wedding. Unfortunatly, she took a turn for the worse. I went of a leave of absence from work to move home and help take care of her as her health continued to become worse. It was an extremely difficult time. My mother ended up passing away exactly 2 weeks before my wedding. I realized she didn’t want to spend my wedding at home in a hospital bed, but rather have the “best seat in the house”. I also searched or people who could understand how I felt. Sharing the happiest time in my life with the saddest time in my life. There are people who understand the internal struggle of wanting to be happy but not allowing yourself to. Everyone kept telling me “she would want you to be happy” didn’t make it any easier because she wasn’t with me. I wish you the best of luck and pray for the best.

  • I wish I had something wonderful, uplifting and/or profound to say like the lovely commenters before me, but all I can say is that I'm there. My grandmother has end-stage Alzheimer's, and if she's ill during my wedding, my mom will be there to nurse her. I plan as if everything is going to work out wonderfully, and we're making a donation to the Alzheimer's Association in her honor.

    Best of luck my friend, I'm sending you virtual hugs!

  • I am so sorry you are going through this difficult time- my thoughts and prayers will be with you.

    Unfortunately, I can say that I went through a similar situation. When my boyfriend and I got engaged, my mom had just returned home after going through a stem-cell transplant (we had put our engagement off for this reason). Five months into our engagement (ten months from our wedding date), my mom relapsed with AML (leukemia). I was sure that she would recover from it (or too scared to think otherwise): she looked great, she was so hopeful, and she fought so hard… so we didn't move up our wedding and continued as planned. I tried my best to include her in as much of the planning as possible.

    Five months after her relapse, she was re-admitted to MDAnderson for a second stem cell transplant; and, shortly after being admitted, she developed pneumonia. At this point, it became clear that her health was going downhill quickly and my fiance and I began discussing the logistics of having a ceremony at the hospital so that she would be able to witness it. Unfortunately, she passed away a week later.

    Her death was the hardest thing I've ever gone through. It was painful then and it is still painful now. I feel regret for not moving up our wedding date sooner because I know how much she wanted to be there. Even though we still had stuff to do before the wedding, I lost all interest in planning. At some point I picked up where I left off, just going through the motions.

    Four months after she passed away, we got married. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I was a wreck, but our wedding day was like a ray of sunshine through a cloudy sky. Our loved ones surrounded us and I saw my dad genuinely smiling and happy for the first time in months. It was the best day it could have been without her.

    I'm not sure there is any advice that I can give you, but I hope my story helps in some way. Enjoy every second of your time you spend with your dad. Remember that you're not alone, and weddings aren't always sunshine and unicorns.

    • lisa

      I know this was posted last year, but i wanted to say a huge thank you. you have actully helped me alot my wedding was supposed to be 12/11/2011 but we have moved it forward in two week01/10/2011 has we have just found out my my mum who is only 47 has terminal lung cancer and is going down hill fast. having my mum at my wedding is the most important thing to me. It gives me strength to no other people out there have gone threw the same things and tell me its worth moving it forward

  • First, I am so sorry that you're going through something so difficult and painful right now, and I'll definitely pray for you and your family.

    A very sweet friend of mine lost her father to cancer two months after her wedding last year. I know that it was up in the air for them about whether he would still be alive for the wedding. I don't know what they did specifically to prepare for that possibility, but I did see him at the wedding, and it was beautiful. He could barely walk at that point, so Jen entered the church alone, and her dad was sitting in a chair at the very beginning of the aisle. He stood up with his cane and walked her barely to the other end of it (the groom met them just a little way in) and gave her away. He spent the rest of the evening in a wheelchair, though somehow he did manage to do a brief father-daughter dance with her.

    They were very close, and I think everyone there could sense the love they had for each other and the joy they both had in her marriage. I hope that your dad is able to physically be there for you, too. Some of the other commenters had beautiful ideas for how to include your dad and have his involvement with everything. There's a saying that as long as we think of and remember our loved ones, they never actually leave us, so I know that your dad will be a big and joyful part of your wedding in all sorts of ways. *hugs*

  • I can only echo everyone in how sorry I am to hear about your situation and how I hope that you do find the joy in the middle of all this.

    I also hope that you'll post about your wedding as a wedding graduate to remind people, like you did today, that there are more important things and problems when dealing with a wedding than save the dates.

    And at the very least, I'm hoping this post makes you feel even the tiniest bit better.

  • My heart goes to you. This crosses my mind all the time, how life can change in the blink of an eye. I am not currently going through this, but a very close family member of mine lost her father unexpectedly. It was a blow to our family and a constant reminder to love the people in my life.

    I agree with Mandy to plan your wedding and tell your Dad about all the details. If he isn't able to physically be there perhaps you can have him see it via video. Here are some people who can do that:

  • Meg

    I am so sorry that you are going through this. I don't know if I have any good advice but I can relate. My fiance and I were engaged last January, when my dad was already very sick. We set the wedding date for March 2010 with his blessing. I tried to make a lot of decisions early in the process and to tell him about all of our plans so that he could know about the wedding, no matter what. As he got sicker he told me that his goal was to hang on until March. I felt awful for scheduling it so far out. He spent July in the hospital and passed away at the beginning of August. I really treasure the time that my fiance and I got to spend with him, and I have no idea what the wedding day will be like, if I will fall apart or not. We are planning some special tributes to him and I know he will be there in spirit.

  • MWK

    I am also sending you my thoughts and support. And while I think that everyone else is totally right, I also wanted to add (because unnecessary guilt is my emotion of choice, and I assume it may be for other people too): please, try not to make yourself feel guilty if you do end up getting excited or concerned about wedding details. The other commenters are right, those aren't what make up a wedding, necessarily, but I can see a scenario where you feel guilty for caring about wedding details since your dad's health is so important. And you shouldn't add guilt to the pile of emotions you are already dealing with. So yes, if you don't care about those details then leave them by the wayside and spend as much time focusing on real life as possible. But if it turns out that you do get excited about or really into a wedding detail don't repress that or make yourself feel guilty for caring about it. Like Meg said, weddings are about hope, and like Kendra said, life is about balance. So give yourself permission to get excited about the wedding, even about details sometimes, without feeling guilty. (Or if you don't feel excited, give yourself permission to not be excited without feeling guilty about that, either).

  • can you have some of those things now, when your dad is more likely to be able to enjoy them with you? all of your other guests won't be there yet, but you could devise a very personal event, a pre-wedding, for just you and dave and your dad. maybe a blessing ceremony, a ring-warming or some such, where the three of you got together and celebrated the upcoming marriage. you could have a dance then, too, right? so much the better if you end up having a second father-daughter dance on your wedding-with-everyone day.

  • nc

    I am so sorry to hear about your situation. Virtual hand holding is here full force.

    In the 3 months prior to our wedding, we lost 2 grandmothers. One had been battling lung cancer for a few months, the other was as sudden as sudden can be at 84.

    I will say that the time of grieving made even more necessary the time of celebration. Yin and yang. Still, I know this is very different from your situation.

    Have you been able to have honest (and of course, tremendously hard) conversations with your Dad about what he wants? I like the suggestions of doing some of those things -the aisle walk and dance- now, in a private small ceremony. Maybe you could even put your dress on for him, if you have it. Have a photographer there, and cake. Celebrate.

    When my fiance's grandmother got very end-of-life sick, we had to have one of those honest and hard conversations with her- letting her know that even though she'd been saying she would make it until our wedding, that it was ok for her to let go- we didn't want her to be in pain. That she'd be there with us no matter what, even if not in body. She died less than 12 hours later.

    You are in the thick of Life, balancing these two things. Keep talking about it- here, with your partner, with anyone you can. And feel the circle of the Team around you.

  • I'm so terribly sorry to hear about his illness. I lost my stepfather to cancer a few years ago, and it still tears me up inside that he won't see me get married. Have you considered having a small, informal, city-hall kind of wedding right now, while you can have him there? You might luck out and also get to have him there at your formal wedding, but as someone who has lost a dad to cancer, I would literally do anything to have had him be there at my wedding. And it might mean a lot to him to get to see you married–it's the gift of the imagined future, you know? So he can imagine how your life will be.

    This is all terribly painful, and I hope that you can follow your gut in figuring out what you need. I wish you and your family the best.

  • Deborah

    Meg, I'm glad you posted this – I've been a lurker on this site, which brought me so much sanity through the process of my wedding 3 months ago, and continue to return to it as I deal with the difficulties of my mom's death last month. It feels good to have a thoughtful, spiritual, meaningful, hopeful place to go. I've been toying in my head with a submission to the site about the "Back End of Marriage" – my father and my sister and I holding her hand as she took her last breath after removing life support. Maybe someday. For now, it's too painful, but I couldn't resist sharing my thoughts to try to help someone suffering this.

    My mom's health has been poor for some time – to the point where during our 6 month engagement I wondered if she would even survive to attend the event. But we don't talk about such things in my family. She preferred to pretend that diabetes and obesity and smoking and all the related problems weren't happening, and after a lifetime of frustration and anger and sadness on my part about why she didn't just TAKE CONTROL OF HER OWN ^%$#@ LIFE – because she COULD – I had learned to accept that this was who she was.

    That wasn't easy, and it's no easier when the problem is cancer or mental illness or anything that is less "volitional" than self-induced illnesses… because while my mom's health issues were both preventable and curable, the problem was that SHE (for a variety of reasons) simply wasn't able to deal with them. Making them as involuntary as being hit by a car. And so, when we had the last "this could be it" scare, I took the opportunity to say everything I wanted to say to her. How much I loved her, and how scared I was for her, and how angry, and how I would do anything she needed if she could let me know what that was. And she told me her story, too, which wasn't easy for her. And after that, I was a lot more at peace, knowing that we were at last heart to heart. So my first piece of advice – say EVERYTHING you have to say now, while you can. I'm grateful that the one pain I haven't had to deal with her death is regret that she didn't know my feelings for her and how deeply I loved her and how much she meant to me. Do not let the fear and awkwardness and distractions you face keep you from that opportunity. So many people are lost unexpectedly to accidents, and they don't have that tiny bit of peace. I don't know if it's a blessing to know the future or not, but if you do at least use it to your advantage as best as possible.


  • Deborah


    The second peace of advice I have is that you take up some of these wonderful ideas on how to involve your dad. My mom loved decorating, and ideas, and was one of the most creative people I know (I got that from her!!). Unfortunately, she had very different tastes from me. But I listened to all her ideas, and opened many packages she'd sent me (she lives in a different state) with prototypes of some ideas she'd constructed, and gave her assignments that I knew would not end up in my style (not the silk flowers! aaaaaarrggh!) and simply yielded to the gusto and joy with which she threw herself into helping me with the wedding planning. I know how it brightened her last days, even though we had no idea at the time they were her last.

    Third, she did make it to the wedding, and I involved her in as much of the work as I possibly could. We worked around the fact that she couldn't walk, and that she was easily exhausted/in pain/not feeling well most of the time in lots of ways… I did all the flower arrangements on the back patio while she helped tie crystals – so she got to join me in that by enjoying seeing me do something she once loved and also by steering me to the holes in the arrangement. And lots of other little things. I knew she was basking in the joy of having a daughter she was so proud of and who was clearly executing skills I'd taken from HER.

    Of course, at the time, I had no idea it was the last time I'd see her. While her death wasn't necessarily unexpected, it was still shocking. And I still feel guilt about all the little things I could have done more to be there with her (instead of going to the hotel alone the night before, maybe I could have stayed in her room and watched a movie? and on and on). Happening so soon after the wedding, I feel particularly guilty about having taken that time for myself, and all the other people there, and not for her. I am struggling with that currently, but I'm trying to be kind to myself. I guess that's my third piece of advice, which is easier said than done. Because the plain fact is, nothing you do will unwind the fact that she's no longer there and I wish I had more time with her. Punishing myself for that particular opportunity just robs me of that joy that I know I'm otherwise entitled to.

    And my last bit of advice is to let your husband-to-be/husband live up to the promises he is making to you by marrying you. Let him be your rock, your support, the guy who handles the stuff you can't possibly conceive of handling (are you kidding me? the credit card bill mattes right now?? the dogs need attention?? we are out of toilet paper?!?)… the burden of having to struggle through the "for worse" part of the vows so early on is tough, but that's the gift we give our spouses when we commit for life. It's not just to enjoy the good times. It's to share the shitty, horrible, totally unreal/unfair/predictable/unpredictable things that Life is going to throw at you. You'll be surprised at the way your friends come through for you on this (and you'll also be surprised at the way some of them don't, but that's another topic). But your husband is going to be the one who makes you feel like you have a floor under your feet and a shelter over your head when your entire world is confused and topsy turvy. Let him do that for you, and know that's that's what Love is.

    My best to everyone who's gone through, going through, or will go through this.

  • MVB

    I don't have an experience to share, but I did want to send love, support, and sympathy. I read on one of the blogs of a couple having a simple ceremony so that the family member would definitely be there, then having the big wedding ceremony with friends and the rest of the family when the planned date came.

  • Like everyone else who has commented, I am so sorry that you are going through this. I have a family friend who had a sort of similar situation. The wedding was planned for October but the bride's father became extremely ill in July or so, so the bride and groom (and some of the groom's immediate family, I believe) flew up to her hometown to be with him and were legally married with her father there. A few days later he passed away, and then the traditional wedding continued as had been planned. I only know that this happened, not any of the struggles or emotions that went along with the planned wedding day after such a loss, but it's a thought that you could make it official with your families present and then observe your wedding day as planned. Best wishes to you and your families in this tough time.

  • I'm so sorry you have to deal with this difficult situation, and I wish only the best for you and your family. It is normal to feel confusion and angst with this sort of thing.

    My grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer three months before my sister's wedding in 2007, and had a hysterectomy just a month before the wedding. Miraculously, she was able to attend, but she was very weak from ongoing chemotherapy and my sister had a hard time dealing with it during her planning. Our other grandmother, who is now 92, was also dealing with some health issues at the time and could not make it to the reception. It was difficult– although surely not as difficult as if it were one of our parents. My sister has since realized that it was these two special ladies who were most adamant that things went on as planned. My grandmother constantly told her to "have fun, relax", etc., not wanting her to worry about other things. Of course that's easier said than done, but no one wants you to be happy more than your family members.

    My great aunt- who was essentially another grandmother to me- passed away a few weeks ago. It made the Christmas holiday very difficult. While it's not a wedding, the holidays are supposed to be a time of parties, family gatherings and joy, and it is hard to face that in the wake of death.

    Since my boyfriend and I have been talking more seriously about getting engaged, I have been thinking about the fact that I won't have Aunt Rere at my wedding..and who knows who else might have passed in the meantime. Then I get myself all worked up, and jealous that my siblings had most of our family members present, and that I may not have that privilege. It's obviously not something that should make me "jealous" but that's just how I'm feeling. But I think that our loved ones who are sick, or far away, or terminally ill, are the ones who would really want us to enjoy ourselves and continue enjoying our life to the fullest.

    I wish you every happiness during your wedding planning, and I hope you can come to some peace about your current situation.

  • Anonymous

    having been through similar situations myself, i think there are so, so many important things being said here. my favorites are:

    1-it's ok to be sad. it's ok if you completely lose it in front of 200 people. it's totally ok to care about a pretty shoe or veil even if someone you love is sick. it's ok to scrap your plans and go with plan B. it's ok to stick with plan A. there are no (repeat ABSOLUTELY NO) guidelines for the hardest things in life. your decision will be thoughtfully made, regardless of what it is. and in the end everyone will understand. i promise, they will understand.

    2-in a lot of respects the sadness in your life will probably overshadow some of the happiness at this point in time. that's just the reality. but life is beautiful in lots of ways. your life is unique and you will still remember this time as incredibly special, even if it's not completely happy.

    3-your wedding doesn't have to be the only time you celebrate your marriage. (it seems ludicrous to even type that now as if it's such a wild idea) maybe you have a smaller wedding now and then on your 1st or 5th or 10th anniversary you throw a big party. at a time that makes more sense for you.

    4-give your dad the opportunity to talk about his fears. he's definitely got this on his mind too. he's as worried about you as you are about him. he knows what this is putting you through. let him know you understand.

    5-just let go of the things you can't control. a perfect wedding isn't always the most beautiful.

    lots of well wishes to you and your family.

  • Beth

    I agree, it's hard and doesn't get talked about nearly often enough.

    My brother and his wife met because she lost her dad, and the toast her maid of honor made at the reception had the entire room in tears. My sister-in-law had a mother-daughter dance in place of her father-daughter dance and her mom walked her down the aisle.

    Earlier in the year before their wedding, my mom fell and hit her head and came very very close to death. She's stubborn, so the thing that got her through the initial recovery was that she wasn't going to miss the wedding and she was going to walk my brother down the aisle and have a mother-son dance. Seeing her fulfil those two tasks was one of the most moving things about their wedding and still has me in tears just typing about it. Mom had many medical issues prior to her fall, and continues to have many medical issues, but she's a trooper and I fully expect her to be around to attend and participate as much as she is able in our 2011 wedding.

    I have a friend who had his wedding the same weekend as his grandmother's funeral. She passed away two days before the ceremony. It may not be ideal, it's certainly not easy, but we're a resiliant species and when faced with these things we will find a way to make it all work. It all goes back to focusing on the big picture things and letting the little stuff slip away.

    Celebrate the people who are able to spend the day with you and honor those who are no longer with us. It's not easy, but some of the best moments in life are the hardest moments.

    Logistically, you have to be flexible. There have been some amazing suggestions in the comments and some things you just won't know or be able to plan for until the time comes. Contingency plans are probably going the be the best option if you absolutely need to have something in place but you may not know the exact script until the day of. Even then, things are going to change and something unexpected and unplanned may just be the most memorable part of the day.

  • I don't have any words of wisdom to spill, but I want to offer up big hugs to you and your family. Just remember, no matter what, your dad will be with you on your wedding day (and for the rest of your life for that matter).

  • Mary

    While it does not compare to losing a parent, I did face a lot of familial stress and difficulties leading up to the wedding. My grandfather had a major stroke about 3 months before my wedding and was in some sort of ICU, hospital, rehab facility, or nursing home until he came home for hospice in November, a month after my wedding. I've always been very close to my grandfather so it was very difficult watching him waste away, unable to walk, swallow, speak, or any other basic functions.

    Also, about 2 months before the wedding, my sister (and maid of honor)'s husband was seriously injured in Afghanistan. We weren't sure for a while whether amputation of his feet would be necessary and it was decidedly scary and stressful.

    On top of that, various aunts and uncles were having all sort of health problems, I got a stressful increase in responsibilities at work, all my stress aggravated health problems were acting up like nobody's business and theeeeen my dad's manic depression spiraled out of control. Little did we know he hadn't been taking his medication, and with all the stress of his son-in-law's and father's hospitalizations, he went into a full-blown mania of a very scary sort. So, roughly a month before my wedding, I was visiting my dad in a mental health facility. I cried so many tears wondering if he'd *there* enough to walk me down the aisle, not to mention just missing my dad as the man I know him to be. He still wasn't entirely himself by the time the wedding came, but he was there, and that's what mattered. It was definitely all the more emotional dancing with him at my wedding.

    I had lots of family members apologize for all of the drama leading up to our wedding. While I certainly would've preferred that none of those things had occurred, especially right before my wedding, the wedding was at least a bright spot in everyone's minds. It was something to look forward to, and something to plan for. It was something to *do* when everything else was beyond our control.

  • Anonymous

    i love love love Deborah's part II comments about letting your fiance/husband be the man he's promising he'll be for you. THIS is love. not the kind of love that makes pretty engagement photos – this is love in the face of real life. this is a man worth marrying. this is the kind of man who's in it for good. and the same goes for friends. you'll be overwhelmed how much your real friends care about you, how much they understand, and how much they are willing to help.

  • KB

    I am thankful that this was posted, and I hope that the comments turn up more blogs and stories for support. Both of my parents passed away this fall, barely a month apart, and my partner and I hope to get married in the next year or so. When my dad was sick and getting worse I seriously considered hijacking Thanksgiving for an impromptu wedding, but sadly neither of my parents made it that far.

    Now I can't even imagine having a wedding, but my partner wants one, and ultimately I do want to have an occasion that allows my family to gather in happiness. It's so emotional just thinking about it. I will remember all of these supportive comments, and turn back to them when the real planning starts.

  • Anonymous

    I'm not planning a wedding, and this is not exactly the same thing, but my dad has Borderline Personality Disorder.

    It led to my parent's divorce and both my sister and myself are estranged from him because it took that to preserve our physical and mental health.

    This problem will still be there whenever I do plan a wedding. I already know he won't be there.

  • This isn't quite the same but something I've often thought about. One of my colleagues, a sports columnist, lost his mother the same day as his son was born. He wrote about experiencing joy and loss at the same time and how he now feels about the day. Very touching:;=aU1Ae8ntU2pM

  • emma discovery

    My heart ka-thudded in my chest when I read the title of this post.

    You are so, so not alone. My fiance proposed in October, in front of his parents and mine. His Mom had been diagnosed with kidney cancer 8 months earlier. She died not even a week ago.

    We too are struggling to reconcile mourning the loss of my beloved almost mother-in-law with our wedding planning. It's so hard to find a balance between grieving and decision making. I have no advice, I just wanted to let you know we're working through it too. One day at a time, I guess, is the only practical thing. My heart goes out to you.

    • Eme309

      My fiance’s mom was diagnosed with cancer a little over 4 years ago and she always insisted she was going to be okay. We got engaged in Dec and decided to get married sooner, rather than later to be sure she would still be well enough to enjoy herself. She died, rather unexpectedly to us, 3 weeks ago. I have lost all interest in planning this wedding but we still are thrilled about getting married.
      Really, I felt like one of the first people that was actually going to be able to say that I genuinely loved and enjoyed being with my mother-in-law.

      This post has been what I have been looking for for weeks… thank you.

  • Anonymous

    my partner's father died two months after we got engaged- very unexpected and sudden. We hadn't planned a date for our wedding, but I wish that we had at least done a family meal with his family and mine, before he died.
    If we had had the time before, if we had known his time was short, I think we would have done a small family and friends ceremony ASAP. The most important people on your wedding are the family and friends who taught you how to love in the first place.

  • I am so sorry you are going through such pain during this time. I have not been through what you are going through, but I can relate to having a wedding day that mixes profound sadness and joy. My best friend (who was also my matron of honor) lost her father to cancer the week before our wedding, so she was in mourning and unable to come, and I was unable to fly to be with her and her family during that dark time. I hurt so much for them and lost a lot of energy and joy, especially in that last week before the wedding.

    The presence of grief during the wedding time was confusing and painful. How can you celebrate at all during a time like that? But my best friend reassured me that she wanted me to celebrate, and told me that the reality of death and grief was the reason it is so necessary to celebrate life and love.

    So, we made that choice. There were many parts of the week that were not as I had hoped, and there were tears sprinkled throughout. But I learned that joy and sadness can co-exist. I let go of the spreadsheets that I no longer had energy to worry about and gave myself permission to enjoy wearing the veil I bought the hour before I found out her father died.

    Thank you for your honesty in sharing your experience. I would encourage you to make the most of your time with your dad. And to give yourself permission to make wedding choices that make sense for you in your situation. It is okay to let yourself care (or not care) about various wedding details and to create your own non-traditional solutions to honor your reality.

    I think Meg is right about weddings being about hope and I believe embracing hope and love in the darkest times is a gritty experience that requires courage. I wish you deep peace and hope and joy during this difficult time.

  • emma discovery

    "the reality of death and grief was the reason it is so necessary to celebrate life and love."

    Incredibly true, and comforting. Thanks, Adventures Along The Way.

  • KnitterBomber

    Wow, this post couldn't have come at a better time for me. My father was hospitalized last week with an internal bleed and it took them 3 days to find the problem–a bleeding ulcer. In the process of looking for the bleed they found a tumor on one of his kidneys and a spot on his liver. He was also just diagnosed with prostate cancer less than a month ago. My father is stable now, but my fiance and I are preparing to deal with many uncertainties over the next nine months while we plan our wedding which is set for Sept. 25th. My dad has had many health issues over the years (heart problems and 2 cancers to be more specific) and I have always known that losing him before he had a chance to walk me down the aisle would be a possibility. We are so close…now all I can do is hope for the best and try not to let the scary "what if" thoughts overtake my joy in the process.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. Wishing you all so much strength and love.

    I wanted to share something that's a little bit different, but may be useful to someone at some point:

    My cousin got married a few years after her brother died of cancer (it was a horrible grief for our family). At her wedding, the officiant said some loving words in memory of her brother. Both my cousin and her about-to-be-husband cried.

    My cousin's bridesmaids were standing beside her and gave them tissues when necessary. We all took a moment to acknowledge the loss.

  • I have no advice, but am feeling incredibly humbled by and grateful for a community of strangers who can write so honestly and eloquently about such hard topics. Thank you, all.

  • I don't have any words of advice that could compare to these beautiful ladies', but my heart and virtual hand to hold are both going out to you and your family!

  • We lost two loved ones during the course of our wedding planning, very close together, for us it ended up informing a lot of our decision about the wedding as we found ways to incorporate their spirits and memories. We ended up doing favors (which I was ready to skip) because we found a way to make them an homage to our loved ones. We also requested donations in honor of them instead of gifts on our registry, and had photos of them at the gift/guest book table. Do what feels right to you. I would say go ahead and plan to have him walk you down the isle, if that means you're pushing him in his wheel chair, or holding a photo of him in a tux instead of a bouquet (or in one arm with bouquet in another, or walk with someone holding his photo) – then that's all fine too, it really won't affect other planning. Do what is most meaningful and comforting to you.

  • Anonymous

    My parents found themselves in a similar situation, trying to time their wedding between my father's mother recovering from back surgery and my mother's mother cancer. My parents' wedding was the last time my mother's mother left the house. And she had to leave so soon after the wedding that there aren't any pictures of her there. That's the one thing my mother regrets, the lack of pictures. Take pictures now with your fiancĂŠ and father.

    My mother does say though that it happened at a good time. She'd been real close to her mother, and my father stepped in to be my mother's new best friend just as her mother was stepping to the other side.

    I wish you peace and love.

  • My heart goes out to you…I think perhaps in a moment like this you don't need to plan exact details like a father daughter dance or where he will be in pictures, perhaps just embrace that he is there for this part of it, take photos, talk and share your love with each other and your fiance now and if he does not make it to the wedding then remember him with some words or whatever feels right. Let the gathering of friends and family on your wedding day bring you comfort and joy. Wishing you and your family the best…

  • This is one of my deepest, deepest fears. That something will happen to one of our parents, or even worse, my fiance prior to our wedding. I cannot even begin to fathom how I would handle it. Even thinking about the remote possibility brings tears. I am so sorry that you are going through this rough time. I wish I had words of advice or tips to give. Alas, I'm at a complete loss. However, I will pray for you, hopefully, you don't mind. God bless.

  • oh wow, let me just say that a lot of us know what you are going through. my sister was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, and when we got engaged, she was cancer free. we found out about 3 months into our engagement that the cancer had come back and that she would need a very aggressive stem cell transplant. i very briefly discussed it in my own blog, but basically, about 3 months before our wedding, my family told me that my sister (and maid of honor) would most likely be in the hospital on the opposite side of the country on our wedding day, and that i should either make my peace with that or postpone the wedding. hearing that was like a dagger in my heart. i sobbed nonstop the entire day. my fiance almost ended up taking me to the ER because i was so distraught. and i couldn't even begin to reconcile the grief i was feeling with the joy i wanted to feel.

    by some great miracle, she recovered enough to be there on the big day, but not before telling me that i deserved to be 100% happy on my wedding day and not postpone or cancel because of her. it may not make you feel better, but you really are not alone. a lot of us have been through this.

  • hey lady. it sucks. there's no getting around it.

    wedding planning brings up so many emotions. my father died 6 years ago, and never has the pain been so intense as it has been through wedding planning. (than it was that first year.)

    it comes up constantly: "father giving you away?" "father daughter dance?". and it's no. no.

    but honoring him: yes. HELL YES. i'm having his sister, my favorite aunt, read a poem of remembrance, for him and other loved ones who aren't with us. it's poppies by mary oliver. it's about how happiness and light comes through darkness, and it's good, and it will come.

    but the today stuff: be in the moment with him. had i known my dad would have died three weeks after being admitted to the hospital, i would have been there everyday, all day long. so be in the moment, make memories with your fiance now. and take photos.

    people will handle the last minute changes with grace and love. and remember to love yourself through this time. be gentle with yourself.

  • and thank you meg. for saying all the things that people don't talk about.

    eff napkins with our names on them. this is the real meat of it all.

  • Anonymous

    You really aren't not alone. last year I was bridesmaid at a wedding where the grooms little brother had passed away and the grooms health was a question mark, they decided the wedding for them was about the future and they would focus on that and the joy. illness and death was ignored, it was just given a back seat – and considering the pain everyone family and friends had felt it was so lovely to have that one day focusing on all the positives. The little brother was remember in stories during the speeches, and the groom got to pretend for a little while at lest that he was sick.

    This wouldn't work for everyone but it worked for these guys, I guess thats where its hard. Personally I would ask my father what he would want for me, my future and the day.

  • I was there, and I tell you, you'll make it.

    My mother was initially diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2004. She was a shining star, a fighter, and she beat that cancer and the prognosis of 2 years. She was still with us when my now husband asked her for blessing in 2007. We were engaged in 2007 and set our wedding for April of 2009.

    In July 2008, the cancer came back with vengeance. It spread quickly. The doctor had assured us she would be able to make it to our wedding in April, but in mid-December 2008, we planned a private family ceremony for New Years Eve because her health was deteriorating so rapidly. New Years wasn't quick enough – she passed on December 22, 2008.

    The four months between her funeral and my wedding were the most emotionally tumultuous days of my life. I wish I could tell you how I got through it, but to be honest, I'm still going through it.

    I was able to incorporate her memory in the wedding in several ways. We had a destination wedding in Jamaica and we scattered her ashes in the Caribbean a couple days before the ceremony. I wore her jewelry for the ceremony and had a photo charm of her wrapped around my bouquet. I also had a memorial table set up in her honor for the reception. I can certainly tell you that we all felt her presence on the wedding day.

    Another interesting note about life and death, celebration and grief. My younger sister, who was also my maid of honor, got pregnant on our destination wedding trip. She's due at the end of January, but I think the wee one will probably come in February, making her a Pisces, just like our mom. ;) It's kinda weird how that cycle of life works.

  • I went to a good friends wedding two years ago and the bride's mother was being treated for bone cancer at the time. They had hoped she would be able to attend their wedding Colorado but she was too weak and unstable from the chemo to fly out there and attend. The bride had hoped to walk down the aisle with both of her parents but instead was escorted by her father, They had a web cam set up, capturing the entire ceremony, and I remember my friend walking part way down the aisle and turning and waving at the camera to her mother. It was a really beautiful moment, I know they had hoped beyond hope that her mom would be able to attend but they made her a part of the ceremony even though she couldn't.

    I'm sorry for what you are going through, nothing will make it easier. My father passed away when I was 7 and I've often wondered who would walk me down the aisle and who would dance with me on my big day. And over time I've come to realize that the most important thing is having my father in my heart. a good family friend is walking me down the aisle, and we aren't having a parent/child dance, its just not something that is essential to our ceremony. I met a bride once that carried a picture of her father as she walked down the aisle.

    It won't be easy but you'll get through this.

  • This is a topic that has only become real to me in the last few days. My FI just met my mom's parents. The health of both are declining rapidly, and Saturday my grandfather was admitted to the hospital with an infection in his blood, hypothermia, and serious dementia.

    My wedding is in May, and the thought of my grandparents not being there crushes me. I only hope that both of my grandparents are alive and well enough to travel the few hours to our wedding.

    You aren't alone, and it stinks. But weddings are a time for hope and love, celebration and remembrance.

  • Tree

    I'm there. I've been engaged for two years; my FH and I didn't mind a long engagement because we needed to talk about what we want from a wedding. This past spring, we were settling down on a date sometime in Feb or March (coming up soon, now), and in May my dad announced to us he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in his lungs and his liver. The doctor had given him 6-8 months left. From my dad's diagnosis, my FH and I talked about moving the wedding up to July/August, to make sure that Dad could be there. The cancer spread rapidly, and took him in 7 weeks. That's it.
    So now we've stuck with Feb (38 days away today), and I can tell you that it's hard planning a wedding around someone who can't be there. And even though I wasn't going to have my Dad walk me down the aisle, or dedicate a specific dance for him and I, I'm hurting knowing that I can no longer make those decisions because there is no decision to make.
    I don't know what it's like planning and not knowing how much time is left, if he'll make it to the wedding; I do know what it's like worrying about wedding planning and wondering how you're going to do it without him. So I'm so sorry for the situation you're in, but be thankful that your fiancee has the chance to know and love your dad, and that either way your dad is so happy for you right now. Include him in the planning, and spend time with him. Those memories will be some of the most cherished of your day! I hope that everything works out for you guys, and I'll keep you in my thoughts.

  • After battling cancer for several years, my aunt passed away just a few weeks before my sister's wedding last March. During the ceremony, my sister and her now-husband were sure to acknowledge how greatly she and our grandmother were missed. When we were young, we used to always believe that hummingbirds were really the spirit of our grandmother.

    During a final blessing of the newlyweds, two hummingbirds whizzed past my ear and hovered right behind my sister. Of course, both of us immediately thought of the hummingbirds as our grandmother and aunt. It was such an incredible moment for us.

    Though I know that there is nothing that could ever replace your father physically being there at your wedding, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that our loved ones will always be there, even if just in spirit.

  • I am so sorry. My grandfather was admitted to hospice Tuesday evening and I heard him say 'I love you' probably for the last time today. The doctor told us that he will soon enter the next phase of this process… I have ALL of my grandparents. I have lost loved ones but this is so very, very different. I know that losing a parent is also very, very different, but I empathize with you. I am getting married in May and I was SO looking forward to having my grandad there. It breaks my heart that he will not. No, I don't have advice, but I know – at least a tiny bit – how you must feel. I hope that you are able to find ways to cope and that you will have peace with what happens. Having peace with it and making that peace will be a very important step.

    When the doctor told us that we only had a few days with my grandad, the doctor also told him the same and asked if he understood the journey he would be taking. Knowing that my grandad understood and was okay with it made such a difference. No, we don't want him to leave us and neither does he want to leave. Dying sucks. He said it himself when he could still talk last night. Dying totally sucks, but it happens to us all and if we are at peace and can accept the process, it's a little easier to understand.

    I doubt I've helped, but I will certainly be thinking of you and I wish you well, I truly do. Hugs to you!

  • I had to stop reading the comments because I'm just cryingggg, I can't even see to read them. you are all amazingly strong ladies. I have no story to commiserate with you, just consider me a virtual hand-holder.. <3

  • You are not alone. I understand COMPLETELY. And I am so sorry.
    I got engaged in April. My dad was diagnosed with an extremely rare and terminal cancer in August. He passed away in November. My wedding is in July, just 6 months from now.
    When my dad sat my family down at the kitchen table to tell us the news, I knew in my heart that he wouldn't live to see my wedding. I think he knew it too, because he said right then that he wanted my brother to walk me down the aisle. I couldn't even envision having a wedding without my dad there. I tried to move the date up, to have a private ceremony with just immediate family, but he wouldn't allow it. He said that my fiancé and I were already married in his eyes- that he knew we loved each other and that we would take good care of each other and be happy… "The wedding was just a party." So we didn't move the date up, instead we hired a photographer and had family photos taken. I wondered how on Earth I could possibly hold my wedding without him. Like you, however, I couldn’t plan the logistics of my wedding day, because my whole world was up in the air. Then, as my dad got sicker (which happened rapidly) he was less and less himself. The medication made him hallucinate, made him mentally regress, made him weak and helpless. It was so painful to watch, and it put me in the most painful position ever- the thought of "what if he IS alive during the wedding? He won't be able to go like this, how could I possibly get married and act happy and smile, while he is home like THIS?" And then I hated myself for even thinking for a second about life without him. I always felt that if the actual thought of living without him never entered my mind, then somehow I could avoid it happening.
    But that was not the case, and his suffering came to an end. My dad wasn't an overly chatty guy (more the strong, silent type) but I am glad I got to hear him say that he believed in my future marriage, that he liked the man I am marrying, that he thought he was a good guy and that he trusted him. It means so much that my dad bought my wedding dress, and that I was able to bring it home to show it to him. I never talked to him about the wedding more than that.. I know some people feel like it might give someone hope, to strive to live to make it until then, but I did not do that. My dad was suffering so much; I couldn't ask him to strive to live anymore than he did. Talking about my wedding in front of him all the time felt like dangling a carrot that I knew he couldn't reach. I do wish that I had talked to my dad about his thoughts on dying, though. That may sound morbid, but I would have liked to know if he was afraid, or what he thought Heaven was like. I will include remembrance of my dad in my ceremony program, a candle in his memory, a locket with his picture in it around the stem of my bouquet, and a bouquet of white roses will seat in his seat at the ceremony.
    What probably means the most to me is the necklace that was made after he passed away. It's a "thumbie," a necklace pendant with his thumbprint pressed into it. Mine has a small diamond on the pendant, and I'll be wearing it with my wedding dress.
    I am so sorry that you and your family are going through this. I know what it feels like, and my heart aches. You are welcome to contact me if you want to talk (
    Please take good care of yourself. Never feel bad or guilty about being excited about your wedding. Talk to your dad while he can still hear you. Find peace in knowing that he is happy for you, and that he would/will be so proud of you on your wedding day. And finally, what I recite to myself when I feel like I can’t go on.. the first few lines to my favorite poem:
    I carry your heart, I carry it in my heart. I am never without it, wherever I go, you are with me. –e.e. cummings

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    I'm so sorry that you're going through this and I wish I had more words of comfort. All I can say is that when I read the comments suggesting that you bring the wedding forward, or have a small official wedding with just your family as soon as possible, I instantly felt 'yes, that's the right thing to do.' At least, it would be the right thing for me, were I in your situation.

  • SG

    I have nothing to add, but I've been reading this thread throughout the day and my heart goes out to each of you. I don't know any of you, but I will think of you often and hope you find peace.

  • lisa

    Oh I am so sorry. My heart goes out to you, and the many stories on this page.

    My only word is to try to have someone to talk to who is not in the middle of the situation. Mixing grief and hope is exhausting, and it can be helpful to talk to someone who is caring, but not as deeply in the midst of it. A therapist or if you are religious, a trusted clergy-person, can be a great gift.

  • I want to say thank you for your honesty in your posting. As a wedding Officiant, I do a number of weddings every year for couples who are dealing with the illness of family members, a recent death and the most sad- when the bride or groom is the one terminally ill.
    Weddings are supposed to bring joy and love to those around them; often the ill parent is thrilled to be included in the planning.
    It is a fine line of respect and trust that everyone in the party runs to keep the event joyous.

    I did a wedding for a man with an inoperable brain tumor. It was a huge event done on just two weeks notice at his request. It was his last party and everyone pumped it full of fun and excitement. There was a visible gasp during the vows because his vow included, "I will spend the rest of my days with you." He died just a few months later.

  • I'm glad to see there are already many comments of support here. I just wanted to kindly suggest that the person asking the question consider having a small civil ceremony while she knows her dad is present, followed by the "big" wedding.

    Mrs. Pineapple on Weddingbee did something similar to this, as her MIL was very ill. It turned out beautifully.

  • This part of life truly does suck. There is no other way of putting it. Staying positive is essential in times like these. And like another woman said here, the fact that you are getting married now, no matter what proves that you two were meant to be. You may have to lean on your future spouse a little more than usual, but that just means more cuddle time. Definitely important, and I'll be thinking happy thoughts for you.

  • I lost my dad to cancer this past summer, just three weeks before our wedding and the week before my brother's. My husband and I agonized over what to do. We cried. I sobbed. And we decided to, in my husband's words, keep going forward as if we were still having the wedding, until we decided not to.

    Both weddings ended up being held as scheduled, and we each opted to memorialize the missing parent in a different way. Bro chose the empty chair; I opted for a bouquet charm made from a copy of a cherished picture of me and Dad, when I was a baby.

    In planning, there were freak-outs, but we chose to go ahead with hope and joy and involve Dad as much as possible. At the end, we considered having an emergency ceremony in the hospital room, even if it wasn't binding. This ended up not being the right option for us.

    You are not alone. It's awful to face such pain during such a joyous time. I hope your dad will be there to share your joy!

  • I feel lost for words. But just wanted you to know that someone on the out there is wishing good things for you and your Dad. x

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this and all the comments. My fiance and I are going through similar situation and I'm glad to read everyone's thoughts. My fiance's father was diagnosed with cancer in Oct. 2009 and is not expected to live past the end of 2010. We got engaged in Jan. 2010 and have struggled a lot with how to plan our wedding. Even if we rush to have a wedding in the next few months, there is no guarantee he would be well enough to be there. And if he is really sick, my fiance's mother might not be able to attend because she would need to be with him. But my fiance does not want to put off planning indefinitely because he thinks the wedding will be a fun thing for people to look forward to during this sad time. As of now, we're planning to get married in summer 2011. My fiance's father will probably not be there, which is a hard reality to deal with.

    We've decided not to have a small ceremony before the wedding. We are having an engagement dinner with just our immediate families in a few weeks so the families can meet each other. My fiance's father has told him that he's happy we're getting married, which means a lot to me. It's a hard situation, but I hope our wedding will be a time of happiness and celebration.

    All my best!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post! I too have felt very alone on this point as we've planned our wedding. My mom had been chronically, and then seriously, ill for several years before my fiance and I got engaged in May 09. She was so excited to help us plan the wedding. She hosted an engagement party for us in June (the last time many family saw her before her death) and got to go wedding dress shopping with me before she passed away in Sept 09. So while I'm left with the sad reality that my mom did not live to see our wedding, I know how happy she would have been about every detail of the event – and most importantly, how much she would NOT have wanted me to be sad and stressed that she isn't there. I think all we can do in a situation like this is to be grateful for the time we had, and the joy we shared with our loved ones. When we marry in four months, I'll be wearing the dress my mom helped me pick out. I'll miss her like heck, but I'll be comforted by the many other people there who will be missing her like heck too. That's the best tribute I think you can give someone.

  • Kat

    My heart goes out to you and your family.
    I find myself in a similar situation. My Mother passed away quite unexpectedly ten days ago and my wedding is supposed to be in August this year.

    Today is the first time I have checked out APW since I found out my mother was being rushed to hospital three weeks ago and what do I find? A post from Meg about this very topic that no one wants to speak about.

    I've had people ask me about my wedding at my mother's funeral. (SO upsetting and infuriating). Why they ask I have no idea.

    In your your situation I say do what feels right for you and your fiance. Only you know what the relationship you have with your Dad is like and how much it means to you. So you're in the best position to honor it as you see fit.

    I hope and pray that you will find the courage and strength to guide you through this difficult time.
    When I light my Mothers candle each day I will send up a prayer that your father is able to be with you on your wedding day.
    I wish you all the best.

  • You're not alone. My fiance's father has had cancer for a few years. We got engaged this past January and were planning a wedding in January 2011. Then we got news that his dad wasn't doing so well. So we moved the wedding to June and cancelled the idea of making it a destination wedding in favor of getting married where his dad is so he could make it. June is also when his brother will be on leave from the military.

    Then we got news that he had six months, but I was so excited that he could make it to our wedding in June and we could all be together.

    Today we got news that he's hardly able to get out of bed anymore and June isn't looking so realistic after all. He's 800 miles away. My fiance is getting a one-way ticket to go be with him; I don't have the luxury of working from out of town like he does. I'm a little lost as to how to proceed but I am glad to know I'm not alone. Feel free to email me at

  • Kim

    im extremely glad that i just found this website. my dad was just diagnosed with stage 3 liver cancer a week ago and my wedding is in two months. i cant imagine the day without him and we are hoping the chemotherapy will remove his cancer and he will be able to attend our wedding. we’re keeping as positive as we can with this diagnosis. its good to know that other people understand our struggles.

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  • Naomi

    I lost my father in June, and I get married in March of 2011. The thing is he was not sick at all just had a physical, so we have no clue what happened. I was looking foward to him walking me down the aisle to butterfly kisses, so he was cremated and his ashes were put into a locket ans I will wear it on my weeding day while walking to butterfly kisses. But since his death I had not felt like planning and my dad would yell at me if he knew that I stopped the planning because I am grieving. I think with any loss of a loved one id hard because we wanted them to share our joyus day with us, and I personally feel robbed that I do not get to have the phsyical form there. I am glad that I am not alone and that I have found this site.

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  • lisa

    Hi its really good to no that i am not alone 3 weeks ago i took my mum into hospital as she was having trouble brething at only 47 i thought it was astma, like the doctor had told us but no she has the most aggressive kind of lung cancer. i asked her doctor if he thinks she will make it till my wedding which was ten weeks aways…. no such luck…. my mum was going to be the one to walk me down the aisle i couldnt not have her there. we have pushed the wedding forward we are now getting married in two weeks everything feel into place i was able to just change the venue extra. However i cant help thinking that this may be the last big event i will actully have my mum at.i cant even amagine trying to tell my daughter who loves her nana sooo much that her nana has gone to heven, when she passes away. At the same time everything seems so surrheal i dont think i belive my mum has cancer has anyone else felt like this? i dream about my mum having cancer every night since we found out and when i wake up for that brief moment i think it was all just a nightmear, then i realise it not i feel lost. i have a great partner he is my rock atm

  • Justin

    I know this is sort of an old topic, but I’m going through something very similar right now. Looking at the names of the commentators, I might be one of the only dudes on here, so granted, I haven’t been planning my wedding since I was a small child.

    But my mother is terminally ill with Fahr’s Syndrome, and has just entered at-home hospice care. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s. And my other grandmother is just old as hell (early 90s, though very sprightly and fully in control of her faculties). My fiancee’s mother’s boyfriend is 81, and has just developed a strange seizure illness that puts him into a fugue for a few minutes at a time, and no one knows why.

    At the same time, I want to give my fiancee the storybook wedding she’s dreaming of. It’s going to be a battle, but I think it’s one I’m ready for. It’s scary, but I think I’m up for it.

    So letter writer, I know where you’re coming from. We haven’t set a date yet, but we’re going to try to speed it up with the hope that our families will be there. It’s gut wrenching. But I’m really glad this post is here. It’s great to see all of you ladies being so supportive of one another.

    Weddings = hope. I really like that, and I’m going to keep it in mind throughout the entire (almost certainly insanely stressful) process.

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  • lisa

    Reading this made me feel so much less alone. I lost my Dad two years ago to brain/lung cancer and not even a year after his passing my stepdad was diagnosed with lung cancer (not a smoker).His condition has not improved but only seemed to deteriorate and very rapidly at this point. I got engaged in October and my wedding isn’t until this upcoming October. I too am struggling with whether or not to have a small ceremony beforehand so that at least one of my Dads will be able to see me get married. My fiance is supportive of getting married early but I’m not sure what to do.

  • Sam

    I am currently in the same situation.
    My father was diagnosed with Lung cancer a little over a year ago, When this came to light we were already in the process of planning our October 2013 wedding. I remember asking him if we should change the date to summer 2013 (I would have loved to do this, But deep down I know we couldn’t have the budget was tight) He reassured everything would be fine and not to move it. Here I am now 25 day’s till the day and my father has been given 2 weeks by Dr’s (The cancer moved into his brain over the summer and now more in his lungs and liver). I cannot begin to tell you how this has affected my planning and the whole over all feeling of my wedding day.
    On top of his two week diagnosis, He doesn’t even know. The Drs only told the family of it so that he wouldn’t be worried or panicked. Every time he talks to me now he wants to discus the wedding, which is really hard for me to do.

  • Lucy

    I am really glad I found this post and comments. I got engaged in February 2013 and we scheduled our wedding for March 2014. My mum had had cancer for 9 years, she got worse over the course of the year and died 1 week ago (Jan 2014), two months before our wedding. I am really struggling with guilt and regret that we didn’t schedule out wedding to be sooner, around Oct 2013 (I’m in Australia) because we knew there was a risk she wouldn’t make it and that would have increased the odds, and would have turned out to be the right decision. All I can say is I think I was in denial and I didn’t realise how much it would hurt if she didn’t make it, inheindsight I can’t believe we didn’t just make it sooner. We haw also left lots to the last minute and its really hard to being myself to organise things for the wedding now. Most pressing is invitations which we were just about to send (we had sent save the dates so ok or them to only be 2 months before) and thats urgent now but I’m putting it off and don’t know whether to change it so it doesn’t say my mum’s name.

    Mum mum knew there was a good chance she wouldn’t make it and said that she didn’t want us to change the date so we won’t, but I just struggle so much because she knew that risk but I basically ignored it because I got caught up in the whole big wedding idea and thought we needed lots of time. The irony is that now we have even less time and I feel really down about it, but if we had made it sooner we would have for organised and it would have been so happy that mum made it. I feel like I have less excuse because it wasn’t sudden cancer, it was a long time coming and I should have known better. Neither of my sister’s are married so she never got too see any of her kids marry, and it breaks my heart because I had an opportunity to change that and I didn’t.

    • Coolgrl

      Dear Lucy,

      I’m sorry to hear about your mother. My mom was just diagnosed with Stage 3 Small Cell Lung Cancer and my wedding is scheduled for April this year. My mom and I talked for hours about my wedding, but now I have to accept that she may not be there because she is getting weaker and weaker each day. She sleeps about 20 hours a day and when she is not sleeping she is talking to me on the phone. I feel like a deer in headlights because there was no warning. Just a bad cough she had grown used to because of her past experience with pnemonia and copd from her past of smoking.

      I keep staring at my wedding dress and my planner and I just feel so sad I do not know what to do. I don’t even talk about my wedding anymore, unless someone asks, it feels selfish to even mention it.

      • Lucy

        Hi Coolgirl. Thanks for commenting. It’s been a few more weeks for me now and while its still very hard and I continue to struggle with guilt I’m finding I can find some joy thinking about the wedding again, I have to remember that the last thing my mum wanted was for us to not enjoy it. I totally get what you mean about not wanting to talk about it. I’m so sorry this happened to you, this article nails it in saying I just really, really sucks. In a slightly morbid way it is also true that it feels better to know you’re not the only one, but I really hope the best case scenario for you. If you want please post again as you go through it, it helps to vent to someone who understands (no one I know personally can relate) and I’m here to listen/read. It might feel different for you, but for me I wish I had talked more about the wedding to my mum. At the time it felt mean and painful to do that so I held back, but now I’m finding small comforts in details of the wedding she helped decide or at least knew about, I did not expect to feel that at all. Each new thing feels a bit sad that she will never know it. So of you can work up to it and get a chance, maybe try? Please feel free to ask me any questions too.

  • katherine

    Justin, did you ever find out what was wrong with your fiance’s mother’s boyfriend? this was happening to my daddy for 3 years and he’s recently been diagnosed with limbic encephalitis. i wish someone had told me about this condition so I would have known to ask doctors about it sooner. i’m getting married in october and dealing with this is a massive burden right now.

    Did you get to have your wedding? how did you manage to get through all that?

  • Chris

    So I’m getting married this September 2014 and my dad just passed away 4 months ago and the thought of him not being there has killed me on the inside… I have all this anger built up because a father is supposed to be there to walk his daughter down the aisle, dance with her… He was so excited for the big day to arrive and I feel that all got taken away from him and I don’t know what to do! I just want him to feel that he is part of my wedding and let him know how much I miss him! And that we still needed him!

  • Rae

    I’m 25 and currently engaged to an amazing man. He proposed in 2011 and we’ve been saving up for “the wedding of my dreams”, finally after 3 years we set a date, August 16, 2014. My “wedding of my dreams” will never be possible because my father had past away a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I have nothing truly inspirational to say, but I do want you to know that you are not alone. I hope and pray you get the wedding of your dreams and your father makes it. Unfortunately, my fathers death was so sudden I didn’t rush to have my wedding sooner, I wish I had that time. My prayers truly go out to you and all of the other people commenting on this blog.

    • Kat

      My wedding is also august 16 2014 and my
      Father just past away a week ago it’s been very hard and Im torn on what do.

  • Kina

    I am currently in the same situation. My father has end stage lung cancer and has continued to beat the odds, but we were just told by the dr they are doubtful he will make it to my August 2 wedding. I live 1000 miles away from him, but the wedding is at his house and I have been going home every chance I can. My heartache is do I have a quick ceremony with him and none of the rest of my family or fiances family just in case? Part of me wants to wait to give him something to hold on for and also, I cant imagine having the best day of my life without him there. I’ve been waiting 36 years for this day and I am no longer happy or excited about wedding planning… I’m just so sad at the thought. This is the worst I have ever felt and I feel lost.

  • Louise

    I just found this article through a Google search. Definitely can relate to this one. My wedding is 8 months away so I am well on my way through planning. But my Mum’s just been diagnosed with the final stages of ovarian cancer, spread into her liver. Not sure what to do.