We Planned Our Wedding in 40 Days So My Mom Could Be There

Her terminal diagnosis put my inspiration boards into perspective

July 16, 2016, was not the original date we chose for our wedding, but it turned out to be the best one. Grant and I had been together for eight years when he asked me to spend the rest of our days together. We had been dating since high school, and we had known for years that it wasn’t a matter of if we were going to get married, but rather when.

Even after our engagement, we didn’t have any strong feelings on when we should get married, so a bit arbitrarily, we chose a date in April 2017. My Pinterest boards quickly flooded with wedding inspiration from across the Internet. I followed every wedding planner, photographer, and florist I happened across on Instagram. I spent hours on end pouring through beautiful images of glowing brides, luscious florals, and picturesque tablescapes. With our wedding nearly a year and a half away, every idea felt within reach. We had plenty of time to save money, and plenty of time to accomplish all of the elaborate DIY projects that I was bookmarking.

A couple of months later, my mom received a diagnosis that left her with three to four months to live. As I wept in her arms, my mom assured me that in the time she was given, she would help us to plan a beautiful wedding, and made us promise not to stress over the wedding for her sake. It wasn’t her help planning the wedding that I needed, though. What I needed was for her to be there on my wedding day: getting ready together, walking me down the aisle with my dad, and tearing up the dance floor with me at the reception.

In the days that followed that heartbreaking news, things quickly came into perspective. We made the decision to move the wedding, and I called our venue, photographer, and DJ—the only three vendors we had booked at the time—to explain our decision. When I told them we wanted to get married within the next two months, I did not expect the outpouring of support that we received. Within a matter of hours, our wedding date had been changed to July 16, 2016. A dueling sense of peace and exhilaration washed over me when I finally slowed down to count that we had exactly forty days to plan our wedding.

The months of collecting wedding inspiration quickly came to an end. Decisions needed to be made quickly, and too much inspiration made for indecision. I ignored the wedding checklists prompting me to begin my exercise routine, send save the dates, and hire a calligrapher. The shortened timeline was a blessing in a sense—we chose what we liked, and we didn’t have time to second-guess those decisions. Ultimately, with the help of our family, friends, and some truly amazing wedding vendors, we had a beautiful wedding, and most importantly, our loved ones were there to celebrate the beginning of our marriage with us.

Looking back on our wedding, I sometimes find myself comparing it to the weddings I see when I’m scrolling through the “highlight reel” that is my social media feeds. Styled photo shoots and the unlimited budgets of the celebrity wedding planners I followed when we first got engaged started making me feel badly that our wedding did not look as picture-perfect. Should we have spent more on flowers? Chosen different centerpieces? Hung more twinkle lights? I let myself fall victim to the comparison trap, and for a while, I let it cast a shadow over our perfect wedding day.

I am thankful every day that my mom remained well enough to help me pick out my wedding dress, walk me down the aisle arm-in-arm with my dad, and celebrate on the dance floor with us at the reception. I struggle to find the right words to capture the spirit of our wedding, but there was no denying the pure love and bliss that radiated amongst us and filled the room that night. Everyone was subtly reminded that life is precious and these are the moments worth celebrating… and celebrate we did!

Almost three months ago, just weeks before that April wedding date that we had originally chosen, I had to say goodbye to my mother. I was reminded once again how grateful I was to have those moments with my mom on my wedding day. The reality is, it wasn’t the flowers, the centerpieces, or the twinkle lights that made our wedding so beautiful. Instead, it was the overwhelming joy that we all felt. You can’t add that to your Pinterest board, and you don’t capture that in a perfectly styled tablescape.

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  • Ashley Weckbacher

    Your piece was beautiful. I wish I could have shown this to my mother while we were planning, to explain to her the things that actually mattered — which was not whether or not we had enough flowers. And pinterest is pretty, but, well, “Pretty isn’t a feeling.”

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

    (On an unrelated note, the venue in your photos looks like Mill1 which is an incredible venue. I bet your wedding was stunning)

  • This made me get teary over breakfast. Thank you for sharing your story about your beautiful, meaningful celebration. I am sorry for your loss of your mom…

    • Laura C

      Teary? I’m full-on sobbing. And it looks like a beautiful wedding.

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  • Sarah Hart

    I think that your pictures totally look pinterest ready! It totally is the feeling that matters the most and I think that shines through in all of the pictures. You and your mother look beautiful.

  • Abs

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss. Your wedding looks so beautiful, but I understand what it feels like to yearn for the wedding that might have been, in the world where this loss didn’t happen. Those feelings are okay too.

  • Kaitlyn

    Omg that picture of your mom looking at you while you’re on the dance floor <3 I'm so glad you got to share that day with her!

  • Megan Woodrich

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story and wedding.

  • Sarah

    who’s cutting all the onions in my office???

  • SarahRose472

    The joy and love may not be visible in a tablescape, but it definitely IS visible in these beautiful photos. You and your whole family are radiant. Congratulations on your wedding, and I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Staria

    You and your mum <3 <3 Your pictures are lovely, it was beautifully styled, you look beautiful, your mum is gorgeous, you and your husband look very happy, and the feeling just radiates out of these photos. I'm really sorry about your mum. Look at what you achieved… what a triumph. It's a terrible hurt but this kind of experience helps shape how you approach other difficulties. Xx

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  • suchbrightlights

    What a blessing that your mom was able to attend. I’m sure you treasure those beautiful photos.

  • Alison

    What a beautiful post. My father was diagnosed with cancer a few months before my wedding and he passed away 6 months after it. It some sense it was really his last really “good” day and I wouldn’t change anything. He was happy, smiling and dancing the whole night (with the help of some carefully timed chemo treatments).

    Thank you for the reminder that we could have added a few more lights, spent a little more on flowers and done things a little differently, but what really mattered was the joy and love on that day. I’m sure you’ll treasure every photo you have with your mom as I do with my dad. <3

  • Alexandra

    This is what it’s all about. A great reminder.

  • EF

    this is so beautiful – thanks for writing it. I totally get what you’re saying on the comparing to others – we got married young and quickly because my partner’s mother was diagnosed with late stage cancer. we made a lot of decisions based on what would make her happy, and oh she was so happy that day, and it was the last time she saw much of the extended family on my partner’s side (and it was cool she got to meet some of my people too!). i get frustrated when people see our wedding pictures now, almost 3 years later, and say something like ‘you chose THAT?!? i can’t believe that!’ and I have to shrug it off and say ‘well, it made the boy’s mom happy and I didn’t care that much about anything else.’

    so yeah. it was really really nice to see that in writing.

    i’m sorry about your mom. I’m really glad she was so well for your day, and that you got those memories.

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  • Esther

    This, so much love for this. My dad died suddenly six months after we got married and the photos we have are a treasure. The love and tenderness and joy and sadness in these photos are unreal.

    So beautiful.

  • Diana

    Just read this and am crying my heart out this morning You really do have amazing parents. I hope you have many years of happiness.

  • Anneke Oosterink

    Oh man, too real. My now husband then boyfriend told me when my dad was maybe dying that we’d get married soon (we’d been seeing each other for two years at that point) so my dad got to be there, in the end, he recovered, and got to be there with me on my wedding day this year (three years later), which was another difficult thing, since my mum was going through chemo right then. She’s still in the middle of treatment, so we don’t really know what’s going to happen, but both my parents were at my wedding, and I am so grateful for it.

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