My Mom Died Before My Wedding

Planning a wedding without your mother

My Mom died before my wedding. Three years AFTER I met The One and two years BEFORE we decided to finally make it “official”.  I would like to clarify one thing at the start; Mom and I were NOT best friends.  In fact, I avoided her phone calls for the greater part of my late adolescent/early adulthood (20s-30s) life.  She even had her very own skin crawling ring tone (“Rock Lobster” by the B-52s) so that I didn’t have to make the effort to cross the living room to check the caller ID.  Don’t get me wrong, I love (ed?) her bigger than the expanding universe, I just couldn’t bear to talk with her…she was a never ending fountain of questions bigger than the Bellagio.  “How’s Justin? How are you? How are the cats? How is work?  How is the weather?”  How ‘bout we take a break with the interrogation!  Now, with her gone, I would give up 20 years of my OWN life just to hear that ring…but that isn’t what this post is about.  It is about how I am managing to plan a wedding, MY wedding, without her…the all-star cheerleader of my life.

I came to call it the “Missing Mother Malady.”  A sickening cycle of excitement and joy followed (approximately 8 hours later) by overwhelming grief and anger that permeated every step in the planning process from the easy days (what’s my color palet) to the hard choices (how do you honor your dead mother in your ceremony).  If you have had a profound loss in life, you are too familiar with this cycle; if not, I can explain further.

Take for example my first encounter with MMM, the regional Bridal Showcase. Sure it is the quintessential gathering of the WIC, but who among us has not gone for the free cake samples and ridiculously choreographed runway show?  I was so geared to go to mine.  I bought the tickets early and made up little peel and stick name and address labels to enter all the free drawings.  It was the first big event of the planning adventure ahead; my maid of honor and I were giddy like the first day of school about what we would encounter.  We spent the afternoon oogling multi-tier cakes and free range organic farm caters knowing full well we would steal their ideas to share with a caterer we could afford. It wasn’t until I was home, detailing our adventure to my groom-to-be, that I felt the anger building.  All of a sudden I was criticizing everything.  From the string quartet that played the same song all day to the “Romance Party” sales girl (who somehow convince me to book a dildo party, how, I’ll never know). True venom was coming out of my mouth (but just moments ago everything was so silly and cute, what happened?).  It wasn’t until I started sobbing about how none of the sample gowns could have possibly fit me that I realized…I needed my mom!  Mom would have had just the right thing to say when I saw how my cute size 6 maid of honor fit perfectly into the gorgeous sage wedding dress that wasn’t made in my size.  Mom would have known just how to sooth the anxiety I was feeling over finally realizing what an enormous task I had just assigned to myself.  And above that…Mom would have been MORE excited than even Justin and I were about what we were doing.

It hit again throughout the planning events, even during the small chats with office mates about the event status.  I was plagued by MMM so drastically that I actually STOPPED planning the event completely about halfway in.  I pleasantly diverted questions and never brought up the subject even with the Maids who were floundering for information about what my expectations were for the bridal shower and bachelorette party.  I just couldn’t handle the emotional roller-coaster of loving the feeling of being a bride only to be followed by the sheer devastating disappointment that mom wouldn’t be there to play silly games and make a teary eyed toast.  It was like losing her all over again; only again, and again, and again, and again.

Months later I picked up the planning book again, determined to find the joy.  And I have successfully coordinated the project team of “team wed” well enough to get to our big day mostly intact.  But that hasn’t stopped me from sometimes wandering around going “something is missing…oh right…”

How have I overcome my “Missing Mother Malady” you ask?  I haven’t.  Never will.  I will have MMM for the rest of my life.  It is a chronic disease.  I am 100% sure it will flare up again once Justin and I decide to buy a house, when we’re pregnant for the first (second and third) time, at every birthday moving forward, forever.  But here are a few things I have learned along the way…

1.  Your bridemaids are not your mother. For better or worse they more than likely have conflicted feelings about your big day ranging from excitement to frustration, from “I will totally be there” to “When did my weekend become all about you?”  The sooner I fully embraced that the one person on my little bit of the earth who would have dropped everything for months on end just to hit every garage sale this side of the Mississippi looking for shabby-chic modern décor was gone, the sooner I was able to stop being so focused on what my lovely Maids weren’t doing and instead focus on how their totally unique personalities and talents were adding to the overall experience.

2.  Your groom is not your mother. And thank god, right!   Ever supportive and uplifting mine still lacks the ability to know with the accuracy only a mother can have when “nothing” and “fine” don’t really mean “nothing” and “fine”.  So when I finally gave up hoping he would get it, and finally started saying simply “I miss my mom” every time I felt it, the sooner we got on the same page about how complex and difficult a daughter-sans-mother existence can be.

3.    Your father is not your mother. Gone are the days when I could rely on mom’s “just because” gifts of money to help pay for those totally unnecessary designer shoes and hello to the days of dad not understanding what the big deal is if he wants to wear black jeans instead of suit pants.  All I can say is… you’re right, they ARE black…

4.  When in crisis, hire help!  “Hire” can be a relative term for you…maybe your support system has plenty of candidates who can be “mother-by-proxy” who you can sit down with and really explain what you need during this time (for me it was unconditional positive affirmations constantly and boundless energy and desire to make this the best party ever).  I hired a wedding coordinator who actually almost ended up paying for herself in all the dollars and sense (get it… sense…) she saved us with other vendors.  But more than that, she brought with her an air of confidence and assuredness that only those who have “been there” know, kinda like your mom.

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  • saveroomforpi

    Best wishes to you and your fiance on your upcoming wedding. The photos in this post are so happy and beautiful.

  • ah goodness thank you so much for this post

    My Mum died 8 years ago, and I really feel like I enterered a new phase of mourning when we got engaged, I realised that she isn’t coming back. That sounds ridiculous, but the wedding made her not being here so much more final. But I have amazing friends, many of whom have lost their Mums too (its actually a bit of a totally inappropriate joke amongst us). But nothing will make up for her not being on the day, no one else will be as excited as she would have been about tiny details that only she would know matter to me, no one else will rush around in quite the same way making every one feel welcome – and in a way I’m more comfortable knowing that these gaps won’t be filled – she isn’t going to be there and in a way I’d rather feel her absence because it’s the closest I’m going to get to her actual presence.

    As Lynn says so perfectly;

    ‘How have I overcome my “Missing Mother Malady” you ask? I haven’t. Never will. I will have MMM for the rest of my life.’

  • While (1) is true, I want to say, you can turn to your bridesmaids for support. I was a bridesmaid for a dear friend whose mother had passed away when she was ten years old. After her wedding, she told me that she had gone to pick up her wedding dress from the bridal shop all alone, and cried all the way home because she had to be alone because her mom wasn’t there. I know I couldn’t make it better that her mom wasn’t there, but I wish she had called me just so she wouldn’t have been alone.

    Hopefully your bridesmaids are people you can call when you are missing your mom particularly hard, and get some love and support from them.

    • Heather

      I’m not quite sure how to phrase this, since it’s really sweet that you wanted to be there for your friend. For me, though, going alone to pick up my bridal gown was difficult. However, I think it might have been even harder had I gone with a friend, who would have served as a very tangible reminder that she was there because my mom could not be. It’s kind of like my decision to walk down the aisle alone (my dad is also deceased). Yes, I could choose another family member or friend to walk with me, but it’s just not the same.

      • I understand what you’re saying about how sometimes, having someone there who’s not your mom would just make it worse. Definitely, in any case when you don’t want company, no obligation to get your bridesmaids involved (and if they try to get involved anyway, they need to step back when you say you’d rather be alone). But in that particular case with that particular person, things she said let me know that she hadn’t wanted to be alone right then. From a bridesmaid’s perspective, I saw a situation where my friend had felt like she couldn’t or shouldn’t call us because she felt like she shouldn’t need someone with her or shouldn’t burden us with her grief, when she actually wanted someone with her. And I wish she’d felt like she could call me.

        Does that make sense?

  • Shawna Johnston

    My mom is alive, but is very much emotionally unavailable. While I chose a dress and some vague color scheme, she became an alcoholic (she has never had even a glass of wine before this), had an affair, and eventually has decided to file for divorce. The first divorce court hearing is exactly 10 days before my wedding. And while I am actually in favor of this divorce (because my father was abusive for many years), at the same time, it totally sucks that I am the oldest child, the first to get married, and my mom hardly even notices. It’s as though the relationship we had years ago is dead. And it’s sad. And you are right, Lynn, that other people cannot replace that. My grandmother has been very involved, and my “bridal brigade” has been great, and my fiance is wonderful…. but they aren’t my mom. And for a long time I wanted to have someone else to share the story of the motherless wedding. So thank you.

  • adria

    I still have my mother, but my Groom-to-Be lost his father one month before we met. This post truly helped shed light on “his side”. I’ve been thinking about how we are going to honor his father at our ceremony, and how I can possibly relay to him and his family how truly sorry I am that I didn’t meet the main man who helped to shape my one true love into the man he is today. The man I’m choosing to marry. This is hard stuff, and one of the many, many reasons I love this website. It’s not all about the rainbows and butterflies – it’s the ooey gooey wedding stuff mixed in with the gritty tough bits.

    Best wishes to you and yours and thank you so much for sharing!

    • Morgan

      My husband gave a toast to my late father at our wedding. A meaningful snippit is in my wedding graduate post (Morgan + David). The minister also talked about my father during the ceremony. It doesn’t have to be much to be really meaningful to everyone. A few words, a toast, a meaningful pause…

    • My groom lost his mother the year before we got engaged. I had become close to her and we both miss her, though I can’t imagine the depth of his loss. We’re looking for ways to honor her, and I am totally stumped about what to do during the “mother/son” dance time since my dad definitely wants a “father/daughter” dance. :(

      • Beth

        He could either not dance, or dance with your mom, or dance with an aunt or grandma who is close to him. I danced with my groom’s dad.

  • Lynn, I’m very sorry for your loss, and thanks for writing this post.

    My mom has been ill for most of my life with various maladies, and now she just found out she has to undergo a year’s worth of surgeries ASAP, leaving her bedridden for much of that time. We were supposed to get married in January, but our wedding has been in limbo for a little while. Now we’re planning to push our wedding back exactly one year, in the hopes that by then my mother will be fully recovered and feeling great, but I am terrified that she won’t make it through.

    My father passed away when I was young, my grandparents are no longer with us, and I don’t want to stand up at my wedding without the sheltering influence of a single person who came before me in my direct line. The only silver lining to all of this is that I really understand that death is a part of life, and we need joyous celebrations, even when they bring up a lot of pain, to temper the grief. Oh, and, I am so thankful for my sisters.

  • I agree that this is an excellent post for those whose mothers are deceased.

    But I can’t agree that it’s a post for “people with estranged mothers, or mothers who can’t be emotionally trusted.”

    Our fully alive mothers are NOT going to be scouring the sales to find our perfect decorations/accessories/whatever. They DON’T know the difference between nothing and “nothing”. We don’t have “Missing Mother Malady” because they’re not missing… they’re right there but just not that interested in us.

    Yeah, there’s a sort of mourning that we need to do every time we wish they were involved. Yeah, we screw it up and need a heap of non-maternal comfort and support every time we call them and try to involve them and get slapped down for our trouble. But dealing with alive mothers who don’t give a (blank) is an entirely different ball game to coping with the loss of a mother who would be involved if only she were alive.

    • … and just to be clear, just in case… I’m not saying that one situation is easier or harder or more upsetting or anything. Only that they’re very different things.

      • I totally agree. I cannot imagine the hurt that comes with having a mom in your life and then not having her at all. There is a grief that comes with that that is indescribable. But it is different from having an estranged or an emotionally unavailable mother, for sure. It’s not exactly grief that we feel, but a palpable pain that is tied up in many different emotions.

    • meg

      Let me be more specific: my mom is alive, and could not help me plan a wedding, and this post is for me. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. I provide a huge range of content here, so I’m sure there are other posts that will work for you.

      • Morgan

        Meg, that makes a lot of sense, and I don’t disagree with you . That said, as someone who got married with a dead dad and emotionally absent mother, they felt VERY different. There was grief and sadness and loss in both, of course. Hell, there was feeling betrayed by both as well. But they weren’t the same things. My dad was dead and couldn’t be there. My mother couldn’t be bothered, or so it felt. They are crushing on totally different levels. Plus, after your mother “betrays you by not being there” (or so it feels in your childish heart), you still have to deal with them after the wedding. The dead person is still dead, and I do sadly believe that until you lose a parent, it’s hard to comprehend what that feels like.

        Actually, I think it’s that this feels most true for mothers like yours and Lynn’s who COULDN’T be there. A lot of people commenting are people whose mother’s CHOSE not to be there the way they had hoped, and that’s a different thing.

        Both, however, suck, and hugs to everyone who has to deal with any of it.

        • meg

          Right. But I’m not claiming they are the same. They are NOT the same. But I am claiming this post is possibly helpful, even if your situation is different. It’s helpful to me. Not in a “Oh me too exactly!” way, but in a balm for the soul way.

          This controversy is a little silly, y’all. If you don’t find the post helpful, whatever, it’s not helpful, next. If you do, rad. No one is saying this is the same as your situation, I just dedicated the post to all of us dealing with mom-wedding issues. If you want it NOT to be dedicated to you, ok, I un-dedicate it. DONE.

          • Morgan

            I think what you’re seeing is a lot of people who have issues with their mothers and weddings and want to talk about it. A future post, perhaps? :)

          • I apologize if it came off as controversy, that was not my intent. I was just agreeing with Mary’s point. I don’t expect all posts to be tailored to me, nor would I want them to be. I just wanted to back up someone else’s thoughts. Again, apologies if it came out wrong.

          • meg

            If other people want to write about their experances with their mothers, of course I would love to post it. But today, we’ve got Lynn, and she’s awesome. She speaks to a universal truth with her particular story.

          • Please excuse me. I didn’t mean to be rude, or upset you, or make you feel attacked or introduce “silly controversy”, just to present my own viewpoint. Apparently this has offended you which was not my intention.

            I had understood that respectful disagreement and polite debate would be welcomed here – since I have clearly made you feel uncomfortable by disagreeing with you on a minor point, I can only apologise for my wrong impression and, as you request, keep my non-conforming thoughts to myself in future.

          • ddayporter

            Mary, please. I didn’t get the feeling Meg was offended, but I also didn’t get a “respectful” tone from your original comment either. We have Lynn here, baring her soul and trying to reach people, and we have you, making an issue out of nothing. I think Meg was just trying to say your point is valid for you, but let’s try to focus more on what Lynn’s saying, for those who do actually relate to it. it’s not about you not being allowed to express a dissenting opinion.

    • I agree and disagree. Probably it depends on individual situations. As a lesbian daughter of very Catholic parents you can imagine how much my mother wanted anything to do with my wedding. It’s a miracle she came at all. And while it’s true that a mother who would have done these things if she were still around is different than a mother who chooses not to, there is still (or at least was for me) a deep sense of mourning that comes with each little thing you have to do without your mom. For me, it was really difficult because I had witnessed first hand how excited and involved she was with all the little details of my (straight) sister’s wedding a couple years before, and it really sucked to feel that absence from my own wedding.

    • Theresa

      This post is also similar for fathers who have passed on as well. Man, the worse thing about scheduling my wedding was that my Dad really got me, and understood my artistic edge that made my mom cringe and tell me it’d be …”easier to do it the same as everyone else. Why do you go out of your way to be different?”

      Because I guess that I had MFM…or maybe Fatherless, Feeling Frustration…because it’s hard to plan a day “about you as a couple”, when your number one fan is missing. Boy, do I know what you mean, Lynn. And with a mother who is grieving through the planning process, it was as though I lost more than just one person for awhile there.

      Props for being strong and muscleing through it! :) Being on the other side is a little easier when planning is so rough.

  • Throughout the wedding planning process I have been slightly (ie a lot) cross with my Mum. Firstly she didn’t like my dress, and she told me so and made me feel HORRIBLE for months, then she loved it and told everyone apart from me. Then she didn’t like this and that and then she wanted to be involved all the time or didn’t want to be involved at all. Really she just hasn’t made it easy and she hasn’t been what I thought it would be ideal for her to be.

    I’ve just realised that what it is really ideal for her to be is my Mum. Contrary, difficult, interfering, sometimes self-centered, overbearing, bonkers and absolutely wonderful … my Mum.

    Thank you for sharing your brave story Lynn, you have humbled me and made me appreciate what I have. Now I have to go and tell my Mum how much I love my dress, again, just in case she missed it the first 73 times.

    • annony mouse

      oy! this is my mum too. She is completely non-helpful and disinterested when I want her help and overbearing when I’m fine on my own. Hello frustration.

      Also, like you, this made me realize I need to count my lucky stars for the frustration I get from her. It’s her, and I am so sorry for those who don’t get to deal with the joys and horrors of planning a wedding with a mum there. hugs to you all.

  • Lynn, thank you for writing this post. My thoughts are with you as you plan your wedding and build your family.

    I definitely fall into the “mother who is emotionally unavailable” and at times “estranged” camp. She is an alcoholic, everyone who knows her is pretty sure she is bipolar, and having her around for LUNCH is an emotionally draining and sometimes traumatic experience. She wasn’t involved at all in the planning, threatened several times to not come at all, and was generally awful. While she did attend, she had some of the nastiest things to say, and we have not spoken since our wedding. However, I did learn something from all of this. Our wedding was about our baby family that we were building (and his family, who is relatively normal) and our friends. For me, those ladies I had stand by me are my family, along with my husband and my in-laws. And our wedding was a way of confirming that. And sort of a good bye to my Mom.

  • Erin

    Thanks for sharing, Lynn. I can identify with a lot of what you talked about. Even though my mom is still alive, she was 8 hours away from where I lived, and 9 away from where we were planning the wedding, so she couldn’t participate in the thrill of planning and helping as much as she would have liked. I felt guilty and sad every time we made choices that she couldn’t be consulted on, simply because of the distance. I tried to make up for the things she couldn’t be a part of, but it still wasn’t quite the same, flipping through wedding magazines by myself, knowing she would have loved to be there with me.

  • Ellen

    I decided to propose to my man because my mother was in declining health and my father died years before I met my man. She died a month before the wedding, which made the whole planning process HELL. My man was teaching in another state. But my friends were absolutely amazing. They were completely there for me. Grief or trauma simplifies the wedding planning process in so many ways. I had just about enough energy to get out of bed. Looking for fancy baskets for the bathrooms? Not a chance.

    We did not memorialize my mom at the wedding because I would have cried like a baby. I wore her jewelry, though, which was quietly very meaningful to me. I had a pretty good relationship with my mom, and I missed her the most on my honeymoon when we were traveling through pretty little towns in Vermont, and I wanted to call her up and tell her about them.

  • Jennifer

    My mother abandoned our family when I was 5. There is no communication. Sometimes I forget what she looks like (although I’m constantly reminded I look like her). From what I hear she has started a new family. It hurts. When I hear other brides complain about their mothers I have to bite my tongue and suppress the urge to berate them. I never thought too much about my wedding day growing up and I certainly thought less about the role my mother would have played. I guess its easier for me because I’ve NEVER known the feeling of working together with her on a project or running to her for help (or a hug) when I get too stressed and just need to cry. Sometimes I feel like a rejected baby squirrel and other times I feel like an empowered female who was able to do it regardless. Honestly though, because of it, I’ve surrounded myself with women who each possess a different set of qualities of a mother I’d like to have; A monster of (or should I say “mother of”) frankenstein group of ladies. They all know my sob story and will let me run into their arms and cry anytime I need to. Knowing I can do that, is all the security I need. And because of them, I won’t think for one second about my dead-beat-mother on our wedding day.

    • Jennifer

      Additionally, my in-laws are WONDERFUL. He has a mother and stepmother. Although I call them by their first names, I am not shy about calling them “Mom” on occasion. It feels SO INCREDIBLY good to say that word. Mom. Mommy. Momma. I don’t ever remember saying those words to anyone.

      • I’m not at the stage yet I think to call my MIL-to be, “Mom” yet but I feel so lucky that she’s amazing and sweet, and we have a great relationship. And I do find comfort in the idea of saying that word again after so long. It won’t be the same, but yet will help denote the special relationship that it is

      • Michele

        It’s funny. When I hear friends complain about having mothers-in-law who sound just awful, I wonder if perhaps girls without “real” moms somehow wind up with the cream of the MIL crop as some kind of cosmic consolation prize.

        I sure as hell did!

  • MMM – great acronym.

    I lost my mother a month before my 16th birthday. I’ve been dealing with MMM for a long time. The anniversary of her passing this year marks a great shift – I have now officially been alive longer without her than I was with her. It floors me whenever I think this. I’ve been through my “sweet sixteen”, my high school graduation, college graduation, grad school graduation, moves overseas….along with the smaller things and the break ups, car accidents, etc and been smacked with MMM on so many occasions to count. However, the being engaged, planning a wedding, preparing for marriage is a doozy, for sure.

    It’s difficult for me to say how she and I would have been during the planning stages – she died when I was 15 so before those days of my early adulthood when hopefully we would have shifted to more of a friendship than strictly caregiver and child. I do know the relationships she had with my older siblings though, and so I’m fairly certain we would have been close and I know that who I am today would have been different.

    I absolutely believe that MMM played a part in deciding that our celebration is going to be smaller, I also know it plays a part in feeling awkward about showers, dress shopping — how I constantly diminish the importance of my wedding and all the planning that goes with it because I feel like sometimes I’m out on an island by myself doing it. I’m so fortunate to have other wonderful and supportive women in my life. But none of them can give me what I want to turn to my mother and receive. But I am getting through it and just try to remind myself how happy she would be for me – but of course sometimes that’s the hardest part, knowing that my fiance never got to meet her (and vice versa). I’ll never be able to watch them have a chat while drinking tea at the kitchen table and tell stories of when I was younger, and what our thoughts for the future are…

    Thank you for sharing today – and being able to put out there what many of us face and struggle with during what is already an exciting, yet stressful time.

    • I say “exactly” again to this….”I also know it plays a part in feeling awkward about showers, dress shopping — how I constantly diminish the importance of my wedding and all the planning that goes with it because I feel like sometimes I’m out on an island by myself doing it.”

    • Kim

      Yeah, I’m going to throw in my two cents about the shower here . . . it was part of the reason why I was really unsure about having one. I was certain that it would hurt me to have all of the women I loved in one room and be missing the biggest supporter or all. But she was there . . . it was okay. I was okay.

  • I’m crying a river right now and want to hug everyone who has commented thus far.

    My mom is present, but oh so far away, and I’m going through major separation anxiety. I also have the first family wedding to happen after the death of my baby sister. I can identify with pieces of this malady.

    Hugs and tears. And I agree with the commenter above who said to tell people around you–some of them will respond poorly and run away. Some of them will say some of the most insensitive things you can imagine. But the ones who will do whatever they can to help you walk through this, who will hug you and cry with you and laugh with you, those ones are priceless.

    And I also love #2. TELL HIM. I think sometimes mine has to be going a bit insane because I say “but my sister won’t see ___” and then cry so many times over, but it’s still all true, even if you’ve said it 53 times in the last month. It gets better but it never goes away.

    • ElfPuddle

      Jolynn, I’m bawling too.
      My mommy and I have a great friendship, and she’d be here to help me with everything…but she lives in Alaska and I’m in Georgia. We picked out my wedding dress last December for a wedding without a date because otherwise she and I wouldn’t have gotten to shop together. I did my fittings with my future mother-and-sisters-in law, and bawled like a baby afterwards, because although they were nice and helpful and….they aren’t Mom.

  • Michele

    Ohhhhh my. Missing Mother Malady, I know it well. I developed a rather surprising complex a few months into our engagement, when it came time to start thinking about The Dress. I envisioned the experience of shopping for a wedding dress as a very mother-daughter centric one, and not having a mom, well….I dreaded it. Despite the fact that I have amazing friends, a step-mom I actually like, and a fantastic mother-in-law, I felt I was very much on my own on this one. Luckily, that did not extend to other parts of the wedding planning process, just the dress.

    The funny thing is, even if my mother WERE alive, the experience of wedding dress shopping with her wouldn’t have been anything like I envisioned – a day spent trying on frocks capped by a transcendent, tear-filled moment during which my mother and I both knew that we’ve found “the one.” That’s just not the mom I had, and it’s also not the daughter I was.

    You see, this wedding dress specific complex I developed had nothing to do with MY mom, or even with ME. It didn’t make me miss the woman I called mom, it made me miss the mom I never even had. You see, my mom was a rabble-rousing ex-hippie who struggled with mental illness throughout my childhood, followed by mental illness AND drug-addiction throughout my teen years, when we were largely estranged. She took her own life when I was 17, and while it was indeed a traumatic experienced that caused me and everyone who knew and loved her immense grief, it was also an expected, almost welcome opportunity to…exhale. The truth is that by the time she died, we’d all been mourning her for nearly a decade, and so her death felt like a bookend of sorts.

    I’ve spent my life watching my friends interact with their moms. Moms who are more traditional, more engaged; Mom’s who have huge expectations for and of their daughters and sometimes project those expectations onto them in ways that are stressful, hurtful, or just plain infuriating. Some of the more “overbearing” moms have even led me to say things like “mom’s like her make me feel better about the fact that I don’t have one,” which always elicits shocked laughter (which is the whole point, because OF COURSE I don’t really feel that way).

    I so relate to the bit of your post where you said ‘How have I overcome my “Missing Mother Malady” you ask? I haven’t. Never will. I will have MMM for the rest of my life.’ When friends first learn of my mom – her life and death – they usually say something along the lines of “how did you get through that?” and the truth is, I HAVEN’T gotten through it, and probably never will. That’s not to say that it casts a shadow on my life every day (or even most days, for that matter), because I’m really very much at peace with it 99% of the time. But I will always and forever experience moments of mourning for my mom. Both the one I DID have, and the one I didn’t.

    • This reminded me of something I shared on another bride’s blog a while ago, when she was talking about losing her father… If you haven’t already seen it, it’s definitely worth a watch. I feel like it’s the most accurate summation of losing a parent, and how much it changes everything.

      “Have you ever watched the Grey’s Anatomy episode when George’s father passes away? (I’m not a big fan of that show anymore, but that episode is worth watching).

      I watched this scene ( shortly after my father died. 3 years later, It’s still the truest thing I’ve heard or seen that spoke to my experience with his death.
      Anyway, sorry this isn’t exactly on topic… it just tugged at me. (and as you said, all this seems to be heightened with an upcoming wedding).”

  • Heather

    I’ve read every single post on APW, but I haven’t ever commented until today. My mom died of pancreatic cancer three years before I met my soon-to-be husband. I never got to see the two of them meet. I know that she would have loved him, but it would be fantastic to have proof.

    My biological father never wanted to have anything to do with me, and my pseudo-adoptive father died when I was four. My whole life, I assumed my mom would walk me down the aisle. Instead, I will be walking solo.

    My mom and I had planned a trip to Alaska for immediately after graduation, to celebrate my entrance into the work force and her departure (she had me when she was 37, and was ready to retire). She missed my graduation from veterinary school, and I went to Alaska alone. She wasn’t around when I got my first real job. I didn’t have input from her when I bought my house. She wasn’t around to tell me, “You can do it” when I had two days to fly from Portland (friends in OR were getting married) to NYC (where I lived), go get the U-Haul, finish packing my apartment, load the U-Haul, and drive back to Pittsburgh with my tail between my legs because the NYC job hadn’t worked out.

    None of that hurt as much as planning a wedding without her. Every single day, I am acutely aware of her absence. I’m pretty sure I’ve cried as much during the planning process as I did immediately after she died.

    Whenever other brides-to-be complain about their mothers wanting something like ivory tablecloths rather than white, all I can think is, “I delivered my mother’s eulogy when I was 26 years old. Be grateful for what you have, even if your tablecloths end up being ivory.”

    Lynn, thank you for this entry. I’ve never come across another bride going through the process without her mom. You managed to perfectly articulate what it’s like. But I wish that I didn’t understand how perfect your description happens to be, and that you weren’t able to explain it, since only someone who has experienced it can really make those judgments.

    • Ellen

      Heather, I mean “exactly” so much here, that I have to comment! One of the slightly redemptive things about planning a wedding without parents is that it very quickly makes you have to create family, not just with your partner, but with other people in your life. It’s not the same, of course, but it does help. (Or, at least, it helped me.)

      • Heather

        In the “Thank you for coming” section of our program, I included the following sentiment: “We are related to some of you by blood, and others by friendship, but all of you are family.” My supply of blood-relatives may be dwindling, but my family will grow forever. So will yours.

    • ka

      Heather, there aren’t enough “exactly’s” in the world for this one. I’m so amazed by how similar our situations are that I can’t help but say, if you ever want to email: ny2cabride at gmail dot com. Hugs.

    • Jamie


      My mom died from cancer a few months ago, when I was 24. Last month I had to drive a UHaul from my Brooklyn apartment back to my hometown of Pittsburgh on my own because my NYC job situation just didn’t work. It’s just reassuring to know that others have been in the same boat, and that there’s life after all this pain.

  • Anna Thaler


    Thank you for this post. Thank. you. I have been without my mom for five and a half years now. I’m not engaged (yet), but even in pre-engagement limbo, I feel the loss of my mom powerfully. I do have strong friendships to buoy me up, and a lovely (sometimes silly) potential-mother-in-law, but my mom was one-in-a-million and there is no substitute for her.

    I love what you wrote about not realizing that the anger and hurt you felt was about missing your mom–it can take me hours to realize that a bad mood is caused by that simple fact. And then I get so sick of saying, “I miss my mom,” because it makes me angry again that she’s gone and that’s why I’m having a bad time.

    All daughters who don’t have their mothers in their lives (for whatever reason) have their own story. It validates our grief to read about the pain of others although it is hard, no doubt about it. Thank you again for sharing your story. Hard as it is, I hope to read other stories about motherless wedding days. As soon as my own wedding journey starts (officially), I hope to be sharing with Team Practical about my own story.

    Take care of yourself,


    • Anne – “pre-engagement limbo” what a great term! I had exactly the same thing! In the early days of grieving I kept saying “well, now I NEVER want to get married” because I was so torn. It wasn’t until I worked out that I actually NEEDED this wedding to work through some of the loss that I could actually get on board the wedding train.

  • Ellen

    Thanks, Lynn. And thanks Heather, too. I’m twenty-five and my mom has pancreatic cancer. She was diagnosed at the end of March, and our wedding is in June next year.

    As horrendous as it is to know that your mom’s life is threatened, it snaps you out of all your bullshit, doesn’t it? Morbid though it may sound, that’s something I feel grateful for. Like Heather said, it makes you want to shake other brides (and frankly, all other people) and remind them what they have. It’s like you’ve taken some kind of reality serum and you can finally see how lucky you’ve been, and still are. I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with my mom. Now I am grateful for every phone call I can make to her. As I should be, and should have been all my life.

    I am so sorry for all of the dear ones who have lost their moms. My heart is aching for you. Thank you.

    • Ellen (a different one)

      One thing I’ve always said about losing my parents (I lost my dad when I was 24 and my mother at 34) is that I may not have them into my thirties and forties, but I had a better relationship with them than many people I know have had with their parents and so I am very grateful. (It helps counteract the “why me?” reaction.)

    • Heather

      The same age I was and the same disease – reading what you’re going through was like getting kicked in the stomach. I’m so sorry. It’s not something I would wish on my worst enemy. You already know this, but milk the time you have with her for all it’s worth.

  • I needed this. My mother is still around, but we were never close when I was younger. Since my parent’s divorce five years ago, I’ve tried to build a stronger relationship with her, but we are like oil and water. Now she’s remarried, living three states away, and totally immersed in her new husband’s rich-and-important lifestyle. Our relationship is best described as amiable distance.
    The problem is that she is a dyed in the wool traditionalists, with WIC-sized expectations. Our budget, however, will not support her visions. So, our wedding planning discussions flop back and forth between, “But you can’t afford that…” and “You have to have _____!”, with a side of very insincere “Do what makes you happy” (read: Don’t do anything to accommodate HIS family, just have the wedding we expect you to have.)
    So, needless to say, I am not always thankful to have her as part of the process. It’s good to be reminded how lucky I am to still have her.

  • Lynn, thank you for your transparency and bravery in sharing your story. I am thankful you have brought up this extremely difficult subject of losing one’s mom, because many women do face it (and have to deal with the added emotions and mourning of it through wedding planning process) and nobody really seems to talk about. So, thank you Lynn and Meg for creating a space for this conversation.

  • K

    Sigh. I’m so very sorry for your loss, Lynn.

    I’m jealous of the memories and fondness she has for her mother. There’s a very likely possibility that when my mother passes I’ll have no nice memories, very likely a sense of relief for what I no longer have to deal with, and grief at the loss of hope of ever having a good relationship with her.

    I must disagree with Meg on one point. This story is not at all the same story of one who is estranged from her mother.

    I am estranged from my mother, who has been highly emotionally unstable my entire life. As an adult, I’ve finally done the hardest thing ever and distanced myself from her for the sake of my health, my fiance’s health and our relationship’s health. As a result, this has distanced me from my father, who also has his own issues, and minor siblings. Planning a wedding under this situation is similar to what Lynn is experiencing, but also incredibly different.

    Well-meaning acquaintances who constantly ask wedding/family related questions are like tiny daggers. Seeing mothers and daughters shopping for dresses together and parents proudly beaming at their daughter on her wedding day are oh so hard. I’ve never had a mother I could call to chat with or use for support, but planning a wedding just drives this point home even more.

    There will be no loving memorial to my mother, no moments of shared sadness with other family members. My grandma is so supportive and loving, but won’t be able to make my wedding due to health and age. My brother will be there, ever supportive. I am so grateful for these two, but they just don’t fill the place of a loving and accepting mother and father.

    I wish with all my heart that things could be different and would do anything to make it that way, but it’s just not possible. I accept my parents as they are and as a result am here. A journey to become a wife is also a journey of handling, yet again, the emotions of not having the love and support of a mother and father.

    • K

      Although maybe the heart of this “Missing Mom Malady” is the same regardless of how one’s mother isn’t in one’s life. It’s sadness and grief for what isn’t there even if what isn’t there never was.

      • Lauren

        I couldn’t agree more. The context is very different but I think that the grieving for something you don’t have is still present whether one’s mom is deceased or estranged. Prior to getting engaged, I had minimal contact with my mother to preserve my emotional stability, and while it saddened me that she wasn’t a real part of my life, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. We’ve had more contact since I told her I’m getting married, and I think in her own way she is excited even though most of what comes out of her mouth invalidates my choices, my appearance, my plans; and to be honest, I’m looking forward to when I can minimize contact again after the wedding is over. Weddings are an emotional time for a host of reasons, of course, but it can be especially painful to hope that your wedding will help foster a new emotional bond with your mother, only to realize that a milestone doesn’t alter the fundamental nature of your relationship.

      • meg

        I’m aware it’s not the same, I didn’t claim it was the same. But, I do think this post speaks to lots of us with living moms who were not able to help plan for whatever reason. It’s not powerful because it’s our story, it’s powerful because it’s LYNN’s story.

        • K

          Sorry, Meg! I misunderstood you then. Lovely internet, huh? And I totally agree. It is a powerful story regardless of who your mother is and how the relationship is. Grateful, sad, disappointed, frustrated, whatever…

        • My mother is still living, we’ve always been close, and this post speaks directly to me. During my first marriage, my mom and I were exceptionally close, even though I lived in a different state. I spoke to her on the phone almost daily. We were both lonely (my parents divorced when I was in my mid-20s, and I was in an unhappy marriage), so we became even closer than we were when I was growing up.

          When I left my marriage, I fell apart, and my mom kicked into high-gear Mom mode. So now instead of the friend that I had come to love as an adult, I was back in a Mom-Daughter relationship with my mom suddenly talking to me like I could not take care of myself. Although she loves my fiance (and you should have seen her face light up when he asked if he could call her “Mom”), she has been very negative about the wedding planning. I know she would be much happier if we just lived together and didn’t get married so that I could kick my fiance out of the house whenever I get tired of him. Living through her divorce and mine have soured her on marriage, and men, in general.

          I rushed picking a dress because I didn’t want to do it alone (and I don’t really have any girlfriends who will be all giddy and “Let’s go dress shopping” with me), and now I’m regretting the choice but still not seeing anything that feels right. I second guess our choices at every step; I am afraid to talk to her about the plans because every time she says something negative, it hurts in a way that no one else’s words can hurt me. I miss my mom. I miss my friend Mom. But she is not involved with the wedding, and no matter how sad it makes me, I don’t expect her to ever be particularly supportive about this.

          Even though she is very much in my life, there is a grieving that goes on as I feel the loss of the friend and mom that I once had. No, it does not compare in any way to a death, but it is a loss nonetheless, and the relationship is sorely missed.

          So, thank you, Meg, for posting this. And thank you, Lynn, for writing it.

    • Michele

      There is so much to relate to in this, K.

      If it makes you feel any better (though I doubt it will), I can tell you that on my own wedding day, hours and hours into it, when I danced with my father, he asked me ‘are you thinking of your mom today?’ and I was completely bowled over by the fact that I wasn’t. She literally had not crossed my mind ALL DAY, which I sort of still can’t believe.

      Was it a gift from the gods? This day so bursting at the seams with joy that not even the shadow of MMM was cast over it? Was it self-absorbment on my part that I couldn’t even spare a moment to think of my mother on my wedding day without being prompted?

      I can’t say that I know the answer, but I can say that I didn’t mind.

      • K

        I do wonder how I’ll feel come the day of. Your experience is quite encouraging!

    • Liz

      it’s not “about” that but it can be “for” those women.

      i think we can ALL learn life lessons from the experiences of others, even if they do not mirror our own.

      -a girl whose mother was very active in wedding planning, but still related to and gleaned from the post.

  • Alyssa

    Lynn, I am so sorry for your loss. It feels inadequate to say, but I really do truly feel for you and am very glad that you’ve found ways to deal with it and find happiness in other ways.

    And to those that disagree that this post can be for those brides with estranged mothers, I’m not sure she’s talking about Lynn’s story.
    No, her very personal story doesn’t describe the pain that you’re feeling.
    BUT, the lessons that she goes on to detail can definitely help anyone who’s dealing with the loss of a mother, emotionally or physically. Despite the wealthy of “OMG, that SO describes me right now!” comments (many of which I’ve made), most readers on here won’t find their doppleganger wedding grad. But I do think that every grad has something that people can learn from and that’s the best thing to focus on.

    I feel for everyone who has an emotional void during what should be such a great time in your life and I hope that it will get better. I really do.

  • I also lost my mom three years ago. I am tearing up over your post because it is so completely right on. Planning a wedding without Mom was truly lonely. No matter what I did, or how incredible my support system was, nothing can feel the void of “I just want my mom.” I anticipate that feeling will wash over me many, many times in my life. I wish there was something I could say like “it will get better” or “she’s there in spirit” but neither is very comforting to me.

    For our wedding we honored her in the ceremony by saying “Absent from this gathering, but strongly present in our hearts, is Carrie’s mother. Let us keep her joyfully in our hearts today.” I also made a charm of her picture and wrapped it around my bouquet. The wedding did have an absence to it that only I and my Dad felt. But, it was still a beautiful day and I can honestly say that I did feel her presence, even if it was only in my heart.

    • Alyssa

      My mother-in-law lost her mother right before our wedding and I made her a scrabble pendant necklace with a picture of her mother holding her as a baby on it. She said it made things a little easier AND a little harder, having her mother there so close to her heart but not really there.

      That was the one DIY project I did for my wedding that I could not have gone without.

      • Liz

        it’s such a sad balance to try to strike, isn’t it?

        we had memorial roses for dear ones that had passed on. and somehow it seemed that they were apart of things- while also making it feel as though we were emphasizing that they weren’t.

      • Oh god. I’m so scared of this. My youngest sister died and mine will be the next wedding. Figuring out a memorial that works for me is one thing, figuring out one that works for my sisters who are at various places in their grieving process and who had different relationships with her is a whole other thing.

        I think it’s awesome that you did this. One of the sweetest mother-in-law gestures I’ve heard.

    • Amanda

      I love how you chose to honour you Mom in your ceremony. Although the loss of a father is somewhat different than the loss of a mother, I can’t help but be much more emotional during the process of planning my wedding without my Dad. I just keep thinking about how much he would love my husband-to-be, and how he would be so proud. And how he would be so involved in absolutely everything! My husband-to-be has also lost his father, and that makes the pain of my loss harder (I won’t have a FIL), but also easier, as he understands the void and sadness I feel.

      Thank you for sharing your story, Lynn. And to Carrie Dee and Alyssa – thank you for ideas on how to honour deceased parents/family members.

    • “I wish there was something I could say like “it will get better” or “she’s there in spirit” but neither is very comforting to me.” – AGREED! Most of the time when people say either of those comments I kinda wanna punch them in the nose…then I remember that I used to say those things too…and it is really just a way of saying “I have no idea what to say, so I will make these words come out of my mouth.” Now, when faced with someone who has disclosed a great loss, I say…”That SUCKS!” Which in my circle is much more appropriate and true to life.

      • Heather

        My response to someone who has experienced a loss is usually something along the lines of, “Nothing I can say will make this any easier, but if there is anything at all I can do, I’ll do it.” For those people who claim it gets easier – I will agree that the low intensity, constant ache might dissipate with time. But the acute, sharp spikes of pain hurt just as much now as the day she died.

        • Michele

          That’s funny, I feel the exact opposite. The sharp, acute pain subsided long ago. But the low-intensity dull ache remains. It ebbs and flows like everything else in life, but it’s always there.

      • CarMar

        Ah! Yes! I lost my father 6 years ago, and I always react that way to people’s statements. I try to go out of my way now to send cards or notes to friends (or even acquaintances) who have lost a parent, just so that they know someone understands how much it SUCKS.

  • I’ve been thinking about this. The mother of one of my closest friends died very recently, and my friend is getting married in a few months. The pain in her voice when she spoke of her upcoming wedding was almost unbearable to listen to, far less to feel. And as one of those bridesmaids, I felt utterly helpless and useless. So thanks for sharing this. Hopefully it will help me help my friend through this.

    • What a great opportunity you have to help your friend. Don’t be afraid to open the subject up with her, like “gosh, this must SUCK not having your mom here to x,y or z with.” Daughters will stop bringing it up (’cause we will hate being a broken record) but that by no means indicates that we aren’t thinking about it most of the time. By asking your friend or bringing it up and validating it you can help her work through how aweful MMM truly is.

    • Heather

      I agree 100% with Lynn. Everyone in my life is aware that I am planning a wedding and my mom is no longer alive, but *no one* has ever mentioned it. It’s almost like they are afraid that if they bring it up, it will somehow remind me of her death. Um … her death is something I will never forget. Ever. Throughout this whole process, I’ve thought about her all the time. But I feel morbid bringing it up over and over again, so I don’t mention it. It would mean the world to me if someone just said, “Hey, I know this must be really hard to do without your mom. If you ever want to talk about it, or talk about anything but it, I’m here.”

      • You know, I think this is one of the weirder things about death: how isolating it can be.

        My family and I will bring up my Dad (who passed away 4 years ago this Christmas Eve) casually in conversation. We still laugh and joke about his personality quirks, and in the next minute we might express how much it still hurts not to have him around. I’ve learned that laughter and anger can go hand-in-hand with death, which is not something I ever expected.

        But this seems to throw a lot of people. Like they expect us only to mention his name in hushed tones. Or not at all. Or it freaks them out, makes them worry about losing their own parents, as if death were a communicable disease. I think the whole situation makes people who haven’t experienced a death close-at-hand, uncomfortable, and I totally get that. It’s hard to know what to say, when you have nothing in your own experience to draw from.

        But sometimes I just wish people would mention it… because of course, it’s always there, for me. The loss is a part of me now, a part of my story; it doesn’t go away — time may have healed the open wound, but the scar is still there. So it’s just odd when I have certain friends who don’t ever ever ever mention it. And it makes me grateful for the people in my life who can talk about it sensitively – but *normally*.

        • ddayporter

          as someone who has very little personal experience with death, I appreciate this conversation so much. I Never know what to say, and have definitely been guilty of being afraid to bring it up for fear of reminding the person (and this relates to death but also other severe trauma). Seems so obvious now that you say it, that of course it’s not like you could have forgotten. And of course you might feel bad bringing it up yourself. thanks for helping me be a better friend!

          • Liz

            me too, dday. not just with what to say- but how to best “be there.” do they want to be left alone? do they want me to call daily and check in?? i want to do whatever will help most, and i never know what it is.

            a dear friend recently lost a child moments after birth. and i’m pregnant. and i have nothing i can say to her. i have no words. and i wonder if the very sight of me is painful enough to negate whatever i would say, anyway.

            i know that when i’m in the deepest kind of pain, i don’t want to hear cheerful, hopeful, look-on-the-brightside’s. i want to be allowed to experience my pain without being pushed to see the light at the end of the tunnel. give me a second to grieve, don’t tell me why everything is going to be okay. confirm for me that i’m allowed to feel like crap right now. but i never know if that’s what others need.

          • ddayporter

            oh my word, your poor friend (and poor you! how terrifying to consider the possibility). I watched a similar thing play out in my office, when my boss had a miscarriage just a month before a co-worker announced she was pregnant. I could only imagine how difficult it was for both of them. I wish I had an answer to how you handle it! but I think many (if not most?) people also just want to be allowed to grieve and not be told “it’ll be ok” – even though most people Also feel the need to offer that kind of optimistic expression because they don’t know what else to do.

          • I totally get the feeling of not wanting to “bring it up” ’cause you (the non-griever) doesn’t what to “twist the knife” or “be a downer” but I can’t say ‘exactly’ enough to giving the griever a space to talk about it by actually inviting the conversation. And it doesn’t even have to be all awkward, like, “so, how ’bout that dead mom of yours…” One thing I started doing in my grief was totally deflecting all questions like “how are you” or “how are things going” because my mom was the only thing on my mind and I didn’t want to keep bringing it up (even though I desperately wanted to keep talking about it). So I told my whole support system that if you REALLY REALLY were interested in hearing about my sadness, then to simply ASK THE QUESTION AGAIN. So conversations looked something like this…

            Them: So, how are you doing?
            Me: Oh, I’m fine.
            Them: No, I really mean, how are you doing?
            Me: (insert any spewing of emotional baggage here)

            Give it a try, you will be suprized.

          • Agree whole-heartedly with being the one to bring it up, and with being persistent. That said, Liz, in my experience you don’t have to call everyday. But if you did when you thought about it, that’d be nice. People treat other people who’ve had loss like it is communicable, as was said, and it’s horrible. If you think of it months or years later, it’s still fine to bring up. They might not still talk of it because it’s so repetitious and you think others are sick of it, but it’s helpful.

            With your friend, I can see how you could feel awkward. Holy crap, can I see. I’m deeply sad for both of you. I found that I wanted people to at the very least treat me normal, though, even if I would say no to hanging out because I wanted to stay in and cry. If you guys have a relationship that you can bring up “I know this situation could be awkward, and if being around me is painful, please let me know. I’d love to be in your life and help you walk through however possible if I can, though.”, then try that. If not, just be you. You’re pretty awesome.

  • Amill

    This post made me very emotional, as I’m sure everyone else felt.

    My mother left me and my sister and dad when I was five. I hardly saw her as a kid, and hardly talk to her now. mainly i call her because well, she gave birth to me. i need to respect her for that. But she will not be a part of my wedding day. she will just be another guest.
    My dad remarried when i was nine, and my stepmother is the most amazing person that could have entered our lives. i wish i could honor her at our wedding, but i know i cant. its supposed to be mother of the bride, not “was pretty much a mom to me-the bride”

    My fiance did not understand why i felt so hurt (i mean, who leaves a great guy like my dad and two very young girls for an abusive man?) until his parents divorced a year into our relationship. now his relationship with his mother is strained, and his dad has remarried a pretty cool woman.

    Why must the WIC focus so much on mothers of the brides or mothers of the grooms? Why is it so difficult to make a wedding work without including them? we have decided to just do a champagne and dessert reception. no assigned seating, no dancing, no dj who will tell us who to dance with or to announce people. its the easiest for us without a ton of stress.

    but sometimes i look at pictures or read posts and think, “i wish i had a mom that would help me” “i wish i just had a ‘traditional’ family so it would be easier”

    but then i think…i dont want that. each experience we have shapes us and our lives. mothers passing away-that shapes who we are. it makes us appreciate things we may not have before. having my parents divorce when i was so young…it makes me seriously think about marriage. i want to be with my man for the rest of my life. i dont want to hurt him like my mom did to my dad, and i dont want to hurt our future children. we have been open about this and communicate very well with each other.

    I’m keeping the thought in my head through all of this:
    This is just a start to more things to come. Good and Bad will happen to us all. How we take those events and trials and learn from them or hold onto them, the better people we become.

    • meg

      You can TOTALLY honor the was pretty much a mom to the bride. You can and you should! Weddings are about finding a way to be honest and true to ourselves and what really matters to us, while doing it carefully and tastefully, and trying not to hurt people. Trying being the operative word. It’s hard as hell, but finding that honesty is it’s own reward.

      If you love her, honor her! Faux tradition be damned.


      • Amanda

        I wholeheartedly agree with Meg – absolutely honour your “pretty much a mom to the bride”!

      • ddayporter

        there is no WIC tradition you can’t hammer into a shape that feels good to you. if you want to honor your father’s wife, honor her!! I would guess most people who know you will know what kind of relationship you have with your mom vs. your step-mom, and will understand. for those who don’t know, you don’t owe them an explanation.

        I had a sort of similar problem for my wedding, since my dad wasn’t there (not deceased, just not there) and I had my best friend’s dad walk me down the aisle.. I was concerned people wouldn’t “get it” or think it was weird – nobody thought it was weird. Or at least, nobody made any noise about it.

        also, for the record, you can have a DJ without having him tell you who to dance with or announce people. we didn’t do any of those father/daughter, mother/son dances, and we didn’t announce the wedding party or the bride & groom. we had a first dance, one organized dance (the “married couples” thing), and then it was just dance party. sounds like you don’t want dancing anyway! but just in case you thought you’d be obligated to do those special dances or something… definitely not the case.

    • Liz

      honor the stepmom!!

      i honored a dear aunt who was integral in raising me. this prescribed wedding “template” only works if it works for YOU. the point of the wedding is to honor those who should be honored- no matter their role.

      • Absolutely! I’m fortunate to have a very dear aunt (my mom’s sister) who has always been close to me, but especially so after my mom passed away. She doesn’t replace my mom for me but she has been the most wonderful and loving woman in my life and will certainly be honored at our day

    • Heather

      I’m confused. Does your stepmother love you? Do you love her? Was she there to support you as you were growing up? Is she a member of your family (either by blood or by choice)? Then I see no reason to not honor her at your wedding. There are plenty of “real” mothers that wouldn’t have gotten a “yes” to all of those questions, so why is it more appropriate to honor them than your stepmother?

    • ElfPuddle

      Speaking as an almost-step-mom (my fiance’s kids), you definitely can and should honor the woman you think of when you think “Mom”. If you don’t feel comfortable calling her “Mom” in front of the rest of the guests, then call her something else. (Whatever you usually call her would be good.)

      There are enough mixed, broken, fixed, blended, and mashed families in the world that no one should be surprised that you have a mom who didn’t give birth to you. Anyone who could be offended by your honoring of her should just shut up and get over it.
      (And, btw, kudos to your dad for finding you a mom figure that you can honor.)

    • Wait. Why can’t you honor your stepmom? Of course you can. She may not have given birth to you, but she did everything else. So yeah, you betcha she can be the Stepmom of the Bride.

      There is a movement afoot to change the name from “Step” to “Bonus.” I love this because it is a truer reflection of the relationships involved. Your stepmom did not replace your birth mom, but you certainly had the benefit of two moms. That you want to honor the Bonus Mom who helped raise you and for whom you are so thankful is a wonderful thing and should absolutely be done.

  • This post is exactly what I have needed lately.

    Though I’m not engaged, I’m sure it is in the cards *someday* with my current partner, so I sometimes find myself thinking, “Hm, if/when I get married, I would/wouldn’t do ________.” And any time I start having those trains of thoughts, it invariably degrades into a fit of tears when I realize the enormous fact that my mother will not be there to share my eventual wedding with me. My mother passed away when I was just four months (yes, months) old. I have never known her but through stories others have told me. And from what I can surmise about her personality, me getting married would be the greatest joy of her life. Not to mention the fact that she was a HUGE crafter/DIY-er, and had an incredible talent and eye for that kind of thing. And while I’m proud to say that I’ve inherited much of her love and talent for crafting, I know that it would be so much better to have her help and to bounce ideas off of her.

    I miss my mom every day of my life, but it is odd for me because I don’t *exactly* know what I’m missing. I don’t know what her voice sounded like. I don’t know any of her funny quirks, like an obnoxious laugh or if she always straightened the books on the coffee table. But I miss an abstract idea of her. I missed her when I shopped for prom dresses. I missed her when I baked my first homemade pie. I missed her when I first moved out on my own. I miss her when I decorate for the holidays. Just recently I burst out crying at the sewing machine when I couldn’t manage to sew a sleeve onto a shirt, because I knew she’d know exactly what to say to ease my frustration and she would be able to show me how to do it, if she had been there. And I’ve missed her these past few weeks as I’ve drafted patterns from scratch for my partner’s and my Renaissance Festival costumes, because I know my mom would be so proud of me for drafting two entire costumes from scratch (and of J for sewing them all together perfectly!)

    I missed her when I began dating J. I missed her when I first realized I was in love with him. I miss her when I imagine us getting engaged. And I miss her when I imagine getting married. Just last night I was thinking, gosh, if I do get married, will I even feel happy that day? Or will I just miss my mom all day? I tried to picture my wedding, and I just ended up in tears. My mom won’t be there. That’s all there is to it. It is as simple and as enormous as that. And then I wake up this morning and see this post. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this Missing Mom Malady.

    Daughters, don’t ever for a second take your mothers for granted, no matter how annoying/overbearing/insert-adjective-here she may get. Like Lynn said in her email, I would give 20 years of my own life to know firsthand even the most annoying habits of my mom. And I’d give another 20 to have her there on my wedding day.

    • Kelsey and Others –

      Loosing your mom at such a young age…I can’t imagine…my heart is yours.

    • Sarah

      Oh Kelsey, can I please come give you a hug?

      That third paragraph killed me, because I know what this is like. I feel the EXACT same way about my grandmother. I cannot count how many times during my wedding planning I broke down and sobbed because I wished she was there, that she could have met Jon, that she could have lent her wisdom to the insanity that was our planning, and just given me a hug.

      But, speaking from experience here … I’m thinking you’ll enjoy your wedding day. I did. Yes, we had moments of sadness as we thought about and missed her, but we honored her (my maid-of-honor and I carried daisies (her favorite), I wrapped a locket she’d given to my mother for my baptism around my bouquet, I wore a ring that had belonged to her and is now one of my most prized possessions). And really, we knew that she would have been overflowing with love for us … and that gave us peace.

      As a side note … congratulations on your costumes! That’s no easy feat, and – having done it myself – I’m THOROUGHLY impressed!

  • Liz

    it’s an entirely different experience, of course, but my husband’s birth mom wasn’t apart of our wedding. in fact, we had to kindly ask her if she would mind not coming.

    i know that the mother-son relationship is a bit different than the mother-daughter bonding that can happen in wedding planning. but i also know the pain that my husband feels as a result of that decision- the pain he still talks about, a year later.

    she was never apart of his life, as a result of her own choices. and the wedding only highlighted that fact.

    • Rose

      I’m not sure that today’s post is an appropriate venue for my question, but this comment from Liz really struck me.

      My fiance’s parents might not be attending our wedding – they’re threatening not to, but it’s hard to tell if they’d follow through. It’s gotten to the point where he says he doesn’t care whether they come or not, but wise friends advise us that he probably will care when the day itself comes. There have been times that we have seriously considered issuing a polite (non? un?)-invitation that your husband made to his mother.

      I’m curious how you two made that decision and whether or not you’re glad you made it. But, if this is a better conversation for another time, I totally understand.

      • Liz

        meg will kick us off if it’s ill-timed. ;)

        josh is still reeling from the pain of his decision, but does not regret it. without getting too personal, in summary- because of the depth of trauma and baggage, it was essentially a choice between the dad-who-raised-him and the mom-who-wasn’t-there. usually, i think it’s petty for parents to say, “i’m not coming if she is!” but josh’s family has particular circumstances, and i entirely understand the pain that would have come from having both sides present.

        i don’t know your situation, and it may not be entirely different- but i think that’s what it comes down to for me. are people just being petty, not being grown-ups? invite them anyway and allow them the opportunity to come and act like adults. (usually they do, in the end… parts of my family were nearly un-invited, and they behaved themselves.)

        and, yeah. if they choose not to come- he will care the day of. but you can resolve to buoy him with the happiness of marriage. what happens at a wedding doesn’t always change relationships- but it does highlight and emphasize what’s really going on deep down. if they don’t come, it will hurt… but not for the wedding day itself as much as for what it reveals about the relationship.

        and i know that’s how it was for josh. not just, “i wish my mom was at my wedding.” but more importantly, “i wish my mom and i had the type of relationship where she COULD be at my wedding.”

        • Rose

          That one-year-later insight is cool to year (ah, APW, such a treasure trove of wisdom and experience!). We aren’t really afraid of anyone making a scene – I guess it could happen, but that’s not the main fear. The situation has come down to his parents communicating that if we plan a wedding, they might not come and if they do come it’ll be the worst day of their lives. So yeah, we’ll send an invite and maybe even encourage them to be there and they’ll probably show up and cooperate.

          What feels tough is the symbolism – for lots of people, weddings are about two families coming together. Ours probably won’t really mean that. I was a bridesmaid in a wedding last month that was brimming with parent-involvement and parent-praising and parent-pride. I couldn’t help but wonder if my fiance’s parents might ruin our wedding day – not with drunken toasts or petty fights, but with subtle disapproval, objection, and unhappiness that guests might not actually notice but we’ll be painfully aware of.

          In many ways our wedding will be more symbolic of separating from family brokenness, refusing to repeat unhealthy patterns, and breaking away from generations of destructiveness. Which is beautiful. And profound. And awesome. But, that also means it’s *not* a lot of other beautiful and profound and awesome things. But that’s life.

          • Liz


            that sounds like a, “we want you to be there. and if you are, we need to know you’ll be HAPPY to be there. or else, we would rather you not put yourselves out by joining us and being miserable about it” kind of conversations.

            (but usually this “disapproval” stuff is more of a hopeful threat- they hope they’ll somehow will you out of making this “awful” choice, but peacefully fall into line when they realize you’re not backing down. but i’m only speaking from the experiences of those i know.)

            sounds like a sucky situation. i’m so sorry.

            at least you can come back after and share your (sure to be) TONS of gained wisdom.

  • Thank you for this post, Lynn. I wish you the peace & comfort you deserve during the rest of your wedding planning, on your wedding day & every day. I lost my Dad when I was 13 & I quickly learned that is something you learn to live with but it is something you NEVER get over. My best friend (who lost her Mom when she was 21) & I were chatting about planning a wedding & the wedding day without a Mom (in her case) or a Dad (in my case). We were both in tears. She got married three years ago, a beautiful, happy day. She said I should pay attention as my wedding gets closer because she believes there will be signs from my Dad to show me he is with me. Perhaps there will be some indication from your Mom that she is with you as well. Best wishes~

  • Kim

    I’m not sure if I want to read through all of the comments on this particular topic, but I’d like to share nonetheless.

    My mom died three years ago. Like Lynn, I met my husband before she died, and she died before we decided to get married. They did get to meet, however, and I cannot tell you how much more at peace I am because of that.

    I was doing just fine with all of the wedding planning until a couple of months beforehand. I was planning the wedding from a different country and was in town one weekend, running around doing errands that my mom would’ve happily looked after months before. While I was behind the wheel of my car, I just got really really incredibly sad that I wasn’t being looked after in the way that she would’ve looked after me. I could’ve asked anything of her, and I don’t think I would’ve felt as tired from the weight of the whole thing. My mom was my close friend, we talked every day, and I was just beginning to get to know her as a person, not just a parent. She deserved much more than what she got, and going through this experience with her, well . . . it would’ve been a different experience altogether.

    I also struggled with the way to remember her throughout the wedding without getting too “my mom is dead, and I want you ALL to remember that.” I’m pleased with how that turned out, actually. I didn’t just want to remember her, but include her as much as possible; she may be dead, but she’s not gone. Not in my heart, and not in my life.

    This is all to say . . . JESUS, it sucked. But you play with what you’ve got and hope to emerge strong enough to make it to the next round, y’know?

    • Kim

      I did end up reading them all. Couldn’t help myself.

  • Gretchen

    I lost my mom 3 years before my own wedding. I was completely taken aback by how painful it was to plan a wedding without her–similarly to Heather above, I think I grieved as much during wedding planning as I did in the months after she died.

    My wedding was also extremely difficult for my father. My parents had a very small wedding, and I think my mother would’ve loved the rustic ceremony we planned, but my dad really didn’t see the point, or maybe couldn’t imagine how the event we were creating could possibly be joyous and “worth it.” He was critical of our decisions and completely unsupportive. Based on my brother’s wedding a few years back, I had been expecting a similar amount of financial support, and this also threw things for a loop. I sorely missed my mother and her abilities to get through to my dad and help me work with my aunts who offered to help with the reception. I’m not a big crier, but I cried constantly over missing my mom,and trying to navigate all the relationships she would’ve been able to guide me through had she been here, and because it felt so unfair to plan a wedding without either of my parents involved.

    My dad was emotionally distant up until the afternoon of the wedding. That afternoon, something about all the people gathered around us to help pull off our wedding (we had amazing help from A LOT of family and friends) hit a nerve with him, and he came through. He pitched in, and he was everything I needed him to be that evening. He had a great time, and so did I. While we were on our honeymoon, he paid our largest vendor bill without telling us. Most importantly, he has been more emotionally present to me and my siblings ever since. It felt transformative. I’m not saying things are perfect, or that our wedding necessarily caused this shift, but I think it was a really important marker for our family. I learned that weddings can be an opportunity to reflect the family we want to be, and my family in particular has become a little less consumed by the gaping hole where my mother once was, and a little more focused on all the ways that we are also growing.

    Lynn, my heart goes out to you, and I hope that your wedding will be filled with reminders of your mother and also with joy.

    • Michele

      This is an amazing reminder of just how powerful weddings can be. I’m so happy that seeing you marry your love enabled your dad to heal a little.

  • Thank you for this post, Lynn. I’m another motherless bride, and this post and all the comments really spoke to me. Especially noting that even if we did still have our moms, the fantasy that we’re mourning of her being there and involved and helpful probably wouldn’t happen, but we mourn it all the same.

  • Christen


    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. My mother died in May, just about halfway through our engagement. We decided on two years because we were hoping she would be well enough, and would have undergone a transplant. She died right before she could have gotten the transplant. It sucked.

    And I’ve cried. A lot. And I’ve been angry. A lot. And I’ve still tried to plan the wedding … kind of. There are moments when I go full-bore and just throw myself into it and try to get EVERYTHING humanly possible accomplished. And then there are moments when I’m flipping through magazines and find an article about “Momzillas” or ‘How to stand up to your mother” or “What to do if your mother is overly helpful” and I get apathetic, usually quickly followed by enraged. Have they no sensitivity? Can’t the WIC read my mind and know that my mom died and this is the last article I need?

    And then I cry.

    There were many things you said that are so completely true. On so many levels. I avoided my mom for years for similar reasons, and then some. She was disinterested in our wedding because she believed I’d never ‘be the marrying type.’ Even though she got married 3 times. She only became mildly intrigued two weeks before she died. I found my dress the week before she died, but she was sedated and never got to see it. She did squeeze my hand when I told her.

    I’ve tried, consciously or not, to ‘substitute’ those around me for her. And you’re right … they aren’t her. And thank god … because if they were, nothing would ever get done and there would be a lot more displaced rage. Not that they’re better, but they’re better at being there in specific situations and understanding that I don’t need them there always or I need them there right then. And they’re a wonderful support system, each in their own unique way. It’s kind of been the hidden gift among all the turmoil. It’s helped me become much closer with them and them see something more than the stoic face I attempted to put on for so long, insisting I didn’t need help. Because, I do need it.

    Tangent aside, you’ve obviously struck a very specific note here, and it was needed and fully appreciated. This is something I’m sure I’ll come back to, because there isn’t a whole lot out there on this subject. And there needs to be. Because it’s hard.

    • Heather

      “Can’t the WIC read my mind and know that my mom died and this is the last article I need? And then I cry.”

      Christen – You’re not the only one who does this.

      • Ellen

        Not at all. I do this too, and not just in wedding-related circumstances.

        • Christen

          I picked up the phone today because I wanted to ask her a question. And I never dialed. Because I realized that she wouldn’t answer. That sucks.

  • Thank you, Lynn. I learnt something here.

    And Meg, this is why APW remains my favourite website.

  • Kerry

    Thank you for this beautiful post. It can help clear the mind of anyone, whether you do or do not have a mother in your life. I am not even engaged and this post made me think twice about the things I complain about in my own life. I’m sad that some of the comments didn’t reflect the beauty, thought, and complexity that went into this post. Thank you Lynn.

  • Hannah

    I wish I could meet you and give you a hug. I went through a bit of the MMM with a mother who had recently grown very sick and was so (rightfully) focused on herself, and getting better, that she didn’t have any leftover energy to talk or think about my wedding. It was really, really hard. I didn’t have bridesmaids or family nearby, didn’t have anyone to talk with or go to try on dresses with, and that was really lonely.
    But in the end, there are some good things that came out of that experience: our wedding was ours. Not my mom’s, or my bridesmaids, or anyone else’s. We had it in a place that was convenient and meaningful for us. We ate food and drank wine we liked. We had our dog as our Maid of Honor. We wrote our vows and it was all OURS. I never felt like I was hosting (or being the star of) someone else’s party, and for that I’m grateful.
    It also made me turn to my fiance more. It would have been easier to go look at rental dishes with my mom, or my friends. It certainly would have been more fun to go in search of the elusive yellow shoes with them. But they weren’t here, and he was, and I’m really grateful that he stepped up to the plate to be my best friend and partner in yet another way.
    Last, without the energy input from a gaggle of ladies, the wedding planning wound up being much more low-key for me. It’s not that I wouldn’t have loved a shower, or a bachelorette party with amazing old friends and wise women sharing their love and experience with me. But that wasn’t a reality — we live and got married 3000 miles from the women who would have been that for me. So while I see the value in that experience, I also see the value in not letting our wedding planning rule our lives. We talked about other things at dinner, went on hikes and planted a garden on the weekends. I had to — my fiance was excited about the wedding, but didn’t want to live in wedding planning world for months leading up to it — and it was good for me.
    Call it spinning a positive story, or whatever else, but there are definitely some okay, if not good, things that can come out of not having a mom involved in the process. Your wedding will be amazing (and FUN! No one ever talks about how much FUN weddings can be!) and you’ll be stunned by the million ways people show up — emotionally, physically — to lift you to a buoyant state of bliss. At least that’s my wish for you.
    And in the meantime, good for you for acknowledging and sharing your MMM syndrome. You’re right, it will come in waves for the rest of your life I’m sure, and being able to say that will help your community understand and learn how to support you through it. Thank you so much for your post.

  • ka

    enormous hugs and thanks to you Lynn, (and Meg).

    eerie APW timing, this one. my mom passed away five and a half years ago. this saturday i have plans to go dress shopping with one of my (also engaged) best friends since childhood and her mom. this is the moment i have been dreading since getting engaged. if i could have 2 moments back with my mom it would be dress shopping and childbirth (my god, i keep reminding myself that a wedding is nothing to having a child without her). i don’t know what’s going to happen on saturday. i don’t know if the presence of two people i love, even if one is a borrowed mom for the day will buoy me emotionally, or if i will have a very public meltdown when i see them interact in the way i wish my mom was there to do. but hey, at the end of the day it’s only a dress, and i am lucky enough to have 19 years worth of wonderful memories shopping together to hold dear.

    • Michele

      I hope that you’ll go and derive as much joy as possible from the experience, and enjoy the company you do have, even if it doesn’t include your mom.

      I talked previously about my own wedding dress dread, and sadly, I did NOT ultimately derive joy from the experience or enjoy the company I could have had. Instead, I spontaneously decided to go try on dresses one afternoon, alone I might add, went to a salon, raced through three dresses, got sad, left, and ended up ordering something online without ever having seen it in person or tried it on.

      It worked out fine in the regard that the dress fit and I looked and felt lovely, but I deprived myself of what should have been a joyous experience because I let the MMM wash over me.

      It was NOT me at my most brave, and I regret it a bit today.

      • ka

        thanks Michele. i considered going on my own, as someone said above how sometimes you need to feel her absence rather than a substitute. but i can imagine that ending exactly how you described it. so i’m excited, and think it will be a fun day, and am so grateful that i do have these people in my life to do this with. i’m learning throughout this process to try to make the best of it without her. without her, it’ll never be exactly how i would’ve wanted it, so all i can do is adapt as best i can.

        (and btw – you WERE brave – i don’t know many women who could go wedding dress shopping on their own, so even if it didn’t work out as you would’ve liked it, you did it, and you should be proud for even setting foot in the store. there are very few upsides to being a motherless daughter, but self-sufficiency is one i try to celebrate. :) )

  • Nicole

    Would love to see a similar post/conversation for those of us without dads. I see some similarities with how I’m feeling here in this post, but I have a feeling that the slight differences in roles w moms and dads means that I am going to feel it much more the day of the event, as opposed to during the planning, and would love to hear from women who’ve been there.

  • Amy

    My boyfriend and I have talked a good deal about our future, and it’s most likely with each other… but definitely not until he finishes school in about a year.

    I just found out that my dad has cancer… probably a form of which he will not survive. Prognosis is still iffy, but one of the most likely cases is a form where the median age past diagnosis is one year.

    One year. That time scares the hell out of me. And strangely, the worst part is knowing that he might not be able to walk me down the aisle, and that he probably won’t ever meet his grandkids, and his grandkids will probably never know him, and will almost certainly not remember him and what makes him such a wonderful person to know.

  • Roxanne

    My mother died when I was 18, 2 days before Christmas. I remember, even then, being crushed about her not being alive for my wedding, for my children, for anything else ever. Not that I had any clue what any of these things would mean until many, many years later.

    We are coming up on the 8th anniversary, and now planning a wedding. And Lynn (who’s name is a morbidly ironic twist in this tale) is right. It feels like that same moment 8 years ago, and just as intense – an huge ball of sadness crushing on my heart, with a teeny bit of guilt thrown in for even attempting to be happy about a wedding. And it happens over, and over, and over.

    This speaks to me. It truly does. I am also finding it hard to reach out to others about this, or to help with those things that Mom should be there for. For a few reasons: Would they feel bothered or uncomfortable? Would my mother be offended if I asked someone else for help? Yes. Should would have been so hurt.

    On some level, I have never felt more alone althought I am completely surrounded by two large families. It’s totally fucked up.

    • Alex

      Your circumstances are so similar to mine as far as how old I was when my mom died and how long it was until we planned the wedding. And the feelings you voiced sound exactly like how I felt. All I can say we are now coming up on our 1 year wedding anniversary, and I never imagined I would be this happy. After all the grief that was re-awakened during the wedding planning, our wedding day was pure joy, right down to the empty chair with an extra corsage that we left for my mother in the front row.

  • Michele

    It’s interesting how so many of us have talked about grieving our mothers all over again throughout the wedding planning process; taking this enormous step in our lives and being confronted with the finality of their absence all over again. It’s one of the many, many things I think about when it comes to the question of having children, because becoming a mother without a mother is absolutely terrifying.

  • Um, wow. I just want to say thank you to Lynn, to Heather to K to all of you amazing women sharing your stories and your bravery. The depth and breadth of incredible ladies here bowls me over on a daily basis.

  • Heather L

    Not my mom, but my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer right after I got engaged, and has alzheimer’s. We have been very close (she used to do my hair for school dances and help me dye it funky colors ALL THE TIME) and the fact that she might not make it to my wedding, and might not even understand that I was getting married was crushing. It was such a relief to me when my mom told me she was asking questions about the wedding, because at least she knew that her oldest grandchild was getting married and understood what that meant.

    Also, my parents are somewhat unstable. My mom has committed identity fraud against me and stolen from me to buy pot. She was hospitalized when I was a kid for depression and I think she may have tried to kill herself. Both my parents used to hit me. So, I’ve been mourning for the parents I wish I had since high school. I cannot be very close to them for this reason. I am unable to trust them and feel more comfortable with them at a distance. In fact, they feel more like teenagers than parents much of the time. So, while they’re alive, I’ve never really pictured them being too parental or involved in my wedding.

  • As much as my mother has been an emotional rollercoaster throughout all of this, this is because I do love her so dearly, and she does me, and this is very difficult for her. She hasn’t been the best about “wedding-y” stuff, but when I needed to vent to her about how Amazon customer service was being difficult about wedding loot I ordered, she commiserated with me. I would be beside myself if she wasn’t in my life.

  • Katie O

    I was orphaned when I was 12 and grew up with my guardian family (new set of parents and three new siblings). I also got married last Sunday! After getting engaged, it took me months to begin wedding planning and when I did do it, I was so angry all the time. I felt like it was an industry that didn’t make any room for complicated families like mine and it was filled with traditions that made me feel bad about the family I have and usually feel blessed by. I frequently thought of just passing off my guardian family as a typical biological family because it would be easier for those who didn’t know my story and it would fit the script. In the end, we found several ways to honor my parents throughout the day, and it was incredible. I was finally able to let go of a lot of the shame I felt about my unusual history and to see that my story of loss doesn’t have to be my whole story. It was wonderful to be in one room with people from throughout my life– my friends and family, friends of my parents and friends and family of my guardians and to hear so many stories shared.

    Lynn, I truly believe that your loss is part of the beauty of this event. I don’t mean to minimize the awful feelings, but when I got married on Sunday, I felt my loss was part of my strength, beauty and joy; that my community and my loss, the family that wasn’t there and the family I had built in it’s place were all part of one whole. I wish you and your fiance years of joy and happiness made sweeter by the knowledge that you have already gone through one of life’s worst experiences together.

  • Lisa

    Like a few other comments have mentioned, I’m wondering what a “father-less” post would look like. My mother is still around (thank God!) but my father walked out when I was in high school. I try not to think about things like walking down the aisle or the father-daughter dance, because when I do, I tend to either think of unsatisfactory substitutes or I think of the man my father could be, when he really wanted to. And both make me really sad. I sometimes wish that I didn’t remember what he looked like, or what he smelled like, because I feel like it would hurt less. And then I have to remind myself that he willingly walked out when I needed him. I’m sure he would come to the wedding, if I invited him, but I would know that it would be more for the free booze and food than it would be for me, and that’s not okay. So, with as much crying as I’ve done over this post, please, someone write one about the wedding day without an absent absentee father so I can cry more.

    • ddayporter

      first I want to give you a hug. and then I want to say, if you want to see what a wedding without the bride’s living father looks like, go see my graduate post (Rachel + Zach). I didn’t write about my dad not being there, because it wasn’t the biggest thing that came out of that day for me. and I hope the same for you. there’s nothing that’s going to change the fact that your dad isn’t going to be there (if he’s only there for free food and booze, I agree, he doesn’t belong there), the only thing that can change is the way you look at it. I realized that my dad is who he is, and his actions and attitude and lifestyle are not for me to try to change. And it’s not for me to take it personally. And no matter how perfect other families seem to be, very few are (also there are plenty of family dynamics that make me go “dang I’m glad my family isn’t like THAT” – and remembering that helped me).

      Focus on the people in your life who have been there for you this whole time, who will be there for you at the wedding and beyond, and you will be engulfed in joy.

    • TrailTart

      I was planning to walk down the aisle with both my parents. They knew this, for months, and my mother brought it up fairly regularly. We aren’t a perfect family, and while they are very loving, they are also alcoholics and that prevents them from treating the people they love as they ought to. The one request I made to them regarding the wedding is that they be sober for it, and they agreed. Instead, my mother started my wedding day wasted and I really didn’t even know if they would be able to come. I sobbed; it was sad. Then I decided that whether they were there or not, I was walking my damn self down the aisle. And I was going to have an awesome day and be surrounded by people who were there to celebrate that. My parents’ chaos was not going to ruin that day.

      And it didn’t. I don’t think many guests really even noticed or thought anything of the fact that I walked myself, and, surprisingly for me, it wasn’t a particularly emotional thing for me. I mean… it was familiar. They let me down. It wasn’t the first time (obv). I’ve learned to navigate life without the most supportive or dependable parents, and so making that walk alone wasn’t unusual or traumatic. And I don’t mean that it felt like a grand victory over my situation. It just felt normal.

      So, try if you can to see your wedding as another day in your life that is so great in so many ways that happen not to include your father. My parents were pretty much random guests at my wedding, and I haven’t heard from them since. And it was an amazingly fantastic day. A happy wedding day supported by a strong community doesn’t have to contain a certain cast. Try to embrace who you do have, rather than focusing on who you don’t. You may very well be sad about it, but it may not color the day as much as you think.

  • Andrea Jones

    I lost my mother and my father within 11 months of one another. I am now planning my wedding and I have to admit it is a very bittersweet process. Not a day goes by that I miss them and even more now with all this planning.
    I can completely relate! I am happy that my future husband met them however we had just been dating 4 months when my father passed. Then not long after mom passed away too. I wish they were around longer for my fiance to know them better.
    They both passed so suddenly it was just a shock to the system.
    Yet I am being positive like I always am and knowing they will be there on the wedding day. Just in spirit!

  • Nataliah

    Wow, so much of this post resonates with me. The not wanting to answer my mums calls sometimes, the frustrations, the annoyance at ‘big questions’ that I’m guessing don’t annoy you when asked by anyone else. The big difference is that my mum is still here, driving me mad with her insessant interest and her mind-blowingly annoying absolute love and adoration.

    Thanks so much for giving this negative nancy a much needed wake-up call!

  • Caitlin

    What a wonderful post, sending thoughts to you Lynn. My husband’s mom passed away the week before our wedding. I know it’s not the same, I’m definitely not comparing losses, but in terms of honoring her, we chose to have a moment of silence in our ceremony for those we had lost (his Dad had passed away three years before) and then he danced with his two sisters while I danced with my Dad during the reception. It was a very sweet tribute, the three of them twirling each other around the dance floor, and was a way of honoring her that we felt comfortable with (our caterer thought we should leave her chair empty and place a rose on it, but we just couldn’t imagine how any of us would keep it together if we did that, the family who sat at her table agreed). While I was getting ready my own mom was driving me absolutely crazy, and I was missing Mike’s mom so much since for the past 9 years she has been my stable parent, but I knew even in her craziness that I was lucky to still have that loony mother of mine. But I might not have felt that appreciation if not for the week we had prior. So thanks for reminding us all to be thankful. I wish you every happiness on your wedding day and after. I know it will be hard, embrace the sad moments on the day of, but you will have so many happy ones too, and the joy of being married is unlike anything I have ever felt, it will lead you through everything else.

  • Beth

    “How have I overcome my “Missing Mother Malady” you ask? I haven’t. Never will. I will have MMM for the rest of my life. It is a chronic disease. I am 100% sure it will flare up again once Justin and I decide to buy a house, when we’re pregnant for the first (second and third) time, at every birthday moving forward, forever. But here are a few things I have learned along the way…”

    My mother passed when I was 10 years old. Every life event is a rollercoaster ride and always will be. This post was really good to read because no matter how much one tries to focus on all of the happiness, there is a huge piece missing. I keep think that I need to do more, but the planning is done.

    Motherless Daughers by Hope Edelman was a huge help to me.

    • Alex

      I was 20 when my mother died. I have been waiting for a post here about what it is like. Everything Lynn said resonated with me, as well as many of the comments here. After my mom died, the thoughts of getting married and having kids without her around was so painful that I kind of convinced myself I never wanted any of that anyway. It took 7 years and one amazing man to reawaken that desire and for me to work up the courage to do this without her. When we were planning our wedding (last year–got married last fall), I felt like I kept having unexplainable meltdowns, or being angry at every bridal industry representative, or expecting way too much of my maid of honor, and then I’d realize for the 10th time that what was wrong as that I didn’t have a mom to help me out. I’d even get angry hearing other brides complain about their mothers. Lynn’s MMM diagnoses describes this wonderfully.

      I also agree with the recommendation of “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelmann. I send best wishes and sympathy, and a big “You Can Do It” to all those planning a wedding without mother.

  • Samantha

    This post made me cry. You are so brave. I’m afraid if I had lost my mom, we’d be going to the courthouse so I didn’t have to deal with it.

  • Thank you for that! I lost my mom when I was 15, and my dad when I was 20. Here I am, 26 and totally floundering from time to time. Yes, I’ve got an amazing “Maid of Honor” – but he’s a guy who’s never been to a wedding. I’ve got one older sister who’d be glad to help out… but it doesn’t feel right asking her to step in at all. I’ve got my mom’s sisters and cousins and huge family, but somehow none of that seems right either. I’m glad (and also sad) that I’m not the only one dealing with that.

  • I was blessed to have my mom help with wedding planning. I’m blessed to have her period. A few years ago when my grandmother (my mom’s mom) died, I started to dread my own inevitable MMM. Any time I start to ponder what it will be like not to have the ability to call and ask questions like what the heck is an appropriate gift for a baby christening or how do I make her delicious spaghetti again (because I can never remember) my throat starts to close and I start to cry.

    All that to say, what a beautiful post. And thank you so much for sharing.

  • Holy. Wow.

    Y’know, even if this post isn’t ‘for you’, even if you parent(s) are present, it speaks to what others might be going through, and I think that pretty damn important. One of my bests got engaged last weekend – both their mothers are deceased – and I couldn’t imagine going through planning a wedding without either mother. So, thank you for shedding some light onto it for me.

  • CEM

    It is so, so hard to read this post and the resulting comments because for all of the struggles I’ve had with my family lately, I do have a mom. And a step-mom. One is emotionally distant, and the other is intent on controlling every situation. Both are hard to deal with, but both are at least present in this world, which makes me feel terrible about complaining.

    In any case, we are planning this wedding with the help of friends, cousins, and my most favorite aunt. We both live far from our immediate families, and we are so lucky to have created a “chosen family” of friends who would do anything for us. It’s not the same, but it’s something.

  • ELLE

    Wow. So many parts of Lynn’s story resonate with me. My mother died three years ago when I was 21. I’ve been with my partner since we were 18 so she had met him, and I think, in her own way, she probably liked him. She and I were never really close though and never really got the chance to know each other as adults and equals. We had our various issues over the years (some of them quite serious) and it was just in the year before she died that I was starting to not resent her quite so much. Then she died really suddenly so we never got a chance to resolve things – although I did have a moment alone with her in the hospital where I told her that I knew we’d had our differences but that I hoped she still thought I was a good person, and that I was glad she’d met my guy, because I had a feeling he was going to be around for a while. I’m still really glad I was able to say that even though I’ll never know if she could still hear and understand me at that point.

    One happy side effect of all this is that I have actually developed a better relationship with my Dad now – whereas we didn’t really have one before. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re close, because I never had that sort of close-ness with either of my parents (serious generation gap and generally different outlooks on life) but we talk every week and try to show more interest in each other’s lives. Since my mother died though, he has sort of taken on some of her religious fervor and I can’t bring myself to tell him that I haven’t believed in the religion I was raised in (or any other for that matter) for a very long time – because it’s the one thing that keeps him going and helps him to cope with losing her. I know that when my guy and I get married it will not be in a religious ceremony, and sometimes I think that it would be easier for my Dad if he wasn’t around to see that – because it might break his heart. It would be even worse if we had kids, because they would not be baptised, and that would be really really hard for my Dad to bear.

    But reading this now I think that although these are difficult questions and inevitably people will get upset about whatever choices we make it would also be foolish to wait and not get married until my Dad is no longer around – because despite everything, I think he would be quite happy for me about the whole thing. It’s certainly made me think anyway – and thank you Lynn, so much, for sharing what is such a personal and harrowing experience and making all of us think about the things that really matter.

  • So I’m a little late to this post, but it’s been sitting in the “keep unread” section of my google reader for a few days. I don’t even normally click through to comment, because I would just be hitting “Exactly!” for everything I read.

    This post is absolutely what I’ve wanted to see come out of a wedding blog lately. I lost my mother when I was five, and have gone through a very distant father, a step-mom who is now an ex-step-mom, and hordes of well-wishing aunts who tried to be mothers-by-proxy. My mother never met my husband to be, and she never even saw me date someone. She never even knew me as a living, breathing adult with my own thoughts and opinions. To her, I was only ever a little girl, and it kills me every single day.

    What would she think of my decisions? Would she love my future husband as much as I do? And then there are all of the “ifs.” If she hadn’t passed away, would my father have turned as fiercely conservative as he is, and would I be at moral and political odds with him? Would I have grown as close with some of my other family members as I am now?

    I have always counted myself very lucky to have these “proxy-moms,” but I’ve still grown up fiercely independent. I’ve always made and trusted all of my own decisions, and my family has always been happy to sit back and watch me in my independence. As soon as I started planning a wedding, though, their proxy-mom instincts must have kicked in, because scarcely a day goes by when I don’t hear from a well-meaning family member with some suggestion for my wedding. I have a loving and supportive fiance, and while I still consider myself very independent, I have also become very dependent on his love, support, and encouragement. We are planning this wedding together, the way we want it, and it is so very frustrating that my family doesn’t seem to understand!

    I’m constantly wondering, “If mom were still here, would she be this stuck to tradition? Would she understand our hopes and plans for the wedding? Would she understand that we are not, and have never been, like everyone else?”

    Going through adolescence without a mother was rough, but I’m pretty sure I steeled myself against any sort of grief that might have tried to surface. I rarely thought about my mom, or the fact that she wasn’t around. I lived my life, the way I wanted to. Anytime someone brought her up, then quickly apologized for their slip of the tongue, I was quick to excuse them, saying something like, “Oh, she died years ago. I didn’t know her.” Now that I’ve grown into adulthood, though, and I’m going through something that is so stereotypically done alongside one’s mother, I can’t even believe the immense loss I feel!

    Lynn, reading your post has reassured me that I am not alone, and I tell you, as well as other MMM brides (and grooms)– you are not alone! We’re all here to support one another, which is why I’m incredibly grateful for APW and other groups like it.

  • Thanks for writing this Lynn. I am a motherless daughter as well, though I lost my mom when I was much younger. I was six. I’m now going into planning without my mother, and without a clue what I’m doing really. Our experiences of loss are very different, but I really appreciate you sharing yours.

    Thank you.

  • Amanda

    Thank you Lynn for the wonderful post. I too am a motherless bride attempting to plan my wedding (april 16). Your MMM description sheds light on the emotional roller coaster I have been feeling these past months (including the wedding planning boycott!). One part that really hit home was the line about losing your biggest cheerleader, which is so true in my case as my mom was both a mother and a best friend. I appreciate you putting into words what you were feeling as you have made this bride feel a little bit better about the whole process. Thanks!!

  • Shannon

    I know loosing my dad is not the same – but he was my go to person – I love my mother but she is in her late 70s and thinks that this is all “just a foolish display” – so while not the same…I can relate – as my dad would be my DIY helper and idea-go-to, he loved this sort of thing…he was the romantic one (he would write I love you on the bathroom mirror with lipstick) and my mother was very “proper” …. thank-you all for making me see every angle to the good and the bad to having/not-having that “person” we need with us… <3

  • scrugglet

    Thank you so much for posting this. I lost my mom eleven years ago and it is hitting me more now than it has since the very first year (except when I graduated from college and graduation was on mother’s day – definitely had a moment there).

  • Red

    This is a great article, thanks for sharing! and congrats on your wedding!
    I know how you girls feel…I suffer from “MMM” myself. I lost my mother at the tender age of 4 years old. Life has been a challenge, since my father has also been in and out of my life and we are not close. I am also a Cancer survivor and have been through a lot! I’m currently planning a wedding solo, my only sister is overseas and I myself, am moving to another country to marry and live with my partner. So its a huge live change and move for me. Its hard but we have to stay positive and remember what its all about, you and him and that wonderful moment! Its hard because my partner’s sisters and mother are not supportive or excited at all . I have a lot of faith in God and positive energy, so instead of getting sad or frustrated, I try to focus on the excitement, joy and the events yet to unfold in the new life that awaits us. Instead of being sad about picking up my wedding dress solo, I’m exciting to be picking up my wedding dress period! How awesome is that! I’m not saying you cant have a moment, we all do…but pick yourself right back up! I always picture what my mum would do and her joy during this special time. Happiness is the best way to honour the woman which gave you life!! So push forward girls, have fun planning, creating and making your day the dream your Mum would have loved to be a part of! Keep the faith, wishing all of you healing and joy for your big day!!

  • Katlin

    I know this was posted AGES ago, but I’ve just stumbled onto this website. This was the most amazing, touching thing I have ever read. I had to go cry in a corner for a bit after the intro, but once I managed to read it, I cried and laughed and hiccuped a few times. I lost my mother extremely suddenly three months before I met the man I’m now going to marry and I have been struggling so hard with all of these things. Thank you for sharing. I cannot describe the weight that has been lifted to know that people survive this feeling, plan amazing weddings (just saw your new post. may have to rethink my ‘knit lace tablecloths’ plan…) and smile. Bless you.

    • Zin


      Same as you, I just saw this post as I was searching the web and feeling bad about myself and my situation. I lost my mom last April and met my fiance in November of that year. Our wedding will be a year since we met. I am struggling…all she ever wanted (without pressure) was this day and moment. She would have been so happy and pleased. I have no doubt she would have loved my fiance. A good, honest, compassionate man, and a doctor – she always said she saw me with one. Anyhow, I am surrounded by so much love and so much help yet I can’t help but cry more than I ever have. My mom was my best everything and to think that she will not be there but only in spirit is still too much to take. I don’t want to seem like a baby about it but I can’t help myself. I want my Mom…I needed her then, and I most certainly need her now with this new chapter which goes beyond just my wedding prep and day.

  • Jennifer Ferguson

    I’m so glad to have found this personal story. My mother died in 2004 after 3 cancers, and way too many health issues. It was a bittersweet loss. On one hand I’m happy to know she is out of pain, on the other I miss her to no end. When she passed away it never occurred to me that I would be continually grieving for her loss.
    Those moments become crystal clear at the most inopportune times, or at least I feel. It’s 3:00 am here and I’m crying over the fact that I will have to plan a wedding without my mother by my side. My boyfriend and I have not made anything official yet, but the marriage subject has been popping up all over the place. We know we will but we just aren’t in a hurry. But we talk and we discuss/joke about what theme and what rings, and so on.
    However today was a bit hard. Me having an analytical brain, I started to think about who would do what in the scheme of things. Who would walk me down the isle, who’s the maid of honor … so on and so forth. (My dad and I are more like friends than father/daughter, he’s not very good at the dad thing.) I had thought about these things before, but never like this. Then I began to Google, the dreaded Google search. I never understood how much the mother is involved. I had avoided this painful thought for a while thinking that I would be hurting my Aunt’s feelings by acknowledging that she isn’t my “real” mother. She’s been there as a guide in my life and I do call her mum.
    However reading many posts and especially reading this story, I realize it’s okay. I can grieve, and yes I can honor my mother at my wedding. I can miss her and I can most certainly cry about it. Maybe my wedding planning will just take a little longer than others and I can give myself time to go through the process and miss my mom when the moment calls for it. I’ll just have to glue a tissue box to my side while I do it ;)
    Thank you so much for this story.
    And I am truly sorry to hear about your mothers passing.

  • Dannye Maldonado

    My son has just announced his engagement. I understand the Mother of the Groom’s responsibilities, however, the bride’s mother is deceased, so I am the sole mother. What are my responsibilities and how can I make this better for her?

  • nicole

    This helped me so much…. my mom died 4 months ago. I’m getting married in one year. This really made me feel beget. Thank you again.

  • sarah

    I am blogging about my experience of planning my wedding without my mom. Can’t promise it will help anyone, but I desperately needed guidance and help with planning my wedding- when I saw nothing was constant, I decided to start my own blog. Thanksfully, so far it is helping me more than I imagined! If you decide to check it out, I hope it brings you comfort.