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How To Plan A Wedding When You've Lost A Loved One

Keely Thompson's mother passed away quite suddenly before she got married. Keely struggled through wedding planning as she mourned her mother's absence. Here she gives some helpful advice on how to keep positive and manage your grief during wedding planning

25 Jul 2018

Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful, so doing this when either you or your spouse has lost someone significant can make organising it even more difficult – and overwhelmingly emotional. Whether you’re grieving a parental figure, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, child or friend, in either a recent or historical context, the whirlwind of emotions created by their absence can overshadow your joyous occasion with a dark cloud. In reality, the number of people who are affected by this issue will be significant. And it’s unfortunate that the subject matter is rarely written about.

I remember perusing websites while I was grieving. I’d see gifts ideas for the mother of the bride and think: well, that’s not applicable to me. When I read articles about and saw pictures of mothers of the bride, it would make me want to stop whatever I was doing and give up. There might be someone out there who, when they see videos on social media of daughters dancing with their fathers, think, how can I do this? Or perhaps someone’s husband-to-be has lost his closest friend and struggles when asked who his best man will be.

You know that you should be excited, that you should be celebrating and looking forward to your hen or stag do. Everyone else is talking about how great it’s going to be and yet you feel angry, upset and perhaps underwhelmed by the whole event. This is, of course, not because you no longer want to marry the love of your life – quite the contrary. But your focus has been shifted, either intermittently or totally, by the void left by the absence of that special person who won’t feature in the day as you’d imagined. Perhaps they were your confidante and you know that any of the stresses leading up to that day would have been quelled by their humour, wisdom or friendly ear. Maybe you’d made plans together as to what their role on the big day would be. Now it feels like the shine has been taken off your precious day.

Ultimately, when the big day finally arrived for me, I was just overjoyed to be marrying the love of my life. I was reminded of how lucky I was to be surrounded by all the lovely people who came to support us. I thought about my mum on the day and my daughter got upset while thinking of her, but our family rallied around to lift her spirits and she wasn’t sad for long. The day before my wedding, our florist placed tea lights and succulents around a framed picture of my mum that I had brought with me. It was a lovely touch that I hadn’t thought of myself. Everyone wanted pictures of us cutting our wedding cake, so this made sure she was in many photographs taken on the day.

Keely with her husband, son and daughter on her wedding day

David Paul Photography

But I remember thinking during wedding planning: there must be others who have or are going through grief like this while planning their own weddings… So, I decided to start typing and set out to produce an article that focused on helping others through my own experience. Below I list some productive things to do that might help you.

1) Make your special person part of your wedding day

In any way possible – for example, a photograph of them somewhere prominent. But there are also many companies who specialise in producing jewellery which contain the ashes of a loved one. The range can vary from rings, pendant’s and even cufflinks. A nice idea could be to have a piece of jewellery specially made to wear on your wedding day. It isn’t for everyone but, for some, it could bring a great deal of comfort. Find a way that suits you.

2) Go easy on yourself

There is so much to do when planning a wedding. And, if you are also working, looking after children or studying, this will limit the time you actually have to plan. This, on top of feeling sad about someone’s absence already, can be quite stressful, so take time off as and when you can, get early nights and plenty of rest. Eating healthy meals and exercising can also give you a boost, both mentally and physically.

3) Delegate

This can be taken one of two ways. If delegating isn’t normally an issue for you, then this should be easy – so long as you don’t get to the point where you’re assigning so many tasks to others that you’re practically absent from the planning process. The second approach could have a devastating effect if you reach your wedding day and wish you’d had more input. If, on the other hand, you’re the type of person who finds it hard to relinquish control, you could exhaust yourself and become generally run-down by trying to do everything yourself. Whichever category you fall into, listen to those around you, accept help and remember: you are not alone.

4) Don’t rule out a hen or stag do

But you don’t need to follow tradition if you don't want to. It doesn’t have to be a raucous affair and it doesn’t have to be your best man, bridesmaid or mum who organises the event. Chat over coffee or go out for a pub lunch with your nearest and dearest so you can discuss ideas about what you’d like to do. Then you can ask someone who’s super organised and a great communicator to do the rest. This way you know where you’re up to and still feel you have a handle on things.

5) Prepare a running order and give it to someone you trust

You will get phone calls from suppliers and the venue about who’s arriving and when, which can be overwhelming as the day draws near, especially when you keep thinking about your loved one not being there. Set time aside to write a running order in advance or ask your planner or wedding venue co-ordinator to help before passing it to someone you can rely on to take care of it. At least then you have another person who knows exactly what is going on who can help co-ordinate things, as well as being another point of contact to relieve some pressure.

But my main advice to anyone reading is this: though it may not seem like it, your wedding day will be such a blessing and you’ll create memories that’ll stay with you forever. Cherish every moment and remember why you said yes!

Keely works as Marketing Manager for GreenAcres Cemeteries and Ceremonial Parks, specialising in venues that host life's landmark occasions, from birth, through to marriage and funerals