How to cope without your Mum on your wedding day
The idea of not only getting married but planning your wedding without your Mum is one that can seem like an enormous hurdle within the journey of your grief. With Mother’s Day approaching, this painful experience can be highlighted even more and so I decided to reach out to any brides and grooms who might be going through this and offer some of my experience, advice and support.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that within the first 5 minutes of finding out that my Mum had died, the thought crossed my mind – when I get married, she won’t be there.
As a little girl I had never been one to fantasise about my own wedding, in fact I was far more preoccupied with having a pony or being a Mum than I was bothered about getting married. Nevertheless, I had always secretly hoped I’d meet someone who I might one day want to marry, and I did.
Tom (my now husband) and I were together at the time of Mum’s death but we hadn’t been together a long time and so marriage wasn’t really on the cards, but I still knew he’d be the one I would end up walking down the aisle with and Mum had always been a part of that dream.
Acceptance after death can be a slow, agonising journey. For me, the time between our engagement and our wedding was one of the key parts to accepting that Mum wasn’t going to be there, and this undoubtedly made the day easier. We were engaged about 18 months before we tied the knot and I truly believe I needed that time to visualise and accept my wedding without my Mum’s physical presence.
If you’re struggling to accept that she won’t be there, I urge you to seek support. Chances are, if you’re reading this then not only have you lost your Mum, but she was also taken from you too soon, and that in itself can lead to a complex, challenging grief journey. There are so many ways you can find support. For me, it involved many conversations with trusted loved ones as well as professional counselling.
One of the things that got me through not having my Mum present on my wedding day was the small ways in which I paid tribute to her. Whilst I was careful not to upset others who would also be missing Mum, I thought carefully about meaningful ways I could still involve her in my wedding.
We got married in the church where my Mum grew up, where my parents were married and where my Mum (and lots of our ancestors) are buried.
The morning of the wedding I got up early, drove to the church and spent some time at my Mum’s grave. My florist had done my Mum a matching bouquet to mine, which I placed on my Mum’s grave that morning. I was conscious that I didn’t want to upset myself by going to my Mum’s graveside at my wedding ceremony, so doing this before the day began seemed like a wonderful opportunity to reflect, to shed a tear and to thank my Mum for giving me the courage to do this without her.
I wore my Mum’s necklace as my something borrowed, which my sister put on me – a moment which felt incredibly poignant somehow.
I did a speech, again conscious not to drag down the mood, I spoke mostly of others and Tom, but for 2 minutes I paid tribute to my Mum, which felt important, appropriate and necessary.
There was a photograph of my Mum and her sister outside of the church from my Mum’s own wedding, for some odd reason they are holding their bouquets upside down! My sister and I recreated this image (although being the stubborn person she is, my sister refused to hold her bouquet any way other than the right way up!!!)
Other Tribute Ideas:
Have her favourite flowers in your bouquet or buttonhole
Wear her perfume or spray a dab on your pocket square
Have a “Remembering those who can’t be here” table at your venue, where guests can light candles for those who are missed
Pay tribute to her in your Order of Service
Add an heirloom to your bouquet, dress or suit
Display family photographs
Be kind to yourself
Grief is a long, challenging road with many a bump – it’s been four and a half years since I lost my mum, and I still have occasional days of overwhelming sadness, but that’s ok. I’ve learnt the hard way that it’s important to feel it because grief can’t be pushed away, it’ll always come back and rear its ugly head.
Unfortunately, there is no exception to this on your wedding day, and so I urge you to accept that at times you might feel sad. But that really is ok.
For me, setting time aside that morning to mourn really worked because by the time I’d arrived at bridal prep I felt lighter somehow, and my wedding day was still the most overwhelmingly joyful, happy, wonderful day of my life.
One of the most useful tools I’ve gained on my journey since Mum died is that of gratitude.
A friend recently told me that my trauma gave me strength, compassion and a deeper understanding of life and relationships – what wonderful things to have gained.
I would have given my right arm for more time, but the reality is – I had 25 wonderful years with my amazing mum, and for that, I will always be grateful.
And my friend is totally right, if it wasn’t for what I’ve been through, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I certainly wouldn’t be a wedding photographer!
Focusing on the positives, however terrible the situation, is an amazing way of turning your sorrow into a good thing. There is always something to be grateful for, and so if you’re finding things difficult, why not try writing a list of everything you’re grateful for each night before bed. You’ll probably be surprised how good this will make you feel.
More than anything, she would want you to be happy
This, I TRULY believe. If you’ve lost your Mum – more than anything you deserve a wonderful, love-filled happy wedding day because you’ve been through a lot.
I have absolutely no doubt that your Mum wouldn’t want you to be sad on your wedding day, so bare that in mind. Yes, it’s important to feel, but it’s your day, and you totally deserve to shine.
It will be ok, I promise
It’s ok to find it tough, don’t beat yourself up because part of you feels sad about your wedding day. You’re only human after all, and your Mum not being at your wedding day is a major hurdle in your grief journey.
You may not be a spiritual person, but I am, and I believe that just because our Mums can’t be there in person, that doesn’t mean they aren’t all around us. I truly believe Mum was with me on my wedding day, beaming down at me with joy and pride – and I believe yours will be too.
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