Thursday, April 18, 2013

Dear ESB: How do I acknowledge my father?

I've always said that I would not have a wedding. "I'd rather travel and elope abroad!" Now, I'm so glad that we decided to have a wedding because all of our favorite people, from all over the world, will be in the same city, having all sorts of fun together. 

My dad and I have always had a great relationship, so despite the fact that I was never crazy about the whole wedding thing, when I attend weddings or see them on TV, I've always pictured my dad walking me down the aisle. I've thought about what song we'd dance to for the father/daughter dance. He was just always...there. 

My dad committed suicide 7 months ago. It was a shock. I had no idea he was depressed. Preparing for a wedding that he won't be a part of has been difficult. It's been nice keeping busy, but now we're planning the ceremony and reception and I know I need to acknowledge him in some way. I've read that a lot of people have a moment of silence during the ceremony, but that seems like a huge downer. We're not religious so a prayer isn't going to happen. When is an appropriate moment? 

I'd also like to include/honor my step-father in some way. He's really amazing and has been very supportive. I feel like if my dad hadn't died so recently, I could handle a father/daughter dance or something like that with him. However, at this point, I think any of the traditional father roles would highlight my dad's absence and make me lose my shit. 

I don't want to completely lose my shit. 

Any advice on how to handle this would be very much appreciated. 


Lady, I am so so sorry you are going through this.

My mother's father committed suicide when she was 19, and though it wasn't a complete shock, I know how gut-wrenching it was for her to deal with.

Write a toast for your dad and give it at the reception.

This will make you bawl, but that's okay. Give yourself permission to bawl. Then maybe you won't have to worry about losing your shit for the rest of the night.

(And don't sweat your stepdad. He knows you care about him. Maybe get him a little present if you feel like it.)

So much love,

Collage by Matt Wisniewski using photography by Derrick Leung via Ez Pudewa


  1. This is tough. My situation was a little different, as my father passed 6 years ago so the pain wasn't as fresh. But I wanted to honor him as well and in a way that wouldn't make me or everyone else really sad. He was the biggest Bob Dylan fan there ever was, so as our reading we picked the lyrics to "Wedding Song" off Planet Waves, which was really touching and meant a lot to my family. It was subtle, but everyone who knew him understood, and it fit in our ceremony beautifully. Think about the things he loved, and see if you can inject some of his personality some where to help people remember him in a positive way. I also added his name on our programs under my mom's name in remembrance. I'm so sorry you're going through this, good luck.

    1. I REALLY like the idea of choosing a song as a reading and second it. It's a beautiful, very meaningful and gentle way of remembering someone. I also like the idea of making it part of your 'small collection' of ceremony details, like adding his name to the program and incorporating it with the other readings, singing, or music you might have...

      On which note, if you go with several readings, songs, music selections, etc, I think it would be good to place this reading somewhere in the middle of them. That might make the timing of things even gentler. xx

  2. I dunno, when a bride asks for ways to help her not completely lose her shit, maybe it's not the best advice to encourage her to write a toast in which she's going to cry in front of all her guests?

    What about your program? Could you include a photo of you and your dad together and a note about him/how you wish he was there that day?

    Or take a moment and step outside to send off one of those Thai candle balloons, maybe with your new husband and your and his parents (including your step-dad), and make it a private moment in a public day to say thank you to them.

    1. i'm with kaitlyn here; i see where you were coming from with the speech idea, esb, but i think something like a note and/or a private moment during the public day (nice way of putting it, kaitlyn) serves the purpose without the nasty side effects (who benefits from the bride losing her shit during a toast and/or worrying about said toast all night?).

  3. i'm planning on performing/reading a piece/poem in honor of my own dad, but i'm unsure of when to do it...ceremony? reception? toast? no idea. also, i'm probably putting him on the program somewhere...

  4. My uncle passed a few years ago. Growing his own chillies and eating them was his favorite thing.He loved hot food and when we were young we loved watching him load his food with chillies. When my cousin got married this month my aunt put tiny chillies into my cousins bouquet that "he could walk down the isle with her".
    Good Luck to you!

    1. I know this is a serious subject, but when people write 'isle' instead of 'aisle' it really gets on my tits.. rant over.

      Lovely idea of including a momento in the bouquet, btw.

      I'd say put something in the program or I like the idea above about reading/playing a meaningful song in the regular flow of the wedding, subtle without making everyone cry.
      If you did want to say a little something but don't think you'll be able to keep it together maybe ask a close relative to read your speech for you?

    2. I love this so much. Obviously very specific, but maybe the letter writer has a similar symbolic thing where she and close ones will know e meaning, and bring a positive memory into the proceedings.

    3. Sorry J & C! English isn't my first language...Spell check failed me.

    4. Now don't you feel like kind of an ass, J&C?

  5. I think giving a toast about him would be really beautiful, but also very hard. You'll be focusing on that part of the day rather than enjoying the rest.

    Making him part of your day in a more positive, subtle way might be easier. When I got married my grandparents had long been passed, and my mother gave me a locket with their pictures in it and I wore it inside of my dress. They with me all day/night.

    I had a friend who had tiny photos of her deceased father on her bouquet (similar to this: so he was "walking her down" the aisle.

    Choosing a song he loved to dance to, or read out loud at the end of your ceremony is a really great way for you to involve him without being uncomfortable. Just a sweet, subtle nod to him.

  6. Our ceremony included a line, something like "As a new family is being created, we remember family members who are unable to be here and on whose foundation you build." Which nicely included grandparents who couldn't make the ceremony, but which was - for my mum, brother and me - really about honouring my dad.

    I didn't think I could handle talking about my dad in a speech without losing it completely, but totally unplanned, all three of the toasts included brief mentions of my him. Which floored me for a few minutes (keep tissues handy)but was also extremely lovely because it lifted the pressure for me to say/do the definitive acknowledgement.

    Don't underestimate the capacity of friends and family to step up and be gracious and awesome.

  7. My partner and I have each lost grandparents in this past year, and we were looking for ways to honor them, as well. We're going to have a table near the front of our ceremony site, with all of their wedding photos. We're also having a pre-ceremony ring-warming (pre-ceremony b/c we're inviting a lot of people) and we're going to place those rings next to those pictures. Maybe something like that would be a quiet but obvious way to honor your father? xo. good luck.

    1. What is a ring-warming?! Like a housewarming? Or...something else?

    2. This is a bit cheesy, but it explains it.

  8. I can't speak to whether/how you should honor your father -- that is deeply personal decision that you may still be making the day of the event.

    I think as far as your step-dad goes, ESB's advice is spot on. You don't need to 'replace' your father at your wedding, and your step-father will surely understand. Especially if you take him out for breakfast/lunch/drinks and have a heart-to-heart about the whole situation. I'm sure that pre-wedding moment would mean a lot to him.

  9. :( I'm so sorry for your loss. Hugs to you through cyberspace.

    A toast sounds nerve-racking, and you probably don't need any extra nerves on your wedding day. I like what Ms K suggested–I did that at my wedding as well (two of my grandparents are gone, and three of my husband's grandparents are gone. We honored them at our wedding with framed photographs of them set up on a table and flowers scattered around.)

    Whatever you do, as long as it's meaningful to you it doesn't matter who else knows about it. You don't have to speak in front of the crowd in order to honor your father–It can be more quiet and personal if you prefer.

  10. Anything you choose will be just fine. A song would be nice. A moment of silence will be fine, and probably not a downer, if you want to keep it simple.

    It'll be fine if you lose your shit. You'll find your shit again and probably just get right back to dancing.

    Something really sad has happened and bits of sadness will run through the day no matter what. That's okay. Probably bits of happiness have run through the sad days.

    Your dad's memory will be a part of the day no matter what, because how could it not?

  11. I asked my best friends husband to give a toast to my dad as he knew me but was far enough removed not to get emotional.
    He kept the toast short and sweet, which I think is important because you will cry and we chose to do it the middle of the speeches which meant the speeches didn't end on a 'sad note'.
    I had asked him to just give a toast but he also said some very lovely things which I wasn't expecting.
    There is no way I could have given that toast myself and I don't think members of my close family could have done it either and my dad had been dead for 10 years when I got married. It also meant that everyone at the wedding could raise their glass and remember him too.
    I am sure you will find your own way to include your dad on the day, I had something of his in my bag, but the toast was something I will never forget and after 10 years of marriage it has always stayed with me.

  12. If you'd like to do something public during the ceremony, but are afraid of it being too much of a "downer", you could honor all of the parents, and mention him along side of everyone else.

    Both of my parents are deceased, and during our ceremony we presented flowers to several important family members. So, my husband's mother, grandmother and my stepmother all received bouquets (and hugs!), and I placed two more in front of photos of my mother and father.

    I thought it was a nice way to acknowledge them, while not focusing only on the sadness of people we'd lost.

  13. In memory of one of my best friends who died a few years ago, our two brothers who each died very young, and a general "in memorium," we had the officiant mention in the ceremony that we both carried sprigs of rosemary, the herb of remembrance, in our bouquet/boutonniere. It was a small portion of the ceremony, and quick enough that I didn't get really, really choked up about it, but meaningful.

    I think the toast is a great idea, but maybe made by someone else? 3

  14. My dad passed away when I was 9, and one of the things I always remember about him is his love of music from the late 1950-early 1960s. He instilled this love in our whole family, so what I ended up doing was choosing all of our ceremony music and dedicating it to his memory (and made mention of this in our program).

  15. My dad had been dead for 11 years when I got married, but I still miss him like crazy. We got married in my mom's backyard, which used to be nothing but dirt when my family first moved into the house, and the location was awesome b/c it felt like he was all around. We also built a wedding arch out of driftwood, and hung a stained glass window that he made from the top of the arch, so it was a visual reminder of him. If there's any subtle visual reminder of him, you could consider how to include it.

    Our officiant also made mention of the people who were "gone but still present" in the ceremony, which was non-specific enough that I didn't cry during the ceremony.

    There's probably going to be some tears, at some point, but you gotta ride it out. there will be joy as well. So sorry that you are now a member of the dead dads club; sending good thoughts your way.

  16. My brother died just 5 months before my wedding. I had a similar struggle with how to honor him. Everything I came up with felt fake, or overly dramatic, or as if it would be too hard, or like something he would have hated.
    In the end he was mentioned during the ceremony as part of the prayers of the faithful (Catholic ceremony) and everyone found small ways of their own to keep his memory with them. With the wound so fresh though, I promise you, no one will forget him. Everyone will have him in their thoughts at some point during the day. If you don't want to do anything, or if everything feels wrong, that's okay.

  17. I definitely wouldn't have been able to make a toast in honor of my parents without making a huge mess and having cry-hiccups for the rest of the night... and they had been dead for almost a decade when we got married (one of them having committed suicide as well). I did really want to honor them though, and we worked them into a brief segment in the ceremony honoring loved ones who have passed on. We also lit a candle (inside a hurricane lantern so it wouldn't get blown out outdoors) to symbolize their presence.

    So so sorry your dad is not with you physically but lady, he will be with you forever and you will get through this.

  18. I'm so glad I wrote in, I was not able to think clearly about this. Thank you so much for all of your advice. Our wedding was on Sunday. I asked my aunt to give a short speech at the reception and it was perfect. Not too sad, just the perfect way to acknowledge him. I cried, but I didn't "lose my shit" and there were far more happy tears throughout the day. My step-dad is awesome and I really had nothing to worry about there. Thanks for your words of encouragement. It really helped. (And as someone who was set against having a wedding for years, it was the best weekend I've ever experienced. So glad I finally got on board!)