Monday, April 21, 2014


I'm not entirely certain what i'm asking, except perhaps, for some insight from those who've felt what I feel daily: heartache.  

Dear readers, I'm planning my wedding to a dear old friend and my beloved dad won't be there with me. He died last May and I have no idea how to be in the world without him. His presence by my side at my wedding was a given. My clearest vision of my wedding when I was growing up was that he would escort me into this new place, this new beginning. I was going to stand on his feet and dance to "Brown Eyed Girl" with him just like we did when I was small. But he's gone and it was unexpected. 

How do I do it? How do I, the most pure embodiment of him, walk myself down the aisle knowing that he'll never be able to give his blessing? How to I embrace this new beginning without my beginning there to guide me?

I'm at a loss. I need the sage wisdom of those who have lived what I'm living everyday.

Your words are gold to me. 


I brought in an expert. Whitney emailed me last April, struggling with how to acknowledge her dad at her wedding, and I semi-flubbed my response. But the esb readers, especially those who had gone through what she was going through, had v. helpful things to say.

One year later, here's Whitney's advice for you:

There is nothing that I can say that will ease your pain. It is a gut-wrenching absence. But these are some things that helped me make it through the day without losing my shit.


Planning a wedding was great for keeping me busy and distracting me from my grief. This also meant I was bottling up a lot of emotion that typically exploded anytime I heard a song that reminded me of my dad. I had a pretty big break-down the day before my wedding. It was wedding-stress related, not specifically about my dad, but considering how disproportionate it was, had everything to do with his absence. In retrospect, I think it helped me keep it together the next day. Maybe a couple of days before your wedding you could watch a favorite movie of his? Write him a letter? Let it all out.

Skip Father/Daughter stuff.

This is probably kind of obvious. I walked down the aisle with my husband. We did a first dance together, but no other traditional wedding dances. I felt that even if we skipped straight to something like the “Anniversary Dance” it would only highlight the absence of the father/bride and mother/groom dances.

Find some way to honor him.

ESB readers offered heaps of great suggestions on various ways to do this. It helped to have a designated moment where I felt it was appropriate to lose it. I actually didn’t lose it nearly as badly as I thought I would.

Be present.

Focus on your amazing friends, family, and you know, the whole getting-married-business. (This is helpful advice for any bride, really. It all happens so fast, it’s overwhelming.) It was so magical to have friends and family from all over the world be in one space, supporting us in our new life together, that I really couldn’t help but be completely full of joy. Of course there were occasional pangs of “I really wish he was here!” but it is possible to just breathe, and be grateful for everyone who is there.

It is ok to lose it.

This may be some of the best advice I received. I think just having permission made it possible to not lose it. People cry at weddings! I cried happy tears, I cried sad tears. I had the most amazing day of my life.

It’s been a year and a half since my dad died and it’s still so painful. There are so many triggers. Roy Orbison. Western films. Hatch green chiles. And I’m a hot mess at the father/daughter dance of every wedding I’ve been to since. But I made it through my wedding day, and you will too. 

Like you said, you are the pure embodiment of him. He is part of you. He is still guiding you in this new beginning, through all that he taught you.

Love and hugs,

(So much love to you both)

Photos by Tinca Veerman via The Jealous Curator


  1. Really great advice. I totally second skipping the father/daughter stuff and making the time to "let it out" before the wedding. I totally thought I was going to lose it, but the wedding was so overwhelming and full of love that I didn't even have the time to bawl my eyes out like I thought I would.

    If anyone needs suggestions for ways to honor your dad without making it super sappy, here's what we did at our wedding:

    - we had a Jewish wedding, so we used my dad's tallit as the fabric of the chuppah.
    - we served one of my dad's (and my) favorite desserts - it's kind of impossible to lose it over key lime pie.
    - we did have a traditional gift registry, but we also suggested that our guests could make a donation to the American Heart Association instead.

    Also, I asked my mom and brother to both walk me down the aisle. The absence of my dad was as hard on my mom as it was on me, so she appreciated the extra support.

    1. i walked with my mom, too (lost my dad at 8 months). i also like the idea of walking down with your future spouse.

      hugs and strength to you, op. and if you lose it, that is 100% ok. <3

  2. been there, done that - and my heart goes out to you. i got married 6(ish months) after my Dad passed away. my mom walked me down the aisle, i danced with my brother, and although it was very emotional - i made a decision to be happy and concentrate on all of the amazing parts of the wedding and try to not dwell on all of the reminder of his absence.
    i pinned something of his inside my dress, and it was nice to 'feel' him there. definitely skip anything that you think will be too hard for you! as goes all ESB advice, do what is right for you and what will make you happy!
    im sure you will find a way to honor and think of your dad on your wedding day without turning into a mess over it. - and if you can have someone to pay special attention to your Mom throughout, that was important to me.

  3. A good friend of mine got married 3 years ago without her father, who had passed away years earlier. She had a photo of him in a small frame that she pinned into her bouquet so he could walk with her down the aisle. It was a small, subtle way to be with him, and it was beautiful.

    For the father/daughter dance, she danced with her mother to her parent's wedding song, and it was really a beautiful moment for both of them who were missing him so much in that moment.

    You'll find your way, and he will be with you in every moment.

    So sorry for all of your losses.

  4. Nothing to add here except that I'm so sorry. And...well, you believe what you believe and I don't wanna infringe upon that...but I really really believe your dad will be at your wedding. And is with you every day.

  5. I lost my mom when I was 15 and I am getting married next month. While the wound isn't fresh, weddings certainly have a way of bringing that pain to surface. As a remembrance I am putting out pictures of her on her wedding day along with some photos of my fiancé's and my deceased grandparents on their respective wedding days, along with some candles and flowers. Guests, most of whom were close to my mom or our grandparents in one way or another, will be greeted with these photos as they come into the venue. I think this will be a nice way for everyone to take a moment and think about our lost loved ones before the ceremony begins.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. My heart truly goes out to you. <3<3

  6. Everyone's comments so far have been spot on, I hope they help. I lost my Dad almost 10 years ago, and I will be getting married next year. Other than what's already been said- I plan on writing my Dad a letter the week of the wedding, and just imagine talking to him about everything that's going on. But I've done that a lot over the years, it's my way of dealing. I also plan on digging up any old emails that he ever wrote to me. Anything to feel as close as possible to my time with him.

  7. Hi sweet,
    I am so sorry for your loss. I too lost my dad unexpectedly and I remember that the first year without him was the hardest. There are so many "firsts" to get through as it is, and you are planning your wedding in the midst of it all. I trust that you will find a way to honor and remember him in whatever way feels right to you. For me, I found that the anticipation of having my wedding without him was harder than the wedding day itself, but I know that everyone experiences grief differently. Allow yourself to feel it all and let the love of your family and fiancé carry you. Much love.

  8. I'm so so sorry for your loss. I lost my dad to a very quick-moving cancer about 6 years ago and often it still feels like yesterday. I met my boyfriend at his wake (he works as a funeral director) and we're likely going to get married in the next two years. I don't know how I'm going to manage it either.

    My dad was a giant prankster, and one of his favorite things to do at weddings (among other obnoxious things) was to pour the salt shakers into cousin's coat pockets as a take-away surprise at the end of the night. I plan on leaving packets of salt on the tables with a little note to put them in their pockets for the night as a reminder of dad. I'm sure we'll honor him in other ways as well, but this way makes me feel closer to him than anything else I've dreamed up over the years.

    Sending lots of love your way.

  9. thank you all so much for the heartfelt and much-needed advice. your words truly are gold, and i feel the love you all send deeply.

    thank you for your kind, open, honest, graciousness. i will carry you all in my heart on july 18.

  10. brown eyed girl when you walk down the isle.
    what a happy way to remember and start on a positive energy for the day. nice, simple acoustic guitar. : )