My father has died unexpectedly. Now I'm not sure who is going to walk me down the aisle.
“Emotions are so magnified during times of grief; navigating change and expectations is very difficult. To not have your father to fulfil such a pivotal role will be a source of pain, so the first step is to sit with your mother and siblings and communicate this. Ask if one of them would be happy to step into the role or even if they have any other suggestions – is there another male role model in the family who would be honoured to be asked? Could you walk halfway down the aisle alone and then be met by a brother or uncle? The main thing to remember is that it is likely to create more upset if communication breaks down. When people are included and considered in such decisions, they feel acknowledged and are more likely to be supportive.” – Dipti Solanki, grief coach
My mother has been sick for a while and sadly, it looks like she won’t make it to our wedding but I'd like to plan to honour her memory somehow.
“There are a few things you can do to ensure your mother’s presence is felt on the day. Wear a piece of her jewellery or add something of hers to your bouquet, or even include her favourite flowers. Wear a scent that reminds you of her. The readings could be dedicated to her, you could also ask the wedding planner to create a special seat for her or a special flower bouquet, so that she would be present with you.” – Dipti
Someone important in our family has passed away and now their spouse will have to attend alone. Is it too soon to offer a plus-one?
“First, take a step back. Your family member may be going through a difficult time, so approach them with compassion. In terms of offering them the chance to bring an alternative plus-one, it may be too soon for them to think about that. Grieving is a personal process and everyone handles it differently. It may be best to wait and see how they are coping before suggesting an alternative. It also depends very much on how you make the offer. Try framing it as bringing a friend or someone close for support. Be sensitive to avoid any suggestion that you’re implying they find a new partner. Even if you weren’t close, you would be surprised how helpful that can be. Grief can be a lonely process and it is important to make sure that they know they're not alone.” – Dr Lisa Turner, trauma & emotional resilience expert & founder of CETfreedom
LEAH FLORES/STOCKSY UNITED
My fiancé's dad has passed away unexpectedly only a week before the wedding. Should we delay?
“Sudden deaths are, in many ways, the hardest. There is no opportunity to say goodbye and the bereaved are often in shock. The decision to delay the wedding should be made based on what feels right for you and your fiancé. Consider the practical aspects. If postponing the wedding would provide the time and space needed for your fiancé to grieve, it may be the best decision. In the meantime, there are several ways you can support your fiancé during this time. First, listen to him without judgement and validate his emotions. Grief can be so all encompassing, so it may be difficult for your fiancé to be present on the wedding day if it’s not too far ahead. Perhaps just even letting him know that cancelling is an option would remove the pressure.” – Lisa
I lost both of my grandparents during Covid. Now, we're looking for ways to honour their memory as part of our wedding.
“Why not play ‘their’ song as your first dance? Or light a candle for them during the ceremony? Given there were many lives were lost during Covid, a broader dedication might work well. Alternatively, raise a toast to them during the speeches and have a table of pictures and memories on display during the reception.” – Dipti
“It's understandable that your family would want to honour the memory of your grandparents as part of your wedding. You could wear something that reminds you of them, such as a piece of jewellery or a flower in their favourite colour. You could consider including their picture in the wedding album, too – albeit separately. You could also ask the wedding planner to create a special seat for them. It can also be meaningful to incorporate something that they loved in your wedding, like a special dance, a toast or a favourite meal.” – Lisa
My mother isn't around to help me look for a dress and I'm feeling the loss more than ever. How can I manage these feelings to make wedding planning an enjoyable process?
“Write down your feelings, perhaps even write a letter to your mother in which you can tell her how it feels to not have her around for these important milestones, what you wish it could have been like and how you will honour her going forward. As difficult as this will feel, it will help you release a lot and it will help you feel lighter. You will still miss her, but you’ll have had space to process and enjoy the preparation for your wedding.” – Dipti
“Think about what she would have liked, what she would have said. Try taking something that reminds you of her with you when you try on dresses – like a piece of her jewellery. Another way to make the wedding planning process more enjoyable is to focus on the things that you are looking forward to. It's also important to remember that your mother would want you to celebrate even if she isn’t there.” – Lisa
Here, real-life bride Georgia tells us how she handled her dad's absence on the big day…
From the second I got engaged, my excitement was mixed with anxiety and sadness. The loss of my father ten years earlier started to weigh heavily, and the stress of finding the perfect way to commemorate him (in a graceful yet subtle way) was very much front of mind.
During initial 15-month lead up, I was constantly thinking about my dad. More specifically, how we would honour him at my wedding – which was then extended by a further 18 months due to the pandemic. Although it was an incredibly frustrating time, the extra months actually gave me the space I needed to find a solution.
It wasn't just important to remember my father; I also wanted to pay homage to my stepfather. He had been such a guiding light after my father's passing, so I had to think of how to honour two incredible men – one here and one gone – on the same night. It came to me one morning – I decided to walk the first half of the aisle on my own, to signify my dad's presence beside me, and meet my stepfather at the top of the aisle who would escort me to my soon-to-be husband at the alter. I pictured this moment every day until the time finally came, and really hoped I'd be able to feel my dad's presence on the day.
We finally made it to Rome and to our wedding. As I took my first step, I truly felt the presence of my dad. He was definitely there with me. I'm so grateful I could create this special moment in the wedding – it was one he deserved and he got it. I really believe he passed me onto my stepfather, who then walked me to the altar.
Here, real-life bride Clem tells us her story...
We'd been engaged for just over two years when my dad passed away suddenly. It happened at the beginning of March, just over three months before our wedding. In the immediate weeks that followed, I couldn't say the word 'wedding' or comprehend feeling happy again. Last year was a year of weddings for us, with siblings and friends also getting married, so invites were practically flying through the letter box. In the end, the reality of our own wedding was something I could no longer ignore.
We made the decision to go ahead with our original wedding date. Our perspective on everything had changed – life felt incredibly precious and we just wanted to be husband and wife. My dad had been very much involved in our wedding plans and we felt that continuing on would mean he was still be a part of our day. Our wedding was quite traditional, so the role of 'father of the bride' was quite important to us. My dad's absence threw up many difficult choices – some of which I addressed straight away and some I delayed until the week of the wedding. Having experienced such immense lows in the lead up to the wedding, I think I was quite a relaxed bride. The worst that could have happened had happened, so a few spinals missing from the roof of the marquee the day before felt like a drop in the ocean.
On the morning of the wedding I felt surprisingly calm. My mum and sisters helped me into my dress and then my brother arrived to take mum and I to the church. Walking down the aisle was my biggest fear – I asked my younger brother to accompany me and squeezed his hand so hard. We were closely followed by my sisters and bridesmaids. At the start of the ceremony, our vicar lit a candle for my dad to acknowledge his presence; I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of love and support from everyone in that moment. My dad loved architecture and I know how much he loved the church we got married in, so it felt like he was there with us.
We nearly didn't have speeches, but at the last minute I changed my mind. I asked my dad's best friend to say a few words – incidentally, he was meant to have been the best man at my parents' wedding but couldn't attend at the last minute. He has a wicked sense of humour and had us laughing and crying in equal measure. My dad was quite the entertainer; he loved to eat, drink and be merry, and I think we did him proud.
It's only in hindsight that I see how much joy, focus and excitement our wedding gave me. Before our wedding, I felt like I had been robbed of one of the happiest days of my life. But in reality, it was a happy day – and the start of a new chapter of my life.