From the very beginning of wedding planning, there’s always been a bit of a shadow over things. For those of you who don’t know, my dad died of leukemia two weeks after my eighth birthday. He had been in and out of hospitals since I was six, finally received a bone marrow transplant, but his body rejected it. And I still remember, to this day, that when my mom told us he was gone that I buried my head in the couch cushions and thought, “but who will walk me down the aisle when I get married someday?”
Now, that’s a real issue. More specifically–how do I deal with my father’s absence on a day where all things daddy-daughter are front and center, and how do I appropriately honor his memory. I love my father very much, but I do not want our wedding to turn into a sad event. He wouldn’t want that, either! Here are some things we’ve decided on to honor his memory.
The first and most important thing was to figure out who will walk me down the aisle. As I saw it, I basically had three options:
- walk down the aisle alone.
- walk down the aisle with my mother.
- walk down the aisle with another important male in my life, like my uncle.
This was kind of a no brainer for me. My mom and I are very close, and really the other options would feel artificial to me. I firmly believe that this is a personal choice and nobody should take that away from you by pressuring you one way or the other. I’m doing what feels right to me. If you don’t like it, well, can it.
The second major daddy-daughter moment is the father-daughter dance. I’ve never been to a wedding without one in our area and I tend to conveniently head to the bathroom during them. I am not a big fan of dancing, though, but I want to do something. For awhile, I considered dancing with my uncles, who I’m very close to…but again, it was just logistically difficult and I don’t like the idea that they’re “replacing” my father. They are wonderful, but they’re not him.
So, one day (while running, actually), an idea came to me. When I was three or so, my dad would always have his brothers and my grandpa over to watch football games at a card table in the basement. I would sit under the table and they would feed me chips and veggies with dip, and my dad would teach me songs to perform for them at halftime. My favorite song that he taught me was Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” It’s a fun, happy, silly song about cheeseburgers and beer and I always think of him when I hear it. And since he died when I was so little, I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but I do remember us singing that song together.
At the wedding, T and I are going to have our first dance together, and them I’m going to take the mic from the DJ rather solemnly and say something to the effect of, “As you know, my father can’t be with us today. I would like to honor his memory by playing a song that means a lot to both of us. Please, everyone, come out on the dance floor and help me remember him the way he’d want to be remembered.” Then, cue the upbeat song, and everyone will (hopefully) come out on the dance floor and dance to this fun, happy, upbeat song. Most of our guests will get the reference. We’re hoping that this will also get people out on the dance floor to start the party.
Now, I wouldn’t do this if my father had died recently, or if I thought this would dredge up painful memories. But, it’s been…18 years? And people are at a point where we talk about him fondly, like an old friend we haven’t seen in awhile, rather than sadly, like a father who died too young. You have to know your situation and pick what’s appropriate for you.
We are also doing two other small things to honor him. In our programs, there will be a short “In Loving Memory” section where we will list the names of our family members that are not there to share the day with us–my father, T’s grandparents, and one set of my grandparents. Short and sweet.
I also DIY-ed a bouquet charm using beads from Michael’s. I’m going to put the picture of me and my dad in there and wrap this around my bouquet, so he will be coming down the aisle with me in some way. (Note: I still need to find and shrink an actual picture. My dad is not a creepy baby.)
I’m a firm believer that when it comes to things like this, you have to know your situation. You don’t want to make your guests sad and take the focus away from the fact that your wedding is a happy occasion, but, at the same time, I understand the need to mention lost loved ones that can’t be there to share the day.
What tributes have you seen at weddings that you found touching and appropriate?