Tough stuff

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?”

(Please note my dad’s Nike running singlet.  He was a running enthusiast!)

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?


11 Responses

  1. I think those are all incredibly wonderful ideas that will honor the memory of your father and celebrate your day. I really like the idea for your dance – that is too cute!

    I am fortunate to have my parents with me to celebrate my wedding, although I have lost my grandparents (nearly all of them, and 2 on the same day – what are the odds of that!), in particular my grandmother who I was very close with. We’ll be doing the “In Memoriam” on our programs, as well as displaying pictures (we’re going to be displaying pictures of all our relatives on their wedding days; however, I’ve recently uncovered the fact that people in my family prefer to elope, but I digress), but we’ll do an extra shout-out for those who have passed with some additional pictures. I’m also going to be working violets into my bouquet & centerpieces, as these were my Grandmother’s favorite flower. Not everyone at the wedding will know this, but it’s meaningful to me!

  2. Aw. this touched my heart. I think what you are doing is perfect.

  3. What a sweet post… I think everyone will be happy with what you do. They will get a good laugh and be able to remember your dad in a happy way.

  4. That bouquet charm is SUCH a wonderful idea! And I really like the song idea too. It’s too bad wedding traditions are so dependent on “perfect” family situations, but I think you are doing what’s perfect for you 🙂

  5. I think what you are doing is perfect. I lost my father last year and got married this year. It was tough. I also had my mother walk me down the aisle. We lit a memorial candle for my father. We mentioned him in the programs. We displayed his picture on the guest signing table and mentioned that we made a donation in his name. During the dinner hour, we played some jazz cds that he had chosen for my sister’s wedding (when he was alive). I still ordered a boutonniere for him and I placed it on his grave the night before the wedding. We did nothing in lieu of the father daughter dance but I like your idea. I’m sure your dad will be really happy with what you have planned and he will be looking down on you on your wedding day.

  6. Hey-
    I got married on February 20th 2009.
    Just like you my Father is also deceased and I was in the same situation.
    I ended up choosing a very close Male Family friend to walk down with. I’m SO glad I did that. When those Church doors open you will be nervous/excited just full of emotion. Its nice to just have someone to hold onto. TRUST ME!
    We then omitted the part of the ceremony that says “Who gives this woman away”

    I have another friend who was married in June 2009. Same situation as us. She too had a close male family friend walk her down. However, they didn’t omit that line. The Man said “On behalf of her Heavenly Father I give her away” I liked that too:)

  7. This is a very touching post. I think the dance is a great idea.

  8. Hey Brie,
    I love your ideas. I did a bouquet charm on mine last month. I had my grandpa (dad’s dad) on one side and my grandparents (mom’s parents) on the other. Those who saw it really liked the idea. I didn’t show too many people (close family that those people meant something to). I think it’s a great idea and yours is so cute.

  9. I think your ideas are amazing. It made me a bit misty eyed to read this. My mother just passed away last year and the first thought of mine was – what happens when I get married who will help me with all the mother daughter things. I think honoring your father with that special tune and celebrating him is awesome! My mom was a huge JB fan as well. I love all your ideas – your wedding is about making it a day about you, your finance and your family. WELL DONE!!!

  10. […] This is our father-daughter dance. […]

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