Parental Guidance Suggested

Hollywood has had a field day making movies about divorced families and their wacky antics at weddings. Who walks the bride down the aisle? What happens if the mother and stepmother don’t get along? Will there be an all-out war over the tossing of the bouquet? Whatever happens, it’s sure to be crazy and cacophonous yet oddly heartwarming. Bring your Kleenex and buy some M&Ms!

What Hollywood doesn’t often touch on, however, is the very real and very poignant process of getting married when one of your parents is deceased. If you Google the phrase “one parent deceased wedding,” you’ll get a plethora of sites (among them:, and that suggest how to word your wedding invitation to celebrate a late parent’s presence but not confuse the guests by somehow implying that said parent will be there to enjoy the day. (That would change the mood a bit, I imagine.) But nowhere does it tell you how to handle celebrating one of the formative events in your life without having that special person there by your side.

My mom died when I was 20 years old, long before I was maritally inclined—or had even met the man who was to become my husband. Needless to say, I miss her every day, but there seemed to be an extra-palpable pall on the festivities when I had to pick out a dress—knowing she’d never see it—and the cake—knowing that cake was one of her favorite foods—and had questions galore. More than that, I wanted her to meet the man I was marrying—I’m sure she would have loved him.

Joshua and I decided to get married in the backyard of my childhood home to include my mom in the day as much as possible. I vividly remember her puttering around in those plant beds, painting on the back porch, sunning herself on the patio when the mood struck. I didn’t go so far as to display photos of her at the ceremony—at a certain point it gets creepy—but I did wear one of her bracelets (“something borrowed,” I suppose) and walked down the aisle to one of her favorite songs—also, unbeknownst to me, a very popular wedding tune—Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”

So instead of waiting for Hollywood to make a movie that reflects this uniquely somber situation—or, God forbid, makes a comedy called “Wedding at Bernie’s”—why not do whatever feels best, be that choosing a special location or song or just holing up for a while with that Kleenex and stash of M&Ms? Your parent might not be there, sitting in a folding white chair on the lawn, but you can hold your head high knowing that you hold that person in your heart—a person who always just wanted you to be happy.

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