Facing Your Wedding Day Without A Parent

I will be getting married in a month. This is undoubtedly an occasion I am excited about and one that seems to have taken forever to arrive, not least because I am turning 38 this December and my fiancé will hit the 50 mark in October, and neither of us have been married before.

Since getting engaged, we have both been acutely aware of the fact that we will both be missing a parent on this special day. My mother died sixteen years ago from cancer and his father passed away five years ago, also from cancer.

So far, I’ve only had one of “those moments” of a sudden resurgence of grief. I hadn’t been feeling well and happened to be on my way to a dinner when I drove past a bridal store, when I suddenly burst into tears at the thought of how much I’d miss my mum on this day and how she wouldn’t be able to share in the preparations or the experience of seeing her only daughter walk down the aisle.

There it was again, for the millionth time, that searing pain of emptiness in my heart and the pain, the deep pain of loss. It made me wonder, will I lose it totally on the Big Day? Will my carefully applied vintage-style make up end up smeared in a Kleenex before I even reach the altar? Will I make it through the “I do’s” without sobbing? Worse, will the photograph’s depict contorted ugly crying faced bride and groom, rather than a radiant, so happy to be wed couple?

My fiancé and I had already talked about how we could incorporate the memory of our parents and their presence into the service and agreed to have a unity candle lighting ceremony, whereby the two already lit candles would represent the spirits of my mum and his dad, something the minister would mention in her address.

We’d planned to have an image of our combined family trees featuring all of our relatives, dead and alive, to include both sets of our grandparents who have also crossed to the other side. We’d also chosen songs that were favorites of our parents or had a strong association: a friend of mine will be singing John Denver’s Annie’s Song, my mum’s nickname was Annie.

I’d  also been wondering how I could “borrow” something of hers for my outfit having already obtained something new, old and blue. But it is amazing how little I have left of hers after sixteen years: a hat, a cardigan, some bits of costume jewelry, cut-outs of the magazine and newspaper articles she wrote, photo’s and lots of memories.

I do have a camisole. It’s the one she wore on the last day of her life. I remember helping to carry her to bed that night. She was 5’5 and probably no more than 100lbs at that point, and she was slipping in and out of consciousness, eating maybe a mouthful of soup every 4 hours.

When we got her to the bedroom, my stepfather helped me to undress her, but it was I who removed the silky camisole, asking her to lift her bony arms in the air so I could slip it over her head. As I tucked her in that night, kissing her on the top of the head, I whispered “Goodnight darling.” As I walked down the stairs afterward, I thought how odd it was that the roles had reversed so entirely; it had only been a few years earlier that she would come in at night to kiss me on the top of the head and say “goodnight darling.”

I pondered; perhaps I could create something with the camisole? I figured I’d be borrowing it in a way. After some thought, I decided to make a locket, with a picture of Mom inside using a small strip of the camisole to make a ribbon with which I could tie it to the inside of my dress.

This idea of keeping our loved ones alive, of bringing their essence into our waking moments, especially the ones we find so hard, the Lonely Landmarks is what I refer to them as in my book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, is a healthy practice.

Remembering is good, even when it brings about a few tears. I know that I’ll have “one of those moments” on the Big Day, its inevitable. But I’ll have all my friends and family there, many who will be fully aware of the fact that it will be a sore point for me and my fiancé, and I’m sure my mom and his dad will make a guest appearance by way of the speeches. She’ll be with us in memory, in spirit and, as I’ve come to realize over the years, she’ll be there in me.

After all, we share the same DNA, and, according to my brother, the same eyes, and, as my cousin points out, the same shaped fingers. And I’ve always believed a wedding isn’t a good wedding without a few tears. If all else fails, I know she’ll be hiding under my skirt!


Gemini Adams 2011

Gemini Adams

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Gemini Adams is a healthy living advocate and educator, yoga teacher and writer/producer with a portfolio of bestselling books, published articles and award-winning documentaries to her name. In the role of educator, Gemini has mentored and taught classes and workshops to adults, at-risk teens, children, the bereaved, the elderly and special needs groups on a variety of transformative, health and wellbeing topics as well as the creative writing and publishing process. Her freelance healthy living articles have appeared in Women's Health, RED magazine, BOOM, Live It Natural, Yahoo.com, and her books and documentaries have been covered by The Huffington Post, The Today Show, BBC, Reuters, Marketing Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Female First, Ecosalon, and Family Health and Wellness Magazine, to name just a few. In 2006, Gemini was awarded the UK’s prestigious Winston Churchill Fellowship grant to research the Role of Love in Palliative Care interviewing directors of leading hospices, palliative care, and bereavement organizations across the United States. This research was the basis for her multiple award-winning book, Your Legacy of Love: Realize the Gift in Goodbye, published in 2009, which has since been translated into several languages. Gemini was a guest on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart,” where she discussed Remembering our Parents with hosts Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley.


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  • Elizabeth says:

    Hi Gemini, I am also about to be married and without my mum, who died when I was 13. I was touched by the ways you planned to honour her memory and I hope that everything went as well as you hoped and that you will be very happy.

  • What a beautiful Story. My mother died in July 2011 but I have nobody in the whole world now. Nobody to marry and no friends and 3 cousins who don’t even bother with me so my life consists of being on the Computer and since she died I have been planning my own Funeral and the plans are almost completed now. I was in hospital myself this July and did not want to come round and I wanted to be with her so much. The one thing that made me want to live was the fact I had written a Short Story and the thought of getting it published made me want to live a little but once that is done my life will be empty again . It is even empty now with all this going on. God will give me the courage to get through though until my last breath so I have great faith in Him but He is all I have and a box of Ashes. There is not much joy in this life as I am finding out to my cost now. Diane