I know, we don’t talk about it on wedding blogs amidst all the planning checklists and song ideas for your first dance. It’s this hidden shadow that you might feel like you’re facing alone. So today, I want to just take a moment and speak to you.
You have already faced a loss that has led you to this day and I know that the wedding process brings up so many of those deep emotions to the surface. You may go to other weddings and see the precious moments of fathers with their daughters – the speeches, the walk down the aisle, the dance – it all serves as a reminder of something that you don’t have. And that straight up sucks.
I made a conscious decision to not have my dad walk me down the aisle before I was even engaged. While processing the pain and loss I’ve walked through with my dad the last several years, I realized that I couldn’t in good conscience have him “give me away” when he had already abandoned his role in my life. I couldn’t stomach the thought of standing before all my friends and family and pretending that everything was okay. I hate faking. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to do that on my wedding day as I entered into a sacred covenant with the love of my life.
So know that I come from a place of understanding when I say this: you don’t have to fake anything.
Just because it’s a joyous day doesn’t mean that it’s also not a reminder of the loss that you’ve been through. His absence – whether due to his own choices or death, whether still present physically or not present on this earth – is a big deal. The friends and family who’ve walked through your story with you, they will (or should) get it and be there for you. It’s okay to shed a few sad tears. It’s okay to miss him. It’s okay to be mourning.
I’m proud of you. You’ve already overcome so much. You’ve learned the grit that comes from pain. You’ve walked through your story and you’ve found love. You’ve found someone who is promising you to never leave you, to always protect your heart, and to stand beside you forever. And you’ve learned how to actually trust him. That’s brave.
Sometimes we put brave in a box reserved for sailing around the world or standing up against bullies and bad guys – yet brave is so much bigger than that. It is brave to love without reservation. It is brave to choose hope. It is brave to work through your grief. It is brave to get married and to believe in this wild thing called marriage.
Don’t worry about what others will say or think. Don’t worry about what you’ve seen at weddings before. Don’t worry about how it feels like everyone else gets these magical moments with their father on their wedding day. You get to do this whole wedding day thing true to you.
Confession: I’ve been known to cry photographing father-daughter dances. Like straight up tears gushing down my face uncontrollably. That’s part of how I process my loss and receive my healing. But maybe you aren’t a crier. That’s okay. Maybe you want to honor your father who passed away during your day. Maybe you don’t want a single reminder of the father who abandoned you. Whatever your story is, embrace it.
This is your day. This is a pivotal point in both your love story, but also your life story. You are making a life-defining choice. You are standing where the waiting meets the promise. It gets to look like whatever you want it to look like.
And if you feel alone – if the emotional weight is daunting – reach out. To your fiance, to me, to a friend, to a family member. You are not alone. You don’t have to go through this alone.
I’m cheering for you and with you in spirit!