What It Was Like To Plan My Wedding Without My Mom Around

Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

This Easter marks the one-year anniversary of the day my brother married his wife. They didn’t fight the Wedding Industrial Complex, send out invitations, or even announce the date. They had what I have come to consider an extremely fortunate and unfortunate wedding, one that took place in an impromptu and unimaginable way. My brother and his wife exchanged their vows on April 20, 2013 next to the bedside of my mom, who was living her last days with lung and brain cancer.

They stood at the foot of her bed and exchanged promises to love each other forever. I couldn’t help but focus on my mom while our neighbor, who has been like a mother to both my brother and me, married them. My mom had a single tear stream down her cheek as they said, “I do,” and my brother kissed his bride. For the next day, she told everyone who came to visit or called her: “Did you hear what happened? Chris got married in my hospital room.” The pride, joy, and love dripping from these words will forever be etched in my memory. They epitomize who my mom was not only as a person, but (more importantly) as a mom.

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Four days later, my mom passed away. Though she had been battling late-stage cancer for a year, we could have never prepared for the loss and grief of that day. I quickly had to learn to adapt to living without my mom, my best friend, my biggest fan. After speaking to her every day, multiple times a day, I had to figure out what to do with those moments when all I wanted to do was call her. As those who have lost anyone close to them know, it’s a roller coaster. The grief ebbs and flows, and how you cope with it fluctuates. Long cries. Swapping memories. Staring at photographs for hours. Tequila. Isolation. Laughter. This is what the past 12 months have been.

Fast-forward eight months after my mom's death to December 23, 2013. On this day, my best friend and the love of my life proposed to me. After a romantic proposal, which included strangers photographing and videoing and a random guy buying us chocolate cake, we headed to a local restaurant where Kyle surprised me with his parents, brother, sister-in-law, my brother, my dad, and my best friend. Among all the joy, excitement, and over-the-moon feelings I was experiencing, the striking pain and realization that my mom wasn’t there — that she would never be there for any of this wedding, marriage, and forever stuff — sunk in.

Related: Losing My Mother While Gaining My Husband

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Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.

Should I have asked Kyle to exchange vows at my mom’s bedside, too? I mean, we knew then we’d be getting married. We'd looked at rings two months earlier. I texted my mom after Kyle surprised me around our five-year anniversary. She was so excited that she told my dad and Kyle’s mom (whom Kyle hadn’t told he was surprising me with looking at engagement rings). That was totally my mom. She got too excited to keep a secret and always wanted to share my big moments and joys with others.

Although I often think about the “what if,” I have come to accept that I can't dwell on it. Not because it’s unhealthy or a waste of time, but because she absolutely wouldn't want me to. I was fortunate enough to know I was going to marry Kyle long before my mom became sick. I would stay up with her when I came home to New Hampshire to visit and talk about my future wedding. One day I told her I wasn’t getting married in a church, and she immediately got defensive. Then I said, “C’mon mom, when was the last time we went to church?” We laughed about all the times she dragged my brother and me to church when we were younger.

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Kyle and I have a year and five months until our wedding day. That's a lot of time. But, every conversation, every idea, and every bit of wedding planning I’ve done thus far — and will continue to do — has caused me to think about and painfully miss my mom. I’m at an age where everyone is getting married. All of my friends are always talking about doing this with and that with their moms. Some days I just want to scream. Most days, I know that’s not fair.

My mom won’t help me pick out the dress. She won’t be there to help decide on flowers. She won’t be there to stay up until 2 a.m. writing addresses on envelopes for our Save the Dates. She won’t see me walk down the aisle.

But, she did give me her blessing long ago when I started talking about marrying Kyle. She did help me plan my wedding even before we were officially getting married. And, she is with me through all of these moments.

Everything I do and everything I am, I owe to my mom. She taught me how to love and on September 5th, 2015, I will exchange promises of forever with the love of my life, with my mom watching from above.

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