What should you do if someone you love dies in the lead-up to your wedding?
It feels like an impossible position – carry on with the wedding, when you’re in anything but a party mood, or delay it and risk losing deposits, suppliers, and other guests.
That’s the problem Grief-Stricken wrote into us about. (Before lockdown, I should add!)
Hi Problem Pal. I don’t know what to do.
My grandmother passed away a few weeks ago, out of no where. We’re all surprised and absolutely devastated.
I’m meant to be getting married next month but I just can’t imagine going ahead with it at the moment. It feels disrespectful to have a big party right now, and I know none of my family will be in the right frame of mind for it.
But, if we don’t go ahead, we’ll lose all our deposits, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford to have the wedding we had planned if we have to pay for everything twice.
I know my fiancée wants to go ahead. She’s being super supportive and saying it’s up to me, but I can tell she’s upset at the thought of having to get a different, cheaper venue. It took us a long time to find and we made a lot of decisions around it. If we had to start again, it would be like throwing it away and planning a whole new wedding.
I want to have the wedding we had planned, but it doesn’t feel right to have it now, so close to the funeral. What should we do?
This is a horrible position to be in. I’m so sorry, Grief-Stricken.
There’s no right or wrong answer I can give you
Whether you choose to have the wedding as planned or delay it needs to be up to you and your partner.
Ultimately, it needs to come down to if you – and the people you most care about being there – don’t feel comfortable celebrating until you’ve had an opportunity to process your grief.
Your mental well-being doesn’t have a monetary value. It is worth far more than your deposits. If you can’t face it, that’s okay.
But if part of the concern is what other people will think then, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it would be disrespectful to carry on; if it was the next day or the morning of, it would be different, but with a few weeks since your grandmother’s passing, your family might appreciate having something positive to look forward to, and being able to catch up with one another under happy circumstances.
No one would judge you for going ahead – but they would also understand if you didn’t feel up to it.
Don’t guess how your family will feel – ask them
It might be worth talking to your immediate family – the ones you want most at your day, who it really won’t be right without, like parents and siblings – and asking how they feel. If they don’t feel up to celebrating right now, knowing the choice is between delaying or having your wedding without them may make your decision for you.
Don’t worry too much about your more distant relatives. If they don’t feel ready, they won’t come, but they won’t hold it against you that you went ahead.
If they are the type of people who’ll sneer and mutter to one another that you should have delayed things, they would have sneered and muttered anyway, about the flowers, or the food, or the colour of the tablecloths. You shouldn’t make decisions based on what people who’ll aim to find fault will think.
If you do decide to have the wedding, there are ways you can tribute your grandmother, which might help you feel more comfortable with the situation.
Tributing your lost loved ones at your wedding
Many couples set up a memoriam area at their weddings, a table in the reception venue, near the guestbook, with photos and a burning candle for loved ones who will be missed on the day.
Weddings are about family and love and connection; remembering those who are gone fits the day perfectly.
You could keep an empty chair for them at your table, with a photo to remember them by, and take a moment to toast them in your speech. Or ask your celebrant to mention them in a quiet moment of reflection during your ceremony, which is often more solemn and may feel more fitting.
If your loved one would have given you away or been in your wedding procession, you could attach a photo of them to your bouquet or boutineer, so they’re still walking you down the aisle.
Or you could have a quieter tribute. Take the flowers from your wedding to their graveside the day after, and tell them all the stories of your day.
Plan for the worst
While it won’t help Grief-Stricken, I also want to touch on the other part of this problem, that you will lose the deposits if you cancel or delay close to the wedding.
If there’s anyone, aside from your partner, that you can’t envision the day without, that you wouldn’t want to go ahead without them there, it is truly worth looking into wedding insurance, to help in case the worst ever happens.
Talk to your wedding suppliers
Even without insurance though – and regardless of what your contracts say – it’s worth talking to your venue and wedding suppliers.
Most wedding suppliers aren’t huge, faceless conglomerates – they’re small businesses and freelancers. You don’t need to fight through miles of red tape, you can just talk to them, human to human, and explain what’s happened.
If you’re willing to be flexible with your new date – maybe moving to a quieter season like December – your wedding venue and suppliers may be able to change dates without a penalty or with a small fee to cover costs.
It’s worth asking them. (Once, nicely!) They might not be able to, but everyone knows what it is to lose a loved one, and most suppliers will try their best for you.
Whatever you decide, you’re not alone
It’s hard, carrying on with normal life after someone you love has passed. And other things – joyful things – can feel frivolous and, somehow, unworthy.
When my father died, I threw myself into organising everything – making appointments with the undertaker, going through all the government channels I had to report to, designing orders of service, writing his eulogy.
When I had nothing else to do, I sat and answered questions on Stack Exchange. I wanted to be useful. It felt like doing anything else would be wrong. Wouldn’t be worthy of the time I had that he didn’t.
When my grandfather died, I donated blood two hours after I received the news. Then I fainted from trying to leave too quickly, so the hospital could get more blood, and was promptly banned from donating again.
Grief is a more powerful emotion than we give it credit for. It can drive us to act out of character and make huge decisions we might not otherwise.
You don’t have to decide this minute if you want to delay your wedding or not. But, whatever you decide will be the right choice for right now.
Be kind to yourself.
Photo by gratisography.