It’s strange to think that just a few short months ago my biggest worry was, pretty much, which flowers to have in my wedding centrepieces. That’s because a few months ago I was an ordinary bride – and I’ll admit that pretty much my whole world revolved around planning my wedding.
I’ll also admit that my worries were cosmetic – I wasn’t worried about my family or friends having a great time (here and there, but not really) and I’m ashamed to say I even asked my photographer to prioritise taking pictures of the decorations and DIY projects over hundreds of snaps of wedding guests. My reasoning was that I’d only have one shot at capturing the set-up of my wedding – I see my friends and family all the time.
I was also a nervous wreck. And, in hindsight, a total bridezilla. The wedding became a constant source of drama and diva-esque tantrums. Every weekend was taken up with DIY, all I talked about was the latest development in a new conflict with a supplier or a difficult friend or family member.
It’s normal to want your wedding to go well. It’s normal to want to put your own stamp on it. But it’s so ingrained in our media and culture that weddings must be stressful, that I guess I gave myself a green card – I let myself think it was normal to stress myself ill about the wedding.
And then a real disaster struck.
Two weeks before my wedding, my dad was diagnosed with cancer.
It’s amazing what a not-s0-healthy dose of reality does for your perspective. Suddenly I couldn’t care less about the wedding centrepieces I’d spent months obsessing over. It didn’t matter to me if the day didn’t run to plan.
For a few days I thought about cancelling the whole thing – it suddenly felt so hollow to be celebrating when we’d received such a brutal blow.
But then I realised, after talking to other people who’d been in similar situations, that I’d been given a golden opportunity – it made me realise how lucky we were to have the wedding so close, that we were all able to celebrate together. From that moment on, my only wedding worry was whether or not my dad would make it to the day in which he’d invested so much time, energy and money or whether he would feel too unwell. From the band he helped choose to the hours of DIY he helped with, I felt it would be beyond cruel for him to miss it.
From the moment we got that diagnosis, having my family there with me was the only thing that mattered. A rushed rewrite of the photography brief meant family photos took priority. Sure, having a blog-worthy wedding was nice, but I’d rather have beautiful pictures of all of us at our happiest, because until that moment I’d taken for granted that everyone would just always be around and that there would be plenty of future photo opportunities.
Image © 2012 Satureyes
The day itself was amazing – not just because of the decorations or the entertainment, but because the rush of adrenaline enabled my dad to not only walk me down the aisle with my mum, but to be there for the whole day, delivering a wonderful speech and even joining in the dancing with gusto.
My favourite wedding moment? Watching all of my family on the dancefloor, smiling, laughing and forgetting – even if just for a few hours.
So what’s my point? Well, two things really: the first is that when you’re faced with the illness of a loved one letting go of the past is so important. I read a lot of stories about people not wanting their dads involved in their weddings, and it always makes me wonder if these brides will regret it later.
I understand that every family is different, I’m not expecting people with painful pasts to bury the hatchet for the sake of their wedding. I understand that some dads do unforgivable things – but I also know that some situations are never resolved because of hurt feelings and pride. If you can get past your difficult family dynamic for one day, it creates an irreplaceable memory with your parents that you will never be able to recreate if you miss out on it the first time.
The second point? Don’t sweat the small things. They always work themselves out. If you have your friends and family around you and you’re committing to a life with someone you love, you’re doing it right. When a real catastrophe strikes, it’s amazing how grateful it makes you just for the opportunity to have a celebration with your loved ones – I don’t want to sound patronising, but some of the things I got worked up about before this happened were laughable.
If you’re lucky enough to have everyone you love alive and well for your wedding, make sure you’re truly in the moment with them. The occasion to feel such joy doesn’t come around very often, so enjoy every moment, and if your decorations aren’t perfect, it doesn’t matter – because people will forget your favours, but they’ll never forget how they felt watching you exchange your vows.