Wedding Planning – Why the little things don’t matter

Emma and I have been in contact for a while and she has been a long time supporter of AOW – in fact, she commented on our very first post. So when I asked her to write a guest post for us on planning her wedding, I knew it would be good, and I knew she would write something perfect for Any Other Wedding and where we’re trying to go. What I didn’t know though, was WHAT she was going to write about. Emma has written possibly the most courageous and honest post to hit the pages of this blog yet, and when she first sent it to me, I sat in the middle of a coffee shop reading it, with tears unashamedly streaming down my face. I don’t think there is much more I can say, other than here is Emma’s wedding planning story…
Ten months before we got married, a close friend of ours died. The words “passed away” are too kind, too gentle to describe what happened to James. The world had turned on its head – 29 year olds are supposed to turn thirty and complain about getting old, marry their fiancée and watch their sons grow up, not be beaten by cancer.
The realisation that life would always be a little quieter without James in it was hard to come to terms with. There would be no more last-minute Saturday morning phone-calls; no more being served vaguely ridiculous dishes for dinner at his house; no more braving the cold while he barbecued in the middle of winter. He had been the only person Matthew had shown my engagement ring to before he proposed; he was, in short, someone we couldn’t imagine not being at our wedding.
James was also getting married that year, though in the end the June garden party was replaced by a short ceremony around his hospital bed a few days before he died. His son was just seven months old. And so our grief was so much bigger than just the two of us, it was also for the loss that his son would feel as he grew up, and for his wife, newlywed and freshly widowed.
Instantly, it seemed, the wedding that Matthew and I had planned seemed so insignificant. When two of your friends have married in hospital in an unadorned ceremony, knowing that one of them would not last the week, it’s hard to see a “normal” wedding as anything other than a lot of over-the-top fuss and bother. And, more than feeling lucky and grateful for still having each other, we felt selfish, too aware of our good fortune in still being able to marry each other with all that fuss and bother.
I don’t know, really, how we got through it; how we left behind those evenings of sitting on the kitchen floor and sobbing, how we got to a point where James’s death didn’t mean that we had to question every decision we made about the wedding. Time, of course, helped – time to gather ourselves and realise that life continued as before, if a little quieter on Saturday mornings, and the realisation that we shouldn’t feel ashamed for still being alive, for being able to have the wedding we had planned.
But it remained hard to contemplate the fact that James wouldn’t be there to celebrate with us, and so some of our decisions ended up being made with him in mind. Matthew’s aunt had passed away after a battle with cancer a few years earlier, my grandfather had recovered from it himself ten years ago, and my grandmother was, at the time of our wedding, being treated for lung cancer; the fact that this horrible, horrible disease had already affected both of our families, and now one of our friends, made us really want to do something to help make a difference. We decided to ask for donations to Cancer Research in our name instead of gifts (though we still had a small list for those that didn’t want to contribute), and we were amazed by our guests’ generosity. Raising hundreds of pounds made us at least feel like we were being a little proactive in the face of the disease, in the hope that it could make a difference in the future.
Instead of fresh flowers for the wedding party’s buttonholes, we used Marie Curie Cancer Care daffodil pins – a nod to James’s absence – and bought enough to be distributed to our guests after the ceremony. On the day, however, our brothers lay them out on the chairs in the ceremony room, so that when I turned around after saying our vows I saw that every single guest was wearing a daffodil. I can’t describe how this felt – it was so beautiful and poignant and created this amazing sense of everyone coming together to celebrate and remember.
Just as a marriage is so much more than just a wedding, so grief is so much more than just sadness; it’s about shock and disbelief, pain and frustration, anger and guilt. And we hated that James wasn’t there at our wedding – we will never stop feeling that our lives have been robbed by his death. But death is also about life; it’s about honouring other peoples’ lives by continuing to live yours, about celebrating the things that bring us closer together, and acknowledging the imprint that other people leave upon us.
Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships, Life Experience, Marriage, Our Favourite Posts
19 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    What an incredibly moving post – thank you for sharing your story Emma x

  2. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Thank you Emma for sharing that with us x

  3. Katie
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Thank you Emma. You have brought us some perspective. xx

  4. Anna K
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Emma you have tackled a subject that no-one would ever want to face with compassion and perspective and an absence of sentimentality.

    This is such a courageous piece of writing, and strips all the gloss and because-you-should of weddings down to the bare bones of it. Thank you.

  5. Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Wow – this piece is truly amazing and written so beautifully. I will take the words at the end and imprint them on my memory. We too have seen too many very close family members and friends lose their battle woth this devastating disease, and I take comfort from those words. I will start to honur my Mums life by continuing to live mine. xxx

  6. Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    What a good post for a wedding blog. On the other end of the spectrum I am getting married to someone who has a degenrative condition and has been told time and time again he won't live past 30 (he is 28) so you would think we would just run off for a quicky marriage and make the rest of our time special. But we want everything to be as normal as possible which includes the little things and the usual stresses and strains of any other wedding. Sure, we have days when we think why do we bother 'wasting' our money but it's all about the experience too. I completely understand the route Emma took as my OH's sister (who also has CF) went to Vegas to get married just in case the stress of the little things caused her condition to worsen. I guess in our case, the little things take our mind off the larger issue looming over us.
    Great post – love to Emma.
    Wedding Sparrow x

  7. Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    What a sad story of a young life lost. My heart goes out to James' widow and baby son. It was a lovely tribute to James that despite his physical absence he was remembered so poignantly on Emma and her husband's wedding day. It is such an indescriminate illness and one which sadly affects so many families. Thanks to Emma for telling of her loss so eloquently.

  8. Posted March 15, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Emma for sharing this with us.

    I don't know what else to say I am speechless


  9. Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    This is a beautiful post…I'm not going to be able to think of anything profound that will mean anything…except that I always wondered why people got married despite the end so close in sight…until this post. The way you've honored James with this story…it tugged at my heart enough to think about that scenario…and that I would absolutely do the same thing…The daffodil pins were a beautiful gesture.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I think all the other people have said everything – that was very moving and definitely puts things in prospective.

  11. Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Amazing. Absolutely amazing.

  12. Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful and true, but sad and heartbreaking at the same time. Thank you for sharing, and reminding us of what's important.

  13. Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    This was phenomenal. Beautiful, honest, raw, and intense — just like life. I lost my sister nearly 7 years ago, unexpectedly — and we do not have any answers to as why she was taken from us (she wound up getting sick, and in 7 days had multiple organ failures & finally brain death.) She had "flu like symptoms" one Friday — and the next Saturday morning? She was gone. The most energetic, healthiest, most athletic person I had ever known. She was 18.

    I was a month shy of my 21st birthday and I remember calling my lifelong best friend from New Jersey that night and saying, "How am I EVER going to get married? She was SUPPOSED to BE there." I was single…20 years old…and THAT was ONE of the most prominent thoughts I had the night after my sisters death.

    Life does go on…as painful and nearly unrealistic as that sounds. There is still laughter (although sometimes through tears) and there is still her incredible presence…every day, I can feel her here. Life is still insanely beautiful. ♥

  14. Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Emma-I can't add anything of any eloquence, I'm as dumbfounded by your bravery and honesty and awesomeness today as I was the day you sent us this piece. I'd be proud as hell to call you my friend.

    And to WeddingSparrow and Casie-you ladies render me equally speechless. Your strength and capacity to love faced with all the adversity in your lives is inspiring.

    Thank you Emma x

  15. Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for your wonderful comments – it means a lot to me, especially as this felt like an intensely personal thing to write.

    Wedding Sparrow and Casie – you guys are, as Aisling said, so inspiring. I wish I could find better words to express how I feel, but I was incredibly moved by your own situations and your strength.

    Thank you all for reading and commenting. And Clare – I promise to stop sending you things that make you cry! :-)


  16. Posted September 22, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Touching entry. I was moved how you still thought of your friends at your wedding, which should be the happiest day of your life. Am moved with the daffodil pins part.

    wedding venues long island

  17. Annie
    Posted December 4, 2011 at 4:33 am | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing this. I am currently planning my wedding and my oldest friend, newly-engaged, is in hospital fighting a rare form of cancer. I feel guilty carrying on with all the fuss and fun of my own wedding. It may sound stupid, but it helped to read this. Thank you xxx

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