Our Wedding Day : Incorporating A Missing Loved One16  Jun 2014         Jessica Ratty

As many of my clients know, in the lead up to our Wedding Day, Stuart's Dad was quite ill with cancer. But he always insisted that he would definitely be at the wedding and there was no way he would miss it. So we never had a back up plan, or ever thought he may not be there. Everyone just stayed positive and thought he would be okay for the wedding day. And about a month before the wedding, it seemed like he would be okay for the day. But as we got closer (a few weeks out) he was admitted back into hospital. He was quite sick and weak, we had discussed that maybe he wouldn't be strong enough to come to the wedding (especially as it was in York - about an hour and half away). But he stayed positive and said to the Doctors that it was our wedding he had to be out for and he has to be there. So again while it was in the back of our minds, we just thought he would be there. We had no plans in place incase he wasn't, we had booked his accommodation, we had made his place setting, we had ordered customised cufflinks for him to wear on the day (he LOVED golf) so on one it said "Father of The Groom" and the other said "I would rather be golfing", we had chosen the song for him to walk up to do his speech to, we had him to witness and sign our marriage certificate. 

We never thought for a moment that he wouldn't be there. About a week and a half out from the Wedding Day, Peter was moved from the normal cancer ward, to ICU. His condition changed very quickly and all of a sudden he wasn't even allowed to have visitors unless they had masks on and no germs what so ever. It was just over a week away from the wedding day and I remember being in my office and getting a call from Stuart saying that his Dad had just told him, that the Doctors said there is no way he will be at the wedding and they wouldn't even let him out for the day. We were devastated, all of a sudden, realisation hit that his Dad would not be there for our wedding day, we wouldn't be able to have a photo with him, he wouldn't be able to do his speech. 

We were going to postpone the wedding, but Peter insisted that we didn't and said he still wanted us to go ahead as usual. With the entire wedding planning, I had all of these random things I wanted to have and to organise and at that stage it all seemed so important.. But in the last couple of weeks before the wedding, our priorities completely changed. What had seemed important for the wedding a few weeks ago, was crossed off our list and seemed ridiculous all of a sudden. We spent every day before the wedding at the hospital and all of the details and plans we had for the wedding, seemed so insignificant. Not only could he not attend the wedding, but at that stage we didn't even know if he would make it through the week.

So in the last week before the wedding, I realised I needed to change the details I was planning and try to incorporate Peter in our wedding, as much as possible. He was definitely one of the most important people, that we wanted to be there with us. 

I had no idea what I should do to "have him still at the wedding"... I didn't want us to have no photos from our wedding day that didn't have his face in them. But we only had a week to get things organised.. so there was a few things that we did to have him incorporated at the wedding. 

The one thing I really wanted, was for Stuart to have something about his Dad on him during the day and something he could keep forever. So I decided to get him an old style pocket watch, that opened up on both sides. On one side I put a photo of him and his Dad when he was only little and on the other side of the pocket watch, was a recent photo of them together. 

Images by Jerry Ghionis

I had already decided that I wanted silver pendants hanging from my bouquet with black and white images of my Grandparents who have all passed away. They were already on my Bouquet and ready for the day.. So I had the idea to add a photo of Peter to my bouquet, but I didn't want it to be the same as my grandparents, as he was still here. So I managed to get the same pendant in gold and had his photograph printed in colour. So they were all present and remembered on my bouquet.

I also wanted a big photo up so that all of the guests could acknowledge him and think of him while they were at the wedding. 

When it came to the ceremony, my Sister in Law's partner was kind enough to set up a video camera and a web link - so Peter could watch our ceremony from his hospital bed. 

Peter had already written his speech, so Stuarts brother read out his speech on his behalf. While he was reading Peters speech, we had a photo of Stuart & Peter projected up on the screen behind him. 

The reason why I wanted to share this on my blog, is because I have had a couple of Brides who have had very ill parents or close family that they weren't sure would be okay to make it to their wedding. Luckily, they were both able to be well enough to be at their weddings in the end. 

After the wedding, we planned on getting redressed in our wedding attire and have a photo with Peter as if it was on the wedding day. Unfortunately Peter never got well enough to do that. Less than 4 months after our wedding day, Peter passed away, so we never got to have a wedding photo with him. Even though I am a wedding photographer and know how important photos are and have always tried to explain to people how important they are... I never actually appreciated how much 1 image could mean.. especially when it was an image that wasn't taken. 

We have both discussed how much we wish we could of had that one image from the day. So for our one year wedding anniversary, I did the closest thing I could to that and had a painting done of Stuart and his Dad, as if it was taken on the wedding day with Stuart in his wedding suit. 

Stuart had no idea I had organised it to be done and was completely surprised. 

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