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Navigating grief & loss during wedding planning

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

As a wedding planner, I get the opportunity to walk alongside couples through a pivotal time in their life as they plan out each step of their wedding. Over the years there is one thing that has surfaced that doesn't get talked about enough in our industry and that is how to navigate grief and loss during the wedding planning process.

Currently in our Kristine Smith Designs family we are navigating a season of personal grief & loss after experiencing multiple losses in a very compressed time period. This morning as I was navigating conversations with my own family regarding memorial service planning for two different family members and then was switching gears to work on a client's wedding seating chart, I found myself conflicted. In one moment I was in a deep place of grief and then two short minutes later found such joy and excitement at the pending wedding of my clients.

In that brief moment I was torn between whether I could give myself permission to feel joy in the middle of processing my grief. It made me pause and reflect on what grief is, how it lives alongside joy, and where I see it intersecting with the wedding planning process.

First, let's chat about grief...

Grief is complex. It comes in waves, is intertwined with many different emotions, is unpredictable, and never truly goes away. Grief isn't limited to showing up when there is a death in the family. Grief connects to any type of loss or the anticipation of a loss. You may find yourself grieving due to the death of a family member, an anticipated loss due to a long term illness, estrangement from a family member or friend, a fractured relationship, and many other reasons.

The nature of grief and grieving is that it doesn't fit into a box and it impacts each individual in different ways. In other words, even if both you and I experience the same loss, the impact of the loss will feel different to each of us. No two people experience grief and navigate through it in the same way.

Now let's think about grief and the wedding planning process

I truly believe the quote by Queen Elizabeth that states "grief is the price we pay for love" is such a true representation of how grief shows up. We grieve because we loved.

Whether it is the loss of a parent, child, family member, friend, or the loss of a dearly loved furry companion aka a pet, loss is loss, and grief in any form can add additional complexities to the wedding planning process, but why is that? It is because it can be incredibly challenging for couples who are navigating grief and loss to allow themselves to grieve in the midst of a celebration. You can be madly in love, fully present in the moment, swept up in love, and also have a deep ache in your heart left by the loss or absence of the one you love.

I am here to tell you that it is possible (and acceptable) to feel both great joy and also experience grief on your wedding day. With that being said, you have a right to be both happy and grieving at the same time.

We have this unique human tendency to guilt ourselves out of feeling and giving time for grief. It can be perceived as a negative emotion. Time and time again I have heard a grieving bride or groom mention "I know I should be happy right now, but I am just sad that _____ won't be here."

Please don't "should" yourself into ignoring grief out of an outdated societal expectation that an engaged couple "should" be happy all the time. There is no right or wrong way to navigate grief during wedding planning. You have to figure out what works for you and your partner and take it one step at a time.

I have put together a few pieces of friendly advice that may help you if you are navigating grief during the wedding planning process.

Holding space for your grief through the wedding planning process

There are countless times when in the moments before a bride walks down the aisle I have held her, wiped her tears, and helped her take deep breaths as the realization of not having her father next to her to give her away fully sank in. There are also moments throughout the wedding planning process when memories and moments flood in and grief can become overwhelming. Navigating grief is more normal than we talk about in the industry. As a wedding planner I work with my couples early on to learn about what grief they might be bringing in to the process so that I can be supportive in the event that specific events or decisions may unexpectedly trigger a grief response.

It is in these spaces that having a trusted wedding professional by your side is incredibly beneficial. We can read the moment and help you with what you need whether it be a tissue, a reminder to take deep breaths, taking over a meeting if emotions become overwhelming, or pausing and coming back to a conversation later.

Navigating grief during wedding planning can be a challenging and emotional experience

There is a societal expectation that the process of planning a wedding is "supposed to be" joyful. For most couples it is filled with high highs, but it can also trigger low moments, and that is okay.

Here are some suggestions to help you navigate grief while planning your wedding:

Allow yourself to grieve: It's important to acknowledge and honor your feelings of grief. Give yourself permission to experience the emotions that come up during this time. It's normal to feel a mix of happiness and sadness, so be patient with yourself.

Communicate with your partner: Open and honest communication with your partner is crucial during this time. Share your feelings and concerns with them, and listen to their perspective as well. Together, you can provide support and find ways to incorporate the memory of your loved one into the wedding.

Incorporate the memory of your loved one: Find meaningful ways to include your loved one's memory in your wedding celebration. It could be through a photo display, a candle lighting ceremony, or dedicating a special moment in the ceremony or reception to honor their memory. This can help you feel their presence and create a sense of connection. In wedding planning over the past several years we have observed an increase in the number of couples who have selected to incorporate memory tables honoring those who have passed away, and for many couples this small gesture provides a small feeling of honoring and respecting the life of those they love who are no longer with us.

Seek support from loved ones: Lean on your support system during this time. Share your feelings with close friends and family members who understand your loss. They can provide comfort, offer advice, or simply be there to listen when you need to talk.

Take breaks when needed: Wedding planning can be overwhelming, and it's essential to take breaks when you feel the need to recharge. Allow yourself time to step away from the planning process and focus on self-care. Engage in activities that bring you comfort and help you relax.

Consider professional support: If you're finding it difficult to cope with your grief or if it's significantly impacting your ability to plan your wedding, it may be helpful to seek professional support. A therapist or counselor experienced in grief counseling can provide guidance and assist you in navigating your emotions.

Be gentle with yourself: Remember that it's okay to have mixed emotions during this time. Be kind and patient with yourself as you go through the wedding planning process. It's okay to make adjustments, take breaks, or seek additional support if needed.

Remember, your wedding day is a celebration of love, and honoring the memory of your loved one can be a beautiful and meaningful part of that celebration. By taking care of yourself and allowing yourself to grieve, you can navigate this emotional journey while planning your wedding.

This blog post is lovingly dedicated to our Kristine Smith Designs clients & family who in times of experiencing deep loss have shown such incredible bravery to commit themselves to even greater depths of love.


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