Your gain: Learn tools for coping with the wedding process without a father figure and enjoy your special day to the fullest, even without this ever-important person being present.

Whether it’s the loss of a father, brother, uncle, grandfather… whatever father figure you’re missing. As you make your way through the wedding process, please know that I see you. Having gone through our two wedding ceremonies without mine, I can’t tell you how many times I longed for my dad’s bear hug. How badly I wish I could have gone to him for advice or simply an ear to listen. 

My dad was the absolute best at providing wise words you didn’t even know you needed. He was one of the best listeners I’ve ever met in my life. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore, seriously.

He didn’t just listen, he really heard me and gave thoughtful insight. Not always easy for a girl dad! To not have him there leading up to our special day was tremendously difficult, but his absence the day-of was so palpable.

Maybe this father figure you’re missing is a jokester or a beautifully sentimental guy. Maybe he would have given a toast, tore up the dance floor or shed a few tears with you. In this entry, I wanted to specifically address two more traditional roles of a father figure and, if you’re struggling with these, provide a little guidance on how I found best to handle them.

We’ll look at:

  1. The walk down the aisle
  2. The father daughter dance

If what you’re struggling with something that isn’t listed below, I would absolutely love to hear from you on Instagram—just DM me and let’s talk! I’m here to support you anyway I can.

The Walk Down the Aisle

A significant moment of our wedding that I had to accept my dad not being a part of was walking me down the aisle. As with anything that day, it’s never something I thought I’d have to do without him. I always envisioned him being the last person I share a hug and final word of wisdom with before getting married to my best friend. Alas, that was not my journey.

While I don’t have any siblings, I’m fortunate enough to have a cousin I’m very close with (shoutout to Brendan, if you’re reading this) who’s like a brother to me. He was also very close with my parents, so it felt like a natural fit to have him walk me down the aisle if my dad couldn’t. 

But let me tell you, in my heart that spot was so reserved for my dad. There really wasn’t anyone I could envision taking on such a special role other than him. 

So, I’ll leave you with the following guidance if you’re up in the air about this decision.

If you have someone in mind, ask!

While it might be part to picture anyone else walking you down the aisle, there’s certainly no rule against it. If there’s someone else you feel comfortable with walking you down the aisle, by all means, ask them! They’ll be so honored you did. It’s rarely a job a person takes lightly—especially when the father figure you always pictured accompanying you no longer can. 

Chances are they’ll understand and respect the gravity of the request, and you’ll create a beautiful memory with them. I know my cousin and I sure bonded over it—and shared a good cry before we walked down! Our processional song was an instrumental version of “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith, one of my mom’s absolute favorite songs. She was a massive Aerosmith and Steven Tyler fan… it was so special.

It’s okay to walk by yourself

I sat with my options for both weddings we had. Brendan felt like a good fit for our first wedding and that didn’t require a lot of hemming and hawing. For our ceremony in Italy, I can’t say I felt the same pull. Brendan officiated our second ceremony, so he wasn’t an option again and nor was that something I wanted.

As lovely as another family member might have been, there’s just no one I felt close enough with to take on that extremely special honor more than my dad. Since we were already married (but even if we hadn’t been!), it felt incredibly empowering walking by myself. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t terribly sad, and it wasn’t something people thought was strange. If anyone does think it’s weird, please… ignore it. It was something I embraced and a statement I made proudly.

Compassionate people will understand how sacred that space is, as my family did. It can’t be filled by just anyone. If anything, family and friends were praising the choice and never questioned it. In that Italy ceremony, I wanted to allow my dad the space to come through however his spirit could or wanted to and take that rightful place.

The Father Daughter Dance

This is another one that can be difficult to endure without a father figure present, especially if you’re mulling over what to do instead. Do you simply not do one? Does your partner still do one with their parent? Will that be sad for you? I want to reiterate, there are NO rules!

But let me tell ya, at every single wedding I’ve been to since my dad died, without fail, I ALWAYS have a good cry at the father/daughter dance. Ugh… it tugs at my heartstrings. It’s such a beautiful moment whether your dad is still around or not. As trying as it can be to watch, it’s ultimately out of happiness.

That said, not having my dad around to do this was especially emotional for me. 

Around the age of 24, I was actually engaged to another person. That relationship clearly didn’t work out, but back when there was a little planning going on, my dad had been so excited and proactive about asking me to do dance lessons. 

I thought—I still think—that was the sweetest thing. It was something I looked forward to doing so much in this second shot at marriage. It was devastating not being able to share that experience with him. The second time I got engaged to my now-husband, both parents were already gone. What I would have given to have been able to call them first and tell them the news…

A First Dance Alternative

I’m here to share an alternative I think is so wonderful and an amazing tribute, and I credit my friend Angela for introducing it to me. She also lost her dad back in college, and for her wedding eight months before mine, she had more of a communal dance. What do I mean by this, you may ask?

She chose a song that was special to him and once dancing was about to begin, she got on the mic to preface the dance and what it was for. She explained that in lieu of a father/daughter dance, she would instead like to invite everyone to the dancefloor to kick off the evening with a song that he loved and wanted everyone to get in on the fun and dance in his honor. It was the most joyful experience and though I never met her dad, I know it made him proud.

So, I did my own version of this. For me, I wanted a song that would pump people up and remind me of both parents, not just dad. We ended up going with “Livin’ On A Prayer” by Bon Jovi. If this photo is any indication that you can’t still smile, have fun and feel the music without them here, I don’t know what is!

One, because mom was a huge Bon Jovi fan. Two, I just love the lyrics. It was so indicative of what I was feeling…

“We’ve gotta hold on to what we’ve got”

We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love”

”take my hand, we’ll make it, I swear.”

… it was perfect and spoke to the moment. It was all I wanted if I could have had them there.

Find Ways to Work Your Father Into the Day

If you can’t have the individual(s) you’re missing there in person, why not find ways to make their presence felt, right? To honor my dad, I had the seamstress cut a small piece of one of his work shirts and create a heart. She took it from the main pocket and was able to keep the rest of the shirt intact. She then sewed it into my dress, right under my heart. It helped me feel closer to him that way, and it doubled as my something blue.

With that same shirt, my incredible friend and bridesmaid, Emma, got my new initials and Italy ceremony wedding date monogrammed into it. It’s now something I cherish so deeply.

As I lost my mom before she could see us get married as well, if this is something you’re also experiencing (or will experience), click the button below to read my entry on coping with the wedding process without a mother figure. I go into detail about the hurt and difficulties that come with that loss, and how I worked her memory into our special day through music, flowers, and wearing her jewelry.

Honoring Both Parents

To honor both of my parents, I had a photo of them from their wedding day. They eloped in Key West, FL back in 1981. I love this photo so much, so I had it blown up and framed. It was placed on the aisle chair on the first row of “my side” (I use that term loosely), where they would have sat.

My bridal bouquet also sat there during the ceremony. When the recessional began and I picked up my bouquet from the chair, I made sure to take a second and really look at that photo and give them a little smile. Which, of course, made me cry more. But at that point, it was tears of joy and happiness for marrying a man I truly couldn’t be happier with.

A Final Thought

Their absence on any given day can be deafening, let’s just call a spade a spade on that one. But it’s heartbreaking not having them here, in physical form, to be with you during this incredibly special time. Period. Please know I see you right now if you’re struggling with this.

No matter if it’s a father figure or another special loved one you’re missing on your wedding day, do you best to remember they are with you! They wouldn’t miss this day for the world. They’re watching everything you’re doing. They’re ALL up in your business and getting those opinions of theirs out there from the other side. I have zero doubt about that. 

If your loved one is anything like my mom, I promise they’ll be finding ways to nag you and insert their dominance even from another realm… lol! You just have to be open to hearing from them.

When in doubt, close your eyes, let the tears fall as they may, and tap into the energy around you. You might feel them more than you think. You might receive signs and symbols from them, or see angel numbers. Put any questions or things you need help with out into the universe and ask for guidance. See what comes back to you!

By working their memory into special aspects of your day—big or small—their presence and energy will be felt no matter what. They’ll be cheering you on from the very front of the crowd—remember that.

Get Your Freebie From Me

I have FOUR free tools you can take advantage of if you’re ready to step up your grief work. I’m so excited to share these with you! My Gratitude in Grief Journal Prompt, From Grief to Grinning Toolkit, A Practice in Presence Toolkit, and Creating a Vibrant Life Toolkit are ready and waiting for you to download. All you have to do is click here or the button below.

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