Why You Should Do A First Look With Your Dad on Your Wedding Day

I’m sure you’ve heard about couples who do a “first look.” You know, when the bride and groom choose to go against tradition and see each other before their wedding ceremony. Typically, it’s a private moment carved out in the hustle and bustle of the day for the groom to see his bride for the first time and have the wedding photographer capture his reaction.

My husband and I decided not to do a first look because I wanted him to see me in my dress for the first time walking down the aisle. I also had a little surprise planned for him  — I walked down the aisle to his favorite song.

However, I did do a first look with my dad, and it turned out to be one of the most memorable and precious moments of my wedding day.

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As a Motherless Daughter, How I Honored My Mom on My Wedding Day

Eight years.

That is how long my mom has been gone. I was 19 — still a child — when she died in the early morning hours of July 27, 2009.

And when I say that her death was the defining moment of my young life, I mean it. There is not a day that passes that I don’t ask myself, “Would she be proud of me?”

That is a heavy, heavy weight to live under.

I have devoted many words on this blog to talking about losing my mom at a young age. Losing your mother before your life really begins changes you in ways that you don’t fully understand until you’re older and your life is more established.

For me, I realized that even though at 19 I felt grownup, 19 was, in fact, too young.

19 years was not enough time with my mom, and I learned what all motherless daughters come to know — the memories of times past aren’t what is most painful. What breaks your heart over and over is living through all the moments your mom won’t be there for — birthdays, college graduations, your wedding, the birth of your first child, etc.

That is why planning my wedding as a motherless daughter was awful at times. Your wedding and all of its chaotic planning and madness is just something your mom should be there for.

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My Asheville Bridal Portrait Session and The Special Meaning Behind These Photos

Now that our wedding has come and gone, I can finally share some of the images from my mountaintop bridal portrait session in my hometown of Asheville, NC.

As I mentioned in my 20-day wedding update, I wanted these images to capture exactly who I am — Disney nerd, motherless daughter, mountain girl.

I asked a friend from college who is an Asheville-based photographer to help me achieve my vision, and she did an incredible job — even though the request was kind of last minute.

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July 29, 2009

July 27, 2009

In life, we all have defining days that make us or break us, or do both. Days that are marked as a distinct line that divides the before and the after.

For me, that day was July 27, 2009, when, in the early morning hours, my mom lost her battle to cervical cancer. There in that hospital room, with her closest family and friends surrounding her, she took her final breath and was finally free of the pain that consumed her for more than a year.

I was 19, had just finished my first year of undergrad at UNC Asheville, and had no idea how her death would impact the course of my life. But the moment my mom took her last breath, my world was forever changed.

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Struggles from a Motherless Bride

He said, “I wish your mom were here.”

Me, too, dad. Me, too.

As the days push forward and my September wedding draws closer, I acknowledge that I am really struggling with my mom’s absence during this should-be happy time.

Wedding planning hasn’t been my thing, and I probably make everything about it 10-times more complicated than it has to be because that is who I am.

But, I think my lack of motivation to finish planning this major life event stems from the fact that my mom is not here to share this time with, and I wish more than anything that she could be.

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Things not to say to a motherless daughter (or anyone else who is grieving)

Writer’s note: I originally penned this four months ago in December as part of my Merry Blogmas series. I never shared it, though, and recently revisited and revised it for publication. 


As I approach my eighth year as a motherless daughter, I am confident in saying that I have learned much about the grieving process. There is still much that I do not know or understand, but I am at a point in my life where I am comfortable and willing to share my knowledge and experiences in the hopes of helping someone else who stands where I have already stood on this road.

Between the years of 2007 and 2013, I lost my mom, my remaining three grandparents, and my stand-in mom (my best friend’s mom). Even though I have encountered all this loss within such a short timeframe, I am fully aware that it is difficult to find the right words to say to someone who is grieving. You want to be a good friend and express condolences, and I understand that.

Allow me to be blunt for a moment, though.

There are things I absolutely will not say to a person who has lost someone, and you shouldn’t say them either.

These are common phrases that were said to me after my mom’s passing — whether it be immediately after or through the years following her death.

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A letter to all women who just miss their mom

To my lady friends and fellow motherless daughters — women of all ages, women I know personally, women I have connected with through social media because of my status as a motherless daughter, and women out there who I have never met but share the same grief with: My broken heart aches for you. I know the loneliness you feel and the pain that comes with missing your mom.

I was 19 when my mom died in 2009, and at the time of her passing I did not think about the long-term grief that I would battle for the rest of my life. I did not know that as time moved forward and my life evolved, I would wake up some mornings completely fine and by the end of the day, I would be in tears because I just missed my mom so much.

Becoming a motherless daughter happens in an instant — the moment she takes her final breath is the moment your life is forever changed. I will spend the rest of my life longing for her, and that is the burden of being a motherless daughter — a burden many of us know too well.

rosie-odonnell-quote

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Updated motherless daughter thoughts on the holidays

For the first time in a long time, I am truly excited about Christmas.

When you are dealing with grief from parent loss, even years after your parent is gone, the holidays are an especially difficult time.

For the last 8 years or so, I feel as if I have gone through the motions and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas because that’s what everyone else around me was doing. Underneath the surface, though, there was a large part of me that wanted to just get through the holiday season and into the new year as quickly as possible.

This year is different. I am actually looking forward to decorating, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, baking cookies, visiting family, doing generous things for others, and simply enjoying the spirit of the season.

I don’t know exactly what changed this year because I still miss my mom very much — the desire to have her here is a feeling that will forever be present in my life.

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Counting my blessings

Wedding dress shopping day

Saturday was surreal, beautiful, and memorable thanks to the women in my life.

As a motherless daughter who is planning her own wedding, I have been dreading going wedding dress shopping for the past 5 months.

I had so much anxiety about the anticipation of missing my mom on this special day that I strategically planned to put off shopping for my dress as long as I could.

I was avoiding it so much that I even pulled out my planner at some point along the way and calculated the last month I could comfortably start shopping before the wedding.

However, when one of the premiere bridal shops in the Charlotte area announced they were going out of business and their entire inventory was heavily discounted, I knew I had to put my emotions aside and make an appointment to try on dresses.

So, I invited my two aunts and cousin down from Asheville to join my maid of honor, matron of honor, mother-in-law, and me on this adventure.

Then, I panicked.

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