Walking Down the Aisle Part III

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DeVida and Eric
DeVida and Eric

From planning to wedding day, parents play an integral role and their absence can make the process even more emotionally charged than it already is. Given both my parents are dead, this year’s experience has been full of joy and sorrow and my wedding day will be bittersweet.

This is the third in a three-part series where I share what it’s been like for me to plan our wedding and ultimately marry the love of my life. Catch up on Part I: Daddy’s Little Girl and Part II: A Mother’s Voice.

Part III: ‘Ohana (Family)

The BIG DAY!

We did it! I’m officially a married woman! I’m thrilled to call Eric my husband and be a stepmom to his four children. What a fantastic ride it’s been over the last year! It’s such a blur: all those weekends scouring wedding websites, reading blogs, designing invitations, choosing flowers, making favors, emailing with vendors, and getting our house in out-of-town-guests-will-be-coming-to-stay-with-us shape. Whew! And ahhh! I’m exhausted and exhilarated. (Not sure what I’ll do with all my spare time now.)

The snowball has come to a stop and we all survived the tumble and have become a bigger, very blessed family of quirky and interesting people. My parents would’ve probably been a bit dumbfounded by it all. To say the least, I’m quite different in personality and interests than the parents who raised me. But, they would have been thrilled to see me so happy and see my brother Sam and my nephew Sammy celebrate this beautiful day with me. Our family has grown exponentially in just one day!

My brother and I understand each other. We’ve been here before. We “get it.” I’m so glad he traveled here all the way from Pennsylvania to walk me down the aisle to my new husband. He’s always been protective of me, like a big brother, although he’s actually 2 ½ years younger. Quite sweet. It was fitting it was him since it couldn’t be our dad. Our parents would’ve wanted it that way. They always told us to love each other, be kind to each other: “You never know when you’ll only have each other to lean on.” They were right. With my arm looped through my brother’s, I started on the next big journey of my life, a life without them in person, but in my heart.

So, on our Big Day, armed with as much water proof makeup and tissues as possible, Eric and I officially joined our hands, hearts, lives, and families into one. It was beautiful. Eric looked so handsome in his silver grey suit standing under a bamboo canopy made by his own hand. He loves all things Hawaiian and to honor that, we had a Hawaiian ceremony. The symbolism isn’t lost on me. In Hawaiian culture, there is so much importance placed on ancestry and history. It was an honor to incorporate the Hawaiian Aloha and love for ‘Ohana (family) in our most special day.

Every decision I painstakingly made over the previous year was worth it. I believe I captured some of the beauty of Hawaii, the sparkle of a time gone by, and the warmth of friends and family in our day. Thank you, Mom, for helping focus my mind’s eye!

My ‘Ohana has gotten wonderfully bigger over the years. After losing my parents, I regained my biological family and was thrilled my brother John and sister Nancy were here to share in our special day too. I’ve also gained Eric’s family. They’re a funny, interesting, and warm group of people. I think my parents would’ve really liked them. They’ve welcomed me with open arms and hearts since day one. I am lucky.

Though my parents weren’t there physically, I know they didn’t miss a second of it. They witnessed it through the eyes and hearts of all of us and our loved ones—old and new, near and far—who surrounded us that day. It was truly a celebration of life, love, friends, and above all family. Mom and Dad, you’d be proud. I love you and miss you always. I’ve finally “grown up,” and, yes, Sammy gives Eric two thumbs up!

Life is a twisting journey full of ups and downs, joy and heartache. It’s the single most wonderful and terrible experience we’ll ever go through. It’s a blessing even with the pain. While of course, I truly wish my parents had been here to witness my marriage to a most wonderful and loving man (they’d both be very proud and pleased), I know this journey has made me who I am today, tears and all.

Many people react with sympathy when they hear my parents are dead. I get it. What they might not understand is it’s my life. My life, while vastly different than I had ever expected, is wholly my own. My parents may have died, but I know through the many milestones and twists and turns I’ve encountered since then, they’ve always been there guiding me—through the lessons they taught me while they were alive, and the lessons they taught me in their dying: life is short and life is about those you love.

Celebrate both as often and as fully as you can. You never know when forever will end and loved ones won’t be there to hold your hand and share the next step of your special journey.

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Walking Down The Aisle, Part II

DeVida's mom on her wedding day. It was a bit stormy.
DeVida’s mom on her wedding day. It was a bit stormy.

From planning to wedding day, parents play an integral role and their absence can make the process even more emotionally charged than it already is. Given both my parents are dead, this year’s experience has been full of joy and sorrow and my wedding day will be bittersweet.

This is the second in a three-part series where I share what it’s been like for me to plan our wedding and ultimately marry the love of my life. Catch up on Part I: Daddy’s Little Girl.

Part II: A Mother’s Voice

I’m only a month away from the Big Day! This year has flown by faster than I think any other year in my life. What seemed like was a lifetime away, went by in the blink of an eye.

Despite being a more “seasoned” bride, it was very important to me to have the complete wedding and bride experience. No skipping down to city hall or jetting off to an exotic island to get married. No sirree! I was going to do this the old fashioned way. Why? For all the typical reasons—many of us ladies are conditioned to dream of this day early on—but also because I’ve attended too many sad family-oriented occasions in my life. In my family, gathering together has mostly been around funerals. Now was the time for a happy occasion, a celebration of love and life! Even with all the loss I’ve experienced, there’s still plenty of room for joy. (Gotta balance the sorrow somehow!) And I wanted to mark this significant moment in our lives surrounded by the people we love who could be here in person, who’ve supported us both through life’s ups and downs, and who share our happiness at finally finding each other. Not having my parents didn’t mean I couldn’t still have it all.

The sheer amount of options and choices out there when planning a wedding are amazing. What an incredible (and incredibly expensive) industry! I just didn’t realize until I started searching the web how many beautiful ideas exist, from dresses to invitations, hairstyles, favors, décor, locations, place settings… The list goes on and on. How does one wade through them all?!

So many decisions have been made, none all that easy given my Libra tendencies—I see the merit in choice A and choice B. One thing that hit me throughout the process is how much I wish my mom were here to help. She often “knew best.” My mom had a great sense of style, flair, etiquette and the best judgment I’ve known. I looked up to her and respected her opinion even if we didn’t always agree. Some decisions I just wish she were here to reassure me they’re the right ones. She’d make sure I followed all the proper rules of etiquette and had the best of everything. That was just how my mom lived her life. She worked hard for everything she had and never apologized for wanting the good life. Mom grew up with segregation, marched with Dr. King, and refused to believe she or anyone with her color skin should have to live beneath anyone else. She was always a force to be reckoned with.

My mom’s voice was a very strong presence in my life while she was alive, and it’s still quite strong—I feel I’m able to channel her at times. I want the day to be beautiful and our guests to have a great time. I want to make sure everyone’s happy. I don’t want to offend anyone or leave someone out—that etiquette thing my mom had such a solid handle on. I also want the wedding, an event many of us are so used to being somewhat formulaic, to be memorable and different in some way. Mom would’ve helped me focus on what was most important and provided undeniably good advice.

You wouldn’t believe the number of less than restful nights I’ve had, and they’re increasing the closer I get to wedding day. Exhaustion has definitely started taking its toll, and it’s in the decision-making moments when I notice it most (along with the deep, dark circles slowly forming under my eyes). While the process has been fun and a great creative outlet, it’s mind-boggling how many directions I can go with each aspect of the day. Mom’s presence I know would have quelled my uncertainty. She’d know what color napkins would look best. She’d know how long to let cocktail hour actually last. Fretting would be a thing of the past.

But instead, my mom is. She’s no longer with me to hold my hand through this process. I know she would’ve enjoyed every, single, solitary moment of it, even the disagreements and arguments that would’ve invariably flared up throughout the planning process. Even so, I would’ve rather her be here in person. This is a time she and I could have shared and treasured for the rest of our lives. Instead, I continue to channel her, not so much to do what she would have, but to help guide me in knowing when my choices are the right ones.

Hopefully come wedding day, I’ll feel sure about all the decisions I made. I am my mother’s daughter in many ways and will be thrilled if I pull off even a fraction of the elegance and grace (my guiding mantras and vision throughout this process) she would’ve created with the touch of her hand.

Fingers crossed everything falls into place between now and August 15th. I look forward to the day with great anticipation, excitement, and some fear. Fear I’ll fall apart, fear things won’t go as planned. The usual fears, I suppose. Next time I write will be after I’m officially hitched. Wish me luck!

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