Thursday, 21 June 2012

A Joyful Day With a Touch of Grief - My Dad

I was lunching with my Mum and Dad.  Dad was in his wheelchair, Mum was sat beside him, feeding him.  Mum looked up and said “Dad has been very upset that he is not going to be able to walk you down the aisle”.  I felt my jaw go tight and tried hard to hold back the tears.  I told them that my brother Mark had offered to walk me down the aisle unless, of course, I’d decided to walk myself down the aisle.  “Did you hear that?  Mark’s offered to walk her down the aisle.  I can’t think of a better stand-in than your son, can you?”

Dad looked at me and began crying so I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer.  “Please invite me to your wedding.  Don’t exclude me.  I just want to be there”.   I assured Dad that he was invited but he was starting to get confused again and said “How am I going to get there?  I don’t know how I’m going to get there.”  Mum and I spoke as positively as we could to assure Dad that he would be coming to my wedding and that he didn’t need to worry about anything.  We would make sure that he was safe and would be there.  

Several strokes over a period of time had robbed my Dad of his mobility and brought dementia.  It’s a devastating condition that takes away the loved-one you knew slowly and leaves behind a human being unable to care for themselves.  One of the most disturbing things about seeing a loved one with dementia is witnessing the confusion and frustration when they cannot follow a conversation or don’t understand what’s happening.  When my Dad gets confused and frustrated he shouts “I don’t know, I don’t know” or “Shut-up” if he can’t follow what’s being said.  It’s alarming to witness and uncomfortable in public.  

All the pleasures in life that Dad once had are gone.  He loved to watch sports, particularly football but he can no longer follow a game on TV and says that he doesn’t understand it.  He loved lawn bowls and played competitively for years.  He didn’t learn to drive till he was in his 40s but he was a good driver and really enjoyed taking the car out for a country drive.  He had been President of the local Chamber of Commerce and had a sales career he enjoyed.  When he was made redundant in his 50s and couldn’t find work, he started voluntary work at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.  He was practical, good at DIY, well balanced when it came to giving advice, listened to Louis Armstrong and Cleo Laine, he rarely drank and didn’t smoke and took the dog for long walks early morning.  He loved to bellow out a good hymn in church.  This, amongst all the other normal Dad-type-stuff, made him an embarrassment in my eyes!  I took him to a Sunday service at St. Paul’s Cathedral once and he sang so loudly an American tourist behind us tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Are you from Wales”?  He was tickled pink to think that he could pass as a Welsh Male Voice Chorister… or Tom Jones! 

I am thankful that although Dad was already suffering by the time James came into my life, he could at least have a conversation with him. Much of his sparkle had gone by this time and he was not the outgoing, lame-joke cracking chatty man he once was but he was able to talk a little football with James and object to his support of Arsenal. It is a great shame that they didn’t meet one another earlier as I think they would have been great pals. My Dad said he thought James was a ‘gentleman’.

I felt grief-stricken that Dad and I would not be able to share my wedding day in the way we once thought.  I used to tease my Dad that at the point in the ceremony when the question was asked “who gives away this woman?” he would reply “I do… unfortunately!”  I felt sad knowing that he wouldn’t be able to walk or be wheeled down the aisle with me and that he wouldn’t be able to do a Father Of The Bride Speech.  I’m sure he would have made a wonderful speech.
I wasn’t the only one grieving and I began to feel quite overwhelmed with my mother’s anxiety about the day.  How could she enjoy a day as Mother of the Bride if she was caring for Dad as well?  How would she get Dad to the ceremony?  How much of the day would he be able to cope with?  Why weren’t we getting married in their town which she thought was the only way Dad could cope with the day? Why weren’t we getting married in a hotel so that Dad could be taken up to his room if it all got too much?  Why had we chosen a venue 30 miles away when she didn’t think Dad would be able to cope with the journey?  Were James and I going to spend our wedding night at a hotel where other family members would be staying?  If so, could I appreciate that she would feel it very unfair that they were celebrating with me if she had to return home with Dad?  Why was I withdrawing from her and not wanting to talk about the wedding anymore?  Were we going to UNinvite them to our wedding? 

This last anxiety wasn’t completely unfounded as there had been another close family wedding earlier in the year.  Mum and Dad had received an invitation only to find it revoked once they accepted.  This had sent Dad into a deep depression.  He said it had made him feel “unwanted” and I think the shock of it had made Mum so insecure that she believed we might do the same.

Most phone calls with Mum at this time resulted in me either crying on the phone or crying afterwards to James.  Not only was I grieving for my Dad but also for the lost relationship I’d previously had with my Mum.  We no longer had opportunities to share things, go shopping together and enjoy mother/daughter time.  I didn’t talk to her in the same way I used to.  Anything nice to talk about like a holiday or a trip to the theatre just emphasised the lack of those things in her life which caused her unhappiness.  The boundlessly enthusiastic, positive, kind and patient woman I’d previously known was now an exhausted, care-worn, distant and defensive woman putting up a constant fight to ensure that Dad was treated with dignity and not left to go through this frightening disease alone. 

James and I had our own concerns about Dad coming to the wedding.  I was grieving for all the aspects of our relationship that I could no longer enjoy with Dad and knew that our wedding day was going to be very emotional.  I worried that Dad would be distressed in unfamiliar surroundings and with a lot of people around him.  I was worried that he would shout out throughout the entire ceremony and that this would make me cry and not be able to stop.  For me, our vows were the most important part of the day.  What if the Registrar says “Speak now or forever hold your peace” and Dad starts yelling out “I said no, I said no!”?  James was anxious about the speeches as he was going to refer to his late mother which he knew he’d find emotional.  What if Dad started yelling out “shut up, shut up” during his speech?  Our approaching wedding day was starting to look like being an ordeal rather than a cause for celebration.

A few things made a difference though.  I told Mum that once she and Dad received their formal wedding invitation through the post, I would only be focusing on me and James in the run up to the wedding. I needed a few weeks to rekindle the positive feelings of joy and excitement at our forthcoming nuptials. My brother Mark was an unassuming hero.  He lifted the burden of all the practical issues about getting Mum and Dad to the venue.  One of Dad’s favourite care assistants was booked to do the practical caring of Dad to free Mum to be Mother of the Bride for the day.  A driver was hired to take Mum, Dad and his carer to the venue and to take Dad and the carer home when he had had enough.  Mark would drive Mum and Dad’s car and bring the wedding cake that Mum had made for us.  At least now there was no risk of the wedding cake arriving with a wheelchair shaped indentation!  Our ushers were briefed to look out for Mum and Dad all day to give them any support they needed.  The catering staff were briefed to give them special attention.  The venue staff made sure that the wheelchair ramp was set up and they set aside a quiet room just for Dad. 

I talked to the Registrar about my concerns about Dad shouting during the ceremony, especially at the “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment.  She said, “shall we just agree that if your Dad DOES shout out at that moment, it’s because he WANTS you to proceed?”  We’d even found a venue that had a door at the front of the ceremony room, right beside Dad for a fairly discreet exit if he needed it.  He did start crying out as I walked down the aisle and once I reached James I asked the Registrar if I could just take a moment to say hello to him.  I gave him a hug and a kiss and told him that it was my wedding day, that he’d made it as we’d promised.  During the ceremony if Dad seemed agitated and confused the Registrar held his hand and explained what was happening.  He didn’t say a word when the guests were asked to “speak now or forever hold your peace” though he did yell out “Shut up” during our wedding reading.

Mum gave a speech on behalf of Dad and there weren't many dry eyes at the end.  She said that Dad would have probably given us some advice on marriage, "To love someone and be loved in return is a great privilege.  Guard it well!"  Which is so apt as even though so much of my old Dad has disappeared, he still loves me and is loved in return.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

A Hamburg Hen Weekend

Weddings are an expensive business, not just for the couple getting married but for guests too.  A new outfit, travel to the wedding venue, a taxi back when you are too drunk to drive, overnight accommodation, a wedding card, a gift, confetti, childcare arrangements.  Add a hen or stag party into the mix and wedding guests spend hundreds of pounds helping the bride and groom celebrate.  Factor into the Excel spreadsheet a year when you have two or three weddings to attend and your mood can change from one of elation for the forthcoming nuptials to despair at the thought of the impending bankruptcy trial!
I thought it was too much to ask of friends that they come to my wedding AND cough up more money to celebrate my last few weeks of singledom.   To be honest, I wasn’t in a celebratory mood.  I was about to take redundancy from work and I felt burnt out, I was feeling stressed about wedding finances, I felt down about Dad suffering from dementia, Mum and I were upsetting each other trying to find solutions to make the wedding day possible for Dad, I was anxious about my family meeting my birth mother at the wedding and all this was putting a strain on me and James.  
It was Sharon who persuaded me to have a hen weekend.  As she said, once women get to a certain stage in their lives there are few opportunities to take a short break from children, partners, elderly parents, work, housework and all the other things that demand our attention.   A hen weekend, she said, would be that rare thing – a valid excuse for a couple of days away, a chance for my female friends to get to know each other before the wedding  and an opportunity for our other halves to see how hard we work keeping hearth and home together!   
I picked a weekend in Hamburg, Germany, home of my friend and witness at my wedding, Michelle.  She and I chose a date, researched flights and hotels, planned a leisurely, fun and sophisticated programme for the weekend and I emailed the girls.  Sharon was right…. The bargaining with husbands and partners began, the RSVP’s came back thick and fast and before I could say “Ich Bin ein Hamburger” a group of 12 hens and their Head Hen were on their way from Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester and Dublin for a weekend of Hamburg Henage.  We converged at Michelle’s house on the Friday evening.

 6.00 am Heathrow
That’s when everything changed for me.  It was impossible not to feel a sense of real pleasure, excitement and enjoyment about my forthcoming wedding when all these lovely faces were reflecting it back to me.  How was it that they were all so thrilled I’d met James, so happy that I’d found love and were, to a hen, all looking forward to my wedding day when I saw my wedding day as a day that needed to be ‘got through’ - an endurance test rather than a day for joyous celebration. 

Michelle not only opened up her home to all my hens and welcomed us with champagne, cupcakes, and the warmest welcome imaginable but she spent the entire weekend working hard to make sure that everyone had a wonderful weekend to remember.  She was tour guide, restaurant booker, translator, designer of matching hen t-shirts, instigator of naughtiness and all round good (hens) egg. 

We went to my favourite German restaurant and feasted on schnitzel and potatoes, we did an open top bus tour of the city, we had kaffee and kuchen in my favourite Viennese café, we had champagne in my favourite champagne bar, we went shopping, we had German sausages, we dined overlooking the harbour, we went on a boat trip, we had lunch at a floating restaurant … we talked, we laughed, we danced, we reasoned through my wedding worries and one by one they began to evaporate.  

Bridesmaid Jess

What if my Dad shouts out throughout my wedding vows?  No problem – my hens will join in.  What if I hear Dad shouting , confused and upset and I lose it as I start walking down the aisle?  No problem – my hens will all be crying too!  What if things are awkward between my family and my birth mother?  No problem – my hens are all dying to meet her so she’ll be made welcome and there will be no time for awkwardness.  What if Dad becomes distressed during the speeches and has to be wheeled out by his carer?  No problem – we’ll all just pause and continue the speeches when we can.  It didn’t matter what anxiety ridden scenario I threw at them, my hens had loving and supportive solutions.    

Lauretta, Becky and Head Hen
Before dinner on the Saturday evening, we had alfresco harbour-side cocktails and my hens surprised me with a folder they had made for me.  One by one they read from it, sharing the story of how we had met, anecdotes from our friendship and what our friendship meant to them.  Some stories were hilarious and humiliating and reduced me to tears of laughter, others just reduced me to tears.  I felt like George Bailey at the end of “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  If I hadn’t been talked into it by Sharon I would have missed out on my own “It’s A Wonderful Weekend”. 

Back row (L to R): Pauline, Becky, Caroline, Lauretta, Sharon
Front row (L to R): Jess, Anni, Michelle, Caron, Head Hen, Jane, Tess, Katy

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Joyful Day With A Touch Of Grief - His Mum

I suppose it is an obvious downside.  If you don’t meet your special chosen one until you are in your 40s then chances are that some of your special loved ones will either have died before your big day or will be slipping away while you endure a living grief.  James and I both had our own types of grief to deal with in the run up to our wedding day.
I am so thankful that I had the chance to meet his mother.  I thought she was fantastic and we liked each other.  The first time James brought me home to meet his family his mother greeted me at the front door with a big smile and said “I’ve been dying to meet you.  I’ve heard so much about you”.  I was ushered into their welcoming home, champagne was opened and his Mum and sister presented me with platters of new wedding canapés to taste that they were trying out while his Dad, having heard I drink red wine, went to the cellar to fetch a bottle he thought I’d like.  I loved it!  

Her business was catering for weddings and she was an amazing hostess and cook.  I loved her Sunday lunch family gatherings and occasionally when we’d drop by she’d give us some surplus fishcakes she’d made or an old dinner service that she no longer required but knew we could use or a thoughtful present.  She told me how pleased she was that James and I had met and she could see that we made each other happy.  We later found out that her Sunday evening phone calls to her family and friends were full of news about us and she shared with them how thrilled she was that we had found one another.  
We had been together less than a year when his Mum became ill and before we could say ‘pancreatic cancer’ she died.  It was two days before Christmas.  
Her absence was felt in all our celebrations.  When James proposed to me (in Salzburg) he felt a wave of sadness that we couldn't call her and tell her.  She would have been delighted, especially as Prince William and Kate Middleton got engaged the same weekend.  She loved a Royal Wedding!  When we moved into our first house together, his Mum would have been so thrilled.  When we struggled with the details of planning a wedding on a small budget, his Mum would have been able to advise us.  She had catered weddings for 40 years.  She'd seen it all.  Nobody knew weddings like she did.  When I became overwhelmed with my parents needs in the run up to the wedding James would often say, “if Mum was alive, she’d have driven down to meet them and would have helped”.       
In the weeks running up to the wedding, a cloud of sadness descended upon him.  He put off writing his wedding speech as he wanted to mention his late mother but putting pen to paper was proving difficult and emotional.  Eventually he wrote his speech but his concern then became that he wouldn't be able to get the words out.  I told him that this wouldn’t matter.  Weddings are emotional days and tears are expected but this wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  He needed to get through his speech and say exactly what he wanted, to honour his late mother and include her in our day without becoming a wreck or losing his voice.  I got it.  
Maybe it’s unconventional, a groom rehearsing his wedding speech on his bride, but he tried it out on me several times until he felt confident that he could stand up in front of our wedding guests, mention his mother, and toast her.  I cried the first time I heard his speech.  I cried the second time I heard it too.  Even when he went upstairs and I stayed downstairs to get him to practice projecting his voice, I still cried.  His words gained impact each time I heard them and it was a wonderful speech.  
We still missed his Mum terribly on our wedding day.  She would have loved it.  We all toasted her and acknowledged that even though it was an amazing and happy day, there was still room to be sad that she wasn’t there to celebrate it with us.
Liz Cox
9th June 1940 - 23rd December 2009 


Monday, 21 May 2012

A Red Wedding Dress

I wanted a Hollywood-red-carpet-inspired red velvet long-sleeved wedding dress that would flatter my 5 foot 4 inch UK size 20 frame.  My budget was under £500.  
I thought that the search for my wedding dress would be one of the most enjoyable parts of being a bride-to-be but I soon found it added to the stresses of the wedding planning process and was an experience that was demotivating, demoralising and exasperating.
My Mum, being a full-time carer for my Dad, a wheelchair-bound dementia sufferer, was not able to share much of the wedding planning with me.  She couldn't visit venues with me or come to wedding fairs.  Mum desperately wanted to come wedding dress shopping with me but this was logistically tricky.  We only had a two hour window on a Wednesday to do this when my Dad was at a weekly Day Care Centre.  The only possible option was for us to go to the two little wedding dress shops in my parents’ town.  Judging from the dresses in their windows, I didn’t think I was going to find my dress there but it was important that Mum had the opportunity to share this experience with me as it was a mother daughter rite of passage.
And here the challenges began.  The first wedding dress shop did not stock any sample dress above a UK size 12.   If I liked any of the dresses in this shop, I would have to close my eyes and use my vivid imagination to decide if they would suit me or not!  Their dresses also started at £3,000 – way beyond my budget.
The second wedding dress shop stocked a budget range of wedding dresses called FABULESS by Alfred Angelo up to UK size 32.  These dresses were around the £500 mark and the shop had some in stock in larger sizes.  I could at least try a few on and not start hyperventilating at the cost.  They also recommended trying on some bridesmaids dresses and prom dresses which could be ordered in red.  This was promising!
I stood on the wooden block in front of the full length mirror in my underwear and felt very self-conscious.  There wasn’t one dress in the shop with sleeves, they were all strapless.  I tried on several dresses – some in the sale, some in the budget range and some red bridesmaid dresses.  There wasn’t one dress I liked or felt beautiful in and there were a couple that I couldn’t get over my head.  I even got stuck in one dress and it took about 5 minutes to get me out of it!  I thought they all looked hideous but didn’t say so as I didn't want to spoil the occasion for Mum.  To cover my arms I tried lace and marabou feather boleros over the dresses.  I tried veils and tiaras….. the reflection looking back at me wasn’t me at all but a bride that I didn’t recognise, wearing something she looked uncomfortable in. 

I also learned that I had ‘left it quite late’ to order my wedding dress.  It seems that most wedding dress shops need more than 5 months to order a bride’s dress and have it in the store in time to be altered and fitted for the big day.  So not only did I have the challenge of a small (by wedding dress standards) budget, and a large (by wedding dress standards) size but I now basically had to make my mind up in the next fortnight if I was going to order a dress from a wedding dress shop!
A custom made dress was out of the question as this would be too expensive.  I started trawling the internet for red ball gowns, prom dresses, bridesmaid dresses but just couldn’t find anything that was red and velvet and long-sleeved and what I wanted.  I started to compromise and just looked for red and velvet or red and long-sleeved.  I started to look at other colours and fabrics to see if the muse took me and I found a couple of dresses online that I liked but they still weren’t what I had envisaged.  A friend recommended eBay and a dress made in China for a fraction of the usual price.  I short-listed a few – none of which were quite what I had in mind and I felt waves of anxiety that I would order the dress and it would arrive too small, the fabric would look cheap, and it wouldn't resemble the picture on eBay or that it would be exactly like the picture on eBay but so completely unflattering on me.  I just couldn’t order a dress without trying it on.
I started to wake up at 4.00 am every morning - the anxiety hour.  I was reminded of a friend of mine who had anxiety dreams before her wedding in which she walked down the aisle wrapped in a duvet with unwashed hair!!  Another friend also told me that she had had hideous experiences with snooty wedding dress stylists and how one friend, who had recently lost her mother, had been told by a wedding dress shop owner to come back with her mother as she shouldn’t be wedding dress shopping without her!  Panic was starting to set in as the whole experience started to feel like an ordeal.
I found a website that made medieval wedding dresses (within budget) and could make one in red velvet with sleeves.  But a medieval look really wasn’t what I wanted and it really wouldn’t look right beside my Beloved who was going to be dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and black tie.  We would look like Don Draper and Anne Boleyn!  Not the style I was going for!
Taffeta & velvet medieval dress
I checked out vintage bridal wear, second-hand bridal wear and even discovered Oxfam and  Barnardos  have specialist bridal shops!  Fantastic!  But they still didn't have that stunning red gown I was after and very little in stock that I could get into. 
Alice James size 14 red wedding dress(Oxfam Bridal) 
Beloved and I had planned a day out at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent so I looked to see if there were any wedding dress shops there.  There was one.  Oriental Pearl.  I booked myself a wedding dress styling and awoke early that morning, 4.00 am, having had a humiliating bad dream involving the fire brigade and me stuck inside a large rubber tyre!
Oriental Pearl had a quite dazzling array of prom dresses and ball gowns so I felt more confident that I may find something red but there was no velvet in sight.  A friendly lady called Coral was my stylist and I explained that although I was wedding dress shopping, I really wanted something red.  “No problem”, she said “you can have any dress in this shop made in red”.   I tried on several wedding dresses – though none bigger than a size 16!  I tried on 2 dresses that I LOVED.  One was £850 and the other was £269!  And guess what…. The £269 dress looked the best!  The only problem was, the sample I tried on wasn’t my size and was white.  If I decided to go for it I still needed to use my imagination to picture it in red and how it would fit in my size.  There was an element of risk as I wouldn’t get it till 4 weeks before the big day so if it arrived and it was hideous, I wouldn’t have any alternative.  But what choice did I have?
I bought it.  Coral measured me, took me through the fabric colour swatches, and I requested a 10 inch train be added.  The price started to go up.  As I was ordering in a “plus size” that meant there was an additional charge, a sort of ‘big girl tax’!  The train added more to it but there was no additional charge for having it made in red.  The dress would be made in China and shipped to Oriental Pearl for my collection at the end of October for the sum of £349.  Ok, so it didn’t have sleeves and it wasn’t velvet, but it was within my budget, it was RED and it was FABULOUS!!!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Introduction - How I Met My Husband And Why I Was A "Challenged Bride"

In 1998 I was a single 30 year old enjoying my life in London. My good friend Sharon was going out with a very nice man called Simon.  I liked Simon, he was an actor, funny, easy-going, a good raconteur and easy to spend time with when we were all out together.  Sharon returned from a family dinner with Simon and told me what a lovely time she'd had AND that Simon had a brother who she thought would be PERFECT for me.  James was funny, she said, a great raconteur, easy-going and easy to spend time with.  Would I like to be fixed up for a date with him?  Of course, I said.  I had nothing to lose.  Great, said Sharon.  Great idea, said Simon..... but Simon never mentioned me to his brother and no blind date was arranged.

If this was a film, we'd have a caption screen here that reads "10 Years Later..."

During the intervening 10 years Sharon parted company from Simon but they stayed good pals. James met, married and divorced someone else and I had several relationships including a long distance engagement with a man in Tunisia.  It wasn't until a few weeks before my 40th birthday, at a time when I had started to accept that "Mr Right" only existed in Jane Austen novels that Simon's brother was mentioned again. Sharon had been to see Simon in a West End play.  It just so happened that his brother was in the audience that night too.  Sharon took one look at him (only the second time she'd ever seen him) and still believed we would make a good match but this time she didn't wait for Simon to introduce us.  She found James on Facebook, introduced us and we soon realised how our lives had been lived in parallel, how much we had in common and how excited we were to meet.

One week after my 40th birthday we had our first proper date.  He says that for him it was love at first sight.  For me... well... by our third date I realised what a special man I'd met.

We were both 40, that meant we had 80 years of life experience between us so no game playing, no withholding feelings from one another, no sugar coating the bad experiences in our past; just honesty, openness, a lot of love and a promise not to take one another for granted.  He moved in with me 5 months later and proposed to me in Salzburg.

All very exciting.  All very happy stuff.  I organise people and meetings and things for a living so organising a wedding was going to be a piece of butter iced carrot cake!!!  So why was I a Challenged Bride To Be?  Here is a list of the things that began to overwhelm me and the hurdles I thought I couldn't overcome:-

  • How to have a tasteful wedding on a no taste budget?
  • How to find the right dress when a) I'm a plus size woman and wedding dress samples seem to all be size 10 b) my dress taste does not conform to the offerings in wedding dress shops c) I want a beautiful red velvet wedding dress with sleeves d) miniscule budget e) is it too much to ask that I actually look fabulous on my wedding day?
  • How to console a grieving groom whose mother (a wedding caterer) died the previous Christmas and  whose loss is felt during every step of the wedding planning process?
  • How to sensitively include both my mothers in the wedding day (adoptive mother and birth mother)?
  • How to ensure that we find a venue and plan a day that includes my father as a) he is wheelchair bound b) has dementia and yells and cries when he gets emotional or confused c) won't be able to do the traditional father-of-the-bride things such as walking me down the aisle, giving me away, speech etc d) how will we cope if he shouts throughout the ceremony and especially at the "Speak now or forever hold your peace" part?
  • How to only invite the people that we love the most and really want to celebrate our special day with and not some people who expect to be invited?
  • How to engage a groom in the venue selection and planning of a wedding when a) it's his second wedding b) he had no say in the planning of the previous wedding c) he states he is only interested in the music and d) he thinks the detail and planning is my domain and he is just happy to turn up on the day at the allotted time?!
  • How to cope with the fact that everyone has an opinion about what our wedding should be like!
I'm looking forward to sharing all the challenges I met and how I coped with them.  Some of the challenges are universal but some I found unique and difficult to deal with.  At times I couldn't find any help or comfort during my internet research or from talking to friends and colleagues.  I'd never met anyone adopted who had had both their adoptive mother and birth mother at their wedding.  I didn't know anyone whose father was suffering with dementia on their wedding day and who was fearful that walking up the aisle and hearing a chorus of "Shut up! Shut up! I said no, I said no" from the front of the ceremony room was likely to make them lose it and cry off all their fabulous wedding day make up!  But there must be other Challenged Brides out there so hopefully my story, and others, will help Challenged-Brides-To-Be to get through it all and have the wonderful wedding day they deserve!