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It took almost losing my dad to change my mind about marriage

KATY LEMAY/The Globe and Mail

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I never cared about getting married. Wearing a puffy white dress and pretending to be a princess on your "big day," when you marry your prince and live happily ever after, sounded too Hollywood to me.

As my friends got married one by one, I attended some very lavish ordeals that turned me off getting married even more. All that confetti, the ribbons and tulle were uncomfortably overwhelming for a tomboy who believes that Converse All Stars can pass as dressy shoes.

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In university I met a nice boy and it soon became clear that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We knew that we would tie the knot eventually, but it wasn't a priority. Although we were liberal enough to cohabit and buy a house together, we were traditional enough that we wanted to get married before having kids.

Both of us were very practical, so it made more sense to drop tens of thousands of dollars on a down payment for a house than on a day-long public display of affection.

However, I'll admit that we'd done some wedding-planning planning. We agreed that when the time came it would be a small, simple affair. We'd discussed venues and even squabbled over the guest list, but all the planning never materialized into anything concrete. We were committed to each other and were in no hurry to get a certificate to prove our love.

When our relationship became old enough to attend Grade 1, our parents began to apply some gentle pressure. His mom: "So, what are your future plans?" My mom: "Don't deny Dad the pleasure of walking you down the aisle!"

Sadly, their prodding was in vain. Even when some higher powers tried to push us together – I caught the bouquet and my boyfriend caught the garter at a friend's wedding – we still shrugged off questions about when our big day would be.

But everything changed one Saturday morning.

I was woken up by a phone call from my brother a few provinces away. My dad was in hospital with a life-threatening infection.

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In a daze, I threw some essentials into a backpack and got on the next flight out of Calgary to Mississauga, choking back tears and pangs of guilt all the way. I had put off having a wedding for such a long time, and now my dad might not be there for it.

Upon landing I headed straight to the hospital, where my dad was in a coma. He had contracted flesh-eating disease and his left leg had been amputated.

I felt as if some cruel fate had decided to punish both him and me for my wedding procrastination: "Not going to walk down the aisle with your dad? Then I guess he won't be needing this leg any more!"

I visited him in the hospital every day. I would peer through the glass doors into his room full of beeping machines and blinky lights, and silently try to will him awake, wishing he could hear my thoughts: It was too early for him to go; he needed to get better because he still needed to walk me down the aisle.

A few agonizing days later, my dad began to regain consciousness. He was groggy and dazed, but when I could finally voice what I had been trying to tell him telepathically, he lit up and a broad smile spread across his face.

At that moment I knew I couldn't delay getting married any longer. All my qualms about having a wedding vanished, eclipsed by the fact that my dad was going to pull through and that he'd be there to celebrate with me.

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The arguments my boyfriend and I had about the guest list now seemed petty: I realized that I should focus on who should be at the wedding instead of who shouldn't be. Details like the font on the invitations, number of bridesmaids and the shade of white for my dress didn't matter. Heck, I could get married wearing a potato sack and still be happy as long as my dad was there to give me away (which he would probably be keen on doing if I had that sense of fashion, or lack thereof!).

I began to see marriage and weddings in a whole new light. A wedding without my father would have been incomplete. The integral part that family plays in a wedding made me realize that it isn't just about two people promising to share their lives with each other. It is about two families coming together, and for those families to celebrate another milestone in the younger generation's lives.

It had been selfish of me to ignore this rite of passage, which was trivial to me but significant to others close to me.

With this fresh view, our wedding-planning planning evolved into actual wedding planning.

Whenever I was on the verge of a Bridezilla moment, I would stop and ask myself what really matters for this wedding. Candles for the centrepieces? Olives on the antipasto platter? Flowers on the boutonnieres?

Nope. My dad sporting his fancy new "robot leg" and cane to walk me down the aisle? Priceless.

Amy Thai lives in Calgary.

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