Cate Edwards with her mom Elizabeth in 2004. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)On Saturday, disgraced politician John Edwards will walk his daughter, Cate, down the aisle. But Cate's mom, Elizabeth, who died of breast cancer in December, will serve as the guest of honor. In the days leading up to her death, Elizabeth was focused on the details of her daughter's pending nuptials.
Just two weeks before Elizabeth passed away last December, Cate was proposed to by her college sweetheart Trevor Upham."I feel so lucky to have shared that joy with her, to have had the time to leaf through bridal magazines together and talk about the wedding," Cate, 29, wrote in a recent issue of Glamour Magazine. Together mom and daughter agreed to a "rustic romantic"-themed wedding in an outdoors setting.
This weekend, Cate and Elizabeth's plans will be realized at the Edwards' rambling estate in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The home, one of the largest in the country and the place where Elizabeth spent her last days, boasts 100 acres, 28,200 square feet, a squash court and two stages. A three-day affair for 150 guests, replete with Southern home cooking and outdoor cocktail parties, will culminate with a ceremony surrounded by a bridal party of Edwards' siblings, Jack, 11, and Claire, 13.
The father of the bride, who faces criminal charges over violating campaign finance laws during his affair cover-up, received permission to postpone his trial so he could attend this weekend's event.
Cate met her future husband when they were both undergraduates at Princeton University. Upham, a doctor who helped parse some of Elizabeth's complicated medical results and served as a pallbearer at her funeral, proposed to Cate on Thanksgiving during a surprise trip to the Edwards' Chapel Hill home.
"After I picked him up at the airport, he suggested a detour through Raleigh and proposed to me in front of the green-shuttered house that my parents had brought me home to as a newborn," recalled Cate. "After a celebratory lunch, we headed to Chapel Hill, where my family lives; we entered a house full of smiles, including my mom's."
Elizabeth, who had once said John never actually proposed to her, had been in on Trevor's plans for weeks. "Trevor had shipped her the ring weeks before," Cate wrote, "and she had hidden it in the trunk of my car so he could retrieve it before he popped the question."
Trevor and Cate's relationship wasn't always seamless. They split in 2004 after two years together but reunited in 2006 after "seeing what else was out there," and realizing "nothing else was as good as what we have," Cate told Harper's Bazaar in 2007.
It wasn't easy standing on the sidelines of her father's sex scandal, all while witnessing her mom's cancer take its toll, but weathering it all with a partner helped solidify their relationship. "It's really nice to have someone who was there before all this began," she told Harper's. "You can really trust they're there for the right reasons."
It helped that mom Elizabeth was a fan of Trevor."She was so happy because she loves my fiancé," Cate told NBC news, "and knew that I was on this path that she was happy with and comfortable with."
On Saturday, Elizabeth will be at her daughter's side in spirit. Wedding guests have been encouraged to make donations to the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation in lieu of gifts.
"Mom advised me to think carefully about the ceremony: It could be an important map, she said, for our life together," Cate wrote in her Glamour essay.
Back in 1977, John and Elizabeth also wed in Chapel Hill in a small clapboard church, but their wedding was fraught with glitches. Elizabeth's dress was four sizes too large and on their one-day honeymoon in Virginia, John forgot to bring any money.
In light of the difficulties she faced later in her marriage, Elizabeth's advice must have weighed heavily on her daughter's wedding plans.
"Big choices that I make … little choices that I make, sort of everything I do, I hear her voice," Cate said in an NBC interview, "the same way I did when she was alive."
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