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After loss and turmoil, Cate Edwards to say, ‘I do’

The daughter of John and Elizabeth Edwards will marry Dr. Trevor Upham on Saturday in North Carolina. "It's really nice to have someone who was there before all this began," Cate Edwards said of her future husband.
/ Source: The New York Times

Cate Edwards will have a day of her own on Saturday.

Her late mother, Elizabeth, had long dreamed of her daughter’s wedding day, even helping her plan it before she died in December.

On what promises to be a soft, Southern fall afternoon, Ms. Edwards, 29, will be escorted down the aisle by her father, John. She will pledge her heart to Dr. Trevor Upham, 30, and then celebrate the marriage with family and friends at the sprawling home her parents built in the countryside not far from Chapel Hill, N.C.

Everyone close to the family knew that Mrs. Edwards would not live to see this day — she died of breast cancer less than two weeks after the engagement — but mother and daughter dived into wedding details while they still had time.

“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,” Ms. Edwards wrote in an article for the November issue of Glamour magazine. “I feel blessed because, in her last weeks, she told me she was comforted to know I’d set forth on my own life path, with someone she loved and respected, and with whom she truly believed I would be happy.”

The wedding offers family and friends a chance for joy and celebration after years of turmoil and loss that played out dramatically on the public stage.

During his 2008 campaign for president, Mr. Edwards, a former Democratic senator from North Carolina, had an affair that produced a daughter. He faces federal criminal charges of violating campaign finance laws in a trial set for January.

The trial was supposed to start this month, but Mr. Edwards asked a judge to postpone it in part because his daughter was getting married.

Image: John Edwards and his daughter Cate Edwards depart from the U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem North Carolina
Former U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards and his daughter, Cate Edwards, depart from the U.S. District Court in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, June 3, 2011. Edwards was indicted Friday for using nearly $1 million in illegal campaign funds to help cover up an extramarital affair during his White House bid. In a fall from grace for a man once expected to go far in American politics, Edwards, 57, was charged with six counts, including conspiracy, illegal campaign contributions and making false statements, according to the federal indictment. REUTERS/Davis Turner (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS)Davis Turner / X02053

Ms. Edwards, a lawyer, and Dr. Upham, a surgical fellow at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, met in 2002 when they were students at Princeton University and bonded over their love of mathematics. They broke up for two years before getting together for good in 2006.

“We wanted to see what else was out there, and nothing else was — nothing else as good as what we have,” Ms. Edwards told Harper’s Bazaar in 2007. “It’s really nice to have someone who was there before all this began. You can really trust they’re there for the right reasons.”

Now, they and their friends call the relationship Trevor and Cate 2.0.

“You don’t get that sense you are celebrating the beginning of their life or making of their commitment,” said Sun Jung Kim, one of 14 bridesmaids and a friend from Princeton. “It’s a celebration of all that they’ve been through over the years, of the road they’ve gone down.”

Dr. Upham was raised in a Republican family. Friends joke that they knew the couple were serious when he decided to become an independent.

Ms. Edwards was practicing law in Washington until this year, when she left her firm to start the Elizabeth Edwards Foundation, which will provide volunteers to serve as mentors to disadvantaged college-bound students. The couple has suggested donations to the foundation as an alternative to gifts from traditional bridal registries.

The Edwardses had started another foundation and a computer learning lab for students after their son Wade — Cate’s older brother — was killed in a car crash in 1996 when he was 16.

Ms. Edwards and Dr. Upham were engaged the day after Thanksgiving last year. Dr. Upham surprised her by proposing in front of the house in Raleigh, N.C., where her parents had taken her home as a newborn. He had let Mrs. Edwards in on the secret, even sending her the engagement ring to hide in the trunk of her daughter’s car so he could have it when he proposed.

A few days after the engagement, the family announced that Mrs. Edwards’s cancer had spread. She died Dec. 7 at the age of 61. Dr. Upham had helped Mrs. Edwards understand her medical reports and served as a pallbearer at her funeral.

For those who like granular details on weddings, a few facts: About 150 invitations have been sent for what will be a long weekend of parties, starting with welcoming cocktails on Thursday. Dr. Upham’s father, Chris, is serving as his best man. Ms. Edwards’s sister, Emma Claire, 13, will be maid of honor, and her 11-year-old brother, Jack, will be a groomsman.

After the ceremony at a Methodist church in Chapel Hill, guests will drive to the 100-acre family estate. She and her mother planned the reception with a “rustic romantic” theme.

Guests will start with an two-hour outdoor cocktail reception with touches of the South, including stations serving shrimp and grits and Carolina crab cakes, before sitting down to dinner. Dr. Upham’s parents, who live north of Los Angeles, are food enthusiasts who have had a strong hand in planning the menu. The after-party is expected to go until 2 a.m. at a Chapel Hill hotel.

The emotion of the event has swept up many in the Raleigh area, even veterans of the most prominent weddings in North Carolina.

“She’s had a lot of loss,” said Barbara Clark, owner of An Elegant Affair, a top wedding planner who has been working with Ms. Edwards and Dr. Upham. “All of us want this to be as perfect as it can be.”

Katharine Q. Seelye contributed reporting from New York.

This story, originally appeared in The New York Times.