Erica Lafferty and Christopher Smegielski
Courtesy Erica Lafferty
07/14/2013 at 10:00 AM EDT
Erica Lafferty, the youngest daughter of Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung
, who was killed in December's mass shooting in Newtown, Conn.
, recently marked a joyous occasion.
On July 6, she married fiancé Christopher Smegielski, at her mother's lake house in the Adirondacks.
That morning, , Lafferty, 27, paid a visit to her mother's grave. And she wore her wedding dress.
"I wanted to let her know how much I missed her," Lafferty says. "No daughter should ever have to do that on her wedding day … and I make sure she is always part of every day, like she always had been."
Hochsprung was a celebrated educator whose heroic efforts during the tragedy
have been lauded by the community – and the nation.
Lafferty says, "Never in a million years did I think I would be getting married without my mother there. Planning for my wedding was actually one of the last things my mom and I did together before she was killed."
For her bridal ensemble, Lafferty wore custom-dyed converse sneakers, something she and her mom often joked about.
"My mom always teased me because I was such a tomboy," she says. "When I was picking out my dress, we found you could custom Converse sneakers, so she knew I had ordered them."
Lafferty lives in Prospect, Conn., and works with Mayors Against Illegal Guns
, "to fight common-sense gun laws and join with others who've lost loved ones," she says.
"I'm using my voice to make sure that things change and ensure no one else has to experience one of the most important days of their life without their mother due to gun violence."
She also maintains an active Twitter profile
to share her efforts "against this senseless violence."