You’re the end of the rainbow, my pot of gold.
You’re daddy’s little girl, to have and hold.
A precious gem is what you are;
You’re mommy’s bright and shining star.
You’re the spirit of Christmas, the star on our tree.
You’re the Easter Bunny to Mommy and me.
You’re sugar, you’re spice, and you’re everything nice
And You’re Daddy’s Little Girl
~ Daddy’s Little Girl, by Robert Burke and Horace Gerlach
Of all the parent-child relationships the one of father to daughter might be the most straightforward on the surface but the most complex underneath. As a father of a daughter, your bond might have consisted of your being the authoritarian, best friend, pipe-smoking and distant professor, lovable playmate, frequently absent workaholic or proud and doting papa. The nature of that bond will determine how you react to your daughter’s engagement and wedding, but the underlying emotion will be that you are losing your little girl to another man.
Heretofore you have been the main man in your daughter’s life, even if at times you have been in the background as she has grown up and grown older. You have been an important anchor as she has made her way through life. But, now that her life is changing, she is also forcing your life to change as well. How will you handle it? The following guidelines and tips should help ease the anxiety, or at least help you to manage it!
The Role of the Father of the Bride
The image of the father of the bride has traditionally been a romantic — if not a slightly comedic and put-upon — one. Think of the movie, Father of the Bride (the classic 1950 version with Spencer Tracy and the 1991 remake with Steve Martin). The poor dad, beside himself over his daughter involved so deeply with someone who threatens to take her away from him, worried that the cost of the celebration of this betrayal is going to wipe out his savings and stressed beyond endurance at the wedding plans themselves. His well-ordered world has been turned upside down simply because his daughter has fallen in love and made the life-altering decision to get married. Is this art imitating life? It probably is to some extent if judged by the popularity of the book by Edward Streeter on which the movies are based.
Fortunately for the modern father of the bride, footing the entire bill for his daughter’s wedding is an old-fashioned idea. Unless he is a very wealthy member of society or royalty, or well enough off and his daughter and future son-in-law are very young and unemployed or underemployed, he doesn’t have to go it alone any longer, either financially or in the planning. The rule of thumb these days is that the parents of the bride and groom all pitch in if they are able, or the couple funds their own wedding. The mother of the bride still is very involved in the planning, and if there is entertaining required both the father and mother of the bride will be called upon to play host. This is especially true of the reception; guests will still turn to the father of the bride for questions and guidance, regardless of who is actually paying for the wedding. Thus, it behooves you, as the FOB, to stay in the wedding planning loop so you know what is going on (and if you are paying for all or most of the wedding, do so gracefully and avoid becoming overbearing). At the reception, or anywhere else where you are expected to be in attendance, when asked a question don’t simply shrug, know what is going on and be ready to help. Your support of your daughter and her groom is just as important, if not more so, than anyone else’s. You are the person in your daughter’s life who has never let her down, and now is the time to rise to the occasion big time.
What Are the Father-of-the-Bride’s Responsibilities?
- Hosts an Engagement Party (Optional) – If it makes sense from a practical and emotional point of view, host an engagement party. The purpose of such an occasion is to announce your daughter’s engagement and introduce her fiancé to your relatives and friends, and to mark the occasion. However, anyone can host an engagement party. It is important that you at least get together with the groom’s parents shortly after the engagement has been announced to meet them or reunite with them as future in-laws and toast your daughter’s and son’s engagement.
- Delivers Toasts – The father of the bride is expected to make toasts at the engagement party, rehearsal dinner and the wedding reception. More on this in a future entry. But if you’d like to start thinking about your toasts, check out this Toastmasters guide. Just remember to prepare, be gracious, stay sober until you are finished with your toasts, focus on your daughter and others you are toasting and speak from your heart.
- Walks His Daughter Down the Aisle – This is the moment that everyone has waited for and the crowning point that all the wedding planning has led up to. It is the single most important responsibility that the father of the bride has. Walking your daughter down the aisle marks the turning points of your lives, but also demonstrates the love, closeness and solidarity of father and daughter. Aside from the instant that the bride and groom say, “I do,” the revelation of the bride on her father’s arm is the most dramatic, emotional and beautiful part of the ceremony.
- Dances With His Daughter At The Wedding – There will be more about this in a future entry, but for now it is sufficient to say that next to the bride and groom’s first dance together, the father-daughter dance is the high point of the wedding reception. There are many songs for the father and bride dance; some songs to dance to range from those that will tug at the heartstrings, such as I Loved Her First, Daddy’s Little Girl and the classic Unforgettable (as well as the father-daughter duet of the same) to the more upbeat, Isn’t She Lovely. If there will be dancing at your daughter’s wedding reception, you will be expected to dance, not only with your daughter but with your spouse and the mother of the groom, at the very least. But it is also charming and welcoming to the guests to dance with the maids/matrons of honor and bridesmaids as well as special guests, such as your daughter’s grandmother, godmother, special aunt and so on. If you don’t consider yourself to be a dancer or haven’t done so in awhile you might want to brush up on some basic waltz or rumba box steps. Of course, you and your daughter should have a few practice sessions beforehand, as well. And have fun!
- Delivers Final Wedding Payments (Optional) – This responsibility historically belonged to the father of the bride because he, and he alone, paid for the whole shebang; today, it is a courtesy to deliver checks, regardless of who made them out, to vendors to lift last-minute tasks from the shoulders of the bride and groom. In our modern times, this responsibility has fallen to the best man, but the father of the bride can assume or share them as well.
Don’t Let Yourself Become Overwhelmed – As you can see from previous entries in this Wedding Series, planning even the simplest wedding can be a pretty big deal and involve many moving parts. From the beginning, get a handle on how your daughter envisions her wedding. If you and your spouse will be picking up the entire tab, contributing to a part of it, or helping out in another way, have an honest and open talk with your daughter, and discuss what she would like — and what she needs — from you. Sit down as soon as possible with your daughter, her fiance, your spouse and the parents of the groom to discuss the plans and everyone’s role and contributions. If it is not possible or comfortable to meet with everyone, at the very least you and your spouse should sit down with the wedding couple and discuss such issues and leave the coordination and communications up to them. Look to your spouse to help keep you in the loop with the details as she will likely be working closely with your daughter. Keep in mind that one of your major jobs is to spread reassurance and tranquility to offset the stresses of wedding planning that will escalate as the date draws nearer and threatens to overwhelm them! Once you’ve got the lay of the land you can proceed with your responsibilities and support your daughter calmly and joyfully.
Be Realistic About What You Can Do – The same advice given to the mother of the bride holds true for the father of the bride: If you won’t be able to pay your own bills because you’ve overspent on your daughter’s wedding, or cannot deliver on what you can physically or practically accomplish, be honest with your daughter. She doesn’t want to put you in an awkward position over her wedding; your happiness at this special time is likely very important to her so she will understand and graciously accept whatever contributions you can make.
Get to Know the Father of the Groom – Just as the mothers of the bride and groom should support each other through the wedding and beyond, so should the fathers of the bride and groom stick together. Not only might it make planning the wedding more enjoyable but it will help to establish this important relationship for the long term. If you are already friends or at least on good terms, fabulous. If you don’t know him well or the relationship is tenuous, make an effort for your daughter’s sake to find some common ground to get through the wedding and then deal with the long-range issues later.
Welcome Your Future Son-in-Law To the Family – Keep the adage in mind, “You are not losing a daughter; you are gaining a son.” It might not feel that way now, but it’s true. Bear in mind that your family is expanding, not shrinking. Welcome him into your family warmly as you plan the wedding, and beyond.
Your relationship with your daughter has influenced her choice of the men in her life. If you’ve done your job right, this is the moment to be proud of both of you and secure in the knowledge that your daughter is using good judgment in her choice of the man with whom she has chosen to entrust the rest of her life. And it will be a life that you will continue to play a prominent and important, if somewhat different and no longer leading, role.
Until next time,