“It is not flesh and blood, but heart which makes us fathers and sons.”
~ Friedrich von Schiller
As the father of the groom, your feelings when seeing your son approach a milestone that will change not only his but your life will likely include pride and joy, bemusement over the flurry of the wedding planning, alarm over what you might be expected to do, and a tinge of regret at not having more to do. Okay, maybe not so much that last part.
Often it is the mother of the groom to which sympathy is directed for the loss she might be feeling. But as the father you, too, might feel that as long as your son remained single he was still the boy you held in your arms; taught to ride a bike, throw a pitch, bait a hook and face down a bully; helped with homework; and tucked into bed at night.
But, now that your son is on the brink of forming a family of his own there comes the realization that a seismic shift is occurring, even more so than when he graduated college or landed his first real job. This is different, and certainly more permanent than his college career or a particular job. He will be marrying his life’s partner and that will transcend everything. In many ways your relationship with your son will change, evolving to become more as equal adults, but in your hearts still maintaining that strong father-son bond.
The Role of the Father of the Groom
While the role of the father of the groom is not quite as high profile as that of the father of the bride, it is very important, as you can see from the responsibilities below.
Thus, whether you’ve been a best pal to your son, the primary caregiver, the professorial and distant type or one who has been absent a good deal of the time due to work, now is the time to show him that you are still his dad and are there for him during the biggest transition of his life.
As stated in last week’s entry, traditionally the father of the bride paid for the entire wedding. But those days are gone and today both the bride’s and the groom’s parents often chip in. If they can afford to do so, parents of both the bride and groom might pay entirely for the wedding if the couple is young, still in school or unemployed. If one family is significantly better off than the other, that family should offer to finance most or all of the wedding. Alternatively, in the case of older, more established couples who can afford to finance their own wedding, either or both sets of parents might make a contribution based on their abilities. Whatever the situation, it’s important for the bride and groom to discuss finances with their respective parents — either to tell them that they will be paying for everything or to request financial assistance. Then the couple should arrange a meeting of all parents, if possible, or at least ensure that everyone is informed and on the same page with the finances, as well as other details of the wedding plans.
What Are the Father of the Groom’s Responsibilities?
- Hosts an Engagement Party (Optional) – Either the bride’s or the groom’s family may host an engagement party to introduce their child’s betrothed to their family and friends and mark the occasion. It’s important that you at least make the first move to initiate a get-together with the bride’s parents shortly after the engagement has been announced to meet or reunite with them as future in-laws and toast your son’s engagement to their daughter.
- Delivers Toasts – If the groom’s father is hosting the engagement party, he should make the first toast and then invite the father of the bride to make a toast, followed by the mothers of the bride and groom. The father of the groom is expected to make the first toast at the rehearsal dinner, followed by the father of the bride and then everyone else. The father of the groom is not expected to toast at the wedding reception. He may break tradition if he so desires, but only after checking with the wedding couple. At the reception the best man is the star toaster and will “officially introduce” the groom to the bride’s family, relatives and friends, usually with sentimental or amusing remarks. More on this in a future entry. Meanwhile, 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 son and new daughter-in-law and any others you might wish to toast, including your spouse.
- Hosts the Rehearsal Party – The groom’s parents generally host and take the lead in welcoming everyone and initiating the toasts, whether or not they foot the entire bill for the event or make a general contribution to the wedding budget. Even if the bride and groom are solely funding their wedding, it is a gracious gesture to invite the parents of the groom to host this event. The only exception should be if the groom’s parents are unable to attend the rehearsal or festivities afterward.
- Appears In Wedding Photos — All the parents of the wedding couple are expected to appear in the wedding photos, as directed by the couple and the photographer. Sometimes it’s difficult to gather everyone for the series of photos to be taken and here’s where you can be especially helpful.
- Dances At The Wedding – At minimum you will be expected to dance with the bride, the mother of the bride and your spouse, there will be more about this in a future entry. It’s always lovely if you also dance with other women, especially grandmothers, aunties and the like. 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. And have fun!
- Stands By & Steps Up To Be Helpful And Supportive – During the wedding planning, make yourself available to run errands and perform needed tasks. After the wedding ceremony and during the reception you may be asked to stand in the reception line and generally act as one of the wedding party hosts by greeting people, providing information and generally providing moral support and a pair of helping hands when needed. You should be one of the last to leave, and assist the best man and father of the bride in wrapping up.
- Stay Calm and Involved – As you can see from previous entries, planning even the simplest wedding can be a pretty big deal and involve many moving parts. From the beginning, get a handle on the scope of the wedding and throughout the planning period be available to consult with and be a sounding board for your son and spouse. 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 son and future daughter-in-law to ascertain their needs and desires. Look to your spouse to help keep you in the loop with the details as the planning progresses. 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 son calmly and enjoyably.
- Be Realistic About What You Can Do – This is the same advice given to all the parents. If you won’t be able to pay your own bills because you’ve overspent on your son’s wedding, or are limited in what you can physically or practically accomplish, be honest with your son. He doesn’t want to put you in an awkward position over his wedding; your happiness at this special time is likely very important to him so he will understand and graciously accept whatever contributions you can make.
- Get to Know the Father of the Bride – Just as the mothers of the bride and groom should support each other through the wedding and beyond, so should the fathers 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 son’s sake to find some common ground to get through the wedding and then deal with the long-range issues later.
- Welcome Your Future Daughter-in-Law To the Family – Keep the adage in mind, “You are not losing a son; you are gaining a daughter.” It might not feel that way now, but it’s true. Bear in mind that your family is expanding, not shrinking. Welcome her into your family warmly during the wedding planning and beyond.
Your relationship with your son has been one of the most important in his life, and will remain so. You have helped shape the man he is today and the husband he will be tomorrow. 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 son has chosen the right person with whom to share his life from this moment on. And it will be a life of which you will continue to play a prominent and important, if changing, role.
Until next time,