A father of the bride wedding survival guide

Ask a traditionalist, and you’ll hear that the father of the bride is supposed to throw his wallet at the wedding and back away slowly. That’s not really fair to modern fathers of brides, however. Today’s dads get to be involved in the wedding however much they want. They don’t get lambasted for suggesting that the two families split the bill equally–or that the bride and groom fund their own celebration. Wedding planning is an equal-opportunity occasion, so roll up your sleeves and jump in. These days, lucky fathers are far more than checking accounts.

Pre-Wedding Shopping

If you’re footing the wedding bill, of course, you have a right to influence the pre-wedding shopping however you like. But even if you’re just attending the wedding as an honored guest, don’t feel like you need to fade into the shadows merely because you’re the father of the bride. You have every bit as much right to your opinion as the couple’s mothers do. Go ahead and chime in when the bride asks for votes to break the tie between cake flavors or wedding colors. 

As with any parent of a bride or groom, though, too much well-meaning advice isn’t helpful. If you want to come to your daughter’s rescue, act as a shield between her and busybody relatives. She’ll thank you for it.

Preparing a Speech

It’s tough to straddle the line between father and friend–especially when your little girl seemed to grow up and get engaged in the blink of an eye. But as the parent of an adult, you have a different set of responsibilities now. Sure, it’s tempting to throw in a few funny anecdotes about how the bride couldn’t stop wetting her childhood bed, or how she was so terrified of the dentist you had to sing lullabies during her cleaning appointments.

As her father, you’ve been privy to the most embarrassing and intimate moments of her life. Stop and think before sharing them with the entire wedding reception. The power to protect your daughter from humiliation on her wedding day is in your hands.

Safe topics for your reception speech include how glad you are that your daughter found someone who treats her well and makes her happy. (Don’t mention how much you hated all of her previous boyfriends.) If you’re feeling nostalgic, refer to endearing childhood habits, such as the way she couldn’t go to sleep without kissing everyone goodnight, to emphasize what a loving and beautiful person she is today.

When in doubt, show the speech to one of your daughter’s friends. If you get the green light, you’ve composed a winner!

Walking Down the Aisle

Although the tradition of “giving away” the bride is waning among modern couples, there’s still an important role for the bride’s father to fill. If your daughter isn’t keen on the symbolism of being transferred between men on her wedding day, don’t argue. Her decision isn’t about keeping you out of the wedding; it’s about transitioning your role to a loving one rather than an “owning” role.

Sit down with your daughter and discuss the type of role you would like to have in her wedding. If neither of you can come up with anything that feels right, ask yourselves a few questions about your relationship. For example, how do you see yourself (and how does she see you)? As a friend? A mentor? A confidant? A protector? A travel partner? Try to be as specific as possible; even though good relationships are combinations of many roles, for this exercise you should focus on the one that feels the most comfortable. 

With this role in mind, construct a meaningful ritual or rituals that you can perform together on the wedding day. In addition to partaking in a father-daughter dance at the reception, there are many possibilities for your involvement in the ceremony. You can stand and recite a poem or passage together. You can pass your daughter a candle to light with her new husband. There are no right or wrong answers. Stick closely with tradition or let tradition be a loose guide. As long as you come up with appropriate and meaningful gestures together, as father and daughter, you can’t go wrong.