Your Little Girl’s Getting Married — Now What?
Obviously, I have no firsthand father of the bride experience, and since I’ve never been a bride, I can’t even share stories about how my dad handled things before my big day. I trust he would have been cool as a cucumber rather than frantic a la Steve Martin in the iconic 1991 “Father of the Bride” remake.
While weddings have evolved, with many couples choosing untraditional celebrations, in the U.S. a vast majority of brides and grooms go the traditional route. With the focus usually being on the bride, dads can often feel left out — unless they’re asked to pay for things. (More about that later.) And, there’s very little written about dad-prep or dad responsibilities, so here goes.
Things to Do Before the Big Traditional Day
Fathers of the bride know they are tasked with walking their daughter down the aisle, passing her along to a groom who hopefully has passed muster. But prepping for that shouldn’t be the only item on dad’s pre-wedding to-do list.
Practice the father/daughter dance. All eyes will be on you and your “little girl” when you hit the dance floor for the traditional father/daughter dance. So, don't show up unprepared, especially if you have two left feet. Practice the dance before the wedding to get in sync with the beat of the song and brush up on your dancing skills. You might even consider taking dancing lessons, and if you want to really jazz things up, do something unexpected that will get the crowd on its feet. You’ve seen the YouTube videos.
Get your tuxedo. Of course, there must be open communication between the groom and groomsmen about when they're going tux shopping — but you should be in the loop, too, with the plans and orders. You should also coordinate with the father of the groom.
Arrange transportation. According to Wedding Ideas, the father of the bride is typically responsible for making sure the wedding transportation arrives on time and safely gets his daughter to the ceremony. Thus, you should confirm the correct times with the company repeatedly before the wedding to avoid any mishaps.
Calm the mother of the bride. You may think you're on an emotional rollercoaster, but your wife will likely be even more high-strung. Something about weddings can bring out the worst in mothers, so try to offset any emotional breakdowns, and should any disputes arise between your wife and daughter, get in there and act as a go-between.
Prepare a toast. Whether you’ve paid for the whole wedding or merely made a contribution to it, as the bride’s father you’ll be considered the host — and with that role comes the job of making a toast. Just like the father/daughter dance, you want to practice your toast before the big day — so give yourself plenty of time to brainstorm and write a few drafts.
Help with the wedding decisions. There's no reason you should get left out of the wedding planning process — unless you prefer to stay on the sidelines. You do have experience on the matter, so you can be there for your daughter if she's torn between venues or wants your opinion on her dress. You should also reach out to the groom with any advice and support.
Review the guest list. For a traditional wedding, you and your wife will greet the guests when they arrive at the reception. So, look over the guest list and give yourself a quick refresher on everyone's names. It's embarrassing to draw a blank on the name of your daughter's college roommate.
Given the evolution of weddings — including many people on their second (or more) journey down the aisle or folks choosing to marry later in life — the items listed above may not be appropriate or acceptable for all weddings. The important thing as the father of the bride is to be supportive, and do everything you can to let your daughter shine on her big day.
Traditionally, the father-of-the-bride was tasked with paying for just about everything related to the wedding, except the rehearsal dinner, which fell under the purview of the groom’s parents. However, given the reasons noted above, and because times have changed, brides and grooms often do try to pay for some of the wedding, but in most cases their parents are still expected to contribute.
A 2017 report from WeddingWire.com notes that the parents of the bride and groom typically contribute $19,000 to the wedding, about two-thirds of the cost. That breaks down to $12,000 from the bride’s family and $7,000 from the groom’s — as per the 506 survey respondents who’d recently had a child get married.
So, the father of the bride doesn’t have to pick up the whole tab. And, the older the bride and groom are, i.e., more established financially, the less they may expect good old dad to contribute. The best rule of thumb is to discuss expectations and responsibilities with the happy couple before any wedding planning begins — to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Father of the Bride Around the World
Wedding traditions vary around the world — and some are truly odd. Here are few interesting traditions that involve the father of the bride:
In Fiji, when a man asks a woman’s father for her hand in marriage, he must present his future father-in-law with a whale’s tooth.
In some parts of Kenya, when a Maasai bride leaves with her new husband, her father spits on them. The purpose is to not tempt fate by being too supportive of the newlyweds.
In Russia, it’s customary for the groom to go to his bride’s parents’ home on the morning of the wedding and prove his worth by paying a “ransom” for his lady, showering the bride’s family with gifts, or simply humiliating himself by dancing and singing until the family has had enough.
On the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia, once the wedding has come to an end, the father of the bride and her other relatives lay side-by-side, face down on the ground, while the bride and groom walk over them like a human rug.
Hmmm … making a toast and practicing your dance moves doesn’t sound too tough given some of those international traditions. Cheers!
Do you have any outrageous father of the bride stories to share? We’d love to read them.