With this article, I want to celebrate, for just a few moments, to think about and to share the experience of being father of the bride. These thoughts may be interesting for others who are headed for this experience. They may also be interesting for those who are past this milestone. For those of you who have only sons or grandsons and for whom this will not be one of life’s experiences perhaps I can very slightly broaden your horizons.

Let me begin by saying how much I appreciate the good fortune that I have had. Everything, and I mean everything, went well. Without sounding overly positive or too enthusiastic and I can say this honestly and objectively, I am blessed with an absolutely wonderful daughter. A healthy beautiful young woman with the world ahead of her. We have, I think, a very strong and positive relationship. And my daughter has married a young man who was a superb choice. If I had gone looking and recruiting I know that I could have done no better. He will be a great addition to our family. So of the issues that could come with being father of the bride, I have skated nicely past two of the big ones.

I won’t say much about the preliminaries, the thickets of small and apparently huge details that you and the family have to fight your way through. Decision after decision, the dress choices, the guest list, wording the invitation, the seating plan etc. These are, after all, choices you are going to live with for the rest of your life.

There is also stress. Everyone, and I mean everyone, comes to take this stuff seriously. A friend gave me a book entitled So You Want to Marry My Daughter? All I can remember from thumbing through the book was the chapter entitled If These Are the Happiest Days of My Life Why Is Everyone Screaming?

For a long time, the wedding seems to be way off in the future. Something big that you should plan for, like a trip to South Africa next year. It is a long time away and there is no real hurry. Soon it moves closer and then one day, like a ship steaming over the horizon it comes into view. Something happens that makes you appreciate that the wedding is going to happen, and soon.

For me it was arranging to pick my wife up from the store where she and my daughter went for a fitting of the wedding dress. I walked into this small universe of femininity and there was this beautiful young woman, who had just stepped out of a Vogue magazine. Then it hit me like a truck. I knew this young woman. It was my daughter. When she turned and looked at me and smiled there was a small tsunami of awe, love, sadness, admiration, pride … I could go on. I woke up to the fact that the wedding really was going to happen.

Seeing my daughter in a wedding dress brought me face to face with the changes about to happen. The birth of a child, finding a partner, celebrating the achievements and the trials and tribulations of those you love provide deep and intensely emotional moments. To some extent they become the things that you remember the best, times when you were simultaneously focused and overwhelmed by the power of the occasion.

The wedding dress was a big road sign for the change that was about to happen. “New Relationship in One Mile”.

I won’t make jokes about the expense. There is too much of that. Just don’t be stupid about how much you spend. The expensive details will soon be  forgotten. In our case both families contributed (a great idea!). The experience was certainly worth far more than we all paid for it.

The marriage of a daughter presents conflicting experiences. I had a real sense in one way of my daughter leaving the family and setting out on her own. My reactions were similar to how I felt when I dropped her off for her first year of university away from home. I was reminded of how I felt when I ran along beside her balancing her in her early attempts at riding a two wheeler and then in pushing her off and watching her ride away, wobbling a little but not falling as she went down the street gaining speed.

On the morning of the wedding, at home, the bride and her attendants dressed. I presided (wishful thinking) like the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table. “Presiding” is an illusion I consistently suffer from. When my wife and I are driving, for example, friends say Laura driving, John at the wheel.

I remember supervising activities with a glass of Pol Roger cuvée Winston Churchill 1990 (another highlight generously provided by Barrie Purves, sommelier to the generation and Uncle to the Bride). While everyone dressed and helped the bride, I went from proud and apprehensive parent and caregiver and protector to spectator, friend, well-wisher and, in low moments, to an almost distant relative. Big changes.


You have time, while all of this goes on, to reflect and remember. In wedding receptions now there are frequently slide shows or displays of pictures of the bride and groom that show them and their families in the various stages of growing up. Pulling out the old family albums and boxes of pictures was great fun, laced with strong memories.

When it is time, events rush at you quickly. You are off to the wedding and it’s downhill from there. Walking down the aisle is a slow moment that you remember. Friends and family shower the moment with love, happiness and good wishes. The world is a better place.

The rest went too quickly. Giving away your daughter is a small important (to you) moment in a rapids of small important moments. The ceremony is on and then gone by quickly and you are there and in your mind in many places with many memories. The reception and photographs are fine moments with friends and family.

Your speech looms. There is much to do but in the back of your mind there is a growing anticipation. Expectations of even the shyest normally quiet father are high. Fathers of brides put a great deal of effort into this. You want to be funny, significant, and memorable. Fathers of the and other similar sites offer some guidance but the ideas do not quite seem to quite fit or are obviously too generic and obvious for use. You want to make this about your daughter, your family, your friends and this occasion.

My wife and I gave the speech together. Not quite George Burns and Gracie Allen but a facsimile. I think the novelty of two speakers and the interplay between them gives you an advantage.

You never really know afterwards how the speech went. No one is going to tell you that it was a painful, boring or not very funny. Friends and family sort of look at you like a slightly senile great uncle and try to sound reassuring. There was a video of the wedding but you won’t see the speech on YouTube. The ones I looked at were embarrassing.

Conversely no one is complaining or, even in jest, asked for their money back. We are a family with some lawyers and many friends who are lawyers and politicians so the speeches were an important part of the wedding reception. And, present company’s excepted, I thought the speeches were very very good.

The joy of the experience was enhanced by the enthusiastic participation of the families. Everyone rallied to the cause. Several gave speeches, decorated the getaway car, collected and contributed photographs and were very supportive and great company. If it takes a village to raise a child it certainly helps to have a family support a marriage… and in our case both sides had big families. It was just great!