Dads & Daughters

Credit : Debbie Segreve Photography

Weddings are rough on Dads. Not only do Dads traditionally foot the bill, but they also pay, emotionally. For every Dad, a daughter's wedding day is a sad day. Why? He's losing her to another man.

Rationally, Dad's thrilled for you. Dad's happy you've found the right guy, and he's excited about the prospect of grandchildren.

Emotionally, Dad's reeling. Weddings ignite deep, unruly, Oedipal stuff for every Dad. In addition to being really sad he's losing you, Dad's also angry. He's mad he's being replaced. Dad may be scared, too: what will happen when you're gone? Your wedding makes him feel his age (and brings him closer to his own death), and that scares him, too.

Dad probably doesn't know it. Most men aren't taught how to feel their feelings. Especially Dads, who are socialized to be The Rock of the family. So Dads misbehave.

Feelings get acted out weirdly. Most brides have Dad stories. From these, I've created composites. Which is your Dad?

  • The Devoted Dad understands that weddings signify that he is no longer the #1 man in his daughter's life, a position he's held since the day she was born. A Devoted Dad can grieve this loss and let his daughter go.
  • The Checkbook-In-Hand Dad tries to maintain his #1 position by sparing no expense. He's trying to avoid his loss by giving her everything she wants. Way beyond reason.
  • The Denial Dad avoids the reality that he's losing his daughter. One bride watched "Father Of The Bride" with her parents. 15 minutes into the movie, Dad was snoring on the couch. Watching Steve Martin was too close to home, so he checked out.
  • The Meddling Dad involves himself in tiny wedding decisions. He has an opinion about absolutely everything. Why? By focusing on the details of the day, he's found a way NOT to feel the loss of his daughter.
  • The Distant Dad is disinterested in the details of the wedding, his daughter and/or her fiance. This Dad is in so much pain about the impending loss of his daughter that he puts up a wall.
  • The Deceased Dad is simply not there. His daughter will have conflicting feelings of deep sadness and raging anger that he's missing yet another important event. Brides who have lost parents are amazed at the unexpected role grief plays in their weddings.

He's gotta feel it

Dad needs to feel the loss because the reality is: you are leaving him. Let him be distant, in denial, or too generous. It's his weird way of dealing with his sadness.

What can you do?

Talk with him about your feelings of loss and fear about leaving him. Maybe he'll open up. Or maybe not. He's an old dog, and he doesn't learn new tricks. Especially how to feel and talk about feelings. Don't force him. Don't fix him. Be patient with your Old Man. He's dreaded your wedding since the day you were born.

My Meddling Dad said it perfectly. After 11 1/2 months of sticking his nose into our wedding, he finally articulated what had been going on. At the end of our walk down the aisle, he said, "She's yours now, Jason," and sat down, sadly and heavily, beside my mother. He was 100% right. Before the wedding, I was primarily his. Now, primarily, I am another man's wife. That's sad for our old Dads. We brides must be patient with them as they get used to their position as #2.

 

From Allison Moir-Smith's Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life