It is a well known fact that it is the responsibility (and honor) of the bride’s father to walk the bride down the aisle, presenting her at the altar to her future husband, and then later sharing a dance. In some cases, both parents walk the bride down the aisle and in other cases she walks alone and rare cases where two grown men come together and share this responsibility equally, and of course cases where the mother walks the bride solo. In 2012 you have all sorts of combinations and none of them is right or wrong. This is one of those ever-changing customs that seems to get more complicated every day.
To offer a little help if you are trying to decide who should do the honor, ask yourself the following questions:
Who is paying for the wedding? If your stepfather is paying for the wedding 100%, he should be given the place of honor at your side, right? Maybe. That is unless, of course, he had absolutely no hand in raising you, barely knows you, recently married your mother and you never lived under the same roof with you, he is not exactly a parental figure – yet.
Who raised you? If your father raised you, cared for you, packed your school lunches and drove carpool to dance class, he should be given the place of honor at your side even if he doesn’t have one dime to contribute toward your dream wedding, right? Maybe. Blood is thicker than water and family is more important than money. However, your stepfather ( and mother) may have some trouble swallowing the idea of paying for everything and receiving no end credit.
Is there even a father figure in your life? If your father is deceased or absent from your life and your mother raised you single-handedly, she has every right to be at your side… just the two of you. If she declines (and she might) , ask a favorite uncle or a brother.
Does everyone get along? If so, have this conversation in a group and include his family as well. Keeping the lines of communication open will make planning much easier. For instance; your parents are divorced and both remarried. If everyone gets along swimmingly and you want to have an honest discussion about who is paying for what and who has what role in the wedding this - do it. It will save tons of time and drama later. Even if you are all on great terms this might be a touchy subject and hurt feelings could turn into a huge family debacle if left unchecked. Always be respectful of the role your parents have played in your life up to this point – it is not all about the wedding. The point is to be inclusive and not exclusive.
Can anyone even be in the same room?If you have the unfortunate circumstance of having suffered through a bitter divorce, subsequent re-marriages of your parents to other people and extremely hostile family relations - buckle up…this is going to be a bumpy ride! Hold on tight to your fiance’s hand and get through this however you can. My advice is to delegate the dad responsibilities with whomever you feel is the most deserving and responsible and be prepared for the repercussions. Of course this is more complicated than a simple decision but go back to questions #1 and#2 and decide who played the most important role in your life. Do not let anyone hold you hostage by threatening to boycott the nuptials if they don’t get their way, this is your decision (as a couple) and there is no going back once the decision is made.
It is important to make this decision early since the wording on the invitation can be complicated with fractured and blended families. If parents and stepparents are all assisting financially with the wedding, their names should be on the invitation. This is can be tricky so ask your invitation specialist to help you with the wording before you make a costly mistake.
For the Father/Daughter dance you can dance with both dads during the course of the song, changing partners after an allotted time, you can dance with one father ‘figure’ or you can omit this routine entirely. No one says it has to be a part of your wedding. Discuss this with your DJ.
The absolute worst thing that can happen at your wedding is to let any of these small situations get out of control. Unless you are one of the rare families that get along famously and never argue, you will have some sort of struggle on your hands. Close your eyes, envision the outcome you desire and when you open your eyes take whatever steps necessary to make that happen without hurting anyone’s feelings or stepping on anyone’s toes. That means at no point in the conversation are you allowed to say “It’s my day” since that expression is a tad over-used and completely self-induglent. You have to be respectful and make your point without becoming a martyr or spoiled brat.
Remember that if you have the luxury of having parents or multiple parents, count your blessings, even if they don’t love each other as much as you would like, they most certainly love you and will most likely do whatver it takes to ensure your wedding is a joyous occasion.
-Penny Frulla for Bridal Expo Chicago