Dad's duties at the wedding are more than just walking his daughter down the aisle and dancing the night away. While traditionally he hasn't played a large part in the bridal party, modern couples are asking the bride's father to take a more active role.
Before the Wedding
Duties for the father of the bride start prior to the wedding. While a few may be somewhat antiquated, they still hold value for many families who want to support their daughter's upcoming nuptials.
Traditionally, the family of the bride pays for most of the wedding, including the wedding reception. Many jokes have been made about the father of the bride's empty wallet, but this isn't always the case. Today's couples do handle more of the expenses themselves. Still, many fathers will end up paying for a portion of the wedding, whether it's the food or flowers.
The bride's father gets to assist in various duties related to planning prior to the wedding itself. For instance:
- If he's paying for the wedding or the couple values his opinion, he might help to choose the reception venue.
- He can also help plan the menu and arrange for catering, including, and especially, the liquor order.
- He might also choose to help out-of-town guests with lodging and transportation. He doesn't necessarily have to pay for lodging, but he might assist in blocking out hotel rooms, if necessary, and arranging for transportation from the airport and to and from the wedding.
Rehearsal and Dinner Attendance
The father of the bride is expected to attend the actual wedding rehearsal, so he and his daughter can practice walking down the aisle. While the father of the bride won't be planning the rehearsal dinner, he and the mother of the bride/spouse will be invited and should attend.
Traditional Role of the Bride's Father
Fathers who want to uphold their traditional parental role in the wedding will often find themselves involved in everything from walking the bride down the aisle to dancing the night away with his daughter.
Giving the Bride Away
Brides are more independent these days, but it doesn't make the task of "giving the bride away" any less emotional for the bride's father. This is something many dads have looked forward to since their daughters were born. Giving the bride away may consist of the following:
- Walking the bride down the aisle and taking his place next to her mother
- Walking the bride down the aisle with her mother
- Proclaiming he gives the bride to her husband
- Saying he supports the bride and groom's marriage
- Lifting the bride's veil and placing her hand on the groom's before taking his seat
Giving away the bride can be modified to suit the couple's feelings towards this traditional duty. While technically, he is acknowledging another man in his daughter's life, most dads know a husband is not a replacement for a dad.
The Receiving Line
The bride's father should stand in the receiving line and greet guests as they exit the church or ceremony area. It's not required that he speak at length with each guest, but he should at least thank guests for coming and shake hands. He should stay in the receiving line until all guests have left.
The place where the bride's father stands is up to the couple. Some etiquette guides recommend having the father stand next to the bride, with the mother of the bride first then followed by the couple and then the groom's parents next to him. Other guides recommend both sets of parents stand in front of the couple.
No reception is complete without a few speeches (or toasts) to the newly wedding couple. Traditional etiquette suggests the father of the bride should kick things off. The father should thank the guests for attending and offer words of congratulations towards the couple. He should keep the speech relatively short but sentimental. Free wedding speeches and sample wedding day toasts from the father of the bride can help him get started writing prior to the big day.
Father Daughter Dance
The only moment more touching than when the bride's dad walks his daughter down the aisle is the father-daughter dance. Tips for making the most of this time-honored tradition include:
- Look for a meaningful song and select it together.
- Take a few dance lessons together, so you can learn basic steps.
- If you don't take lessons, practice dancing together once or twice before the wedding. It'll help to make you look more polished when everyone is watching.
The father-daughter dance doesn't have to be a slow song filled with sentiment. In fact, you could get groovy and plan a surprise wedding dance with a choreographed routine. This brings some levity to the festivities and kicks off a lively reception.
During the Reception
During the reception, the father of the bride should be a good host and make sure all guests are enjoying themselves. If there is a shortage of food or beverages, he should speak to the maitre'd to be sure it is taken care of immediately. The father of the bride should also stay until the end of the reception and make sure payments are up to date and nothing is left behind. If he can, he should thank each guest for coming.
Duties Beyond Traditional Expectations
In addition to the traditional duties the father of the bride has customarily followed, he can find himself doing more in today's wedding. This will depend on family customs, budget concerns, and of course, the wishes of the couple and the father himself. Additional duties the bride's father may find himself doing include:
- Attend showers and engagement parties - Today's couple may be thrown a co-ed wedding shower. In this case, the father of the bride should attend, if invited. He also should be at engagement parties hosted for the couple.
- Plan events at destination weddings - When the couple has a lot of out-of-town relatives/friends attending or has a destination wedding planned, the father of the bride may plan events or help entertain and host the guests as they arrive for the weekend.
- Usher - If the bridal party is small, the couple may forego separate ushers and have the fathers and/or groomsmen seat guests. The father of the bride might also seat important guests, like grandparents, if the groom does not.
- Special music or talent - The father of the bride might be asked to provide special music if he can sing or play an instrument. If he is a poet, he may be asked to write a poem for the ceremony or reception.
- Coordinate transportation - Couples and bridal party members may not have their vehicles ready to go after the receiving line at the ceremony venue or after the reception if they didn't rent a car and driver. The bride's father may need to move the vehicle to the entrance of the venue(s) or even play chauffeur himself.
- Provide a dinner prayer at the reception - Religious couples may ask the father of the bride to provide a dinner prayer at the reception if the pastor or religious leader cannot attend.
- Collect gifts and cards - After the reception, the bride's father may pick up the gifts and cards. He may take them to the couple's home or keep them and deliver to a venue for a small brunch the next day.
Really, there's nothing Dad can't do - it just depends on what the couple needs and where his skills lie. If you're planning a wedding and want the father of the bride to take a more active role, ask with the caveat that he can decline if he isn't comfortable.
A Changing Role in Contemporary Weddings
The father of the bride may find his role changing as contemporary weddings skip customary traditions. No matter what duties he performs, though, the most important one is to support his daughter's marriage.