Today’s wedding celebrations come in a dazzling variety of styles but can be roughly lumped into three categories: insufferably traditional, casually freewheeling or wild-eyed hillbilly tailgate. And despite the best intentions, many weddings might devolve to encompass all three styles in approximately the same sequence, depending on the availability of free celebratory hooch. One thing, however, is certain: As the groom’s father, you’re the forgotten man. There’s just not a lot for you to do.
But I’m here to say that you needn’t feel like the last soldier at a lost-cause French Foreign Legion desert redoubt. I know, because I was that forgotten guy — except by the bartenders — at my son Patrick’s recent wedding. His wedding to the lovely Livia fell into the casually freewheeling category. Admittedly, I may have brought an element of hillbilly to the festivities but on the whole, the event was pretty classy, even without the string quartet and the 12-tier wedding cake. (The taco stand wasn’t my idea but sure was yummy.)
So, what’s your job? Simple. You’re co-host of the event, there to support the new in-laws and greet their guests. You’re Michael Strahan to Kelly Ripa. Oops, bad example. OK, you’re Ed McMahon to Johnny Carson — millennials are going “who”? Reggie Watts to James Corden? Kathie Lee to Hoda? Whatever. Just smile, shake hands and repeat. Winner, winner, four-course dinner.
At the very least, a little up-front communication and planning with your future in-laws will ensure that you’re valued, respected and useful — or, given the fact that a wedding can take on a life of its own — at least well out of the hurricane’s path.
The Rehearsal Dinner
Expensive? Yes. But while you’re on the hook for this one, look on the bright side: It’s a lot less than what your future in-laws are shelling out.
- Work with your chosen restaurant to set a fixed menu and wine list to keep costs reasonable.
- Don’t feel the need to cram everybody together at one large table. Small round tables encourage conversation and mingling.
- Creativity counts. How about catering by an In-N-Out Burger truck at a park and hiring I Love Lucy impersonators as waiters?
A thought: If you and your son’s best man and groomsmen are close, consider springing for a round of golf or some other form of fun the morning of the wedding. Not only do you come off as a super-cool dad, you subtly encourage the rowdies to stay relatively sober during the rehearsal dinner — “OMG, we tee off when? Ugh. Cancel the tequila shots, please.”
Minefield. Warning, Will Robinson. Red alert. Defcon One. This is where most dads hurl themselves upon rocky shoals. But it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
- Follow Franklin Roosevelt’s advice: Be sincere, be brief and be seated.
- Resist the temptation to ad lib, hoping that “something will come to me.” It won’t, unless it’s a mushy, well-hurled vegetable.
- Write your comments well ahead of time and shoot for two minutes max. Less is better. Print your comments and have them in hand. Stash an extra copy in your glove box. (Trust me on this one.)
- Share toast/speech drafts with the bride’s father ahead of time to coordinate comments, timing and avoid repetition.
- Refrain from the misty remembrances of giving your son driving lessons, Windsor knot tie-tying instruction and explaining the one-spritz cologne rule.
Instead: Celebrate your new daughter-in-law’s loveliness and astute groom-picking ability — that’s you, Livia — while flattering your new in-laws shamelessly — that’s you, Barney and Ludovica. Aced it!
Doesn’t matter whether you’re light on your feet or glued to the floor like one of the Three Stooges, you’ll be dancing. Easy does it.
- Here’s the sequence — the bride dances with her new husband, then her dad, then you. You dance with your wife/partner, then the bride, then the bride’s mom (did I mention how lovely Ludovica is?).
- If you’re not a dancer, cheerfully explain so, move around gently, bow graciously when the music ends and treat yourself to a cocktail. ONE. OK, maybe two.
Sure, you want to get out of the tux, put up your feet and watch Jeopardy! reruns. But you’re co-host, so unless the thing turns into a bacchanal — in which case you’ll want to stay — you’re obliged to soldier on until the end.
- Mingle, mingle, mingle, especially with your new in-laws. Like ’em or not, you’re all family now. Plenty of time for name-calling and recriminations later.
- Avoid the temptation to hit the open bar.
- Do not sing, especially if a microphone or karaoke machine is involved, and especially if you didn’t heed the above suggestion.
One more thing: As the voice of reason, you’re also the enforcer, so keep Uber on your speed dial for overserved guests. Don’t be shy about taking those car keys and do cut a deal with the venue for overnight parking.
Congrats! As father of the groom, take a bow. You’ve earned it.