Congratulations Dad, you just learned your daughter is engaged. Another innocent is going down the aisle. But what many of us fathers don’t understand at this point is, it’s not just our daughter who is about to proceed on this perilous journey, it’s us. Transitions, even if they are good, can be difficult and your daughter’s wedding is no exception. My two daughters’ wedding had enough impact on me that I wrote a book with the tag line: “A Father’s Emotional Survival Guide.”
Anything that involves major change is complicated, and as Tina Turner reminds of in her hit song, “What does love have to do with it?” A lot.
While I don’t presume to speak for all fathers-of-the-bride, I’ll offer one’s man’s perspective of how to deal with this significant transition in your life. Unless you’re an exceptionally insightful man, father, and husband, this rite of passage involves much more than you’ve considered, let alone prepared for. Guys just don’t talk about this stuff.
My wife provided one wake-up call as I pondered what may lie ahead. “The mother of the bride doesn’t do anything during the wedding but sit there. It’s just you and our daughter.” Yikes. We fathers are often left to our own devices as the clock winds down, then through the wedding ceremony working through an unexpected tumult of emotions. explore what was available. Various “How To” articles – Lots of advice on “The Speech,” the father-daughter dance, money, and a few suggestions on ‘being there.” And the movie, “Father of the Bride” starring Steve Martin? A comedy––and, I would add, in line with how a lot of us men deflect our true feelings.
After the flurry of excitement following your daughter’s engagement, reminiscing with your wife on your daughter’s life and speculating about what may come, you will probably fall back into your daily routine. You get up, get dressed, and proceed through a normal week at work. Has anything changed? On the surface, perhaps not. But deeper, in your subconscious, yes. And this is where the real work begins.
Complicating the transitions accompanying your daughter’s wedding is that the ceremony occurs when many of us are faced with our own mid-life transitions, those other things that may be weighing on our minds whether we are conscious of them or not. When you look in the mirror, did you note that first touch of gray? Of did your physician just give you’re a handful of prescriptions on your last visit. Do you have that same drive you had in your thirties? Is there still purpose in your life or do you find yourself a bit bored, burdened by discontent with your work, your lifestyle?
So, where do we start? We can fall back on the time-honored fallback, “If all else fails, read the directions.” Of course, how often have we found our directions lacking a critical piece of information of our kit package missing a bolt? Very little, if any, explored the complex interplay of a father’s emotions as he escorts his daughter down the aisle and how he transitions to a new chapter in his own life. As with any complicated project, you will need to be prepared to contend with any number of trial and error choices before you get all the pieces to fit together to achieve the desired outcome. To provide you as assist in beginning your own journey I’ve listed a few of the lessons I learned in my own journey down the aisle. For as I discovered, that while the journey with your daughter down the aisle will be short, it will cover a lifetime.
The short list:
- Let go of the past so it won’t constrain you from moving forward
- Understand and strive for a comfortable place in your own life
- Release your daughter to her new life. Trust her and trust yourself.
- Take stock of your emotional portfolio: Identify your emotional triggers
- Ensure your health: Exercise, reduce stress, sleep, and eat well
- Identify the transitions in your own life: Identity, purpose, relationships, work
- Sort through what’s really important/meaningful for you
- What are your expectations? Are they realistic?
- Address any stress points that impact the wedding and your daughter
- Communicate, listen, and compromise when necessary
- Don’t expect your daughter and others to guess what you’re thinking
- Make time for yourself, especially the morning of the wedding
- Remain open and embrace the joy of this special moment