We’ve all seen the movie, Father of the Bride. Both Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin, decades apart, portrayed the hapless father of the bride, whose primary function in putting on his daughter’s wedding, is to take out a second mortgage on the house, open his wallet, and close his mouth. There is only one more powerless position on the earth today, and that is parents of the groom. After all, the bride has been planning her wedding day all her life. The groom is essentially a last minute, fill- in-the-blank; the last puzzle piece, whose face and name have only recently been added.
So there we were, about thirty minutes before the wedding ceremony, and the father of the groom greeted me with the usual deer in the headlights look in his eyes. He was doing an admirable job of holding it all together. Just an observation, it’s hard to look cool as a cucumber while wearing a suit and tie in hundred degree weather. He turned to me and asked me if I ever get nervous doing weddings. This being about my 100th wedding to officiate, I answered him “I was nervous officiating my own children’s weddings.” Other than those, the only wedding I was nervous officiating was my very first wedding. Then I was almost as nervous as the groom.
As I watched the parents of the bride and groom, I wondered what medieval torture master dreamed up all the traditions, etiquette and responsibilities foisted on parents to put on weddings for their adult children. One insightful father boiled it down to these three, and it wasn’t Faith, Hope and Love. It’s Pay Up. Show Up, and Shut Up.
Pay Up – By the time you pay for the dress, the reception, the church and a million other accoutrements, you’d think you’d done your part. But No! It’s not enough to spend, on one day, enough to purchase a small country, or a home in the suburbs for cash.
You still have to Show Up. Yes, dressed in your finery, you’ve got to be the gracious host, exchange pleasantries, tell a few jokes, shake everyone’s hand, and give a speech worthy of an academy award. And oh yes, dance like Fred Astaire. Little do they know that behind the smile, you’d give another million dollars to be on some sandy beach a thousand miles away in shorts and flip flops, sipping something cold, with an umbrella sticking out of it… but not today. You’ve got relatives and friends to visit with today and shuttle to the airport tomorrow. About this time you lament the fact that you don’t have omnipresence as your superpower.
The final instruction to the parents of the groom is to Shut Up. This is not your party; although you wouldn’t know it by your bank account. Weddings are all about the bride. I mentioned this at a recent wedding and the mother of the bride laughingly corrected me and insisted it was all about her. I laughed and agreed with her and thought, this is truer than we’d all like to admit. At the same time the bride and groom just soak it in, celebrating with their friends, eating drinking and living the good life, leaving it to you to clean up and take care of the relatives and all the loose ends.
So what sage advice can I give the parents of the bride and groom? Precious little, except to quote a Keith Green song: “Just do your best, and pray that it’s blessed, and Jesus takes care of the rest.” Ah yes, rest. Here’s some good advice. Plan to have at least a week off after the wedding to recuperate, get everyone where they need to go and then have several days just for you and your spouse to rest.
After all those months of preparation, stress and worry about measuring up, you did it! And yes, you did measure up, contrary to those voices in your head. Your speech was superb. Your dress looked lovely, and everyone is in awe of how well you pulled it off. Now all that is left to do is work on your new superpower: Satisfaction.