I’ve been called a lot of things: clueless, grumpy, old curmudgeon. And those are my family and friends talking. So when our daughter, Maggie, was engaged to be married not so long ago, Winnie, my little lady, suggested that as a prospective “Father of the Bride,” I might want to watch the Steve Martin movie of the same title.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I’m a full-grown man and I’ll watch whatever I please, and you can bet it won’t be something sappy . . .”
Winnie and I watched “Father of the Bride” that day . . . three times. Like a rock, I was unmoved by all the “Daddy’s little girl” sentimentality.
“You’re getting all emotional, aren’t you, tough guy?” Winnie teased.
“What? No,” I said, wiping my cheeks on the sleeve of my camouflage sweatshirt. “I think I’m allergic to your four-legged mousetrap.”
“Sure you are,” Winnie replied.
“That George Banks is a spineless sap,” I announced. “I’m a man and I’m putting my foot down. Maggie will have a simple, beautiful, inexpensive wedding and I -- unlike this Banks dude -- will call the shots.”
Now let me share with you how that went for me. Here is a partial accounting of the lessons I learned from watching -- and then being -- “Father of the Bride”:
1. My job was to write checks and stay out of the way.
Oh sure, like George Banks, I was told that my wedding ideas were important and appreciated. But, believe me, they were ignored.
No, when it comes to wedding planning, the bride and her mother run the show, and they’ll use every tactic of emotional manipulation -- deceit, flirtation, anger and tears -- to get their way. Just take that poor schmuck George Banks, for example. He caved for the lavish cake when his little girl, Annie, batted her eyelashes and said, “It is incredible, Dad.” And from that point it was all over.
2. Weddings have changed since 1977.
Finger sandwiches, pickles, potato chips and a keg of domestic beer from Dan’s Market won’t cut it these days.
It’s also no longer enough to send a five-dollar invitation a couple of months prior to the big event. Now, everyone is so busy and important that one must send guests an additional two-dollar note a year ahead so they will “save the date.” (Those same loved ones also call me a bit of a cheapskate.)
We held Maggie and Roscoe’s wedding at the finest hotel in Kingdom County, Vermont. I was told (and this was the requirement I had the most trouble dislodging from my craw), that we must provide “guest bags” for all of our friends and family staying at the hotel. These bags contained things like bottled water and munchies. Come on! Did these people really need peanuts and chocolate after I provided them with a three-course meal? And doesn’t hotel water come out of the faucet, like at home?
3. Say yes to the dress.
Nothing off the rack. The bride’s dress must be custom-made by a designer and cost as much as an entire 1977 wedding.
4. The band is very important.
The local band your mechanic moonlights in won’t fly anymore. (Winnie and I happily danced to The Rusty Bean Music Machine.) It must have at least eight musicians, one of whom must have a Grammy on his or her mantle. Wedding guests’ dancing skills, on the other hand, haven’t gotten any better over time.
5. Let them eat cake.
Nobody cares about it because, by the time the cake is served, guests are so engorged with steak, lobster and couscous, they can hardly waddle to the dance floor. Maggie’s retort: “But we have to have cake, Daddy, it’s a tradition.” Let’s just say that flour, sugar and eggs seem to have somehow gotten even pricier since Annie Banks got hitched.
6. A wedding coordinator is a must.
That was just in case Maggie and Winnie overlooked an opportunity to upgrade the big day. I envied George Banks; at least Franck and Howard were entertaining.
7. Being Father of the Bride is a wonderful thing.
For all my griping, I must admit I’ve never enjoyed a job more. When all was said and done, I realized I was blessed to have a daughter -- thankfully, my only daughter -- to marry off. As Father of the Bride I enjoyed some precious one-on-one time with Maggie for the likes of dance lessons (which did little to cure my double left foot condition), band auditions, food tastings and heart-to-heart talks. Priceless.
Finally, on a gorgeous summer day, Maggie married Roscoe Cominsky. I waited outside the bridal room, somewhat reluctantly, to walk her down the aisle and toward her new life. When she opened the door to join me, it was as though I was seeing the beautiful young woman before me for the first time. I was reminded of a scene from the movie:
It was the night before Annie’s wedding. Unable to sleep, she was shooting hoops in the driveway when George joined her. It started snowing in Los Angeles for the first time in 36 years. George looked at his daughter lovingly and she asked him: “What? What is that face?”
“No, nothing,” he replied. “I was just thinking.”
“Oh, [that] this is going to end up costing you more money,” Annie said.
“No, how I know I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life.”
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