Like the recent royal wedding, sometimes the father-of-the-bride is just unable to attend. Here’s how to make the best of things if your dad isn’t at your wedding, whether it’s due to illness, a family disagreement, or if he simply cannot be there. Discover tips and ideas for how to proceed without the father-of-the-bride, how to include them in other ways, or remember them fondly on your big day.
The Royal Wedding and the Father-of-the-Bride
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, were married on May 19th at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle; the father-of-the-bride was not there. According to news reports, Thomas Markle, the father-of-the-bride who lives in Mexico, was unable to attend the royal wedding on medical advice since he had recently undergone heart surgery. The bride was driven to the wedding with her mother, Doria Ragland in place of her father, and it was the groom’s father, Prince Charles who walked the bride down the aisle at St. George’s Chapel.
If Your Dad Isn’t at Your Wedding Due to Illness
If your dad isn’t at your wedding because he is too unwell to attend then you should consider whether you would like anyone else to take his place, and discuss this with him. Ask someone who is important to you – that could be your mother or a sibling (either a brother or a sister), a grandparent or other family member. You could ask one person to take on the role in its entirety, or share the tasks out. Alternatively, you could ask a close friend or a number of friends if you prefer. If you feel no one can take his place then you should discuss your ceremony entrance with your minister or registrar, and make arrangements for your wedding breakfast top table, order of speeches and dancing. There are ways you can still have your dad be a part of your big day.
How to Include your Dad So He Feels Like He is There
If you want to include your dad in your wedding, even if he can’t be there in person, you could arrange to have the wedding filmed and live streamed to him in his hospital bed or home so he can see you take your vows. Include mentions of him in the speeches and consider making your own bride’s speech on behalf of your dad – how proud would he feel? If he’s well enough and would like to, arrange for him to make his own father-of-the-bride speech from his bed and have it live-streamed and shown via a projector to all your guests during the wedding speeches. He could even join you as you make a toast “to absent friends!”
If Your Dad Isn’t at Your Wedding Due to a Disagreement
Sadly, sometimes the father-of-the-bride does not attend his daughter’s wedding for different reasons such as a recent disagreement or long-standing family feud. In this case it can be upsetting for the bride to know her father is physically able to attend but unwilling to do so. Depending on the reason for the disagreement, the wedding can, in some cases, actually be a catalyst that brings resolution to a misunderstanding, so it is worth talking things through, even if, at first, this seems very difficult. If it is not possible for your dad to attend then it is up to you who you choose to take his place, and whether, as above, you choose one person, such as your mother to take on the role, or share the tasks out. If you have three siblings for instance, you might choose one to walk you down the aisle, one to make a speech and one to dance with you. Whatever the disagreement, try to be diplomatic if you can, and look for ways to smooth things out. Your wedding should be a happy time for everyone, especially you!
The Father-of-the-Bride Role
The father-of-the-bride is an integral part of the bridal party as, traditionally, not only does he host the wedding, but it is his job to formally ‘give his daughter away’ by walking her down the aisle into the care of her new husband. He is also expected to make a speech about the bride and dance with his daughter at the reception.
Walking the Bride Down the Aisle
It’s a rite of passage for the father-of-the-bride to walk his beloved daughter down the aisle and ‘give her away’ into the love and security of her chosen groom. This task can be undertaken by another family member or a friend if your father isn’t at your wedding. If you are a mother you could even ask your son to give you away. You don’t have to be ‘given away’ at all, of course. If you want to, you could walk down the aisle on your own – looking and feeling independent, modern and utterly amazing.
The Top Table
The top table is usually at the head of the reception and in full view of all the other tables as it’s where all the speeches take place. The happy couple traditionally sit in the centre, flanked by both sets of parents, then the the best man and chief bridesmaid. If your dad isn’t at your wedding and has not been replaced by anyone else for the day, the seating may look uneven. If the bride’s mother, sibling or other family member has taken on the role of the father-of-the-bride, they may be seated in that space.
After the wedding breakfast come the speeches and each finishes with a toast to the happy couple. The father-of-the-bride speech is first, traditionally, followed by the groom and then the best man. The bride’s mother, sibling or other family member, may want to take on the customary father-of-the-bride speech and turn it into their own; it could be announced as the ‘mother-of-the-bride speech’. The speech doesn’t need to last more than just a few minutes and can simply be filled with heartfelt or amusing anecdotes of the bride’s childhood, along with a brief mention of how she met her new husband/wife, and a welcome into the family for him/her. Find out who traditionally says what and when.
Traditionally the bride and groom have the first dance, then the father dances with the bride and the groom dances with his mother, followed by the the groom’s father with the bride, and the groom with his new mother-in-law. The dances are to symbolise the joining together of their families. If the father-of-the-bride can’t be there then it’s fine for someone else to take his place, or you might prefer not to incorporate these dances into your reception at all.
And, if Your Dad Just Can’t be There…
If, sadly, your dad simply can’t be there because he has passed away, you may want to remember him in a special way on your wedding day. You could carry his photo in a locket, or mention him with fondness during the readings as part of the ceremony, or in the speeches as part of the reception.
Finally, if your dad isn’t at your wedding, whether due to physical or mental ill health, try to understand that taking on the role of the father-of-the-bride can be difficult and stressful, no matter how much they love their daughter and want to be there. And, when all’s said and done, it’s important to put one’s health first and perhaps celebrate together at a later date.