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Family Harmony in Wedding Planning, Part One


Keeping Daddy in the Loop

Guys, including fathers, like to be in control. Especially if they’re not. If your father is in control of your wedding, call me. You’ll be the first. In all other cases, any way that you can make your father feel, or even better, THINK that he has some control over this sometimes turbulent multi-month planning process is worth doing.

Fathers (and may I say, men in general) like lots of warnings vis-a-vis change. Your getting married is a change. Your asking him to write one or more checks for many, and sometimes tens of, thousands of dollars is big change.

Let me say here that your wedding doesn’t have to cost a bagillion dollars, nor does it have to be a stress factory. It may not even involve any of your parent’s money. In any case, there are things that may come up that, with early action on your part, can be a pleasure rather than a stressor.

Being a man of father-of-the-bride age, I feel for these guys.

Most fathers want to do everything they possibly can for their daughters, including supporting and being a part of their wedding. While they may not have a lot of interest in the wedding planning per se, knowing that they’re an important part of the whole, even if that just means being apprised of goings-on on a timely basis, can make a world of difference.

Here are some things you can do to keep your father in the loop:

1. The sooner your father knows about your engagement, the better. You get double bonus points if your sweetheart asks him for your hand in marriage. Fathers who think they’re the last in the family (or the world) to know, generally aren’t happy. This is especially true if you’re launching right into the planning process, which in many cases will involve a significant amount of his hard-earned money.

2. If you would like your father to walk you down the aisle, ask him. This is the one moment in his life that, besides your birth, he will cherish forever. It’s a huge honor. Ask him out loud, clearly and directly, so he can say ‘yes’ out loud. It will mean a lot to him, and probably to you, too. Do it with some ceremony, and do it soon. Don’t forget to say, ‘thank you’. He’ll appreciate it.

3. Start educating your father early on – which is to say, well before the day upon which you’d like him to write the first check – about the costs of putting on a wedding and reception nowadays. Most men of your father’s advanced age were married on the order of thirty years ago. Things cost less back in the twentieth century. Make that doubly so if his marriage took place in a small town in, well, anywhere.

Most fathers want to do everything they possibly can for their daughters. This often includes paying for their wedding. It’s wonderful if your father can write a check for ten or fifteen or twenty or thirty thousand dollars (or, yes, sometimes even more) without some mental preparation. Most men can’t.  We need to work up to it. At the very least, he may need to move some money around. The morning of the day in which you’d like him to start writing checks is not the best time to introduce the topic.

Only slightly tangential to all of this is The Money Discussion. Many families have difficulty discussing money – my parents certainly did – and all the more so when there are lots of emotions involved. Take those things, add the element of quantity (the cost of a car, more or less) and urgency, and the possibility exists for world-class stress. Which is, truly, avoidable. Here are some ways to avoid angst:

1. Start the whole discussion early. See #3 above. Fathers who haven’t been involved in a wedding in a while may need some education about why you need to know a year in advance of your wedding exactly how much support they plan to offer.

2. Sort out your guest list to within, say, ten people. The sooner you’re able to do this, the better. The size of your guest list has a significant bearing on cost and guides the venue-selection process.

3. Do your homework. Have a good idea of what your wedding is likely to cost, at least within a range. I have this discussion all the time with brides and grooms. Most wedding professionals can give you a ballpark idea of your overall costs, based on asking you a few questions and their knowledge of the business.

The goal of The Money Discussion, besides Keeping Daddy in the Loop, is for you to know how much money you have available early on so you can plan within your budget.

You CAN have a stress-free wedding. The planning process is meant to be fun and exciting. Keeping everyone, including your father, in the loop from start to finish can spread happiness all around. —David

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