Roles and Responsibilities of the Mother and Father of the Bride

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As parents of the bride, the moment your daughter announces her engagement, a time of mixed and varied emotions begins. It's the day that begins the transition from "your little girl" to someone's wife. This rite of passage is a difficult time for you and for your daughter. It's a push and pull that quite probably will not end until well into her first year of marriage. It's at that time that she probably will begin to feel comfortable enough with her new status that she no longer will need to show you and tell you that she really is "an independent, married woman."

Being involved in the planning stages of any wedding, regardless of its size, is a major undertaking on many levels . . . financial, emotional, organizational and more. Don't be surprised if you feel overwhelmed about the amount of work coupled with your strong commitment to making your daughter's wedding a delightful success. If there's one word that best sums up the most critical element in wedding planning, it is "communication." The sooner discussions begin, the sooner the lines of communication are opened, the better. Discussions will cover a myriad of details, everything from who pays for want to how big the wedding, to where and when. The more pleasant, the more open these conversations are, be they with your daughter, future son-in-law, future son-in-law's family or your wedding professionals, the more easily and smoothly the pre-wedding planning will go and, ultimately, the better the results.

It's preferable where possible for the parents of the bride and of the groom to meet in person. It's ideal if the first meeting is a social get together rather than one which centers on the high-pressure topic of wedding details. The prospective bride and groom should make every effort to get both sets of parents together in a low-pressure, low-key, non-threatening situation, for their initial meeting. Because distance often precludes the two sets of parents meeting before the wedding day, it's extraordinarily important for there to be lots of telephone contact, to keep lines of communication wide-open. Whether or not they live close by, whether or not contact is in person or via the telephone (or E-mail), the groom's family should always be kept informed of wedding plans as they develop and consulted as often as practical.

Parental involvement involves a real balancing act and it will be to your advantage to learn it quickly. No doubt you will wish to help make decisions and have input. Balance that with your daughter's desire to do the major part of the planning with her fiance and you've got it made. It may be hard for you to give up control especially since it is quite likely that you will be participating in paying for all or much of the expenses. Negotiations and communication are critical. Trust your daughter's good judgment and trust her judgment in the selection of the future husband. Keep in mind that this will be the beginning of many important decisions that she and her husband will be making. What better opportunity to tutor her than this. Where once it was strictly the responsibility of the parents of the bride, particularly the mother of the bride, to do all the wedding planning, today's weddings are more often the combined effort of the bride, groom and both sets of parents. Sharing expenses is also much more typical today that it was in years past.

Begin by discussing the most sensitive issues in pre-wedding planning, expenses. Together, you will need to decide how responsibilities and costs will be shared in your particular circumstances. Dividing expenses, in the event that the bride's family will not be undertaking the entire cost of the wedding, is always a touchy subject. Experts suggest that the bride's parents discuss specific costs for specific items for which the groom's family may assume responsibility. Typically these may be flowers, photographer, music, and/or food. In some families, the groom's parents offer a sum certain or split the cost down the middle.

The other major topic for conversation will be the guest list. Once the parameter for expenses has been set and it has been agreed upon who will be paying for what, it will be easier to make up the guest list and decide specifically the number of guests to whom each family will be "entitled." This is another area which will, in all likelihood, require a great deal of sensitivity and negotiations.

Weddings which involve divorced and/or remarried parents make things all the more stressful on you and your daughter. This is a time to let bygones be bygones if at all possible, keeping in mind the greater good. Sensitivity for everyone's feelings and a willingness to work toward making the wedding successful should be everyone's individual and collective goal.

The Role of the Mother of the Bride
Once the bride has selected her color scheme, it will be up to the mother of the bride to select an outfit which not only matches in color, but also in the style of the wedding. More often than not, the groom's mother will select an outfit not identical to the mother of the bride's, but in a coordinating color. In a church wedding, traditionally, the mother of the bride is the last to be seated before the ceremony (in the front-left pew) and the first to rise as the couple starts down the aisle. The mother of the bride is also the first to be ushered out after the ceremony.
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She is usually the first person in the receiving line, so mom may want to try to catch a few minutes alone with her daughter as the reception draws to a close and the bride is changing into her going away outfit or nearing the time of the last dance.

The Role of the Father of the Bride
It's normally the pleasant responsibility of the father of the bride to make a special toast to the young couple, at the engagement party and/or the rehearsal dinner. It's also the role of the father of the bride to escort his daughter down the aisle at a church wedding, or in most Jewish weddings, to join his wife in escorting the bride to the chuppah (wedding canopy). In a Jewish wedding, the mother and father of the bride (and of the groom) are not seated, but, instead remain under the wedding canopy during the ceremony. At a church wedding, the father of the bride will sit in the first pew next to the mother of the bride, and in the third pew if they are divorced or separated. The dad's role is as official host at the reception and so he is expected to mingle with and meet the guests. If there is no member of the clergy present at the reception, and the father of the bride wishes to say grace, It's appropriate for him to do so. It's also appropriate for the father of the bride, if he wishes, to make a speech and/or offer a toast at the reception.

The father of the bride should choose formalwear that coordinates with the clothing of the other men in the wedding party. It's his responsibility to tell the father of the groom if he needs to be fitted for formalwear. Traditionally, all the men walking down the aisle wear clothes that match one another.

Unlike the mother of the bride, at formal weddings, neither the father of the bride nor of the groom typically stand in the receiving line. Instead, they mingle with the guests. This is of course not a hard and fast rule, so if the fathers wish to be included in the receiving line, they may do so.

For some reason, the father of the bride usually monitors liquor and champagne supply and alerts the banquet manager if more is needed. At Jewish weddings, the father of the bride or the grandfather of the bride offers the traditional blessings over the wine and the bread (challah).

The father of the bride should be the last to leave the reception, after saying goodbye to all the guests. It is at this time that dad may give his daughter a hand by settling any outstanding bills with the caterer, band or orchestra leader, coat-check, restroom and parking attendants. He can do this on your behalf, or for himself if he and the bride's mom are footing the bill.

In reviewing and deciding the roles of the bride's parents and, in some cases the groom's parents as well, the keywords again are sensitivity and communication. There are lots of rules of etiquette and traditionally defined roles, but nothing is etched in stone and nothing is more important than making these very important wedding participants feel loved, needed, wanted and cared about.

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