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Oh, Father, Where Art Thou?

There are two kinds of weddings: the kind where two families joyously unite to make a third, and the kind where the bride expects to be crowned.  If you’re in the latter wedding, then God help you, especially if you aren’t Beautiful or don’t Look Perfect for Her Day.  The Background:My husband was previously married and had three children by his first wife.  They divorced nine years ago, six years before he and I met and started dating.  All three children are grown and gone from the nest.  He and I married two years ago.  He is only 10 years younger than my father; I am only 10 years older than his oldest child, his only daughter.  His daughter, the bride of this tale, is a very successful career woman in her late 30s, and the groom is also successful.  They each make six figures, and she and her fiance chose to pay for it all and have the Big Wedding:  Ceremony at the large cathedral in town, reception at a local historical landmark, black tie, live band, sit-down dinner, gift registries at a really high-end store and at a more economical store (to be kind to the rest of us, I suspect).

The bride’s parents, my husband and his ex, each decided to give the couple $1,000.  I was carrying his check in an envelope in my clutch purse.

The Foreboding:
The invitations kept being re-sent back to the printers, to the point that the bride’s father and I, and my father and my aunt, only got verbal invitations, and the bride-to-be called us 10 days before to make sure we were coming.

You knew the bride was wanting to micro-manage and make sure everything Looked Perfect when she asked that her mother, her future mother-in-law, and her “step” wear floor-length gowns.  No problem there, though pricey.  She wanted the ladies of the bridal party to get their hair “done” in “up-do” styles, and have make-up done that morning at a salon of her choosing.  Again, a tad pricey. Some months earlier the bride-to-be had asked her mother to get a face-lift for the ceremony.  Her mother had put her foot down and said, “What you see is what you get.”

Now, the bride’s mother is a striking woman, attractive and Junoesque.  Her father, my husband, is overweight, but he is well-groomed and looks good in a tuxedo.  Her father is also a “practicing atheist”, but he was willing to walk down the aisle of a cathedral and sit through a High Mass for his daughter.  “I would walk over coals for her,” were his exact words.  His ex and I actually get along, so we had no problem sitting next to each other as the ceremony began, though she would be sitting between me and her ex, since she would be the last seated before the bride and her father walked down the aisle.

The Day:

The gown was lovely, opulent without being gaudy, and totally suited to the bride’s frame, but something was off:  The bride was not really on her father’s arm.  It seemed she could barely suffer holding his hand as they walked down the aisle.  She seemed very tense.  The ceremony itself was telling:  One of the readings was from Ecclesiastes, about how the man should leave his parents and cleave to his wife, a shot across the bow to the mother-in-law, who dotes too much on her son.  The second reading was from Matthew, I believe, about how man and wife should not divorce.
The daughter tolerates my presence because I did not have anything to do with her parents’ breaking up, but she never really forgave them for splitting in the first place, and this choice of reading only confirms my assessment.  Her mother and I just shrugged and lightly shook our heads, and when then the Sign of Peace was called for, she and I shook hands then hugged, to the amusement of my husband.  (Take that, Your Highness.)

The Dolorous Stroke:

But the reception was the last straw for the father of the bride.  She had plenty of pictures taken with her bridesmaids and her spouse in the palatial gardens of the reception site, but two or three at most with her mother and father, and then she shooed him away with, “OK, dad, I don’t need you anymore.”  I was not asked to be in any pictures, but I never expected to be, so I paid it no mind.  We enjoyed the rest of the cocktail hour, as the food was wonderful and abundant.

Then we were ushered to the dinner hall.  The groom’s parents and family were placed next to the bridal table, but the bride’s parents, some of her family and I were three tables away, barely in line of sight, but at least next to the dance floor.

Then the bride and groom came in and had their first dance, a rather formal and somewhat rigid pairing, but perhaps the gown’s flared skirt had something to do with that.  Then the mother of the groom all but cut in on them and had her dance with her son as the band led into another song rather abruptly.  The way she clung to the groom by contrast had me whispering to my husband, “When did she change her name to Jocasta?”

When that song ended, the emcee asked for everyone to come onto the dance floor.  Everyone at our table froze.  My poor husband turned pale and looked away.  There had to be some mistake here.  Surely someone would remember that the father of the bride should have a dance with the bride.  But the band played on without let-up and the dance floor filled with the rest of the guests.  I was in shock for my husband, and he leaned over to me and whispered, “I am two seconds away from going out and ordering Chinese.”  *I* got up and weaved through the dancers to tap the bride on her shoulder to ask her to dance with her father, but the groom pulled her back before I could reach her 

I turned and saw my husband quietly get up, skirt around the dance floor and leave the hall.  By the time I got through the crowd to reach the door, he had left the building, my cell phone vibrated in my purse, and I had a calm voice message there telling me that he had left, but that he would come back to take everyone home.  (He had driven five guests out to the reception; he would be back to take us home.)  I went to the entrance of Stately Wayne Manor (my private name for the reception hall) in the hope of catching up to him, but he had already left.

I felt very bad for him, and wondered what to do next, but then the bride cornered me, asking me where her father had gone, because the groom’s parents had “taken over the reception.”  (So much for her not needing her father anymore:  Apparently the father of the groom had come up with some rather mortifying toasts that I was not present to hear.)  I told her, “You would not dance with your father.  How did you expect him to react?”  She sputtered something about how it was the groom’s mother’s fault, that she wasn’t supposed to have done that, and to please-please-please don’t talk about this to anyone, as there were video cameras everywhere, and most of her husband’s and her co-workers were there.  I told her that everyone at our table knew what happened, but that I’d keep my game face on from that point.
I also gave her the check in its little envelope, since I was not given instructions to do otherwise.  I spent the rest of the evening walking around the grounds, talking to my aunt and my father, and I did my father the courtesy of a dance with him to “What a Wonderful World.”

My husband had driven home (almost 2 hours away), had changed into jeans, a nice cotton shirt and sneakers, and had driven back in time to take everyone home, but he did not go into the building to get us, dressed as he was, so I gathered our little troupe together to leave.  I wished the couple luck before we left.  The bride did not come out to speak to her father.

The Kicker:

Two days later I received a voice mail from the bride, telling me how she was concerned for me, now that I had “seen what her father was like.”   I’m afraid all poise left me then, and I left a voice mail to *her* reading her the Riot Act, about how I had nothing to worry about since I had not hurt her father deeply, adding that if the slight on the dance floor was an accident, it was her place to tell him so.  Then I called her mother and told her I had lectured her daughter and that I would apologize to her for it, if needed, but not to her daughter.  Her mother replied, “I understand completely.  You had to put her in her place.”
Neither my husband nor I have heard from the couple since they returned from their honeymoon, and I doubt very much that we will.  Her father may forgive her one day, sooner than she will forgive him, I expect, but I wonder whether can be so charitable.  The money I’d spent on the dress I wore, the hair and makeup, and a gift I had privately sent her, hefty as the total was, is incidental to me.  What hurts is the borderline depression her father has been in since then, and I ache in sympathy for him.  “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child,” Shakespeare wrote in King Lear.  08-20-08

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Powers May 1, 2009, 9:54 am

    It sounds like this could have been miscommunication. Is it possible the bride hadn’t been planning on having opposite-gender-parents dancing, and the new MIL changed the schedule on her own?

    And if so, how was the bride supposed to apologize to her father when he’d already left without waiting for an explanation?

  • Jessica May 10, 2009, 1:55 pm

    It sounds like this could have just been a misunderstanding. The dad sure did jump to the worst possible conclusion. I don’t think he handled it well at all.

  • Lauren May 11, 2009, 6:27 am

    Even if it was a misunderstanding, a decent daughter would have walked straight over to her father and pulled him up to dance. She can’t control the MIL’s actions, but she can control hers.

    My heart is breaking for the husband. He sounds a lot like my dad and if I were ever to do something to him like this (and I’m crying at the thought of being that cruel) he would be beyond devestated. To him it would be saying ‘You were a terrible father’ and that is what the daughter has done by her actions.

  • flora June 22, 2009, 10:08 am

    I don’t think the bride did anything that bad. I didn’t have multiple dances including father/daughter mother/groom at my wedding. Granted the bride should have talked to her father afterwards but maybe she was too overwhelmed or given how her father reacted, well, I’d be reluctant to talk to him too.

  • bjhud June 26, 2009, 5:16 pm

    I think in addition to echoing those above me on the miscommunication, that the bride did not choose the Matthew passage to spite you. It is a very common passage used in church weddings. Perhaps you shouldn’t rush to condemn her.

  • gamergf July 8, 2009, 11:07 pm

    The bride should have told her father a MIL ahead of time that there would be under no circumstances a dance. It is traditionally assumed at a reception. No wonder the overeager MIL grabbed her son to steal a dance, because she probably genuinely thought it was her turn.

  • Millie September 20, 2009, 5:13 am

    This sounds every bit like a miscommunication–things seldom run like clockwork at big events like weddings, and I can’t understand not giving the daughter the benefit of the doubt, or even talking to her before stalking off and driving home. If things actually proceeded exactly as reported here, it almost sounds as if the parents were looking for a reason to feel slighted.

  • Night Audit Woman October 12, 2009, 5:45 am

    One of my favorite wedding photos is of my father and I dancing together at my wedding. My father passed away ten years ago.

    I feel so sorry for your husband and can certainly understand why he had to leave. The bride must feel foolish for not dancing with her father and surely missed out on something that cannot be undone.

    Hopefully by now, father and daughter have reconciled.

  • Charles Dexter Ward December 27, 2009, 12:05 am

    Miscommunication, my posterior. This is a bride who asked her mother to get a face-lift for the wedding.

    I agree that the dad probably shouldn’t have been as quick to leave–maybe a long walk would have been more appropriate. But the bride was clearly having some ‘zilla tendencies and (at least with the facelift-request) saw her parents more as accessories than as people to celebrate her day with.

  • kero February 20, 2010, 3:43 pm

    i really doubt this is miscommunication! if she was really concerned for her father she would call him after the wedding or later on to clear up the situation. instead she wanted to hush up the incident as there were newscameras around (don’t want to lose face!) and only called to “expose” what her father was like.

  • Anonymous February 24, 2010, 3:13 am

    This may very well have been a misunderstanding; if I’d had a big wedding with dancing, I wouldn’t have danced with my father. We have a good relationship, but it’s just not something I’d have felt comfortable with. If it was so important to him, why didn’t the husband mention it beforehand, perhaps at the rehearsal? It would have been an easy thing to clear up…

  • Bint February 24, 2010, 5:55 am

    Miscommunication, my foot. The happy couple put her own parents several tables away and the groom’s parents up there with them. And then she doesn’t dance with her father or pay him any attention? Please. This was deliberate – the dancing *and* the seating is just going too far.

    What a stupid, mean-spirited woman. You can’t replace your father.

  • Miss Mandy March 28, 2010, 12:51 am

    I have to agree with Bint here. Even at the ceremony she was taking jabs at her father resenting him for divorcing her mother. Her rigid posture acting as if she were touching venom as her father walked her down the asile. The scriptures read during the ceremony.

    If she honestly was sorry for her behavior or it was a miscommunication, she would have taken the effort to call her father at some point to apologize. I cried reading this because the father/daughter dance is something I will never get to experience since my father passed on and to hear how she snubbed just hurts.

    I just hope they can eventually mend their relationship before it’s too late.

  • Leah May 9, 2010, 12:24 pm

    I would like to add my voice to the others saying that this does not appear to be a misunderstanding, especially considering what she said afterward, that you had “seen what [her] father was like,” and that she made no attempt to apologize at all. Will she lose her bitterness toward the divorcees, I wonder, if she should ever get a divorce herself?
    Nice references to classical literature, by the way.

  • CyanideButterflies May 22, 2010, 11:07 am

    It seems we are divided on opinion, and I can understand why previous posters believe it to be an error of communication, but I truly don’t believe it to be so. I could never imagine treating my father like that, and if I am ever to marry he would be by my side every step of the way.

  • poundcake July 12, 2010, 5:40 pm

    It seems like a lot of innocent or innocuous details are being added to the story to make the bride look extra ‘zilla-ish. Wanting the bridesmaids to have up-dos or even seeming nit-picky in regards to invitations (in the poster’s opinion) hardly seem like sins from the bowels of e.Hell. Same with the bible readings; those are fairly standard wedding elements as well. “Proof” like the bride’s body language are also subjective: she might have been tense because she was walking down the aisle during her wedding ceremony! If ever there was a time to feel overwhelmed and nervous…. “We don’t need you anymore, dad” during picture-taking could be said any number of ways, and doesn’t necessarily constitute a grave insult. I don’t know about the face-lift comment, but at this point, I wonder if it was a joke or taken out of context.

    But overall, it really does seem like a miscommunication in the chaos of the wedding reception, not a methodically planned, personal, evil attack on Father and Stepmother by a diabolical bride. Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past the bride’s stepmother to be exaggerating yet another thing for the sake of making the bride look extra bad and her current husband particularly saintly. If dad’s response to something like this is to leave his daughter’s wedding (and leave his wife and other guests there) to go sulk for five hours instead of picking ten other more mature ways to handle it (like talking to the DJ, or the wedding coordinator, or I don’t know, maybe *asking his daughter himself*, like a grown up, for a dance later in the evening), I can only echo the bride’s “you see what he’s like” comment.

  • Anon July 29, 2010, 11:43 pm

    I highly doubt it was a miscommunication poundcake.

  • Jay September 29, 2010, 8:44 am

    If it was a miscommunication, the bride would’ve made SOME effort to get in touch with the father during the wedding, after she realized what had happened. Instead she begged the stepmom to keep it quiet so as not to publically embarrass her, and went back to the party. Two days later, she still placed all the blame on the father.

  • Donna Martin Graduates! October 7, 2010, 11:17 pm

    ^ YESSS! Exactly. I am wholeheartedly with all of you who see how many ways this bitter young woman went out of her way to diss her own father.

    I wanted to add that this was one of the most brilliantly written and even-handedly recounted rant I have ever read. I also dug the various references to classical literature.


  • Jumble Girl October 20, 2010, 12:02 am

    While I agree that it seemed like a miscommunication I think the father might’ve walked out a little too quickly. And is it just me who finds it terrible that he walked out, without his wife, and expected her to stay there? It’s his daughter’s wedding! Yes he was hurt by what had happened, but to leave his wife there who has what seems a strained relationship with his daughter in the first place seems unforgivable to me.

  • poundcake November 20, 2010, 8:49 pm

    Yes, I think the leaving w/out telling anyone and leaving others behind, and leaving a VM, were more than a little immature. Most e.Hell issues aren’t as black and white as they might seem from the story-telling, and the father’s behavior here makes me think that something else is going on besides a poor, innocent, saintly Daddy who is being cruelly slapped by his bridezilla daughter.

  • Me November 21, 2010, 2:22 am

    “The way she clung to the groom by contrast had me whispering to my husband, “When did she change her name to Jocasta?” ”

    Best. Line. Ever.

  • Bubba November 21, 2010, 6:45 pm

    You have to remember at a wedding, it is not about you and your hurt feelings. It is about the happy couple. Grin and bear it.
    Went to stepson’s wedding, his mom was in the first row, his dad and I were in the third row, behind his cousins. We did not make a big stink about it.

  • Mother of a Bride November 21, 2010, 7:07 pm


    “Best. Line. Ever.”

    I knew it was familiar to me, but admit I had to google it to make sure I was reading it right and I agree….Best. Line. Ever.

  • DLo November 22, 2010, 8:25 am

    I give it 2 years. The point of a wedding is to get married. It’s one day. If all you want from your wedding is pretty pictures and you use it as a weapon to get revenge on your parents instead of celebrating the rest of your life with your spouse, you’re doomed. Of course, my dad would have just marched up and said, “Out on the floor kid”. A lot of immaturity from grown folk. Sad.

  • Sally January 15, 2011, 3:58 pm

    I too think this was done on purpose. I also think she knew exactly how it was going to effect her father. I do agree that it was very wrong of him to leave as he did, but I also can understand why he did. Sometimes when people have been deeply hurt, as he was, they just want to get away from that pain, they never stop to think about their actions and how it may effect others, all they want is to get away from the pain. By the bride telling her step mother to “not talk about this to others” tells me she truly didn’t care about her fathers feelings at all. She has never forgiven her parents for the divorce and from her actions I do think she totally blames her father for it. But as we all know it takes two to make a marriage work. I also believe that what goes around comes around and some day she will have to pay for her actions.

  • maria jeandy January 21, 2011, 6:41 am

    its very nice story,talking about miscommunication,well,is this truely happened?because i understand how it feels if had on this situation!we can adopt moral lesson in this story and it can relate on our daily lives

  • Cindy August 14, 2011, 3:26 pm

    I agree that if this was a miscommunication, then the bride would have immediately sought out her father and apologized. She also would have thanked them for their time and their very generous gifts. If the story submitter was deliberately trying to make the bride seem nastier than she was, instead of saying that the mother of the bride had to sit between the step mom and father because of the processional, she would have said something about the bride trying to seat her parents so they looked still together or something to that effect.

    While I was inclined to believe the step mother’s story as I was reading it, I could have also seen it as a miscommunication, until it got to the end where we find out the bride has done nothing to clear things up with her father. While he shouldn’t have left when he did, I can sympathize with why he did. If she called to explain what happened then he could be given a chance to apologize for leaving so abruptly, but she has made no effort to clarify any kind of misunderstanding, which I do believe is because no misunderstanding took place.

    I know everyone is different and want different things for their wedding, but my husband and I both come from divorced parents and we went out of our way to find readings that would not make them uncomfortable. While what was chosen in this story was traditional, there are lots of traditional readings that don’t call out certain guests.

    We also took separate groups of pictures, for his dad/step mom, for his mom/step dad, for my mom/step dad, my dad/step mom. And we still got all our pictures done in a half an hour and had plenty of time to enjoy the cocktail hour before the reception officially started. There’s no reason to exclude members of your family from wedding photos. If the bride didn’t want pictures of her step mother, she should have respected her father’s relationship enough to at least get a shot of them together to give to them. And the seating at the reception? Tasteless to seat each family differently.

    I see evil bride written all over this.

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