Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How do I tell my dad he's not giving me away?

dear esb,

i'll cut to the chase: i need to figure out how to let my dad know he isn't walking me down the aisle.

the long and short of it is that for most of my life, my father and i have had a terrible relationship. he treated my mother horribly their entire marriage and since i was "just like my mother" (who, by the way, is probably the sweetest, cutest of momma's you can imagine), to say we never got along would be a gross understatement. they finally separated while i was in college and divorced a few years later. for a few years,  we barely spoke. then about two years ago or so, we started to have breakfast together every now and then to catch up . . . things certainly are still weird, he cancelled his phone and cell without giving me his number, he drops off the face of the planet for months at a time and then pops up again looking to reconnect. it's odd and sometimes still hurtful, but i've sort of realized that after 28 years of parenting (or not parenting, in this case) he's not really a "dad" and he probably needs our relationship more than i need him at this point. 

things started to get even more weird when my guy proposed. since i (still) don't have a way to call him, i couldn't include him in the slew of "i'm getting married" calls and resulted to facebooking him that i had big news to share . . . he called a few days later to say he already knew. ok, whatevs. he has only met my fiance once, at my grandmother's funeral which was months before we were even engaged and since he barely knows me, i guess i could expect that. we met a week or so later and he surprisingly offered to help us pay for some of our wedding (not before warning me that because my fiance is a musician, i should "watch out." he doesn't even KNOW him, for goodness sake). he later sent me a few messages to ask when i needed money . . . i responded and haven't heard back from him in two months (yes, i just sent him a "hello, are you alive and ok???" message; no response.) my mother (bless her heart) took me aside the other day to say that he had called her (HUH???) to ask how we, "we" as in my two siblings and me, were doing. why didn't he just call us??

all the while, i've never once said anything to him about walking me down the aisle. he knows the date and (if he opens his mail) has an invitation with the location like the rest of our guests. i've always wanted my younger brother to do the honors of giving me away to my husband. our wedding is a very small gathering of close friends and family, they all know our family dynamic and even if i was okay with my dad walking me down the aisle, everyone would know it was one big farce. my brother really good friends with my fiance and has pretty much been my protector since we were teenagers. he's taken care of my through knee surgeries, given me fashion advice and been one of my best buddies my entire life. he even went as far to say that if i suddenly changed my mind and wanted our dad to walk me down the aisle, he wouldn't be offended. that will never happen, but i appreciate the sentiment.

OKAY- so this weekend, my mother lays on me that she suspects dear old daddy is expecting to walk me down the aisle. the wedding is in two months, i still haven't heard from him after my "are you alive?" plea and i don't really feel like dissing him via facebook message. i also don't want to stoop to his level and hurt his feelings, but i desperately want to avoid a temper tantrum scene with shouting and yelling all sorts of other lifetime network worthy drama the day of my wedding when he realizes he has no part in the ceremony. i'm set on taking the high road in this situation . . . without compromising what my fiance and i want. which leads me to wonder, what IS the high road?????

nowhere near a daddy's girl

p.s. i cannot flip off and tell him f-you. well, i could, but i would end up more miserable than him in the end. so that's not an option.


I'd tell you to tell him in person, but since he's been communicating everything through your mother -- WHY BOTHER? Ask her to do you the sorry favor of breaking him the news.

Photo: Kelley Ash by Annie Edmonds for Fashion Gone Rogue
Mansies, you guys. I need to make a tag for dad-walking-or-not-walking-me-down-the-aisle issues.


  1. I'm in a similar boat and just letting my dad figure it out when he's not included in any rehearsal or other pre-wedding events. Beyond that, he'll be treated as a guest and find out info the way everyone else does; by invitation. Of course, I'm counting on him being able to behave like an adult...

  2. He has your number. He hasn't a) been in touch with you to discuss anything or b) even indicated that he will be attending your wedding. I'd say don't bother saying anything. The man has got to be mental if he thinks he's can just turn up and trot you down the aisle.

  3. I wouldn't want to put the mom in the middle. Sounds like shes been through enough with the guy. He'll figure it out when he isn't invited to the rehearsal, and hasn't been asked to have some part in the wedding. What else could he possibly expect? Especially since you don't even have any way of contacting him. I say, address it if he asks. Other than that, just go on as usual.

  4. Re: Anon @ 7:20
    And yet my cousin's father did just that. Showed up at the rehearsal dinner and asked, "so am I walking you down the aisle tomorrow?" My cousin agreed because she didn't know what else to do (she'd been planning to walk alone).

    Immediately after that exchange he asked my aunt (his ex-wife) if this was the sort of thing you "showed up late to."

    I don't even know.

  5. he probably will expect to walk you down the aisle unless you tell him otherwise. if you want to avoid the awkward conversation on the day, someone (you, your mom, in a note, on facebook) needs to tell him not to expect to!

  6. A lot of people are assuming this idiot will get the hint when he isn't involved in the rehearsal etc but quite frankly he sounds like a self involved moron who just won't get it. So there'd be a huge drama when he turns up at the wedding expecting to walk our gal down the aisle and he's told where to go.

    So as unpleasant as it is he needs to be clearly told that while he's welcome to come to the wedding he won't be the one to walk his daughter down the aisle.

  7. Under the circumstances, maybe the gentlest and classiest way to break the news is in a handwritten note. Explain very simply that you've become close with your brother and he will be walking you down the aisle. Make it about why you WANT your brother to do the honors and not about why you DON'T WANT dad to do it. If you want to throw him a bone perhaps there is another way he can be incorporated into the ceremony or reception? Clearly you don't owe this man anything but giving him a small role might be enough to alleviate any potential drama that cutting him out completely might bring. Good luck--and big congratulations!

  8. You and your fam sound super awesome in spite of this gem of a dad. So first off, yay you guys.

    Secondly, I agree with ESB that the moms will need to be involved but I think there are other options that don't involve her doing all the dirty work. She could simply tell him firmly that you need to talk to him about the ceremony and that he needs to call you ASAP. Or, you could write him a letter telling him what's up and have her call him the day after he should have received it to make sure he got the message.

    Either way, he does need to be told SOON to avoid that temper tantrum you mentioned. I don't agree with the advice to let it all play out.

  9. Make sure all the REAL family knows the wedding day drill now and let him figure it out with all the other guests. He doesn't deserve any special treatment.

  10. Super kudos to you for not losing your shit on the guy yet and for maintaining class all around. Try not to throw mom under the bus too much, but she and your other amazing family members could insulate you from the madness.

    Seriously though, completely impressed with your handling of this. I would not be so classy.

  11. Guys, she can't write him a note and mail it ... she's not sure he opens his mail!

    Soooooo ... since he's now calling Mom, why don't you write a note/letter/whatevs, give it to your mom to read to him the next time he calls her? That way, she's not completely in the middle ... but he's put her there by talking to her and not to you anyway.

    You would have to keep it super short and sweet, though. "Would love to {or looking forward to?} have you at the wedding, but for a variety of reasons, my brother is walking me down the aisle. Just wanted you to know."

    He won't figure it out otherwise. He's clearly an idiot and is irresponsible on many levels. Yes, he has to be told. You don't want this kind of wild card at your wedding!

  12. Do you have a best man/best lady at this weeding? Or a wedding coordinator? I'm not against having your mom deliver the message, probably just by saying to him, "She asked her brother to walk her down the aisle and asked me to tell you that."

    But, if your dad is reasonably assured of not throwing a fit, you could just assign one of your wedding party to him. They go up and say, "are you the Father of the Bride? I was asked to find you, and make sure you knew where your seat is. your daughter wanted you to have a good view, so we reserved this seat, let me show you."

    It's extremely clear about the fact he's not walking, but also comes off as damn polite.

  13. I went through something very similar with my father leading up to my wedding last month (especially the part about fearing an embarrassing tantrum on his part). The only real advice I can give is to remind yourself everyday that he is not you, and your friends know that. In the unlikely event that he does anything humiliating, it's humiliating for him not for you. It sounds like your brother is an upstanding guy, perhaps he would be open to "keeping an eye" on him?

  14. If he's calling your mom, does she have his number? If so, you could try caling him. If not, then I think facebook message is totes the way to go. Even Miss Manners, I think, would agree that is the classiest considering the alternatives.

  15. Maybe I'm an asshole, but stupid family obligations are one of my sore points. We do not have obligations to people just because we are related. We have obligations to people because we consider them our family, whether we are blood related or not.

    If your dad was really family and you owed him something I would recommend that you sit down and explain it to him and talk it out.

    Since your dad doesn't behave like family, I say you are free to let him show up and be escorted to his seat like everyone else. He doesn't deserve an explanation or (for god's sake)an apology.

    If you're worried about a scene, I say follow E's advice above. He will probably be shocked into being quiet, at least.

  16. FWIW I think it helped that my brother walked with me. It somehow was less a slap in the face to my stepfather. After all it's his son, you know? He probably knows how tight you guys are, and if you get the message through before the wedding maybe he'll warm up to the idea?

  17. Anon @ 10:15 nailed it. This bride really needs to give a heads-up to Dad in advance in some fashion.

    Yes, she has no "obligation" to go out of her way for him, based on his past behavior of pulling the disappearing act...but he really sounds clueless about his rights as a dad, and needs to be told ahead of time that he'll not be walking her down the aisle.
    Otherwise, I imagine that this poor lady is going to be unnecessarily stressed out n her big day about the what-if that may occur if Dad hasn't been forewarned. And that would just plain suck. You will already be stressed on your wedding day as it is.

  18. I think part of the dilemma here is that she can't actually get a hold of the guy... So even if she sends a letter she might not get the assurance she is looking for.

    I wouldn't make mom send the message either though - that doesn't seem very fair, and if mom had wanted to pass along that message she would have already.

    I'd try calling him again or sending him another message letting him know you need to talk to him about a couple wedding related details and it's important that he gets back to you.

  19. I DO NOT think you should let your sweetest, cutest mom deliver the news. Nor do I think you should let him figure it out -- unless you're willing to risk a big scene and the big hurt feelings that might follow. As someone who was in the same position, I think you should write him an email/facebook message/letter delivered via homing pigeon.

    In that message, be very upfront regarding the boundaries (emotional and physical) of his participation: say what the day is about; tell him what you feel strongly (no father/daughter dance/speeches/walks down the aisle); and tell him that you want him to be there but he must participate according to these terms and you understand if he is unable to make it.

    Then, the ball is in his court.