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Real talk: wedding planning when you're a fatherless bride-to-be

Real talk: wedding planning when you're a fatherless bride-to-be


Written by Katie Byrne


WEDDING Editor Katie Byrne on the things she's realised since she's started considering her 'I do' moment

"Here’s the thing. I’m not a mad traditionalist but there really is something about planning a wedding that makes you realise your father isn’t around.

In my case, it’s because he simply isn’t here. My dad passed away when I was six years old. I was never the little girl that grew up with a pillow case on her head, and my memories of him and I involve games of football in the park, seeing who could get the highest on the swings and listening to sinister Irish fairytales that can still bring me out in a flood of goosebumps all these years later.

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Obviously for many other women, it’s a different scenario entirely. It’s not just death that can seperate daughters from their dads: divorce, dispute, distance… All the D’s basically. And whilst I’ve been relatively fine with it all for the last two decades, it’s now that I’m considering planning a wedding that I realise what a part he would have played.

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Don’t get me wrong. I’m obviously a feminist (essentially like declaring 'I breathe oxygen', I know) and consider wedding traditions much like I consider Easter or the X Factor finale. I’m really not bothered about the whats or whys but I like the idea of the concept and I don’t want to miss out. Call it FOMO, if you will. The idea of my partner asking my dad for his permission to marry me doesn’t phase me. Sure, that might be because it didn’t actually happen but I really can’t imagine my feelings would have been that different regardless.

(Although not so sure about my pa, of course…)

So it’s all the stuff: the little things that, in the scheme of things, are nothing, really. The walking down the aisle on the arm of the proud father; seeing him greeting family and friends alike, chest puffed out with pride; listening to the speech at the wedding breakfast where he talks about the childhood football games, dropping me off at my high school prom, meeting my fiancé Mike for the first time; it’s having the father-daughter dance before watching him twirl my mother around the floor…

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It’s all the inconsequential details. The blink-and-you’d-miss-it stuff, the bread-and-butter of the wedding plans. Because is there anything more tick-box than the father of the bride walking her down the aisle, gaze fixed on the person he’s hoping will help her reach her dreams? Or anything more monumental than the brief flicker of nerves before he picks up the mic and delivers the speech he’s been rehearsing for months, or days or perhaps just minutes?

And then it's the pre-wedding stuff, too; the initial glazed disbelief and joy that his little girl is getting married; the suit shopping with my brother; the opinions on trivialities that people only care about when it comes to weddings (looking at you, napkins and buttonholes); the camaraderie of the stag do; the soothing pre-ceremony words of wisdom...

It’s fine, though. I write this safe in the knowledge that I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by people who can more than provide for the above. Don't mistake this for wallowing; I’m pondering, not commiserating, but it’s only when you’re staring into the abyss that you realise what isn’t there, after all.

And let's be honest - who needs a father when you have a mother as wonderful as mine? (No offence, dad, but I imagine you'd agree.) Aren’t mums the best? In her dual role as both ma-and-pa over the last couple of decades, she's impressed upon me one thing: nothing is impossible, a sentiment I’ll be reminding her of when she inevitably stages brief protest at the thought of giving a speech. She's been more of a rock than Kilimanjaro - cut her open and there'd be sparkling diamond inside. Okay, my metaphors are a little extreme, but you get the jist. She’s my best friend, fact.

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Then there’s my brother - raffish, cheeky, amusing - my uncle - wise, quick-witted and microphone-savvy - and a variety of others who I’d feel honoured to have join me on the biggest day of my life.

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So what am I saying to you, dear reader, if you’re still there, hanging on, waiting for the profound conclusion? Make the most of it, and them. ‘It’ being the process and the experience and the memories, and ‘them’ being the people who will form it around you: from your partner, to your parents and all the other friends and family who form the rings around your life. Marvel at them, be puzzled by them, loathe them, whatever - but cherish them.

And even though my dad can’t be there, when the day comes, I’ll find a way to include him. He’d find it toe-curling and I imagine it would be so at odds with the cool, mildly bohemian chap he seemed to be - but I’m sure he’d appreciate it really because after all, it’s not every day your daughter gets married."