Body, Mind & Spirit

Recently, I became father of the bride and, during the months leading up to the wedding, I lost my manhood entirely. Although I had led hundreds of couples to the altar and written dozens of articles for national bridal magazines and even published four books on marriage – nothing had prepared me for the emotional onslaught of walking my daughter down the aisle.

I was elated when my daughter told me that another pastor would be conducting the wedding ceremony. “It won’t be you, Dad” she said, “you’ll cry like a baby.” She was not far off.

Although I have been aware of my daughter for the past 23 years, I guess I had lost sight of her. How did she become a young woman when my back was turned? And how did I get so old?

Father of the bride? Are you kidding me?

As father of the bride, of course, my responsibilities were basically one-dimensional. Primarily, I wrote checks. None of these checks bounced, but I had to live on water and soft prunes for months. Financing the wedding also was a reasonable explanation for forgetting my own wedding anniversary and my wife’s birthday.

“Let’s not be selfish,” I told my wife while she wept over my insensitivity. “Let’s consider the children!”

Every day leading up to the wedding, I showed my wife our paltry checkbook balance and prodded her to make even deeper cuts in the family budget. I reminded her that I would not be purchasing Christmas gifts this year. She agreed we would continue to eat most of our meals out of 16-ounce cans.

Still, I financed a wedding and managed to salvage my own marriage in the process. In short, I witnessed a miracle.

Weddings have this effect on fathers. We come to realize that we are married to an older woman and there’s nothing we can do about it. We swallow copious amounts of pills that are designed to keep arthritis at bay and the pharmaceutical industry plush with profit. We begin to worry about long-term care insurance and hope that our children will allow us to live in their basements after they have moved to Hawaii for their dream jobs.

Somehow, through this labyrinth of transition and emotion, we also discover that God’s grace is sufficient. We can see how God’s grace has covered a multitude of parental failures and given us children that have, despite our best efforts, turned out remarkably well considering their source.

Being the father of the bride, I also realize that my best days are ahead of me. Now that my wife and I are “empty-nesters,” we can eat entire gallons of ice cream without having to share. We can fall asleep at 7 p.m. during Wheel of Fortune and wake at midnight and ask, “Where am I?” We can hold each other in the moonlight and ask, “And who are you?”

I did manage to hold it together at my daughter’s wedding, but it was difficult. I had to keep reminding myself that children grow up and that, ultimately, they belong to God. I can only hope I’ll continue to be Dad to my little girl. And that won’t change. I guess that’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Love never ends.”

Todd Outcalt is the oldest pastor at Calvary UMC in Brownsburg. He is the author of 25 books, including He Said, She Said (with Michelle Knight), Before You Say “I Do”, and Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget. He has written columns and articles for such magazines as Brides, For the Bride, American Fitness, The Christian Century, and YouthWorker.