The 2nd of July just past was the first wedding anniversary of my eldest daughter, Amy Wallace. Giving her away is both the proudest moment of my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I hope I summed this up in my Father of the Bride speech which is reprinted below.
Image by Tobias Garnham Photography
Before the meal is served we’re going to get one of the speech’s out of the way. It’s mine though, and I’ll probably prattle on a bit, so you might want to make sure you’ve got yourself a drink. Sorry if it’s a bit long, but I think of it as my prerogative as the Father of the Bride.
Father of the Bride … how can that possibly be? I’m sure she was born just a few days ago as I can remember it so very distinctly. Holding her for the first time, very … very awkwardly in these two hands. Her grand parents visiting us at the hospital, mere hours after she was born. Her grandmother pressing a freshly minted 2 dollar coin into her palm and curling her tiny fingers around it; a modern day blessing of prosperity and hopes for a life free of trouble and strife. These memories are all so very vivid … they can’t possibly be 21 years old.
But I have so many other memories as well. Amy refusing to crawl as a baby, and rolling everywhere she wanted to go. Getting stuck under the fish tank stand, the TV cabinet, the coffee table. Amy playing with the daughter of a friend, watching the other little girl stand up and walk and just imitating her, walking for the first time like it was nothing. Swimming. So much swimming when she was little, she just loved the water. Birthday parties. Burning her hand on a sparkler by grabbing the wrong end of it after it had gone out, just minutes after my wife said take it off her and I said, “Ah, she’d never be that silly.” I was a first time father, give me a break. Then after we moved down to Brisbane every birthday dinner was a night out at Valentine’s restaurant. She loved that place. School. Ballet recitals. Friends. Sleep overs. Her first job. Driving lessons. Boyfriends … all these … boyfriends!
And then Iain. Quite a lot of Iain. Engaged to Iain. Wedding preparations with Iain. Walking her down the aisle, towards Iain. “Giving” her … to Iain. Which I guess does indeed make me, the Father of the Bride. They say you’re not losing a daughter, you are gaining a son-in-law. Well it certainly feels like I’m losing a daughter. And even if I’m getting a son-in-law in exchange, that’s a terrible, terrible trade. I have never in all my life looked at my daughters and thought to myself, “You know what … one day I’m going to get a son-in-law out of this.”
I have an alarm set on my phone. It’s set to go off in about 6 weeks. August the 16th, at 2:37 in the afternoon. At that time Amy will be 21 years, 8 months, 11 days, 4 hours and 26 minutes old. That is exactly how old I was when she was born. Which means the alarm will go off when I am precisely twice her age. The real significance of that is in that minute, my life will be split into two equal sections, fatherhood and my life before fatherhood. And whilst chronologically my life will be split into two equal parts, the fatherhood half of my life is infinitely more important, more precious, more exciting, and more terrifying. In fact the instant Amy was born, my previous life was rendered pretty much meaningless. And 60 seconds after my alarm goes off on that August afternoon, 2:37 will become 2:38. I’ll have been a father for 1 minute longer than my sum of life before children. And fatherhood will be the greatest part of my life in every possible way.
And fatherhood has entered new and uncharted waters today, as I became a father-in-law. And I find myself confused, and unprepared. I’ve got no idea what this is supposed to be about. My only personal experience with father-in-laws is my own. Barry. Lesley’s dad, taken from us far too early, when Amy was just a toddler. He did not get to see her grow into the wonderful woman she has become. But as a father-in-law … well he did not like me. He thought I was an idiot and wished I would just stay away from his daughter. To be fair, I was a teenage boy, so I was an idiot, and keeping his daughter safe from me is a perfectly reasonable thing to have wanted. I was also aware of the commonly held belief that no man on the planet is good enough for a fathers daughter, and I have to tell you that now … I know that to be 100% correct. No-one is good enough. If survival of the species relied on girls fathers consenting we would have died out a long, long time ago. So when Iain came to Lesley & me and asked for permission to propose to our daughter I was surprised to hear myself say, “Of course, you may marry our daughter. We have been expecting this for a little while now.” My brain said, “What the hell was that? I thought we were agreed that no-one was good enough for her.” I then said, “I hope the proposal goes off without a hitch and the weather’s nice.” at which point my brain said, “To hell with you!” and stormed out.
Image by Tobias Garnham Photography
But Iain did ask our permission before proposing. I did not do that. I proposed to Lesley first, and after she accepted, she asked if I’d spoken to her dad about it. I said, “N…no. Not yet.” She said, “Well you need to ask my dad for permission.” I said, “What now?” She said, “Oh grow a pair and just do it.” So I did, I steeled myself, went and knocked on the door, and without even waiting for an answer, I opened the door went in. I said, “Barry … ah Mr Rideout … sir. I have something important to talk to you about. And as he sat there in the tub, with a cake of soap in one hand, and a loofah in the other he said, “Is it okay if I finish my bath first?” I said, “Absolutely.” and backed out of the bathroom, closing the door behind me.
But we eventually sat down and talked. I said, “I’m here to ask your permission to marry your daughter. And he said to me, “I’m a learned and well traveled man. But I’ve got to say, I know almost nothing about how a woman’s mind works. But I do know this. Once a woman has decided on a certain course of action, no man can dissuade her. So if Lesley wants to marry you, nothing I do or say is can stop her, no matter how much I might want to.” I said, “So we have your blessing?” He said, “No … no … you didn’t hear what I said. Let me explain it again.”
It was not until earlier this year, when I started to work on this speech, nearly quarter of a century later, that I realised exactly what he was saying. He had done his best to raise a daughter that was confident, self reliant and a strong individual who would then look for an equal to share her life with. As opposed to, say, a girl whose life has no meaning if she can’t be with the vampire that sparkles in the sun. To pick an example entirely at random. Barry and Noela did an exceptional job in raising their children, and I think we’ve done okay as well. Amy certainly has a fully developed sense of self. I never had to worry about her doing something stupid because her friends were doing it. Number one, she is no sheep and has no desire to follow the herd. And number two, she doesn’t suffer fools lightly. She will give people a second chance, but doesn’t waste much time on a third. She’ll just move on … with official complaints to police and blocked phone numbers if need be. [This is a reference to an old stalkery boyfriend of Amys. Ahh, the joys of fatherhood.] (Indicate to the tables of her friends.) I know that all of you, that she has grown up with and have been invited to the wedding, are good and decent people. Because they’re the only kind she associates with. And her good judgement of people obviously extends to a much larger degree in her choice of husband. I know that Iain is the perfect husband for her, because she knows he’s the perfect husband for her.
So Iain, welcome to the family. we are pleased to have you with us. And I will ask you all to raise your glasses, and toast the best looking couple in the room … well maybe second after Lesley and I … to Iain and Amy … Wallace.
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