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How can my daughter’s stepdad participate in her wedding?

Our 23 y/o daughter is getting married next year and we are contributing a significant amount of money to the ceremony. Her bio-dad is contributing nothing. He moved across the country 1 month before she graduated high school and has never paid a dime of child support or even attempted to support the children financially. Now, after years of alcoholism, he’s become sober and called everyone with his apologies like the 12 step program suggests.
My daughter has apparently forgotten the years of verbal and mental abuse and has also seemed to become oblivious to the last 9 years of her step dad’s contributions and attentiveness. She is going to have her bio-dad walk her down the aisle. My husband says that’s fine. He will be the backup if bio-dad doesn’t show.
I am hurt. This is a perfect chance for her to show the entire community how she appreciates her step dad and all he has done for her. I don’t think she should totally snub bio but I do think she needs to do something very special for my husband at this event. After all, we are the ones who have ALWAYS been there to pick up the pieces, provide support, financial assistance, etc.
My husband is such a classy guy and says I’m reading too much into this.
What do you think? And is there some special part of the ceremony that he could do or participate in that would be meaningful? -Sarah



Thanks for reaching out. I can only imagine how frustrating the situation is for you. Before I get too deep into it I’d like to stop and say what a great guy you have at home. I’m sure he’s emotionally invested in your daughter and cares about her. He might even be a little hurt by the situation, but he’s a good man and trying to put your daughter’s wishes on her wedding day ahead of his own desire to be a part of the ceremony. You’ve got a good man there. He’s a class act!

Your daughter decided she wants her biological father to be part of the ceremony. That probably surprised you because of all the turmoil he’s caused in your lives. There’s quite a bit more going on than you might realize. You might remember every detail of how he failed as a father and husband. As a mom, you expect your children’s father to be what he promised to be. It’s a painful disappointment to be let down by the person you’re counting on. It’s even more disappointing to see him fail your children. That’s a pain a mom can’t fix with a kiss and a bandage. Your daughter may not remember those details, or may not choose to, but inside every grown woman is a little girl who still remembers the pain of childhood.

It’s not unusual for children with absent or neglectful father’s to want to feel like they have a “normal” family -even after they are adults. They create an ideal in their minds. As we get older we understand that ideal situations are rare and people are imperfect. She’s not there yet. Your daughter is probably reaching out to her father to try to claim something she wanted as a little girl but never got- her daddy. It’s not the woman, but the little girl inside who wants this. You have all these years shielding her from things that could hurt her, only to watch her reach into the fire. In the best case, her father has recovered and become a better person- in the worst; she will be disappointing or hurt. In the end, it sounds like she at least has one father figure she can count on at home with her mom.

There are some great ways your husband can be involved with your daughter’s wedding in a meaningful way. One couple I spoke with had the Stepdad put the garter on the bride, for the husband to take off. This is an old-world tradition, full of symbolism, but some modern men may not be comfortable with this tradition. Some daughters may feel equally odd about it-so it’s not for everyone. There is also the traditional dance. With about half of all families now being blended families, this tradition has been turned on its head. It’s becoming the new norm to have a father-daughter dance as well as Stepdad-daughter dance. For this, your husband or your daughter should pick a song that has meaning for them. You’ll find a great list of songs on our site, here. It doesn’t have to be serious and somber. You can have fun with it. One example I thought was clever was when a Stepdad (whose daughter was pregnant at her wedding) chose the song ‘Papa Don’t Preach’ by Madonna. He and the bride chose the song together and it helped them lighten the mood a little and acknowledge the obvious. She was already showing. Whether your husband is a visible part of the ceremony or not matters less than the fact that he’s simply there. He’s been there for nine years, when another father wasn’t. I can’t image better symbolism than his presence at her wedding to convey that. I’m sure it won’t be lost on your ex-husband.

Ultimately it’s important to remember that her wedding day is her most special day. This is something your husband seems to understand and feel strongly enough about to not make a fuss. She might decide she’d rather not have him be an active part of the ceremony. This probably wouldn’t be a spiteful thing on her part-only another attempt at being ‘normal’. Don’t fight it. This day can be special, or it can be undone by the presence of your ex. Take the high road and do what moms do so well: Smile and be there for your child. In the end, she’ll always have you and your husband to count on. It

Congratulations to your daughter and your family, Sarah. As with all families, there will be complications, but it’s a day to celebrate your daughter and her dreams of a wonderful future.

-The Stepdad

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