Daddy's Girls

One father's tale of walking his daughters down the aisle

I'm writing this at my daughter Amy's loft in Manhattan. I'm here because I'm babysitting my twin grandsons, Owen and Oliver, one delightful bonus of being the father of the bride. But that's getting ahead of the story.

It all began around six years ago, when Amy and Adam announced they were going to be married the following August. The wedding would take place just before Amy's birthday, because there was no way Adam was going to marry an older woman of 30. That gave us a year to get ready for the big event, with no time to spare, as everyone we talked to hastened to assure us.

My daughter, her mother, her sister Lauren, and I all knew immediately where the wedding would be: the Riverside Church in New York City, where my wife, Jane, and I had met, and where our daughters had progressed through the nursery and church schools as well as the youth department. Jane and I had taught in the Sunday school and chaired committees there, too; it was our place. I'm sure we had both fantasized about Amy and Lauren marrying at Riverside—Jane rising from her front-row seat to signal everyone to stand and see the bride; me making my way down the aisle with a daughter on my arm, my elation matching the swell of the music.

But first things first—and the first thing was definitely the dress. Amy and her sister set out to find the perfect gown, and find one they did: a simple but elegant Vera Wang design. They also found something for Lauren, who would be the only attendant. Though Jane and I were invited to give our approval, we'd been amply warned that Amy's choice was not an inexpensive one. It wasn't, but when she appeared in the dress of her dreams, we didn't think about money. Instead, we all concentrated on holding back the tears that suddenly filled our eyes.

Everything moved quickly from there. Jane made the arrangements with the church, hired a talented woman to do the flowers, and asked our family minister, Rev. William Sloane Coffin, Jr., to officiate. He not only performed the ceremony, returning to New York from semiretirement in Vermont, he also played Charles Gounod's "Ave Maria" on the piano with another friend, Arturo Delmoni, accompanying him on the violin. A reception for 200 followed in the church's assembly hall, with food provided by Matthew's, where Amy was then pastry chef, and music by a band that knew how to make music for the multiple generations that gather at a wedding. I gave a toast, shamelessly proclaiming my hope for babies to come.

It was the most beautiful wedding ever, I thought, and my heart overflowed with the joy of seeing all the people who had made an effort to be there. One dear friend told me later that the smile on my face as Amy and I made our way down the aisle (trying not to slip on the rose petals lavished in our path by the overzealous flower girl) was the best thing about the day. To me, it all seemed like good practice for the wedding of daughter number two. I should have known, however, that Lauren's wedding would be quite a different story.

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