The Complete Guide to Father-of-the-Bride Duties

Dads, take note!

bride and father of the bride

Photo by Joshua Kissi

A wedding is a momentous occasion for parents as much as it is for the couple themselves, and the special bond between a father and daughter is typically brought into focus throughout the entire planning process. “I consider the father of the bride a great resource for helping [brides] find [their] center when things get crazy,” says event planner Kawania Wooten. “Above all, he’s a support system.” 

But beyond being a firm foundation for the bride, dads traditionally have a few responsibilities to take care of before, during, and after their daughter's big day. (Yes, moms aren't the only ones who have a checklist of special wedding day tasks.) That's why we created this ultimate guide of father-of-the-bride duties for dads who'd like to triumphantly support their daughters throughout this significant life chapter. Read on to learn more.

Meet the Expert

Kawania Wooten is the principal consultant of Howerton+Wooten Events, an event planning company based in Maryland. Her advice has been featured on Refinery29, Martha Stewart Weddings, InStyle, Bridal Guide, and numerous podcasts.

father of the bride duties
Michela Buttignol/Brides 

Duties Before the Wedding

While every father-daughter relationship is different, there are a few things to keep in mind once your child gets engaged, as highlighted below.

Help out financially, if needed.

Traditionally speaking, the father of the bride is usually responsible for covering the cost of an entire wedding—but these days, anything goes and couples can choose to pool from multiple resources when financing their celebration. However, for dads who do have the ability to financially help their daughters, it's always nice to offer support, no matter your contribution.

The same goes for the engagement party. While you’re by no means obligated to pay for and host such a soirée, it is a nice gesture if you have the means and will. Just note that your financial support doesn't equate to having control over each celebration. It's important to remember that it's the couple's special day and you're only there to offer your help if needed.

Help negotiate contracts, if needed.

Aside from monetary support, dads should also be ready to lend a hand when it comes to negotiating deals and contracts. Unexpected circumstances can arise during wedding planning, and a couple might be too emotionally distraught to handle difficult conversations should the situation call for renegotiations. “It can help me as a wedding planner to work with a parent,” says Wooten. “In two instances, I’ve [explained] to a father of the bride what needed to be said, only it had to come from a client and not from me. They were able to get us out of a contract that I didn’t necessarily think we’d get out of.”

Provide a sense of calm.

While still on the topic of support, the father of the bride should be a sense of calm in the storm of wedding planning. A wedding is a costly, time-intensive event that a couple must plan in tandem with their real-world responsibilities. Therefore, when your daughter comes to you with her struggles, listen. After all, just having the space to vent can be helpful.

What's more, try to make an effort to get to know the daughter's in-laws (if you haven't already), as this will help ease any "meet the parents" stress your child may have. Reach out to them shortly after the engagement, and if an in-person meeting is possible, arrange one with the whole group. Getting to know each other’s inflections and senses of humor will go a long way when it comes to more serious conversations about wedding planning down the line.

Choose your wedding day attire.

Don’t assume you can dust off an old tuxedo and call it a day. Talk to your daughter, get a feel for the vibe and style of the celebration, and pick out something to match. “Ask the couple what type of attire the wedding party will wear, and make your choices based on that,” shares Wooten.

Duties During the Wedding 

Now that you're daughter is ready to walk down the aisle, your love and support will be needed the most. From taking photos to giving a toast, here are the most important tasks all fathers of the bride should remember for the day of the wedding.

Start the day with a nice gesture.  

“The biggest gift a dad can give his daughter on their wedding day is his blessing, his encouragement, and his advice,” says Wooten. That being said, a material gift isn’t necessary for your daughter—especially if you’ve financially contributed to the wedding—but a sentimental gesture or action the morning of the wedding can still go a long way. “I had one dad that makes breakfast every Saturday morning, and he made a point of getting up [the wedding] morning and cooking his daughter a last breakfast,” Wooten adds.

Be ready for photos. 

Before the bride and her spouse share their first look, another important wedding day milestone occurs: the father-daughter first look. This moment—which involves the bride showing off her gorgeous gown to her dad—happens before the ceremony and is an opportunity for the bride to express her love and gratitude to her father, and vice versa. “The first thing dad needs is a cloth handkerchief in his pocket,” says Wooten. “Because it looks good in pictures and somebody’s going to use it. Also, be sure you’re on time, and be sure to tell your daughter how beautiful she looks.” Aside from first looks, you’ll also likely take some photos ahead of the ceremony, so always be camera ready.

Walk your daughter down the aisle. 

Though not required, if the bride does ask you to walk her down the aisle, this will be the biggest task you have for the day. Your main responsibility? To keep her at an even pace. "Your daughter is going to fly down that aisle,” says Wooten. “Remind her to slow down, soak in the scene, and look at the guests there.” This will also give the photographer ample time to capture everything.

Give the bride away at the altar. 

In some Western and Christian ceremonies, the officiant may ask “Who presents this woman to be married?” once at the altar. Be sure to discuss your response with the bride ahead of time, so you can reply with either "I do," “her mother and I do,” “her family and I do,” or “she presents herself, with her family’s blessing” (this will all depend on what’s most appropriate for the bride). Once you've given a response, feel free to hug and/or kiss your daughter afterward, and also acknowledge her partner with a handshake, a hug, or a kiss.

Give a toast. 

Before dinner begins, the host of the evening will welcome guests and thank them for coming. If that’s you, feel free to use the moment to also give your toast to the newly married couple. If the couple is hosting, you will likely give a speech immediately after the first course of dinner is served, or just after dinner.

As it specifically relates to the contents of your toast, what you say should be personal, but Wooten does have a few general guidelines to remember: “Practice your toast because you’re going to be emotional. Keep it positive, and be mindful of jokes—especially if it’s a multicultural wedding because not everybody receives jokes the same way.”

If your speech is going to be longer than five minutes, give the event coordinator the heads up. “I had a wedding with a beautiful ice cream display,” says Wooten. “Without warning, the dad gave a 20-minute speech, and the ice cream melted!” 

Dance in the father-daughter dance. 

While there are plenty of emotional moments at a wedding, the father-daughter dance may be the time when you shed the most tears. (Don't worry, it's completely natural!). Whether you and your daughter practice your steps beforehand or freestyle on the dance floor, ensure that you're 100 percent present as you'll want to remember this special dance for the rest of your life.

Another piece of advice? If your daughter has asked for your help with picking a song, don't be afraid to go with something uptempo, quirky, and fun. “Pick something that makes you laugh or makes you smile,” says Wooten. “I had a bride dance with her dad to ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ because the dad was a huge baseball fan. Another bride danced with her father to ‘Shout!’ by the Isley Brothers. Everyone else joined in halfway through, and that kicked off the party.” 

Help wrap up loose ends. 

If a coordinator is not in charge of these duties, the father of the bride may be tasked with distributing tips to vendors, or getting any gifts brought to the reception to a place where they can be kept overnight. Additionally, the couple may ask dad to say goodbye to guests who leave early. “For senior guests and those that typically leave early, if the couple doesn’t see them, the parents of the bride should make sure they know they’re appreciated,” says Wooten. 

Duties After the Wedding 

Your responsibilities don't end just because your daughter has said "I do." Before giving the newly married couple an official send-off, here are the final tasks to take care of as the father of the bride.

Host a next-day gathering. 

Breakfast can be a big ask—you’re exhausted and your guests are exhausted too—but if the wedding is local to the family and the weather’s right, Wooten suggests hosting a barbeque the next afternoon. “It gives dad a chance to be more casual in his own setting,” she says. “Just bring someone in to do the food. Don’t cook it yourself!”

Return any tuxedo rentals. 

For fathers of the bride who rented their tuxedos, lend a hand and help send back all wedding party clothing rentals. If you’ll already be dropping off yours and you know the groomsmen might be too tired (read: hungover), offer to bring theirs along as a final kind gesture.

Related Stories