After 14 years of counseling brides, I've heard hundreds of dad-being-difficult stories. The themes and behaviors are so common that I've created composites of the seven types of dads and how they deal with their daughters' weddings. Knowing your dad's type may help you understand better what's going on in your relationship with him, and help your big day run a little smoother.
The Devoted Dad
He understands that your wedding signifies that he is no longer the 1 man in your life, a position he's held since the day you were born. A Devoted Dad can grieve this loss — and know it's normal to feel sad — and still love you, share your happiness, and let you go into this next stage of your life.
He tries to maintain his top dog position by sparing no expense. He's trying to avoid his loss by giving you everything you want... way beyond reason.
He works hard to avoid the fact that his relationship with you is changing. One bride I worked with described watching Father Of The Bride with her parents. 15 minutes into the movie, dad was snoring on the couch. Steve Martin's pain and antics hit too close to home, so he checked out by sleeping.
He involves himself in tiny wedding decisions. He has an opinion about everything. Because by focusing (obsessing?) on the details of the day, he's found a way NOT to feel the impending loss of you.
He's disinterested in the details of the wedding, you or your fianc. He's in so much pain about the upcoming loss of you that he puts up a cold, prickly wall. Ouch.
The Estranged Dad
He continues to cause pain in his daughter's life. While it may be the healthiest thing for the dad and daughter not to be in relationship, his absence is keenly felt. The dysfunction can't be hidden during the public event of a wedding, and that hurts.
He's simply not there. His daughter feels both sadness and anger that he's missing yet another event in her life. Brides who have lost parents understandably often experience periods of grief during their engagements.
How is your dad coping with your wedding? He's gotta be feeling something — even if he doesn't acknowledge it. Let him be distant, in denial, or too generous. It's his way of dealing with his sadness.
What can you do? Talk with him about your feelings of loss and ambivalence about change. Maybe he'll open up. Or maybe not. He's an old dog, and he doesn't learn new tricks. But be patient with your old man. On some level, he's been dreading your wedding since the day you were born.
Allison Moir-Smith is a bridal counselor, author of Emotionally Engaged: A Bride's Guide to Surviving the "Happiest" Time of Her Life, and solves your family, emotional, and sticky wedding-planning situations at The Bride Whisperer.