The Universal Notebook: Father of the brides

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As of July, I became the father of three brides. Three beautiful daughters. Three beautiful weddings.

Tess, our youngest, was married at a farm wedding venue in front of a birch arbor decorated with a great swag of cut flowers. It reminded me of the arbor where my parents were married on my grandparents’ farm in Windham in July of 1948, the year before I was born. Family friends who owned Meloon’s Florist made the arbor look as though it were in bloom.

Hannah, our oldest, was married at a summer camp on the Belgrade Lakes. Hurricane Hannah held off long enough to complete the ceremony and the wedding dinner before the wind and rain drove us into the barn for dancing.

Nora, our middle daughter, was married at the headquarters of the environmental organization where she works. We lucked out on the weather then, too. It can easily snow on the spring equinox in the White Mountains, but her wedding day was sunny and 70 even though there was patchy snow on the ground.

The pandemic made planning for a July 2021 wedding tricky. There was a Plan A and Plan B. But the vaccines arrived just in time to make a wedding party of 120 possible. Three weeks later everyone is still well.

Tess’s wedding was kind of our self-quarantine coming-out party. Coed showers in Maine and Connecticut were followed by a large rehearsal dinner at DiMillo’s, the first meal I had eaten in a restaurant in more than a year. 

The wedding itself brought together friends and relatives of both families as well as high school and college buddies of the bride and groom. It was a refreshing relief to be able to gather once again, but now we hear a resurgence of the virus may require mask protocols once again. If so, so be it.

The father of the bride role is more involved than I remembered. There was the First Look at my lovely daughter in her wedding dress, a rite of passage I don’t recall observing with Hannah and Nora. Then there was the First Dance.

Because traditional weddings don’t seem to assign a role to the mother of the bride, I have tried to acknowledge Carolyn’s key contribution at each wedding. This time, after Tess and I did a few twirls to a favorite Tom Petty tune, I invited Carolyn to cut in, both to share the spotlight and because I’m not the dancer I used to think I was.

Finally, for fatherly duties, there was the Big Toast. I chose to focus on Tess’ athletic prowess in soccer, lacrosse, and track, leading up to an anecdote about the time she had to be taken to Maine Med after being kicked in the ribs during a high school soccer game at Fitzpatrick Stadium.

We and she were alarmed when the head of emergency medicine brought a posse of med students into the examining room to look Tess over. It turned out, however, not to be a cause for worry.

“I just wanted these young doctors to see what a healthy human heart looks like,” the doctor explained. “They see a lot of sick, old, out-of-shape people, but your daughter has an athlete’s heart. She’s going to be just fine.”

And so Tess gave that fine, healthy athlete’s heart to her new husband Jim. In return, Jim gave his heart to her and his name as well.

Three beautiful daughters. Three beautiful weddings.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen feature.