In a couple of days, I will pass my daughter’s hand to you in marriage. I want you to know that this is one of the highest honors of my life. I am thankful for the young man that you are and look forward to seeing who you become. I know that you are deeply in love with my daughter Erin, and I am appreciative of the kindness you show her daily. I think you know how precious she is to me. She is my girl and in just a few hours she will be yours. And although I run the risk of reinforcing sentimental and outdated (as they should be) notions of patriarchy by saying so, nevertheless I am thrilled to be the one representing her family as we welcome you and her into a new family of your own. I will give her away to you, but in a larger sense I’m not losing a daughter, but gaining a son.
I’m honored to welcome you into this family, but please know that my expectations aren’t intended to put pressure on you to conform to any arbitrary standards of communal or societal behavior. But rather, I only remind you to do the two things I asked of you the moment you requested my daughter’s hand in matrimony. Love and treat her mother as your own, and love my daughter fully, completely, and without reservation. I know you will do what I’ve asked, because it is in your heart to do so.
Erin is a gift of God. Her beauty is only exceeded by the profoundness of her soul. It will take you a lifetime to plumb the depths of her mysteries, as I have witnessed them mature with abundance over the past two decades. But even with the advantage of perspective afforded me by the privilege of being her father, I have yet to grasp the full expression of her blossoming into all that she is intended to become. That perspective will now be yours, as I abdicate my front row seat to the pageantry of Erin Grace. That seat will now be filled by you as her husband. But I’ll continue to fathom the spectacle, only now from cheaper seats, and always near the front. But you are now her biggest cheerleader. Do so with reckless enthusiasm.
In coming years, this world will pressure you both to conform. How you choose to respond is entirely up to you both, and how ever you respond to the demands of this life, I will always be your most enthusiastic supporter. I pledge to you to do my best to not criticize either of you although I will probably always have an opinion or two. But I will only offer advice if it is asked for, and with no expectation that it ever be followed. Life is now yours to live. And how you two decide to live it is really none of my business. I am granting you this courtesy because I trust you. I trust you to make decisions guided by your faith, the wisdom of friends and family who love you, and the intuition that will continue to be shaped by experience.
You will win at times. You will fail often. But I know neither of you will quit, even if you have to change directions repeatedly. It’s all ok, my friend, my son. Enjoy the adventure that awaits you both. Live by the expectations you have of each other, and not by the expectations of anyone else on this planet. She matters. While everyone else is important, she is exclusively urgently so. So love her first. Love her often. Love her with abandon.
I wish I could tell you this will be easy. It won’t. If I had the vocabulary to express to you just how difficult the institution of marriage is to navigate for any length of time, you wouldn’t believe me. At this moment you are blinded by romantic notions of love, which are wonderful and should be enjoyed, but they will be fleeting. They will ebb and flow with the tides of life. Sometimes flooding and sometimes receding. Don’t judge the strength of your commitment by the feelings of the moment. And don’t judge yourself too harshly, and certainly don’t judge my daughter for the multiple versions of herself that you will be privileged to witness. She will change and evolve, as will you, give each other ample grace to be a different person as time passes. I’m confident that you will do this.
I’m proud of you. Thank you for putting in the effort to be the man worthy of taking of my daughter’s hand in marriage. My love for you both is unconditional as is your love for one another. But the privilege of the relationship you are entering will continue to be earned as you cultivate and nurture it with intentionality. Steward it well. And no doubt, one day in God’s providence you may hold the hand of your own daughter and be just as honored to say in response to the query, “Who gives this woman to be married?”
“Her mother and I.”