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Vol. 34, No. 4

Father of the Bride

by William R. Bay

It’s a special time in our house. My oldest daughter is getting married, and I am the father of the bride. Or I will be in four months. A wedding only comes along once in your life for each child (at least, that’s the hope). The point is, you have to do it right—and I am all about doing it right.

Planning is the key—or so I have discovered. You can’t come to the process with any effective experience. You can read books, go to other weddings, talk to your friends who have survived … but nothing fully prepares you until you’ve been through it.

The first lesson I learned was that you can never have enough time to prepare. There are the big picture ques-tions: What size wedding do you want? What kind of wedding do you want? A destination wedding? Outdoors or inside? Formal? Garden setting or in a hotel? Once the theme is set, then there are decisions to make—the venues for the wedding and reception, the menus, the color schemes, and the dresses.

I learned all about dresses—the styles, the costs. I didn’t know veils were extra. Shoes, too. I was asked to give my opinion on the best dress, so I picked out the ones I liked. They all had ruching. Bet you don’t know what that is. I do. Now I’m a ruching fan. Go figure.

You also have to get people to help—lots of people. A wedding planner. People to sing. People to take pictures. People to provide flowers. People to cater food. People to play music. People to drive the wedding party. Someone to perform the ceremony. It requires a large team with diverse talents.

As you might imagine, I also learned about costs and budgets. A budget is essential for a wedding—if for no other reason than to be exceeded. Budgets bring conflicts, and they are resolved with larger budgets. No problem is too big that it cannot be solved by paying more or hiring someone else. I feel like I know how Congress works.

I also learned that I am not the star. I have been reminded several times already that it’s not my wedding. My role is limited. I help pay for the cost. I get to walk her down the aisle. In the lead-up to the grand moment, I get to share the limelight.

It’s a lot like being president of a bar association. A chance to serve your bar in this way is a special privilege. You can watch how others do it. You can prepare. You can attend the ABA Bar Leadership Institute—some of you, in fact, might be reading this at BLI. But you can’t come to this job with experience because it only comes along once in your life. That’s a good thing because there’s an excitement and enthusiasm that a new bar president brings to the job.

You plan. You assemble a team. You set themes. You make budgets. Just like the father of the bride. You have a key role in your bar. For one year, you get to lead it. And at the end, you hand the bar to another person to lead it for a new year.

There’s another way that being a bar president is like my role as father of the bride. At the reception, I will get the privilege of making a toast. I’ll get the second dance. And I will sit back and watch a new relationship begin, satisfied that I played a role in my daughter’s life, that I made a difference, and that her marriage will be better be-cause of the home she grew up in.

That’s just like your year as bar president. The truth is, every president makes a difference. It takes a sacrifice of time and energy. It takes planning, strategy, and hard work. It’s giving away the credit and recognizing you are not the star. You walk down the bar aisle all year, knowing when you get to the altar, it will be time to hand off the or-ganization to another.

My year as bar president was one of the best of my professional career. I wouldn’t trade a day of it. There’s no way to describe it. You just experience it. And when it’s over, you understand. You’re a member of the club. Like the father of the bride.

As you get ready for your term, I have one last piece of advice that my wife reminded me of when we started planning the wedding: Enjoy the ride. It won’t come again.