On the wedding day, all attention is on the bride and groom, as it should be. But as a mother, while everyone else's eyes are on the giddy lovers, I can't help but keep my focus on their parents. Particularly the parents of the bride. This is what I have gathered:

The bride's mother has a lot of say so, sometimes even more than the bride. She is involved from the minute the engagement is announced until all of the rented candelabras have been returned. She has the privilege of voicing her opinion, and her daughter includes her in all of the events because she is "one of the girls." Together, they share hugs and tears as they find the perfect wedding dress. She also gets to attend all of the brunches and showers where there is much joy and gift giving, and she will spend hours picking out a unique, showstopping dress for herself that reflects her role as the queen of the family, but one that does not outshine her daughter.

As fascinating as mom can be, my favorite wedding party member to watch is the father of the bride. He has one of the most underrated roles of anyone in the group, but by far, one of the most impactful. He never gets asked if the bouquet should include asters or calla lilies, and no one wants to know if he would choose shrimp scampi or chicken Parmesan for the reception meal. His role is commonly heavy on payments and light on decision making. 

While mom-of-the-bride is gallivanting all over town choosing just the right invitation and going to cake tastings, dad sits at home and ponders how quiet the house has gotten since his little girl has grown up. He checks his itinerary and sees the only things he has listed are "pick up the folding tables for the reception" and "go to a fitting." At that fitting, he will be told what suit was chosen for him, and it will be one that matches all the other males in the wedding party, giving him another great opportunity to be overlooked. 

He doesn't have showers to attend and doesn't always get included when the groom and his buddies have their bachelor party/round of golf because they know their wild antics may offend "old dad." 

But once the pre-wedding ceremonies are complete, the father of the bride finally gets to participate. He has a starring role. He is the guy who will present the bride to her groom. Well that's special, right? Let's think about it. He walks into of a great crowd of witnesses, and not a soul in the room will see him because everyone is looking at the star of the show. In the view of those people, he will ceremoniously give his prize possession to a man who will then become her new hero. In an itchy suit he didn't pick out. With a smile.

After the "great hand-off," he will take his place on the front row and watch his baby look longingly into the eyes of her chosen one. Dad won't help but notice there is a love there that he has seen once before -- in the eyes of his wife when she looked at him during their vows, all of those many years ago. 

Before he even has time to discreetly wipe the tears from his eyes, the ceremony is over and he has one last obligation. The "father/daughter dance." There he will hold his girl in his arms for the last time as her daddy. 

That dance may not be remembered by every attendee of the wedding, but dad will never forget his daughter leaving his embrace to go to another's who will now be the one to provide her with comfort and protection. Forever. And ever. 

This is usually the moment the bride's mother slows down. No one else in the room knows more about what dad is feeling than her. She recognizes his forced smile as he struggles to hold it together while clumsily waltzing his "little girl" into her new role as someone's wife. 

So, the next time you attend a wedding, while everyone is watching the deliriously happy bride and groom, don't forget to keep a watch on dad. Some may not even notice him, but if you watch closely, you will see in his eyes the love that he provided her all of her life that she is now going to share with the man who is her hubby. The legacy of that love is a true treasure to behold, one that too many people overlook.