My father managed to successfully swerve my wedding. It seems that Meghan Markle’s father may be about to do the same to his daughter. Unlike Meghan, I had no advance warning that he wouldn’t be there, just a weary inkling based on a lifetime of him not being present at other significant events like sports day, prize giving, graduation and even birthday parties. My dad liked to talk the talk, but sadly never quite managed to put his own issues to one side so that he could walk the walk for his daughter.
Poor Meghan, while I just had 90 or so guests to whom the absence of the father of the bride would have to be explained, she has had to go public, via a statement issued by Kensington Palace. It stops short of confirming Thomas Markle’s absence, but asks for ‘understanding and respect’ to be shown.
There seems to be some evidence that Meghan’s father entered, rather unwisely, into a deal with paparazzi photographers. You have to wonder at his naivety, at not realising the implications of having the eyes of the world’s media keenly trained on him. He’s only been living in Mexico, not Mars. Whatever his motives, it appear to have backfired spectacularly. Later reports emerged that Markle was citing a heart attack as his reason for not coming on Saturday. There is even some suggestion that he might still try and make it.
My own father disappeared in the week running up to my wedding with no warning and no idea of where he had gone. We eventually received a telegram (I know, how quaint!) from Spain, which arrived on the wedding morning, wishing us luck and all the best etc. We didn’t bother to read it out at the reception.
So having been through it, what words of advice can I offer Meghan? Yes it hurts when you realise that you are more of an adult than your parent will ever be. But being an adult, you can and will deal with the fact that you are on your own. You may realise that actually, you have been on your own for a very long time and have managed rather well. And if you have made a wise choice in your future husband, you will not be on your own for much longer.
My mother walked me up the aisle which had always been the plan anyway. I never bought into the patriarchal version of marriage where a woman is treated like a piece of property to be given by one man to another. If my father had been there and if he had been willing to act like a proper grown-up, my plan was always to ask both my mother and father to accompany me to where I would say my vows.
Of course that would have depended on my mother also being able to act like a grown up and tolerate being within touching distance of her ex-husband. Aren’t modern families wonderful? By the point I knew for sure that my dad wasn’t coming, I actually felt something akin to relief that I wouldn’t have to manage two parental egos on what was meant to be my big day.
Meghan will know, just as I knew, that the most important part of her wedding day is not the man walking her up the aisle, but the one waiting for her at the end of it. This is her future, this man, the one who will turn to look at her with absolute pride and tears of wonder in his eyes. This man, to quote the Queen, will be her strength and stay for the rest of her life. And that is really all that matters.