I'm not saying it's easy to be the father of the bride. I'm just saying it can't be any more stressful than being the father of the flower girl.
I found this out when my daughter, Sophie, age 3, was asked to be a co-flower girl with her cousin Julianna at a formal wedding, by which I mean "a wedding involving as much planning as a hydroelectric dam, but costing more."
The job of a flower girl at a formal wedding is to walk down the aisle looking cute as the dickens, so everyone goes "awww." She also carries a little basket of rose petals, which she strews in the path of the bride to symbolize the fact that it's a very special day, which will culminate, by tradition, in a huge bill from the florist.
So being a flower girl is a big responsibility, which requires a special dress, special shoes, special tights and a special hair thingie, and these items must, by tradition, take at least 17 hours to pick out at the department store. This was no problem in our case because there were two mothers AND a grandmother involved.
The dads — my brother-in-law Steve and I — played the traditional male role in the process, which was to stand around asking what the hell was taking so long. After the women had spent 45 minutes looking at hair thingies — which, for the record, were all identical to the naked eye, in the sense of being white — we got disgusted and went to the menswear department. We looked at all the menswear in the store, including shoes, and when we got back the women were STILL debating which identical hair thingie to get.
You cannot fault them. Many a wedding has ended in tragedy when the bride, halfway down the aisle, suddenly discovered that the flower girls are wearing the wrong identical hair thingie, causing the bride to throw down her bouquet in despair and run from the building, never to be seen again.
So what with the responsibility, we flower-girl families were already stressed when we got to the hotel on the big day. Unfortunately matters only got worse when — in an unbelievable stroke of bad luck — we experienced the most stressful thing that can happen at a wedding: wedding photographers. There seemed to be dozens of them, and they had all attended that special wedding-photographer school where they learn how to take a dozen people and organize them 14 million permutations:
"OK now I want the bride with the bridesmaids. OK now I want the groom with the groomsmen. OK now I want the bride with the groomsmen. OK now I want the mother of the groom with the bride and the bridesmaids whose names contain two or more vowels …"
Some wedding photographers become so crazed with power that they form gangs and roam the suburbs, breaking into homes and terrorizing the residents by making them pose for days.
Anyway, our flower girls had to be in many, many pictures, and if you think it's easy to make 3-year-olds sit still, smile and not mess up their dresses for long periods, then you are either a crack addict or a wedding photographer.
But finally it was time for the actual ceremony. I gave Julianna and Sophie a last-minute briefing on their duties.
"Walk nice and slow," I said, "and drop your petals."
"But that's littering," said Julianna.
Wedding scientists should figure out why 3-year-olds, who strew everything everywhere, suddenly balk at strewing when you WANT them to strew. Maybe we should tell flower girls to keep the petals IN the basket; then they'd spill them all for sure.
Anyway, they did fine. They were a bit shocked when they saw the crowd, but then they heartened when they heard the "awww." (Get it? Shock and awww! Ha ha! Never mind.) They even did some random strewing, and they made it unassisted to the end of the aisle, where Steve and I had sprinted around to meet them.
"You did GREAT!" I told Sophie.
"I want to do it again," she said.
And they did. After the bride and groom (Congratulations, Lisa and Josh!) got married and everybody left, Julianna and Sophie went back down the aisle and strewed more petals. They really have the hang of it now. So if you're planning a wedding, and you're looking for a pair of flower girls who are cute and experienced, AND have dresses, get your own.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL 33132. Knight Ridder Newspapers