My only daughter is getting married. A speech from the father of the bride is expected. I've been to seemingly hundreds of weddings, heard hundreds of tearful fathers say sweet, embarrassing and sometimes cringe worthy things about their daughters and sons-in-law. Even after so much exposure to father speeches, however, I never pictured myself, in a tux, giving forth..and yet, that time has come. The tux is bad enough. What can I say that will be heartfelt and appropriate to the moment?
The blank page in front of me offers no help. I have a certain facility with words and rarely find myself unable to communicate my thoughts. But here I am, confounded, without even a place to start. A tangle of emotions swirls on the fringes of my consciousness; I don't even know if I'm happy or sad. Thankfully I am distracted by the memory of a recent business meeting.
Janice and Mark sat across the table from each other in the conference room. They have been clients for years and normally they sit next to each other. I was immediately on my guard.
"Mark!"Janice's voice was definitive. "You promised we would have a beach house and now all you give me are excuses. ‘The market this, the market that.' You even said that the cost of the houses have gone down. Isn't that good? Doesn't that make buying one easier to do?"
"Yes, I promised. And yes, the prices have come down. But I am really uncomfortable committing to this right now," he answers, just as definitively.
"Ok, so when? This has been part of our dream for such a long time."
"I just don't know, Janice. We are in an unstable environment; business isn't as easy as it used to be. Are you forgetting that Annie is getting married next year?
"Yes, and we talked about the beach house as the gathering place for our kids and future grandchildren. A place they will all come to. I don't understand why you are so against this"
They both sat back in their chairs and crossed their arms. It didn't look like either of them was going to budge.
"Janice," I said softly, "help me understand. Are you saying that the reason this house is so important to you is because Anne is getting married?"
Mark threw up his hands in annoyance. "I just don't know why this has to be done now. Isn't there enough on our plate without adding this?"
More silence. Then, slowly, tears began to flow down Janice's cheeks. None of us said a word. After a few minutes, she took a deep breath, wiped her face, and looked at Mark in the eyes.
"Without the beach house, I am afraid we will never see her. John's parents have a beach house. They go there all the time now. Once they're married, I won't see her. Don't you see, we HAVE to be able to provide a place for them to come and be with us."
There. It was out on the table. Mark sat in stunned disbelief. He didn't know what to say and as a Financial Life Planner, I wasn't equipped to deal with the intricacies of the emotions. But, I had to say something.
"Janice, Mark, I can help you navigate the financial ramifications of purchasing a beach house. I can look at the impact on your budget, cash flow and net worth. Beyond a review of the numbers, though, I can't make Mark comfortable if he doesn't feel the resources are available to support this project. As for the real issues you are facing right now, perhaps it is a conversation to be held with your daughter privately, or with the help of a family counselor? Each life transition carries with it real financial and emotional components. Both need to be respected and dealt with appropriately."
They both nodded.
After scheduling a time to update and review their financial position, they left with a clearer direction or at least understanding of the real issues. It was a good meeting.
The page in front of me is still blank aside from the title "Wedding Speech" at the top of the page. I suppose, before the words become real, I need to untangle some of my own thoughts and feelings. It's just another life transition, right?

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