DIY Wedding Traditions: The Surrogate Father/Daughter Dance

Dear Thriving Bride,

I will walk down the aisle in 6 days, and I can’t wait to dance with my two surrogate dads during the father/daughter dance.  Neither one of these men share my DNA. And no, I wasn’t adopted by two gay men who desperately wanted an African baby from Nigeria.  But, they are both White American men who love me, care for me, take me as I am and have chosen to stand for me as surrogate dads on my wedding day.  It’s pretty emotional and pretty awesome at the same time.

Last night I wailed and wailed as I sat and talked with our wedding minister.  He is not connected to any organized religion, but he is a minister of joy and of the truth.  That’s why we chose him.  We were supposed to meet to talk about the ceremony and instead I ended up sobbing and telling him (and PJ) about how I was trying to piece together this wedding, this family, this community and carve it from a place I did not even know I could carve it from.  Does this make any sense?  When I was a little girl, I always prepared myself for the fact that I would walk down the aisle and create the wedding of my dreams because somehow there would be no “manual” for how to do it.

I mean, how does an Nigerian American woman marrying a Jewish American man plan a wedding with two brothers dead, parents unable to show up without conditions and a beloved community that is willing and able to show up for her?  She lets them.  Yep, that’s exactly how she does it.  She says yes to their kindness and yes to their offers to throw parties for her and yes to their gifts of uncompromising faith in who she is and who she will become and yes to their desire to go on this journey with her.  She accepts all the love that comes to her from people who have the capacity to love her just as she is, and she settles into what it feels like to finally be taken care of instead of having to take care of everyone else.  This, in essence, is her blueprint.

I told you that PJ and I have been taking dance lessons.  Our instructor has spent the past month working with us, and she also encouraged me to bring my dads.  So, yesterday both of them held me in their arms and swung me gently around the room.  It was an amazing feeling.  Just gliding across the room with them and looking into their eyes made me wonder if I could get through the whole dance without crying.

Why on earth should I not want to cry?  This wedding, this journey, this experience, this life that I am living is carved out of the uncertain but absolutely possible determination of love to commit itself to giving each and every one of us the opportunity to become beloved by others.  No matter how mistreated we may have been in the past, when we are taken for who we are and supported unconditionally we become beloved, and maybe that is how we heal from the past.  Maybe that is finally what forgiveness and acceptance looks like.

My biological father was not there for me in the past, and he is not here for me now.   Despite this, I want him to know that I have fathers who will be there on my special day and have my back.  And that is something that will never go away!

So, you may read this and say: That’s great she found surrogate dads, but what about me?  How do I find one?  Well, I’ll tell you how I think you might find one.

Finding fabulous surrogate parents is like finding a loving partner.  You may say there are no great men or women out there for you, but are you remaining open to the possibilities of who that person may be.  I found one surrogate dad because I met his wife (my surrogate mom) in a store and she seemed like she was having trouble translating (into Spanish) what she wanted, and so I asked her if she needed some help.  So yes, I translated for her and she invited me to her home for brunch.  And I met my second surrogate dad because he lived on the same property as a friend and when I met him, he and his wife invited me to sit down and have a few snacks and wine with them and I agreed.  I remained open.  I did not know these people when I met them and I was not looking for surrogate parents either.

I was interested in what happens when you remain open to the possible relationships that can come out of being honest about who you are and leaving room for someone else to do the same.  Do you want to find a surrogate parent?  If someone invites you to their home and takes interest in who you are, say yes to the invitation.  Every time you say yes, you get to know them a bit more (and vice versa) and more and more intimacy is created.  Every time you let someone give to you, you give them the gift of being able to share who they are with you, and if you like what you experience, you go again.  You keep going, you keep exploring and if (and when) they ask, YOU ALWAYS LET THEM KNOW WHAT THEY CAN DO TO SUPPORT YOU!

Do you want them to throw you a big and fabulous birthday bash?  Let them know and ask them.  If they say no, it’s not because they don’t love you.  It’s simply because healthy relationships have boundaries, and they want to give to you when they have the capacity to do so.

As I’ve mentioned before, any good relationship involves a process.  They did not give birth to you or legally adopt you, but you can choose who you want them to be.  How’s that for second chances?  Stay tuned for my top 10 Tips for Finding Fabulous Surrogate Parents!