The movie poster for the original 1950 movie Father of the Bride says it all: "The bride gets the THRILLS and the father gets the BILLS!"

Forty years later, the 1991 remake was "a comedy about letting g' "” less of a wisecrack and more like couples' therapy.

And that's hardly the only difference. In the 1950 version, "Father" Spencer Tracy grinds his teeth over paying $3 a head for the reception. Today, that wouldn't cover the cake.

In 1991, Steve Martin almost has a stroke over paying $150 per head "” which must include a California surcharge, because it's only about $15 below the average price in 2011.


The 1950 bride was the late Elizabeth Taylor at the peak of her beauty. She has no apparent career, doesn't seem to attend college and has just returned from a trip to Europe. Apparently, her job is to just look pretty, and she is very good at it.

When her future husband plans a "fishing trip" honeymoon, she nearly dumps him, heartbroken that he's such an unromantic clod. She was right. A honeymoon with Elizabeth Taylor and he wants to go fishing? The guy must have cataracts.

The remake bride was Kimberly Williams Paisley. Remember her? Of course not. She had a smaller role than Martin Short as the wedding planner with a gibberish accent thicker than a seven-layer cake. But the updated, more liberated 1991 bride is a promising architect.

She nearly breaks off the wedding when he gives her a blender, which he sheepishly admits may have sent "the wrong message about sexual politics."

How things change. And still stay the same.

As Spencer Tracy rubs his aching feet and surveys the confetti and spilled wine wreckage of the reception, he says: "I would like to say a few words about weddings. I've just been through one. Not my own. My daughter's. Someday in the far future I may be able to remember it with tender indulgence, but not now."


I would also like to say a few words about weddings. I've just been through one, too. My daughter, Elizabeth, married a wonderful guy on March 26, and I'm still rubbing my feet and the place where my wallet used to be. But unlike Spencer Tracy, I do remember it with tender indulgence, nostalgia, happiness, laughter and just a twinge of heartache as I walked her down the aisle.

My secret was simple: I valiantly endeavored to remain as ignorant as humanly possible about all the planning, earmarks, amendments and line item appropriations.

But I still somehow learned a few things along the way that I sincerely wish I could unlearn. Such as "chiavari." Once upon a time I never knew such a word existed. It would have stumped me in a crossword puzzle, and I'm allegedly an editor.

But now I know a chiavari is a type of chair that costs $1,600 "” not including seats on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl. I might have suggested card-table chairs would be fine. But I would have been wrong, wrong, wrong.

I also learned against my will that wedding cake can cost $400, a limo ride is nearly $1,000 and it is surprisingly easy to spend $4,000 on flowers.

Still, I count myself blessed.

The wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton may cost more than the GDP of Yakistan. Maybe even more than the $48 million wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana. Even the common Hill-Billary Clintons spent $3 million on Chelsea's wedding, including $15,000 on toilets and $600,000 on tents.

"Dearly beloved. We are gathered together in a $600,000 tent, not far from the $15,000 toilets. Please don't try to jitterbug with the Queen or annoy the Beefeaters."

So I thank the Lord that I did not have to pay for toilets, tents and visiting royalty, and I say a special prayer of thanks for our new in-laws who picked up the bar bill.

By comparison to even a hit-and-run celebrity wedding, our spending was exceptionally average.

Statistics show that the average wedding bill is $25,000 to $30,000 for about 180 guests. And considering what you get "” cake, flowers and booze for everyone "” that's a bargain.

The average divorce costs $20,000, and there are no lovely parting gifts for anyone but lawyers, unless you count heartburn, insomnia and gnawing bitterness.

The average funeral costs about $7,000 and there is no dancing. Usually.

But one thing about weddings: You don't necessarily get what you pay for. In fact, some of the most expensive weddings seem to have the shortest expiration dates. For some couples, marriage is like buying a mattress, with a 30-day free trial, no-questions return policy.

On the other hand, even a $129 "everything included" Las Vegas wedding can last longer than a 30-year mortgage if the husband and wife pay the proper interest.


But let's get back to the movies:

Somewhere between 1950 and 1991, The Father of the Bride had an extreme makeover.

Tracy was your father's grouchy father. A Mack truck of a guy. He smokes, he growls, he makes a gravelly grinding noise when he is forced to change gears.

He looks heavy enough to crush rocks. He's a serious man in a cutaway tux with a yellow vest. He holds his empty pockets out, and looks cheesed off about the tux, the empty pockets, the flowers, the cake in the carpet and everything else. He almost dares you to laugh. So when he gets sloshed at the in-laws or sprayed in the face opening a Coke, you can't help laughing. And when he grudgingly concedes that it hurts to give away his little girl, you can tell he means it.

Martin is more like the little red Austin Healey sports car he drives. Cute. He looks a bit wistful and confused, almost ready to cry. He's more like one of the kids than a dad. In his big scene, he throws a fit over hotdogs that outnumber packaged buns.

Where Tracy blusters, Martin wheedles. Where Tracy is stoic, Martin wobbles from confused to bewildered. Where Tracy looks like he wants to deck the pretentious wedding planner, Martin seems intimidated.

Tracy makes us laugh by losing his starchy dignity, but Martin doesn't have any to lose. He's the clueless Dad from all the sitcoms, the one who makes everyone roll their eyes.

When Martin slips and blurts to the bride and groom, "Drive carefully, and don't forget to fasten your condom," you know there is not enough bourbon in Kentucky to get Tracy to say that. But he would gladly make you eat your shirt if you said it in front of his daughter or wife.

You can draw your own conclusions about how the "sexual politics" blender has taken some of the icing off the wedding cake. The Martin model of modern man is more user-friendly, but dumbed down.

<>For better and for worse.

So as weddings hit a peak in June, fathers of the brides who need a few laughs could do worse than either old movie.

They still ring as true as wedding bells.

But this father of the bride's movie poster would be: "Forget the bills, remember the thrills."

Leave the planning, spending and receipts to the mother of the bride, unless her name begins with Hillary or "Your Majesty." Set a budget limit and then be prepared to ignore it.

It's nice to save money, but better to save memories.