I receive a great deal of questions regarding the bride's entrance which generally marks the beginning of a wedding ceremony. I have already addressed who should have the honor of escorting the bride in a previous column so I'll move on to other concerns.
Jillian in St. Cloud, FL: What exactly will you say when I get to the front with my mom and dad? I don't want to be "given away."
Rev. Fuller: I agree with you completely and prefer not to ask "who gives this woman..." I use a number of different phrases depending upon whether the ceremony is secular or religious, casual or formal. It may be as simple as "Who presents this woman at her wedding this day?" or I may say something like:
"Truly blessed is the couple who come to their marriage with the approval and support of their families and friends. Who has the honor of presenting this woman to be married this day?"
Dani in Atlanta, GA: I like the idea of someone walking me down the aisle so I don't fall over from nerves, but I don't really want to be presented. Can we skip that?
Rev. Fuller: This is not uncommon. I ask the guests to rise before the bride begins her walk down the aisle. So when brides skip the question of presentation, I tell the escort before the ceremony that he or she can simply take a seat when I instruct the guests to be seated. I begin the ceremony by asking the couple to "turn towards one another, join your hands and in so doing, join your hearts." It does not seem unusual or awkward at all.
Above: Shannon Perez of Florida Beachside Weddings
Right: Beverly Bennett Photography
Jonah in Cocoa, FL: We want the formality of a question of presentation to begin our wedding, but we want to present ourselves. How would that work?
Rev. Fuller: Any number of ways! I have seen couples present themselves, but maintain the tradition of the groom waiting up front for the bride escorted down the aisle. I have seen couples flout tradition and walk down the aisle hand in hand. One couple skipped and dance down the aisle together!
At one wedding I used the phrase, "Who presents this couple to be married this day?" with the couple responding, "We present ourselves freely, with respect to our parents.”
The Declaration of Intent can easily serve as a self-presentation by a couple. There are many different versions depending upon the type of ceremony. One example is:
As marriage is a union of two people joining their lives willingly one with the other, I ask (couple), do you present yourselves today with the intention to share with each other your joys and sorrows and all that the years have to bring, and with your promises cherish one another from this day forward?
Megan escorted by her son Isaiah
I received an email from a bride who specifically asked me to answer her question both privately and on the blog. She asks a great question because it is one that comes up from time to time when I am consulting with a couple about their ceremony. Her situation may be unique, but the dilemma is most definitely not.
Dear Rev. Ann,
I could use your help. My fiancé and I are getting married next March and I really have my heart set on my 10 year old twin daughters walking me down the aisle. The girls adore their step-dad-to-be and love the idea. My dad doesn’t care. He gave me away at my first wedding and doesn’t like being the center of attention anyway. My mom is the problem. She is very traditional and says she has never been to a wedding in her life where the bride was not given away by her father. Mom’s insisting the twins be flower girls or junior bridesmaids, but we were only planning on having a best man and a maid of honor. Is it really unusual to have someone else walk the bride besides her dad? Feel free to use my name on your blog I don’t care.
While the bride is still often escorted by her father, it is by no means uncommon for other people to have that honor. In just the last month, I officiated a wedding where the bride was escorted by her younger brother, one where the bride was escorted by her aunt, and another where the bride walked down the aisle by herself. If the honor were restricted to fathers only, what would we do for brides whose fathers are deceased, estranged, or incapacitated?
The tradition of the bride being escorted by her father dates back to when “purchase” was the predominant type of marriage. The bride was transferred from her father’s authority to that of her husband. The bride was quite literally given away – as part of what was essentially a business transaction. In our culture, the predominant kind of marriage is “mutual choice.” Two people fall in love and decide they want to commit their lives to one another in an equal partnership where both agree to meet certain needs exclusively.
For this reason, I cannot bring myself to ask the bride's escort, "Who gives this woman in marriage this day?" People are not property, and yes, this particular phrase gets my feminist hackles up. Women are not something that can be bought, sold, given away or returned. Instead I ask the bride's escort, "Who has the honor of presenting this woman (or name) at her wedding this day?" Sometimes I am asked to skip the question of presentation altogether. On occasion, the couple prefers a self-presentation where they declare they are presenting themselves to be married.
In your case, I would probably ask the twins, “Who has the honor of presenting Amanda at her wedding this day?” and they could respond with their names or a simple, “We do.” If they have a little bit of showmanship about them, they could even answer, “On behalf of her family, we gladly bring our mom to marry (groom) today!”
Escorting the bride is an honor, so of course you need to be sensitive to other people’s feelings and expectations. But given the meaning behind the role, there really is no reason why anyone who holds a special place in the bride’s heart and fully supports her marriage could not walk her down the aisle.
Best wishes for a long and happy marriage!
Photo Attribute: Amanda Stratford Photography
Rev. Ann Fuller
The commentary on this blog is my own opinion developed over years of officiating a wide range of wedding sizes and styles. I am always happy to answer any questions you may have.