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