Brides and their Fathers

                     It used to be called ‘giving away the bride.’

Last week I wrote about brides and their mothers. Today let’s talk about brides and their fathers.

First up – giving away the bride! Many a father and daughter have imagined this moment for a very long time, in a sweet and positive way. Dad walking his daughter down the aisle! It’s an ancient tradition with roots in patriarchy and ownership of women; but hey, we all get that it no longer means any of that!

But let’s remember that not every bride has a father in her life, or at least one she wants to be a part of her wedding day. And if your father is deceased, this can be a very emotional topic.  I’m always touched to see a bride or groom carry something representing a deceased parent.

There are many variables that might lead a bride to re-think this age-old tradition, although I admit, it’s very difficult to break old customs. Many women have not given this much thought and assume they will have a male escort, choosing an uncle, brother or grandfather when there is no father to accompany her. That’s fine. That’s nice. But it’s not required. There are no hard and fast rules around this, and that is my point. Bottom line: a bride does not have to have a man escort her. She might want someone, male or female, but it’s not a requirement.

The age of the bride can be a factor. Perhaps in your 20’s you may still feel a bit like ‘daddy’s little girl,’ but there comes a time when a grown-up woman just wants to walk by herself. This can be especially true for re-marriages. It was good the first time but seems out of place for a second time around.

When the bride has children, she may prefer to walk in with them. Or a woman may want to walk with her mother. And my favorite thing – with both parents in the picture, why not have both parents escort?

If your loving papa is around and you are choosing not to have him escort you – how do you tell him? The answer is carefully and at the right moment. And that moment should be sooner, not later – don’t wait until it’s too late – you must approach this very early on in the wedding planning, otherwise assumptions are made, and it will be hard to un-do that.

It will be helpful if you have another role in mind for dad, such as a reading or toast at the reception. You can tie that in with the not-so-good news. Think carefully about the words you choose and make it clear this isn’t about him, but about your independence.

For women who are being escorted by dad, a big moment in need of consideration is when arriving at the altar, with the groom waiting there, what is said, what is done? Some fathers want to plop their daughter’s hand into the hand of the groom. Not my favorite thing, but I certainly won’t forbid it (I wouldn’t forbid anything). And there’s the ‘who gives this woman?’ part, too. Again, I’m not a fan, but I have a better way to say this – and that is asking the dad ‘do you support your daughter in marriage today and welcome so-and-so into the family?’ To which he gets to respond with an ‘I do.’ You can do this with moms and with both parents.

Complicating matters further is the stepfather situation, and it is a very common scenario. Sometimes a step-father or father-figure has played a bigger role in someone’s life than their biological father. You may still want to honor your bio-dad, if you’re in a good or decent relationship, that is. Both fathers can escort you, or one can escort ½ way and ‘hand you off’ to the other for the final walk to the altar. That may sound odd, but it can work.

A few words about grooms. Obviously, this isn’t the same kind of issue for men due to the whole ‘ownership’ history. But interestingly, men are going in the opposite direction, and that is walking with a parent or parents as they enter the ceremony. I love this, and thinking about the language and context, regardless if it’s a bride or groom, you might ask: are parents escorting you, or are you escorting them? Depending on how you think of it, it takes on a slightly different meaning. Let’s just say it’s nice to enter the sanctuary together.

There are many nuances to ceremony, and even before any words are said, the choreography, the entrances, and movements, have meaning and importance. Take the time to think through what was once a given and see if a revamp is right for you.

  

thank you Lisa Rhinehart for the always awesome photography

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    Lois Heckman

    Lois Heckman is a certified Life-Cycle Celebrant who officiates at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonies in the Poconos and beyond. She has performed hundreds of ceremonies and brings a wealth of knowledge to her work. Visit her website: ... Read Full
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