Giving yourself away on your wedding day

Posted at 10:00 AM Apr 29, 2010

By Andrea Grimes

modern bride cover_sml.jpg
The wedding influx has begun. I'm 26 years old, and for the first time in my life, my actual friends are getting married. Not people I went to church with as a kid. Not my parents' friends' kids. People I, personally, know and love and care about. I'm going to be a proper bridesmaid for the first time next year, and I am so very excited. In fact, I'm disappointed that my friend Lauren has great taste and won't make me wear an awful bridesmaid dress.

And, true fact: I really like thinking about weddings. I like parties and all manner of big events that require specialized costuming and clothing, and weddings seem like especially fun to plan because the honorees get to personalize them so. But, as a feminist lady, I've had trouble with one bit in particular: the idea of a father giving his daughter away is pretty offensive to me. Are women property to be transferred? We are not!

Which is why I love this article in Lemondrop today from Virginia Sole-Smith about how she, as a feminist, addressed this precise problem:

As a feminist, I didn't love the notion of being handed over (and my father-in-law-to-be kept making jokes about needing to negotiate my price in head of cattle, which didn't help.) But there was also the fact that Dan and I already had a life together with an apartment, a car, two cats and a shared AmEx bill that we fight over every month; we had already survived high school, college and eating guinea pig on a trip to Peru. I wasn't leaving some earlier version of myself behind to become his wife.

Her solution? Walk together with her husband down the aisle. Lovely! Thoughtful! Appropriate! But my god, how do you tell your father, someone who perhaps has kind of had this idea for a while that this is What People Do and who may not be on board with That Feminist Business, that he won't be walking you down? Well, Sole-Smith sent an e-mail.

Even more surprisingly, my dad loved it, too. He's a forward-thinking guy, but you know fathers and daughters. I was worried that deep down he might be hurt, but too easy-going to admit it. So I broached the subject carefully (and, uh, via email -- which might sound chicken, but my dad hates talking on the phone, and I knew email would give him time to process, instead of putting him on the spot.)
Dolls and Guys, have you fanagled any parts of your own ceremonies to suit your own beliefs? Got any more thoughtful alternatives to the bride giveaway?


Lauren said:

I am going to a friend's wedding in a few weeks where they have been together for a while, have kids from previous relationships, and are grown ass people who have taken care of themselves for a long while. Her oldest son (he's 13) is escorting her down the aisle. It makes me teary eyed every time I think of it. So sweet.

Meg said:

I feel like I've seen enough brides walk down the aisle solo that that must be a normal thing. Right?? So there's always that option. I don't think I'd like the idea of walking down the aisle with my dude, because there's something about that "then she appeared and was so beautiful as I watched her walk toward me" moment that I want him to have seared into his brain forever.
Also, walking solo down the aisle = moving towards him and marriage of your own volition.
Does that make sense?

Andrea said:

Lauren - I love when people have their kids give them away. It's adorable. And Meg, your "then she appeared" thing totally makes sense. Good suggestions, both!

flmun said:

Both my sister and I walked down the aisle by ourselves, in 1993 and 2003, respectively. She had a formal Catholic wedding, and mine was happily secular and performed by a friend.

Neither of us ever really entertained the idea that we should be "given away." We were entering into our married lives as completely free and whole people without needing the permission of a parental figure.

It just wasn't even an issue. No one suggested anything was wrong or weird.

Nikki said:

I like the idea of both my parents walking me, not to "give me away", but to just be there with me on such an important day.

Alicia said:

where I live, Sweden, it's common tradition for the pair to walk together, but sadly, by cultural imperialism, it's getting more and more common for the father to hand her over. I bet people haven't thought about the actual meaning of it.

Jessica said:

I walked down with my now-husband. I loved that we went together. My dad was okay with it, too -- I think he would have been surprised if I asked him to give me away. He knows me, after all.

PK Tech Girl said:

I really wanted my dad to walk with me, but I hated the whole "giving the bride away" thing. We ended up changing the wording to "Who supports this woman in her decision to marry?", with the response being "Her mother and I." I was young and still in need of their support, at least emotionally, so it worked pretty well for me.

Rachel said:

I originally wanted to have my husband and I come in from opposite wings at the same time, meeting in the middle. My very traditional mother let me know it would seriously break my father's heart if he couldn’t walk me down the aisle; that he would take very personally. I didn’t want to sacrifice a happy wedding for the sake standing firm about not being given away. So, we ended up proceeding down the aisle as so: groomsmen and bridesmaids paired up, then my husband escorted by both his parents, then me escorted by BOTH of my parents. No “Here Comes the Bride” special music change either- just the same acoustic Natalie Merchant for the both of us. Just enough traditional in there to placate the ‘rents.

Merritt said:

I have a wonderful plan that would truly suit the life my husband-to-be and I are already living together and hope to improve upon.

Now if I could just get these cats to cooperate...

Andrea said:

LOL, Merritt. LOL hard.

Not Guilty said:

Ever since I was a little girl, the idea of being "given away" was greatly offensive to me. I have always been fiercely independent and I always knew I would walk my own-self down the aisle, thank you very much. I don't really get along with my father anyways, so it wouldn't be a natural move to have him "give me away" anyways. I've thought about having my mother walk me, or my brother or my close uncle, but really, I have always done what I wanted, and marriage will be no different. I like some traditions (something old/new/borrowed/blue) but others have no place in my world.

the raven said:

i myself never plan to marry, so i'm not sure how...valid? my views would be on the subject.

but personally, i don't mind the idea of being "given away" by my father. granted, i have a good relationship with my father. but at this point, the tradition seems to be more of a "last moments with your daughter" thing than any kind of transfer of ownership. it's as much about the father letting go of the bride as his little girl and recognizing that she is moving on to another life that will be forever separate from him. these days, she may have been out of the family house for years before marriage. but there's still that mental connection the parents of a bride have to their daughter. i mean, they (in most cases) watched her grow up from screaming infant to screaming child to standoffish teenager to independent woman. there's a real sense of attachment there, and that tradition, patriarchal as it may seem, also helps them let go, as it were.

now, do i think that a groom's family should be able to reciprocate on this? absolutely. his parents likely watched him go through all those awkward and horrible life stages, too, and they may also benefit from having a symbolic surrender of their previous attachments to him. i'm not familiar enough with wedding ceremonies to know if they work in something similar for the groom, but it is quite likely that the groom's family, in their own private way, would do something to "let him go" to his spouse.

in short, yes. i can see that "giving the bride away" can be terribly offensive to a woman. perhaps i myself should be more outraged by it. but it doesn't *have* to be a patriarchal thing. it *can* symbolize a different kind of letting go, one that recognizes the bride's independence of her family.

ebony said:

in germany the brides aren't given away by their fathers or any other male member of the family. so we just don't have to face such a situation. lucky us!

Kiala said:

In Soviet Russia, Bride Gives Away You!


vanessa said:

I was legally married by a JP in the court room. The man's menfolk (grandpa, father, brother) showed up, filmed the thing, which I still haven't seen the entirety of. Apparently it was shown a few days later to the family and friends awaiting my 50-minute-lateness to the "family ceremony" at my father-in-law's house, perhaps to quell any speculation as to why I was late, hah! Andrea, you got to wear whatever you wanted to be my maid-of-honor. :P I think my dad walked me across the living room, none of that traditional giving-away words present though.

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