Episode 12: Giving The Bride Away
Episode 12 of The Bouquet Toss is all about the tradition of the bride being walked down the aisle and given away by her father. Learn where this tradition came from, and some unique ideas and alternatives to make it work for you. Subscribe to The Bouquet Toss Podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app!
Listen to Episode #12: Giving the Bride Away
This episode is all about a common ceremony moment that seems like it may be falling out of fashion… and that is the tradition of the bride being “given away” by her father to her new spouse.
Where the tradition of giving the bride away came from:
Giving away the bride is the moment at a wedding ceremony where a bride’s father hands her off to her new spouse at the altar. Traditionally, there is a moment where the wedding officiant will ask: “who gives this woman to be married?”
And like many traditions, the history behind its origin is a bit problematic and outdated in today’s modern society. The practice originated in an era where women were basically considered to be a man’s property. Young brides were essentially “purchased” by their future spouses. Thus, a father walking his daughter down the aisle and giving her away to her new husband was essentially seen as a transfer of ownership. Yikes.
It was common in ancient times to have arranged marriages, often as a means of elevating family status. Since a female child was literally seen as the property of her father in those days, the act of giving her away was a symbolic act of a legal agreement. Giving away the bride served to signify that her family would no longer have control over her or her dowry, and that her husband would be responsible for her from that point forward.
The Meaning Today
What does a father’s act of passing off his daughter to her new spouse mean today? Do they still have a contractual agreement? No, of course not. It is more of a symbol of his blessing and wish of good health and happiness to the couple. In fact, in modern times, the mother is often more involved in some situations as the parents together may be asked the question of who gives the bride away by the officiant.
Who should walk you down the aisle?
Who you decide to walk you down the aisle is a very personal choice. You may choose to stick to tradition and have your father walk you down the aisle. The Jewish tradition is actually for both sets of parents to walk their children down the aisle, so that might resonate more with you, whether or not you’re Jewish, yourselves!
Alternatives to the tradition of having your father “give you away”
This particular tradition may not resonate with you for any number of reasons. Maybe you want to claim your autonomy as an independent adult human. Perhaps you want your choices to show that you are willfully entering this marriage by your own free will. Or maybe you don’t have a great relationship with your father or he isn’t in the picture. No matter the reason, it’s important to choose an option that feels aligned and authentic to you.
Couples who don’t resonate with this outdated tradition can “reclaim” this moment. Take ownership back over this tradition and replace it with something that has special meaning for you. Of course, we’ve gathered lots of examples and alternatives to share so you can tailor this tradition to suit you:
Skip the traditional question asked by the officiant.
Does he have to “give me away”? Of course not. If the history behind the tradition turns you off, you can have the officiant skip the ceremonial question. Instead, have your partner simply acknowledge your father with a handshake, hug, or high five when you reach the altar.
A more feminist response to the traditional question
A feminist version of the traditional question and response might help you adapt this tradition to your liking. You could have your officiant ask “Who gives this woman to be married?” and answer on your own behalf, “She gives herself, but with her family’s blessing.”
Have both parents walk you down the aisle.
Take the emphasis away from the traditional patriarchal history and have both parents escort you down the aisle, as a symbol of your family supporting you as you enter into your marriage.
Be escorted by someone other than your father.
You could be accompanied by an escort other than your father, perhaps another family member or a very close friend. Your escort could walk you down the aisle to meet your partner.
Both families walk their child down the aisle
Both people getting married could choose to be accompanied down the aisle by their respective families. They could even take part in the traditional “giving away” portion by asking a broader question to both sides, symbolizing two families joining as one.
Skip walking down the aisle, period.
Couples who might feel a bit more relaxed about the whole wedding celebration might be comfortable with an equally laid-back approach to the ceremony tradition. You could start out your event by mingling with your guests, and then when it’s time to begin, all proceed together to the location for the ceremony.
Have your entire guest list give you away.
No, we’re not talking about a huge group walking down the aisle, but more of a symbolic gesture or even verbalization of support. The officiant could pose a question and response to the audience, asking something along the lines of: “Family and friends, will you promise to support and love the marriage between these two people today and from this day forward?” Then, the guests would respond “We do” or “We will!”
Walk down the aisle alone.
Sometimes the bride walks solo demonstrating that marrying her partner is her own choice. The bride walks by herself down the aisle and is not given away by anyone.
Walk together down the aisle.
Some partners walk down the aisle together, showing their solidarity and commitment.
As a symbol that together they are choosing to be there and come together as a family.
The bride and groom together walk down the aisle, the bridal party may have arrived early or they could join them, perhaps leading the way.
Meet in the middle.
You might choose to meet your partner in the middle of the aisle. One of you could walk halfway, to be met by your partner and then continue the rest of the way together.
Have the groom walk down the aisle towards the bride.
There is no reason the groom can’t be the one to meet the bride at the altar if that is what the couple wants.
Will you be “given away” at your wedding? How will you be walking down the aisle?
As with everything we discuss here on The Bouquet Toss, it doesn’t *really* matter what we think, it’s about choosing what works for YOU and tossing the rest!
When it comes to this wedding decision, you’ll want to keep your venue in mind, as well as consider the options that feel most symbolic or meaningful to you.
We want to know what YOU think about walking down the aisle and how you plan to address this part of your day! Join us in our private community where we’re discussing this, or visit our Instagram page to comment on the post about this episode!
Links referenced for this episode:
- The Spruce: Giving the Bride Away
- Brides: Giving Away the Bride Tradition
- Bright Hub Education: Giving away the Bride
- Josh Withers: Giving the Bride Away
About The Bouquet Toss Podcast
The Bouquet Toss is a wedding planning podcast that empowers couples to plan a meaningful, authentic, and affordable wedding celebration! On the show, we will have candid conversations all about weddings and why we do them the way we do so that couples can plan their weddings based on their own values, and not on the expectations of others.
In our Budget-Savvy Wedding Planning Community, we see the same questions asked over and over again. So many couples seem to be seeking permission to plan their weddings on their own terms, and we’re here to say go for it! We believe you should have your day, your way and our goal is to help empower you to plan a wedding celebration that actually feels authentic to you.
In case you missed it, check out our other episodes:
- Episode 1: The Bouquet Toss
- Episode 2: The White Dress
- Episode 3: The Bridal Party
- Episode 4: The Diamond Engagement Ring
- Episode 5: The Wedding Dances
- Episode 6: The Wedding Cake
- Episode 7: Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue
- Episode 8: The Wedding Veil
- Episode 9: The Unity Candle
- Episode 10: The Honeymoon
- Episode 11: The Speeches
- Episode 12: Giving the Bride Away
- Episode 13: The Send Off
- Episode 15: Wedding Loans
- Episode 16: Wedding Lighting Trends
- Episode 17: Sustainable Weddings
- Episode 18: Livestreaming Your Wedding
- Episode 19: Wedding Beauty Trends
- Episode 20: The Rise of Elopements
- Episode 21: The Wedding Rental Revolution
- Episode 22: Pressed Flower Details
- Episode 23: Epic Wedding Photography