The Archaic Roots and Modern Romanticism Of 'Giving Away the Bride'

Every little girl dreams of walking down the aisle with her father. (Ok, maybe not every little girl, but lots of them.) It's almost as ingrained in us as the fairy tale of the big white gown and the hope that your beloved sheds that one silent tear as you approach. It's all cheesy and classic and the stuff of rom coms.

But where did we get this idea? And where does it fit in with our values today?

The custom of "giving away the bride" stems from the days of arranged marriages.

In ancient times—and, sadly, in some parts of the world still today—women were considered the property of their father. It was his responsibility to find them good husbands who could provide a handsome bride price. He legally handed her off to her new husband, often along with a dowry, as a symbol of transferring "ownership" from one man to another.

As with many timeless traditions, we tend to overlook those archaic roots in modern times. And today, most cultures embrace the custom. But for different reasons, of course.

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Everyone stands as the bride approaches. Communal murmurs of "so beautiful" and "how sweet" ripple through the crowd. Folks smile and wipe their eyes as the father embraces his new son or daughter.

We have turned the misogynistic practice into more of a rite of passage. Many see it as a way to honor all that the father has done for his child, give his blessing as she begins her new life, and welcome a new member into the family.

And just like that, giving away the bride is now woven into the fabric of our society and given a new meaning that we can celebrate in today’s world.

Now, none of this is intended to cast a negative light on what, today, is one of the most romanticized moments of a wedding ceremony. I actually consider the moment before I stepped onto the aisle with my mother and father (as is customary in Jewish weddings) to be one of the most memorable of the whole day.

We were the only ones left in the atrium. Any second, those French doors would open, and I would walk out to the rest of my life. With my mother worrying about the music on one side and my father gripping my arm tightly on the other, that was the one time all day that I had a quiet moment to actually absorb the enormity of this walk.

Photos by  Manor Photography

My stomach flipped, not out of fear or regret… But out of awe that I was about the follow the same path that all my ancestors had walked before me.

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Whether it is because of this similar sense of unity, sentimentality, or simply because "that's what you do"… most brides still choose to walk down the aisle with their dads.

However, if that's not for you, there are plenty of ways to do something that has a more appropriate place in your life…

  • Bride walks down the aisle with both parents. (In Jewish weddings, it's customary for the groom's parents to escort him down the aisle as well.)

  • Bride walks down the aisle with another person who was instrumental in making her who she is today—mother, step parent, sibling, godparent, etc.

  • Bride walks down the aisle with her children.

  • Bride walks down the aisle with a beloved pet.

  • Bride walks down the aisle alone.

  • Bride and groom walk down aisle together.

  • And our favorite of all: Bride and groom walk toward each other from opposite ends of the aisle, meet in the middle, and proceed the rest of the way to the officiant together.

Some couples are even choosing to forego the traditional "aisle" all together. Whatever you choose, there are plethora ways to craft a meaningful ceremony that honors those who mean the most to you, while also reflecting your individuality.

Looking for help crafting that perfect ceremony? Or want some direction on a great place to start writing your own ceremony? Vow Muse can help!

Writer Fawn believes in the power of a well-crafted story, the promise of an adventurous future, and the perfection of a Nutella-covered strawberry.