The tradition of a father “giving his daughter away” at the end of the wedding processional is a familiar custom. There’s some debate as to its exact origins, but there is little doubt that it has to do with the age-old custom of arranged marriages. In times and cultures where certain individuals were or are considered property, this question had its place.
In Western culture today where arranged marriages are almost unheard of, a father giving away his daughter is thought of as a symbol of his “blessing” of the union - however, the historical undertones of the question Who gives this bride away? can cause the bride (and others, including the father doing the “giving”) some uneasiness.
Assuming it’s the bride’s father walking her down the aisle (although that honor can be bestowed upon anyone she chooses), there are several ways to handle the end of the processional:
- Go the traditional route. I ask the question Who gives this bride away? and the bride’s father answers any way he wishes. The usual responses are: I do, We do, Her father or Her father and mother. This is the best option for brides who aren’t bothered by the question, and whose fathers wish to adhere to tradition.
- Do it without saying anything. This eliminates any negative connotations that the question might arouse, while still adhering to the overall tradition. This is the best option for brides who dislike the historical connotation of the question, or whose fathers are afraid they’ll get choked up or stammer if they’re forced to speak at that very emotionally-charged moment at the end of the processional.
- Do it the traditional way, but with a nontraditional answer that negates the historical origins of the custom. My suggested answer (which is admittedly verbose but poignant) is: She gives herself freely with her parents’ love. This is the best option for brides who don’t want the question asked but whose fathers do.
If you need help making a decision, get some input from your fiance and from your father (or to whomever you’ve given the honor of walking you down the aisle). It’s a small but important detail – one of many that I’ll help you get just right, which all add up to the perfect ceremony.