Give Me Away? Give Me A Break!February 27, 2012 2 Comments
I am of the school of feminists who feel very strongly that the concept of being “given away” at one’s wedding is ridiculous. Not only does it imply that upon getting married, I will be the property of my husband, but equally disturbing is the indication that I am currently the property of my family (and last time I checked, my family didn’t even pay my rent).
Having said that, deciding against this custom can open a number of tricky issues. First and foremost: to some fathers, it’s really important. It’s the kind of lump-in-throat-forming idea that hits a dad while watching his three-year-old darling run around the kitchen with a lace curtain on her head shouting, “Here comes da bride!” It’s incredibly hard to look a loving, if somewhat old-fashioned, father in the face and say, “No, thanks – I’m going this one alone.”
The other issue is to whom the duty of giving the bride away falls. In traditional Christian weddings, it’s the father’s role, as marriages used to be business transactions between families. I’ve been to a number of modern weddings, however, where single mothers who raised their daughters walked them up the aisle. At Jewish weddings, it’s traditional for both parents to process with the bride and the groom’s parents to process with him as well, which is a nice, non-gender specific compromise. So depending on cultural background and personal preference, there are a number of options open to modern couples.
And then, of course, there’s the more aesthetic, less ideological issue of: won’t I look silly, walking up the aisle all by myself?
My own case with regard to this issue is incredibly murky, not only because my father died last year, but also because I’m marrying an Englishman of Indian descent, meaning our guests will be coming from three different cultures, none of which will know what to expect from the other two. I view the latter as a distinct advantage, granting us permission to get away with whatever we like. Depending on who asks, the lack of veil/unusual vows/choice of food/family member drinking copious amounts of port and puking on the inquirer’s shoes, will be “an American thing,” “an English tradition,” or “an Indian custom.”
My lack of father is far more concerning, not because he won’t be there to give me away, but because he won’t be there not to give me away. My father knew I never liked this tradition and would have applauded my independent stance. His approving presence, in the crowd where he belonged, would show that this was a conscious decision on my part.
As is, my father’s absence makes anything I do look like a compromise rather than a political statement, and that’s just not fair (nor is it a fitting tribute: my father hated compromise and made everything, from his choice of presidential candidate to the way he buttered his toast, a political statement (true story - check out what he wrote here).
Friends have suggested my brother walk me up the aisle, but this solves none of my problems with the ownership issue (and why him over my mother?). That, and he totally has cooties.
And so, I’ve come to the only conclusion a bride in my position can possibly come to: Groomie, you got me into this and you’re going to get me out.
When I first decided to process side-by-side with my groom, I thought of it as a guns-blazing statement saying, “This is one poor, fatherless dear who doesn’t want your sympathy.” But actually, I’ve come to realize it’s perfect for our wedding, regardless of my dad’s absence: David and I are two adults who made a mutual decision to spend the rest of our lives together. For us, marriage is going to be a joint endeavour, so why not process as we intend to proceed?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below – have you seen any interesting alternative routes up the aisle? Do you intend to take your father’s arm?
And tune in two weeks from now for: “Does my sin look big in this? The white dress conundrum“
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