Who giveth this woman?
In the 21st century is the notion of giving away the bride to her new husband still relevant? And what might you do instead if you don’t want anyone to give you away at your wedding?
In our blog, Breaking with Wedding Tradition, we examined the ways in which many couples are throwing away the matrimonial rule book and having a ‘Best Woman’ instead of a Best Man, flower boys instead of flower girls, and grandmothers as bridesmaids and more. We’ve also touched on another tradition, that of tossing the wedding bouquet. This archaic tradition is one that’s being abandoned – or at least done another way – as is that if giving away the bride.
What else might you do?
Before we look at some alternative ways of dealing with this aspect of the ceremony let’s first take a look at its roots. Like so many wedding traditions, the origins of this one go way back, and extend across the globe, in various forms.
For hundreds of years’ women have been viewed as nothing more than another piece of their father’s property. A father arranged his daughter’s marriage with a man he deemed acceptable. Together, they drew up a trade agreement called a dowry. In this agreement, the bride’s father accepted money or land or social status – or a combination of all those things – in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. In essence he didn’t so much ‘give her away’ as sell her!
So the question ‘Who giveth this woman?’ was a means for the vicar, or other officiant, to check that the father agreed to the terms of the marriage and therefore supported it. The bride then moved from being ‘owned’ by her father to being ‘owned’ by her husband. ‘Giving away the bride’ was a literal act in bygone eras. It’s not so romantic when you delve into it, is it?
Now though, there’s been a drastic change in women’s status in society. With that, we’ve seen a corresponding move by modern brides to discard or to challenge many marital traditions and put their own spin on them. And quite right too we say. Many modern brides are asking themselves the qestion: Is Giving Away the Bride Still Relevant?
Giving up the giving away
So now we’ve unveiled the meaning behind the giving away of the bride. It is – or at least it was – an objectification of the bride and a business transaction. Not something that fits with the modern world, we think you’ll agree. So, here’s a few alternative wordings and approaches for you to think about:
1. Involve both your parents
When the officiant asks ‘Who gives this woman to be married to this man’ OR – a more modern version: ‘Who presents this woman to be married to this man?’ your parents can reply in unison: ‘Her mother and I do’ – or ‘Her family and I do’ – or words to that effect.
2. Make it about both of you and both sets of parents – this would go something like this:
Officiant: ‘Who presents this woman and this man to be married to each other?’
Answer: (All parents in unison): ‘We do.’
3. A feminist option
Officiant: ‘Who gives this woman to be married to this man?’
Answer: ‘She gives herself, but with her family’s blessing.’
Of course, much of the above is assuming that you have a father to walk you down the aisle. Yet that might not feel right for you.
In this Offbeat Bride article ‘Giving yourself away’, the writer talks about that situation: ‘…He’d raised me to be an independent, self-sustaining woman, and I’d been one long before I got married. Because of this, walking down the aisle felt odd – what was being given away? Nothing. What was changing? Nothing.’ This bride decided instead to honour the role her father had played in her life in a different way – by asking him to read one of his poems.
Alternatives to having someone give you away
- Walk with both parents
- Walk with your husband-to-be
- Walk by yourself
- Walk with a child
- Walk with a sibling
- Skip the aisle walk altogether and do something else instead!
We love some of the ideas in this article on alternatives to walking down the aisle from Bustle.Com. One of our favourites is number 5 – the couple leading the guests to the ceremony space in a procession. As it says ‘…a beautiful, community-focused way to start the ceremony.
Bustle summarize it all perfectly and echoes what we’ve often said on this blog so we’ll leave you with them:
‘What’s great about weddings today is there’s no hard and fast rules. So feel free to use one of these alternatives to walking down the aisle or come up with your own. If, at the end of the day, you’re married to the one you love, it won’t matter how you got there.’
What do you think? Is giving away the bride still relevant or are you planning to break with this particular tradition? If so let us know what you’ve got planned. We’d love to hear about it.