Escort Etiquette: Who should give the bride away?

by epi on May 2, 2012

Q: Our daughter is to be married in a few months, her stepfather, my husband, has been most of her support, college expenses, car, vacations, etc. She does have contact with her father who maintains a cordial relationship, does not encourage a father-daughter relationship but is available if she makes the first move. Would it be appropriate for both of them to give her away? If not, what role could my husband, the stepfather, play in the wedding?

A: It is appropriate for your husband to escort your daughter, since he has served as her father, it sounds, through most of her life. It is good that your daughter has a cordial relationship with her father, but under the circumstances, he could be a reader at the wedding rather than her escort. Although this sounds backward, it is not incorrect. If your sense, and hers, is that her father should escort her, then the reverse could be true for your husband. In any event, you and your husband sit in the first row or pew, and your daughter’s father sits three or so rows back. There is no expectation that you all would sit together, either at the ceremony or the reception, nor that you would appear in pictures together. What is important is that your husband is comfortable with whatever decision you make, since he, from what you write, has done everything in his power to care for your daughter.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Chocobo May 2, 2012 at 9:17 am

Instead of focusing on the variables, why not have the constant do the job? Have the mother walk her down the aisle.

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Erica May 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

Actually what’s important is that the daughter decides who SHE wants to give her away. Not the Mother.

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Winifred Rosenburg May 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

I agree with Erica that the daughter’s opinion is the one that counts. It’s not clear from the question whose idea was having both fathers do it together, but if that’s the daughter’s preference I really don’t see what’s wrong with it. Chocobo’s idea of the mother doing it is also a good one.

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Lilli May 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm

If the daughter is worried about hurt feelings, why have anyone “give her away”? I personally think the tradition is a bit out dated – most women in the US today choose their own husbands and usually after living independly or with the future husband for a number of years. She’s really giving herself away to the man of her choosing. Granted – not letting anyone give her away may cause a whole other set of hurt feelings.

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Ashleigh May 2, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Does she intend to have the traditional father/daughter dance? If so, maybe stepfather could walk her down the aisle and father could do the dance, or vice versa. This way they will both get to be included in some aspect and some amount of feelings can be spared.

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Susan May 6, 2012 at 3:43 pm

This describes my exact situation — so as a bride (in two weeks) I decided to include both of my fathers as I walk down the aisle.I couldn’t bear to hurt one over the other so after a lot of thought and tears I knew I had to do what was best for ME. Not for everyone else. So my father and stepfather are both walking me down the aisle. My stepfather is doing a reading at our ceremony and we are forgoing the traditional father/daughter dance and instead are doing a “family dance” to involve everyone. I will dance separately with my stepfather but not a father/daughter dance specifically.

Doing this could cause a lot of hurt, especially for the bride. Dear Mother, let your daughter decide. I’m sure she’s already shed a lot of tears and had a lot of anguish like I have over this.

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JANET June 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I HAVE A QUESTION, I HAVE A FRIEND GETTING MARRIED IS IT ETIQUETTE FOR HER MOTHER AND HER MOTHERS FIANCE WHO BEEN IN HER LIFE SINCE AGE 8 TO MARCH HER DOWN THE AISLES.WHEN THE GROOMES PARENTS ARE PAYING FOR IT. P.S. THE BRIDE FATHER IS DEAD.

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Elizabeth June 4, 2012 at 1:01 pm

The bride may have anyone she likes walk her down the aisle and ‘give her away’. It sounds like her mother’s fiance has been in her life for a long time and is a father-figure. I’m not sure why who’s paying for it has anything to do with it. I had both my parents walk me down the aisle. Where’s the controversy here??

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Just Laura June 4, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Good afternoon, Janet,
Two points:
1) Please don’t use all caps when writing, as it is the internet equivalent of yelling (and can seriously foul up a person using a screen reader). The Caps Lock key is usually located to one’s left on a QWERTY keyboard.
2) Thanks for your question. It is up to the bride who escorts her down the aisle. This may be her mother, father, both parents, grandparents, no one at all, or perhaps a brother or sister. The issue of who has paid for the wedding does not enter into this decision, as Elizabeth pointed out.

Hope that helps!

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Annie June 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Can you please help us?
I was asked to help research a dilemma for a couple who is marrying in September.
The bride has asked her future father-in-law to escort her down the aisle, as she has no father or male relatives available. Her FFIL isn’t comfortable with her request and doesn’t want to do it, for personal (and well-founded) reasons. Should he comply anyway, just to be gracious, or should the bride not force the issue and realize that she can either walk alone, with her mom, or another significant friend?

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Winifred Rosenburg June 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Etiquette does not have strict restrictions on the subject so if all parties agreed it would be fine for FIL to escort her. However, because he is uncomfortable, the bride shouldn’t push him. Without knowing the family dynamics, I would guess that her mother would be the choice that makes the most sense as her daughter’s caregiver when she was growing up.

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HeadMaster May 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

As a stepfatgher that has a step daugther gettingmaried this coming sept. this is a question on my mind also. Her father lives over 1,000 miles away and has minimal contact. She asked if he would help with the wedding cost, he refused, as he has refused to do ANYTHING for either of his kids since they were about 14-15, now 21-22. I’v ebeen married to there mother since they were 8-9, but they lived with their father until they became teenages and it was no long convienent for him, so he dumped them on me (while still asking for his child support checks of course)……Anyway, she has invited him even though he refuses to pay toward anything, he’ll probably be the one to walk her down the alise to….My question is this….shold I feel as hurt as I do??? I’ve done everything for these kids since I’ve been in their lives, but it seems that even after 12 years of marriage I’m still just considered an outsider that is here to pay the bills and clean up thier messes……HELP ME

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Alicia May 19, 2013 at 6:05 pm

No you should not feel hurt. It serves no purpose but to make you feel bad. Your stepdaughter clearly loves you and likely loves her father as well. People can care for multiple people and weddings often bring up festering family conflicts. Be the bigger man as you have done and focus on making this time good for your step daughter and stop letting your ego be the issue.

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Elizabeth May 19, 2013 at 7:05 pm

Feelings are never “wrong,” but they can be (as Alicia pointed out) distracting and unhelpful. You say your stepdaughter did not live with you until they were teenagers. So while they likely feel love and fondness for you as a stepfather, they still have a father. It’s not unnatural or ungrateful for your SD to want her father to attend or participate in her wedding, and psychologically, it’s likely that she continues to hope that he’ll step up emotionally and financially (despite the last years of evidence to the contrary). I think you should continue to act with integrity and love (be the man that you’ll feel proud being), and you and your wife should discuss how much you can and want to contribute to the wedding. There’s nothing saying that you have to pay for all of it – the groom’s family can also contribute, and so can the couple themselves (or they can scale back). Good luck, and try to take some pride and joy in the wedding day and in your contribution to the woman your SD has become.

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Mon June 16, 2013 at 10:37 am

I am getting married June next year and have had the dilemma of who to have walk me down the aisle. I have my father who I have a good relationship with travelling from where he lives overseas to come to the wedding, but also my step-father who has no children of his own and treats me as his daughter, who I also have a good relationship with. I have broached the subject with my father, and knew it would be difficult to ask him to share this special honour with someone else, but it would make me happy for both of them to give me away. My father suggested that the aisle is split in half, so my step father walks me down the first half, then hands me to my father who then gives me away to my fiancĂ©. I think this is a good idea, but concerned about the actual logistics of it – will it look odd to have my step father then walking behind my dad and I to take his seat next to my mother in the front row? Should I have a gap in the seating half way down the aisle to leave a good junction for the swap?! I feel that my dad would be less hurt by this method rather than fully sharing with one father on either side of me down the entire aisle. I would be grateful for some suggestions or reassurances of this unusual situation!

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Alicia June 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Step dad could hand you over to Dad and then proceed ahead of you and Dad to his seat while you and Dad pause say for a little hug and kiss on the cheek/photo op then proceed down the aisle. That way step dad has a minute to calmly but swiftly move down the rest of the aisle and be standing next to your mom when you and your Dad proceed down the rest of the aisle

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Renee November 8, 2013 at 2:34 pm

I am way late on this thread but I need advise too. I grew up in foster care and the woman who was my child advocate is now the one I consider my mom. She has been in my life since I was 11. This is my second marriage (getting married in May 2014), as well as my fiance’s. I asked my mom to walk me down the aisle for my first wedding and would like her to do it again but I am very torn. I have a 4 year old son from my first marriage and want him to walk me down the aisle. We’ve already asked him to be the ring bearer but the more I think about it, I feel like he should walk me down the aisle. My dilemna is this… I want my mom and my son to walk me down the aisle but I don’t know how to do it and still make it look classy/elegant. My second dilmena is can my son walk me down the aisle and still be the ring bearer or is that too much? He will be 5 by then. Please give me any advice you may have. Thanks!

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Alicia November 8, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Yes your son can easily hold the rings while walking you down the aisle. Maybe putting the ring in his pocket so hands free to escort you down. Your son on one side and your honorary mom on the other is a lovely option. Either that or you could give your honorary mom the traditional mom role of being escorted in by a groomsman and then have yourself escorted by your son. Then have mom do say the parents toast at the reception.
But really anything that works for you will be lovely.

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Emily September 21, 2014 at 11:48 am

I am getting married in a year and have a similar dilemma. My parents got dovorced when I was young and I stayed with my dad full time till I was 17. His new wife and I didn’t really get along so I got a job and moved out. Long story short my dad and I don’t really have a relationship anymore. My mum is still in the picture but I’m not really that close to her as I haven’t lived with her for most of my life. I feel like my dad made me who I am today but having him walk me down the aisle is not an option. I am paying for my entire wedding so that’s not an issue. I was just wondering if it was okay to walk myself down the aisle or should I have my mum even though i don’t feel close to her at all.

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Alicia September 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Walk alone if that is what makes you happy.

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Lori C September 21, 2014 at 7:39 pm

You are under no obligation to have anyone walk you down the isle. It is perfectly fine to walk unattended.

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