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The Long Walk Down the Aisle

I’ve sent hundred of brides down the aisle as a Wedding Coordinator, fussing with her veil, her jewelry, her train to make sure she looks perfect before stepping back and listening to the music for her cue. Once I hear the Bride’s Song start, I give her a deep nod, letting her choose when to take that first step towards the aisle. I never fail to get a little teary eyed when she turns to her father, or sometimes both parents, and they begin to walk together. It’s a beautiful moment and there’s nothing unusual in feeling joy, satisfaction, and a little pride at another couple seen through to the altar. For me, there is always a bittersweet taste to it, since I know that my father won’t be able to walk with me when my turn comes.

It was the only constant I imagined, on those rare occasions that I thought about my hypothetical future wedding as a  girl. I had no concrete ideas about the color of the decor, or the shape of my dress, or what my groom would look like. All I knew was that I couldn’t wait to walk down the aisle on my father’s arm. That particular dream came to an end four years ago, when he passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Even to the end, I remained in denial – he had to get better, because there were still so many things he was supposed to share with me. Four years has made the reality a little easier to bear, but I still feel that sting every time another bride walks down the aisle.

I’ve seen a lot of weddings in that time. I know what is behind the tradition of the Father of the Bride walking her down the aisle, and I know that it isn’t the only way to get married. It’s on my mind whenever I imagine that still hypothetical wedding – who would walk me down the aisle?

The custom of the Father of the Bride walking her towards her future husband and symbolically handing her over to the next man to take charge of her life, is largely outdated in the Western world. Many brides honor it out of tradition, but these days it has been been updated, upgraded, or tossed out altogether. More and more couples are choosing to personalize their ceremony and processional to include those closest to them.

Both Parents

A regular tradition in Jewish ceremonies, many couples in other cultures and denominations are opting to have both of the bride’s parents escort her down the aisle. It’s seen as a gesture of respect, honoring the parents who had a hand in raising her and guiding her through her life to this next step.

Mother of the Bride

Brides today are asking their mother to be the one who walks them down the aisle if they happen to have a closer relationship, or if they don’t share a close bond with their father or father figure. My father may be gone, but I have my mother and stepmother who have been just as important in my life, and asking them both to walk me down the aisle acknowledges that they have been instrumental in raising me.

Close Relatives

Family doesn’t always mean the people who gave birth to you or raised you. Brides today are choosing to accord this position of honor in their wedding to someone who they feel a close relationship with or were especially formative in their life. I have seen brides walk down the aisle escorted by their siblings, aunt or uncle, or grandparents. I’ve often thought that I would ask my brother to walk me down the aisle in our father’s absence – we were very close growing up and I have been so proud of the father that he is to his beautiful daughter. I hope he will be honored by the gesture although I know it will be more than a little bittersweet for both of us, knowing just who he is standing in for.


Some brides feel that they would rather not be ‘escorted’ down the aisle and opt out of this tradition altogether. It can be a way to honor parents that may not be able to do it themselves, or a statement on the bride’s part that she is not being given away but is coming into this relationship under her own volition.


Wedding traditions are changing because couples are changing – most couples in the 21st Century live together prior to getting married, they take equal roles in running their household, they come into it as equals, rather than ‘man’ and ‘wife’. I have always found it especially poignant when a couple chooses to walk down the aisle together since that is the way they approach their relationship and will approach their marriage.

Photo Credits: Bride and her Father – Photography by Jason + Anna, Ceremony located at Nestldown | Bride and her Parents – Photography by Orange Turtle Photography | Bride and her Mother – Photography by James Dvorscak | Bride and her Brother – Source Unknown, via Pinterest | Bride Alone – Photography by Evan Bishop Photography | Grooms Walking Together – courtesy of Devon & Jordan‘s website

Note: I had planned and written this post entirely before coming across this video about a man with terminal cancer walking his unmarried daughters down the aisle so they could have that experience together. My heart goes out to this family – I’m so sorry for your loss but I hope you treasure this memory with your wonderful, caring father.

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