Ask Team Practical: Feminist Aisle Walking

Honoring all your parents, equally

I am sure that I am not the only one to have difficulty balancing tradition and feminism, but I also have been struggling with how to fit my family into the equation. I have very clear ideas of what I am comfortable with and how the ritual aspects of getting married need to be adjusted to fit my strong feminist core. I am so incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of a man walking me down the aisle and handing me off to another man. Also, why do the groom’s parents not give him away? Why is he deemed independent enough to stand for himself, but I am not? Why do I have to walk all the way to him—aren’t we supposed to meet in the middle and create something new? I could rant about this for ages!

In my head, I’ve always imagined walking down the aisle together with my partner. We made the decision to get married as a team, so it seems only right that we begin the journey together too. It wasn’t until I actually started wedding planning that I realized the flaw in my plan: my father has always dreamed of walking his little girl down the aisle. It is very important to him and I want to honor that (especially since I have already made him let go of the giant party he was so excited about). I feel more comfortable with the idea if my mother walks with us as well. The problem is that I am blessed with FOUR incredibly loving and supportive parents. Yes, two of them are not biologically my parents, but both are still very important to me. I don’t want them to feel “less than” or like they are not my “real” parents, because they are. I have considered including the groom’s parents in similar rituals so things feel more even, but he does not have a strong relationship with his parents. He almost didn’t even invite them, so honoring his parents does not seem appropriate.

So my question is: How can I find a way to honor all parents, incorporate what is important to my father, and not feel like a piece of property being handed off? Are there alternative ways of making it down the aisle? How much magic is this going to take? (Okay, so I guess that’s three questions. Oops.)

Flummoxed Feminist

Dear FF,

To be frank, I thought about this question a lot before I sat down to write today. (In fact, I really hope I’m not late turning it in.) The whole wedding thing is sort of about growing up and away from your parents. At the same time, the wedding day isn’t yours alone, and it’s an important, long-awaited, big moment sort of time for your folks, too. But even considering that second part, I firmly fall on the side of going with your gut on this one. If it goes against your standards, your comfort level, your worldview, your perception of self—then, no. Don’t have dad walk you down the aisle, even if it breaks his heart just a smidge. You’re finding that the stuff you’ve always pictured for yourself sometimes shifts and changes when you factor in the very real people you love into the equation. It’s alright for parents to learn that, too.

You mentioned being open to other ways of getting dad involved in the aisle walk. When you’re done reading this here column, give him a call and see if he has ideas. Make it clear that a solo dad and daughter walk isn’t on the table, and see if there’s something else that honors the heart of what the whole thing means to him. I’m betting he doesn’t see you as property to be given away, but instead just wants to be there as an integral part in helping you move toward this moment (one way of looking at the aisle walk).

I LOVE your idea of including both your parents, but hear ya on including everyone you love. The thing is, you may have a bunch of parents, but that doesn’t mean you need to honor them all in the same way. “Even” and “fair” doesn’t necessarily mean “same.” Biological mom and dad can walk you, and then maybe you have readings for the other two, or make a speech devoted to them, or join them in some special dance. Another option is to just nix that parental walk down the aisle completely, maybe walk with your partner as you described, and instead have your parents (all of em!) stand around you in the ceremony space.

Before I hand this one off to Team Practical (you ready, guys?), I want to point out what you say about feeling more pressure to do the dad and daughter aisle walk “since I have already made him let go of the giant party.” That’s not the way it works, guys. Compromise doesn’t mean, “I made the last decision, so I’ll sacrifice my standards on the next one.” Compromise is usually less tit for tat, and more about getting to the core of what someone wants and figuring out a way to honor that without losing what’s important to you, too. Meaning: go talk to him.


Team Practical, what are some other ways our FF can honor her dad without overlooking the rest of her parents or her feminist principles?

Photo: Kelly Benvenuto Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! 

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