As your wedding day approaches, you may be wondering what all the traditions mean, and why you have to do them. In addition, you may be unsure or nervous about the wedding processional. Who stands where, and why?
Well, the wedding processional is when the wedding party walks down the aisle in a specific order to mark the beginning of the ceremony.
Typically, the groom and groomsmen arrive first, followed by the bridesmaids, and the maid of honor. Then, there will be flower girls or ring bearers, and finally, the bride and the father of the bride.
In most weddings the father of the bride escorts her down the aisle and towards the groom, in the act of giving her away. They then give their blessing, and take a seat for the wedding ceremony to start. So, how has this tradition come about, and what side does the father of the bride walk on?
The history of walking down the aisle
Walking down the aisle is a special moment, and one that many think about when planning their wedding. It can be nerve wracking running up to it, but when the time comes, it is exciting, thrilling, and a memory filled with happiness and love.
However, the notion of walking down the aisle is steeped in history, and it was not always this romantic. In the past, weddings were more for financial gain or status, and not anything to do with the love between two people. As a result, they were often arranged. Sometimes, both participants were unwilling to be married, and were forced into it.
Women at this time were governed by the men in their lives, with the father as the head of the household. The father would then pass the bride onto another male, the groom, to now become under his care instead.
The process of the father walking the bride down the aisle was therefore also a means of preventing the groom from backing out. The father’s looming presence and staring eyes would ensure that the groom would take her hand, and vice versa, he would guide the nervous young bride towards her fate.
When they reach the end of the aisle, the father passes the bride onto the groom, and she becomes his responsibility financially and emotionally.
But this tradition dates way past then. In ancient times, it was thought that the bride needed protection on her journey, passing over from her father’s protection, into the groom’s. During the procession, as she travels down the aisle, it was believed that she would have to be guarded by the father.
This is why the bride would be on the left side in most cases, and the father on the right side, as he would need access to his sword to ward off wrongdoers, protect her, and fight for her honor.
This notion was continued in Christian weddings, where the bride still stands on the left, and the father of the bride stands on the right during the processional.
In other weddings such as Greek weddings, the father does not walk the bride down the aisle at all, as the bride and groom walk together to be married. In Jewish weddings, the father stands on the left to give the bride away.
For the most part, today, walking the bride down the aisle is more of a supportive thing.
Fathers feel proud to walk their daughters down the aisle, and let go of their babies, leading them into the next chapter of their lives. It can be an emotional, loving and affectionate tradition that many people still abide by in the modern day.
What side does the father of the bride walk on?
As the father acts as a means of separating the bride and the groom, guiding her towards her soon-to-be husband, it is natural for the father to stand on the same side of the groom.
As the bride stands on the left hand side, and the groom waits at the end of the aisle on the right, the father too stands on the right, ready to pass over her hands from his to the groom.
Should the bride stand on the left or on the right?
For the majority of non-denominational or Christian weddings, the bride is meant to stand on the left side. However, in a Jewish wedding, things are slightly different, as the bride is meant to stand on the right side.
Whether the bride decides to stand on the left or right side to get married is entirely up to her and the partner.
Nowadays, tradition is not as important for many people, and some choose where to stand depending on personal preference, religious expectation or just because they want to!
Does it have to be the father giving the bride away?
Traditionally, the father would be giving the bride away. However, some can see this tradition as sexist and highly patriarchal.
If you do not wish for the father to give the bride away, then you can simply ask the marriage officiant to skip past the section that asks who gives this woman to be married to this man. Instead, the groom can simply meet and thank the father at the end of the aisle.
However, if you do like the tradition, and are wondering if someone else can give you away, that is fine too. Many people have different relationships with their fathers. Whether they are no longer in contact with them, or simply have decided not to invite them to the wedding, fathers are not always a big part of everyone’s lives.
If this is the case, then it is fine to ask a close relative, a friend, a brother, a mother, a sister, or whoever you feel the closest bond to, to give you away at your wedding. The choice is entirely yours and up to you.
Today, marriages are far less restrictive, and you will find that many marriage officiants are there to give you a more personalized experience rather than traditional, so you can make changes that suit you if you want to!