Why Does The Father Give The Bride Away? (Tradition & Meaning)

In traditional weddings, the bride’s father leads her down the aisle and gives her over to the husband. If this sounds archaic, it’s because it is. The custom dates back to the days when women were their father’s property, and he gave her away in exchange for a dowry (a large payment, usually made by the groom’s family). 

It was often used as a tactic to keep money within certain families, rather than true love. This old practice has transformed over the centuries, and many modern brides now find it to be very meaningful, whereas other brides choose to dismiss the tradition altogether.

What is meant by “giving away” the bride?

The bride is given away at the wedding when she leaves the hands of her father or parents and meets her fiancé. The outdated practice has changed and is now viewed as a symbol of love and unity by modern-day couples.

Why does the father give the bride away?

As a sign of love and support, the father still gives his daughter away at some weddings. In more modern weddings, either both parents or the bride walk down the aisle.

Many couples carefully consider how they wish to carry out the custom. For many, the act now represents a seamless union of two families. For others, the occasion serves as a link between an old life and a rebirth into their new, married life.

The history of giving away the bride

In ancient times, it was extremely popular for female adolescents to have planned marriages or to be bought by their future groom. The Anglo-Saxon root word “wedd” literally signifies a “pledge” or “vow.”

This could relate to the groom promising to marry the woman, or it could refer to a barter or trade arrangement with the bride’s father for his daughter. The term “wedding” actually refers to a “wager.”

As a result, the bride’s father would draw up a form of contract with the groom in which he would trade for land, social prestige, or even political notoriety, which was as important back then as it is now.

A female kid was known to be her father’s property in those days, therefore passing “possession” to her spouse on her wedding day was legal.

The bride’s family would no longer have control over her or her property (dowry), and her husband would appropriately take on the responsibilities and obligations that her father had once been responsible for.

What “giving away” the bride means today

What does it mean today for a father to hand up his daughter to his future son-in-law? Is there still a contract in place? Fortunately not. It is more of a symbol of his blessing and hope for the couple’s health and happiness.

In reality, in current times, the mother is frequently more active in various scenarios, as the parents may be asked together who gives the bride away.

Divorces, widowhood, remarriages, and female empowerment have resulted in a variety of circumstances that now occur during a wedding ceremony. In a case like this, a bride must now decide who will accompany her down the aisle, if applicable, and how it will be addressed during the presentation of the bride portion of the ceremony.

In certain cases, the bride’s parents divorce and remarry, bringing a stepfather into the picture. To avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, the bride may prefer to have both her “fathers” follow her down the aisle and give her away.

It is also possible that this is the bride’s second wedding and she had children from her prior marriage. It is then up to the bride to request that the children present her to her fiancé and the congregation. There may even be parental bereavement if the bride chooses to walk down the aisle alone.

Alternatives to giving the bride away

Walk down the aisle with your mother

Many brides are as close to their mothers as they are to their fathers, and many more were brought up by single mothers. Moms deserve the opportunity to trade brides for dowries or whatever this tradition entails. But, in reality, seeing a bride and her mother walk down the aisle together makes our little feminist hearts burst out of our chests.

Kelowna, British Columbia / Canada – 08 10 2018: Bride walking with her parents

Walk down the aisle with both parents instead

This approach (common in Jewish weddings) is for brides who don’t want their father to take all of the credit for the ceremony. Also ideal for brides who have two fathers and don’t want to pick between the two.

You get extra encouragement as you go down the aisle, and you honor both of your parents’ contributions in preparing you to be the badass bride you know you are.

Walk down the aisle with your fiance 

A growing trend in recent years that we adore is for couples to walk down the aisle together at the beginning of the ceremony. We love the symbolism of entering the ceremony as engaged people and exiting as married people; it also produces many wonderful, photograph-worthy moments as you enjoy the excitement of the day, side by side.

Begin at the end of the aisle

Alternatively, you can choose to begin the ceremony by already standing at the altar, next to your fiance. This means that the guests will have to walk down the aisle, in order to get to you and take their seats. This is a popular option for brides who don’t enjoy being in the spotlight and would prefer a more humble entrance. 

Walk yourself down the aisle

This is most probably the greatest power move. You don’t need a parent, a partner, or anyone else to walk you down the aisle; you walk down the aisle by yourself. Your independence is most likely a pillar of your relationship, and you have complete faith in yourself.

You’ll also be able to walk at your own pace, without worrying about holding tightly onto someone else and possibly tripping over.