Giving Away the Act of Being Given Away ~ A Reader’s Dilemma

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A few weeks ago an email from a reader appeared in my inbox. The bride-to-be's message really struck a chord with me. While I couldn't offer any direct advice, I felt sure the Love My Dress community would be able to help. With her permission, I have copied her story below… 

'I’m getting married in July 2014. It’ll be a small ceremony (there’ll be 35 of us, in total) and a big party of over 150 of our friends and family, in the evening – or that’s the plan!

My dad died when I was 8, and my mum has never been in a relationship since. I’m an only child.

Despite being incredibly close to my mum, I have always said (both before and after I got engaged!) that I wanted to walk down the aisle on my own, without anyone giving me away.'


Scarlet walked down the aisle on her own on her wedding day
Photography by Karen McGowran

'90% of our guests never got to know my dad. I feel if I have anyone else give me away, it will be all too easy for my dad to go unthought-of by the majority of our friends and family. He was a wonderful father and I have nothing but lovely memories of him.

I’d like to think that on my wedding day, for just a short while, in his absence from my side he’ll be in everyone’s thoughts and holding everyone’s attention, as he would be if he were actually there.'


Kathryn who didn't follow the traditional route of being given away on her wedding day
but instead had a 'first look' and entered the wedding ceremony with her husband to be
Photography by
Caro Weiss

'I’ve seen my mum be a mum and a dad (and do a fab’ job!) for the last 18 years and I think she deserves a day off. Rather than multi-tasking, she should be able to enjoy the role of 'Mother of the Bride' and all that it entails.

My mum is totally fine with my decision, as is my fiancé and the rest of my family. Despite this, with the date approaching and having been to seven weddings this year, I’m starting to get very nervous at the idea of walking down an aisle (albeit fairly small) on my own, without anyone to cling too and just my one (very lovely!) bridesmaid behind me.'


Mrs McInerny, who's two brothers gave her away on her wedding day
Photography by Molly Matcham

'I really want to stick to my original ‘dream’ and go it alone, but as someone who doesn’t really enjoy the limelight I’m already starting to get nervous at the idea. I don’t want to be a blubbering mess whilst walking to meet my husband-to-be, but nor do I want to be full of regret as I hold the arm of someone else who isn’t my Dad.

If I could just hear from a few other brides in a similar situation, I’m sure I’ll be filled with inspiration & confidence!'


Fiona, who gave herself away on her wedding day
Photography by John Day

The antiquated tradition of a father giving away his daughter on her wedding day has its roots in the days of arranged marriages. Women were considered their father's property until they were married, at which point ownership was transferred to their new husband. Although the way women are viewed has come a long way since then, the act of being given away is still weighted with significance and meaning. Many couples see it as an important opportunity to give thanks to their parents and honour tradition.

I've touched on my own experience of marriage and bereavement before. I still believe the uncertainty surrounding one's emotions and how they will play out on the day is the most daunting part of preparing for a wedding without a loved one.


Kate didn't want to follow tradition and be given away so walked down the aisle  with her husband
to be James, after having had a first look (<– brilliant link, click me now!)

Photography by S6 Photography

In the run up to our own nuptials, I considered a few options for that all important entrance, but in the end clinging to the arm of my step-father seemed most appropriate. I told myself it was OK to cry and that it was OK to make other people cry too. I never felt the need to apologise for my grief. Like our reader, I wanted my father to be in everyone's thoughts that day and we've previously covered some of the ways you can include absent loved ones at your wedding

Giving away the act of being given away - a discussion post

Franky on her wedding day, being given away by her step-father
Photography by Eliza Claire

Of course, the question of walking down the aisle alone is not necessarily limited to those of us whose fathers have passed on. Perhaps your dad didn't take an active role in your upbringing, or maybe it just doesn't feel right to have him at your side as you enter this chapter of your life. It's also possible that this is simply a tradition you're planning to overlook on your wedding day.

We'd love to hear from you this morning, especially if you have any words of reassurance for our bride-to-be. Are you facing a simliar dilemma? Did you head down the aisle alone and live to tell the tale?

Much love,




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46 thoughts on “Giving Away the Act of Being Given Away ~ A Reader’s Dilemma

  1. I was in the same position, I am an only child and my father was too ill to come to my wedding. I asked my mother to walk me down the isle. It was the part of the day I was most nervous about. It was so wonderful to have her with me, it was a really special moment for us. I felt by having my mother I was not replacing my father with an uncle or cousin but I had the support I needed on the day. Best of luck with your decision, go with what works for you and don’t be pressured by others as to what you should do!

  2. Firstly, I’m sorry you are having to make this decision. Sounds like you have a wonderful mum and it is very thoughtful of you to ‘give her the day off’ as you put it. But I am worried you’ll stress yourself out instead which really shouldn’t happen, planning a wedding is an exciting wonderful thing that should be enjoyable. I can’t speak as a bride but as a photographer who had seen many brides make this decision so I thought I would share some of those that didn’t go for mum or a brother. So there was Ellie, who came down the aisle holding the hand of her best friend, her bridesmaid, a true supportive friend but away from the tradition of being given away by a man. Then there was Katie who did away with the secrecy, just arrived at the venue almost just like a guest, the other guests cheered, the groom told her she was beautiful, and then once everyone was seated they walked up the aisle together. If you still want the moment of surprise the idea above of having a first look is fantastic. I know you say you don’t want anyone to replace your father, but another bride actually walked up with her father in law, which was very touching.
    What concerns me is that if you are already feeling nervous now that it will stress you out up until then which would be a shame. If you do really want to go it alone, just remember that the 35 faces around you will be sending nothing but love your way so enjoy the moment, smile and walk up to the person you are in love with, ready to say i do.
    Good luck, and I hope we’ll get to catch up with you again on LMD!

  3. I am facing exactly the same dilemma with my July 2015 wedding, like yours it’s a small intimate affair during the day with a large party on the evening, sadly dad passed away aug 2011 after a long illness, my mum is expecting to give me away but like yourself I feel nobody can replace my dads role, I now feel like I am adding to my mums grief, my dad was a huge rock fan and his favourite group was “zz top” so in my dads memory I am hoping to rock down the aisle to “gimme all your loving!” And I want everyone to get up and dance in his honour! I hope you have a truly special day and your dads memory is celebrated x

  4. Hi Annabel,
    We had the very same dilemma for our wedding. Emily’s Dad passed away when she was 10. Her Mum has remarried and she’s close to her brother but it just wasn’t the same. So we walked down the aisle together. You mention all the nerves of walking down an aisle, well we shared all of that. It was a really special moment for us. Part of me misses the romance of turning round and seeing my wife to be walking down the aisle, but the day was more than a moment and marriage is more than a day. x

  5. I think if that is what you have always imagined, do it. It’s a lovely and meaningful choice to make to not have anyone else ‘replace’ your dad in that way, and you’ll look back on the day and be glad you did it! That moment *literally* passes in seconds, and believe me, after the build up of the morning, the travel to the church/ceremony venue, the answering of the registrar’s questions and the wait for your cue, you really do just want to get to your husband to be as soon as you can and get this marriage thing done!! And the love and well-wishes that radiate in your direction will get you up that aisle in no time. You might even enjoy it- be brave! xx

  6. Hi, My Dad chose not to come to our wedding recently , since my parents divorce i15 years ago he has cut himself off from his past life and only has contact with me.
    I’m not close to my Mum and also it didnt seem right. So with my 4 flower girls (2 godaughters and 2 nieces) my 4 bridesmaids accompanying me down the ailse, I knew they would be quite a distraction to me! (As didnt fancy ALL eyes on me) I asked Alexander my 5 year old nephew to hold my hand as we walked down the ailse. He did a super job and gave me a lovely kiss at the end of the ailse.
    This was my prefered way of getting past the ‘give you away’ discussion. I wish you all the best with your decision and hope your day is amazing. Also if it helps, the ailse bit was such a small part of the day….over in a flash, so try not to get too worked up or the ceremony will be a blur!
    Love Heather xx

  7. Im afraid i don’t have any advice, only comfort that I am also facing the same situation. I lost my dad 8 years ago and i think my mum just expected that she would take his place when it came to walking down the aisle, in fact she seemed a little upset and disappointed when i said that i wanted to do it on my own. I to want her to have her day as mother of the bride, and not be both my mum and dad. She was taken aback but said that she said she would be more upset if i had anyone else take my dads place. I am so nervous about doing it myself, I’m ridiculously uncomfortable with being centre of attention for the day and actually wanted to get married abroad because i knew it would reduce the number of guest dramatically. My fiancé has said that if its too much for me he will walk me down the aisle, which my mum is fine about.
    Things have been complicated further by my uncles passing this year, on our wedding date. I know that family members will be upset about that, and i’ve worried (somewhat selfishly) that because his passing is so fresh in the memory that people will overlook that I am going through our wedding dad without my father.

  8. Good morning my lovely,
    I adored reading this. What a beautiful way to cherish your father.
    Have you considered getting something sentimental that used to belong to him, or reminds you of him woven into your bouquet? Perhaps a picture too? That way it might steady your nerves and reinforce that you are not on your own.
    Hold your bridesmaids hand before you make your entrance. Give her a big squeeze! Take a deep breath and when you start your walk up the aisle , smile and look at no-one else other than your husband to be. Like Sama said above, it’s a powerful few moments and after the overwhelming nerves waiting for my ‘cue’, all I could think of was wanting to run down the aisle to see my fiancé. Don’t be afraid if you change your mind about your entrance and don’t be afraid of how you feel in that very moment, it’s all perfectly imperfect and quite beautiful! Congratulations on your forthcoming wedding. Enjoy making many more memories Xxx Nova xx

  9. I think the idea of giving away the bride is outdated. You’re no-one’s property to give away!
    I can understand why women still choose to walk down the aisle with their fathers, to honour that relationship, but I also hope they will consider walking with both parents, just their mum, or someone else important in their life.
    Personally I walked down the aisle with my groom. We had a ‘first look’ beforehand and it was lovely to have a private moment before the ceremony – it definitely calmed me down.
    I would advise the bride who wrote in to do whatever feels right for her, whatever will make her most calm and happy on the day. And remember there are lots of ways she can honour her dad’s memory – not just by walking down the aisle alone.

  10. This is such a touching post. Something that I’m sure a lot of brides go through. A number of my brides have sadly lost there father before they walked down the aisle.
    Every single one of them chose a different approach to walking down the aisle. One with her brothers, one with her mum, one with her groom, and every one was incredibly touching.
    It’s your wedding, you must remember that your Dad will be watching down on you and be incredibly proud of his little girl. Before you walk down the aisle take a deep breath and enjoy your beautiful day. Xx

  11. im sorry to hear the story of your father not being at your wedding day, I rarely leave comments but this one pulled at heartstrings as I was lucky enough to have my Dad there, and whilst it meant everything to me, I am sure I also took it for granted
    with or without anyone walking you down the aisle its the most nerve wracking time of the day….that is until you hear the music you and h2b have carefully chosen, on that first chord of music and seeing the first face you recognise the nerves and fear go away. I was told this by many-a-bride as I was very nervous and I didn’t believe them, until it happened to me, I went from a leg shaking wreck to someone walking to my future husband with confidence.
    perhaps ask you h2b to make sure he is facing you and not doing the traditional facing away scenario, as it really is the moment you see his face that you will forget about everyone there and it will become a very easy walk
    stick to your guns, no one has been able to replace your Dad since he passed away when you were a small girl, so why should someone on your most important day.
    you will be fine, trust me and good luck x

  12. You’ve expressed such a gorgeous sentiment about your late father here. Like Andy’s comment above, my husband and I walked down the aisle together. My father didn’t attend my wedding, and I didn’t want my mum to step into that role for the same reasons you’ve expressed. Walking down the aisle with James was amazing – we’d been together over 7 years by the time we got married, and I already felt like I was very much his and didn’t need anyone to ‘give’ me to him. We got to share all the nerves and excitement and felt like we were in the whole thing together – plus we did an amazing first look beforehand so still got to share the lovely moment of him turning around and seeing me. (That’s us featured in one of the images Franky’s included above!).
    I have absolutely no regrets about how we did things. I think the fact that every other wedding I’ve been to has had a more traditional bride entrance made me love the way we did it all the more.
    Good luck in whatever you decide to go with. Your wedding day will be amazing for all the right reasons.
    Kate xx

  13. In 2013 you generally find that most couples have been together years and living together for a long time too. The idea of being given away isn’t as important anymore. Why don’t you and your partner walk down together? That way you’re entering the ceremony as one and you can enjoy one of those lovely sneak peak moments beforehand?

  14. I did walk down the aisle with my dad, however I was very nervous about this and about people staring at me.
    However, once I did enter the room, I really felt so much love coming from our guests – remember that they are there because they love you and are happy with you, and want to celebrate and support you. You won’t be alone, you have everyone you love with you!

  15. So great to hear about this from a photographer’s perspective, thank you for commenting. Your closing line is spot on too, everyone in the audience will be willing our reader on with love and happiness.
    Franky xxx

  16. Oh Colleen, I’m so sorry you are going through this too.
    The hardest thing about any wedding is trying to please everyone. I think you probably have to follow your heart on this one. I’m sure your Mum will be so caught up in the joy of the occasion that any sadness she feels now at the prospect of you going it alone will vanish. I LOVE your idea for including your father’s favourite rock music. It will definitely put smiles on everyone’s faces!

  17. I really love the idea of a bride and groom walking in together. I can imgaine how special it must have felt. Thank you for your comment Andy.

  18. Such a tricky situation Elaine, I’m so sorry for the losses your family have had to endure.
    I’m sure that on the day both your father and your uncle will be in everyone’s thoughts. Not one more than the other, but missed in equal measure. Grief is different for everyone and you must deal with yours in a way that feels right for you. I really love the idea of couples walking in together, so if that’s what you think you’ll need, go for it.

  19. Ahh, lovely Kate, one of my favourite brides ever to grace these pages. I love that you’ve taken time to reply to this feature Kate, thank you so much – even I find your words incredibly reassuring, so hopefully, our lovely reader will too.
    Yours is my favourite first look ever. EVER.
    Thank you for offering such kind and reassuring words

  20. Go for it – take the pieces of tradition you would like for your wedding and leave the rest at the door. It’s your wedding, your way. As a photographer, all of the couples interpret the wedding ‘rules’ to suit them – some of my couples have walked in together, and that has been amazing – with an attitude that they don’t need giving away, they are entering into the marriage together as one. xxx Have an amazing wedding, take a deep breath before you walk in and savour the moment, and raise a glass to your dad 🙂 xxxxxx

  21. PS from my own experience, walking down the aisle was amazing – you look round and see your family and friends all looking proud, no expectation, just love – and the best bit? Your boy is at the end of the aisle waiting for you 🙂

  22. Ah, I feel for you. I have the same (or very similar) situation – I’m getting married in Feb and my dad died just last year. I will have my mum walking me down the aisle as I know my dad would have been happy with that as although they were not together they were very close. However I did also consider walking down the aisle myself – in the end I decided my mum would like to walk with me and I’d appreciate having her with me.
    However I would echo lots of the other commenters and say that really is such a small part of the wedding and will be over in a flash – of course it is a very special moment, but with just 35 of presumably your very closest loved ones there, you’ll feel nothing but love and support from that room whatever you decide. And I am sure that everyone whether they knew him or not will be thinking of your dad when they see his beautiful daughter walking down the aisle.
    So I hope you have a wonderful day and don’t let this decision cause you more agony than it needs to – if you and your mum are feeling sad on the day embrace it, have a little weep and see it as an important part of a joyful day.

  23. When I got married, my dad was quite disabled and unable to walk very well, so I came down the ‘aisle’ (actually a staircase) on my own, and I was happy with that. I must admit, there was also part of me that felt I was my own person to ‘give away’ – somehow it meant more to me that I was saying, here I am, a (fiercely) independent woman, making this choice to give myself to you, rather than being passed from one man to another. As it turned out, I needed one hand to hold my bouquet and the other to hold the banister, so I didn’t have a spare arm anyway!

  24. A friend of mine had to make the same decision. She started to walk down the aisle herself, but the groom walked towards her at the same time. They met about half way and he walked her down the rest of the aisle.

  25. I think the only way is to follow your heart and do what feels right and comfortable for you. I think walking the aisle on your own is a very beautiful way to remember your father.
    My own father died less than a year before my wedding and I wanted to honour his memory and also have the happy day, love and support I know he wanted for me. I chose to walk the aisle with a really lovely Uncle which felt like the good company I know my father wanted to be and not like being given away.
    I too, dislike the limelight so I was still feeling shy about walking the aisle, but as I did any nerves were completely forgotten when I saw the smiles of our guests. All I can really remember was the look from my husband as I walked towards him to take his hand which was one of the best and most meaningful parts of the day. I hope this bride has a wonderful day too.

  26. Hi, this post really does bring a tear to my eye. I think its so inspirational of you to want to walk down the aisle on your own as an act of respect to your Dad and to show that no one has taken his place. It is making me well up just thinking about it. Whilst planning my wedding, I’ve grown to realise how important a daughter’s wedding day is to her Father, and being particularly close to mine, there is no way anyone could replace him. I understand that it’s tradition and resembles ownership but I think there is a little bit of a daddy’s girl in most people and the bond between daughter and father is so special. I really admire your decision and think you should walk down the aisle with your head held high looking stunning and knowing that your dad is looking down on you and beaming with pride. I wish you all the best for your big day and future as a married couple.
    Laura xx

  27. My Father left when I was a young girl and as my fiancé and I had organised and paid for every penny of our wedding, I hadnt lived with him for over 24 years, I certainly didnt want him to give me away as it felt totally inappropriate.
    I chose to walk down the aisle with my bridesmaid who would be carrying my 8 week old daughter.
    When we arrived at the venue and got to the door, my dad was stood there and insisted that he gave me away.
    I was really angry and upset with him – he promised me that although he hadn’t been before, he would be there for me for the rest of my life. After much persuasion, I eventually allowed it and he has more than kept to his word.
    So, in hindsight, although he ruined a small portion of my day, he has made up for it in bucket loads and I am so glad I allowed him to talk me round. I got my Dad back. Sarah x

  28. I lost my father very suddenly when I was 15, he was a huge figure in my life and that of my family, 26 years later it was very important that he be present in some way at my wedding. My sister and I had always felt we would ask our uncle to walk us down the aisle but over the years I formed a close bond with my older brother and I felt so proud having him walk me on the day. I made my own brooch bouquet with a locket holding my dad’s picture so it felt like he was with me as I walked down the aisle. This was something I had done for me really so I hadn’t told anyone about the picture but everyone noticed the photo without me needing to draw attention to it. Each of my female family members where reduced to tears as they noticed it for the first time, not something I had planned! But it was lovely that everyone was so moved and that my dad’s presence really was so strongly felt on my wedding day. I also spoke about him briefly in my ‘brides speech’ commenting on what a wonderful job my brother had done in his absence. My brother didn’t just walk me down the aisle but also drove me to my wedding and it felt really special being just the 2 of us after the rest of the bridal party had left, I know my dad would have been really proud. If I was an only child I would definitely go for the ‘first look’ and walk together, what a wonderfully romantic thing to experience and to catch on film and to have the support of each other as you take those first steps towards your marriage.

  29. I am getting married in April 2014. My mum passed away when I was 15 and since then I became very close to my dad, more than ever. He took the role of both parents, going shopping with me and doing all the things my mum would do as well as being an amazing dad. Whenever I dreamed about how my wedding day would look I knew my mum wouldn’t be there and was heartbroken by this but took some comfort from the thought my dad would be there to walk me down the isle and give me the support I would need. I looked forward to the special moments in the car on the way to the venue and wondered what we would talk about, remembering mum. My dad then passed away two years ago when I was 20. It has been so difficult thinking about my wedding day without my mum or dad being there. Every time I talk to someone about the wedding, the florist, photographer, makeup artist etc I have to explain my situation as everyone assumes I would have both parents. I will be having my eldest brother walk me down the isle, I know it just won’t be the same though.

  30. I actually couldn’t leave my Mum out of this tradition. While I’ve always been “Daddy’s girl”, my Mum and I have a really unique relationship too, particularly as we spent a lot of time alone together when I was a child and Dad was away with the Forces. So I decided to have them both walk me down the aisle and, when the registrar asked who was giving me away, they jointly said, “We do”. It was a really special moment for me. I think tradition be damned, do what feels right for you. And good luck to your bride-to-be! X

  31. Hi all, I’m actually the bride-to-be that wrote to Franky. I had asked to remain anonymous, but have been so touched by each individual response…I just wanted to say a huge thank you, for all your wonderfully kind words…they have really inspired me & I feel more confident than ever about going ahead with my original vision to go it alone!!
    Obviously, everyone’s situation is different & that’s what’s been so lovely about all the comments that you’ve left; there’s no right & wrong & you should do what makes you happy, on the day!!
    Wish me luck guys!!x 🙂
    And thanks to Franky, for writing such a lovely article!x

  32. I’m getting married next year and my mum will be giving me away. My mum and dad separated when I was a teenager, and I haven’t seen my Dad since I was 18. My mum has supported me in everything that I’ve done and even though I have two older brothers – there was nobody else I’d rather have supporting me.

  33. My father died after having “given away” both me and my elder sister, and our mother had died six months prior to my elder sister’s wedding. When my younger sister was married she asked me to walk in with her, not as a bridesmaid or Matron of Honour, but as a supporter. Unusual. But it was her idea, and her wish for her wedding day.
    Nowadays, with so many traditions having been overturned, I think you should do whatever you want, and whatever makes you happy. However, and I have said this to many brides who say they do not like the limelight, (and without wanting to freak you out!) on your wedding day everyone WILL be looking at you, as it is your day. But equally, because they are your friends and family, they WILL be sending love to you as you walk down the aisle, with or without a supporter. But will they know why you walk alone? Why not make sure everyone understands your decision, and write them all a little note? Explain how nervous you feel about it, and ask for their support.
    Have a lovely day!

  34. Isn’t it lovely being able to communicate with people who have shared a similar experience?
    A wedding day for anyone is emotional, especially when all eyes are on you. As long as the people who love you the most know of your position and how you feel about it, I’m sure your day will be filled with joy.
    Kate x

  35. I’ve just come across this post, but it’s particularly relevant to me as I won’t be given away by my dad, and I’m getting married in 10 days!
    My dad left when I was young, and twenty or so years since, have not been the easiest. Although things are better than they were (and subsequently he is coming to the wedding) it would not have been appropriate for him to give me away. Instead my two brothers will, and I’ve described as them escorting me, not giving me away.
    I know this may raise questions on the day, and I don’t want my dad to feel embarrased so I will be giving him a ‘first look’ before I walk down the aisle.

  36. I’m getting married in April, and neither of my parents will be present. My mother and I haven’t spoken since she emigrated to Australia (long, painful and above all dull story). My father lives in China and so has used the length and expense of the trip as his excuse (I honestly don’t know if he wants to be there or not).
    I am being given away by my dear friend Sam, and I’m so glad. Originally, I (rather bad-temperedly) thought, ‘fine, I’ll walk down the aisle on my own.’ But then I had the idea of asking Sam, and he was so delighted. My proto-husband and I met through our church choir, and so we have to process down the aisle every week. It is usually me and Sam at the front, so aside from taking his arm, Sam and I will walk down the aisle together just as we normally would (this means we also get to relive it every week forever!), with the rest of the choir behind us in lieu of bridesmaids. We’re also going to write and give the father of the bride speech together, and I’m just going to write something in the order of service like ‘Jess’s parents live abroad, so she is being given away by her dear friend Sam’ so that I don’t have to spend the whole day making excuses for my parents.
    I’m so glad to be given away by someone who actually wants to do it, and it’s lovely that something that could have made me feel sad has turned itself inside out like this.

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