Monday, January 24, 2011

On Feminism, Weddings & Being ‘Given Away’

I’ve always considered myself a feminist, in the sense that I believe men and women should have the right to define themselves within society, rather than being pressured to live their lives within the parameters of societal expectations and boundaries. So, when I got engaged, I’ll admit that the symbolism behind certain wedding traditions initially rubbed me the wrong way, especially the “giving away” of the bride. Why, I thought, should I, a financially and emotionally independent woman, require my parents' walking me down the aisle and physically placing my hand in Stephen’s, as though this marriage were somehow their choice, or something over which they had the final say?

I should note that unlike is true in some religious traditions, the Catholic Church does not advocate a formal giving away of the bride, and the Church often prefers that the bride and groom actually walk down the aisle together as symbol of their equality both before and after marriage. I thought about having this type of processional, walking down the aisle alone, or even having Stephen meet me halfway so that we could make the rest of the walk together.

But as I became more involved in the planning process, something changed, and I somehow I started to feel an attachment to classic weddings traditions, in spite of myself. In the end, I allowed myself to be walked down the aisle, and I allowed my hand to be placed in my groom’s. Though I did put my foot down on being introduced as "Mrs. Stephen Walrath," and would have objected strongly to a typical “who gives this woman” opening phrase, the other traditions in some strange way just felt right.

The way I see it, walking down the aisle with my parents was a sign of my love for them and all they have given me throughout my life. And seeing Stephen waiting for me at the end of the aisle filled me with tremendous joy. Does my going along with these traditions mean I am no longer a feminist? Not in my opinion. In the end, by choosing to honor tradition, I made my own decision and defined myself in the way that I chose, which is what I believe feminism is really about. I had a choice, and I made the best choice for myself, without any doubts or regrets.

What do you think? Do certain wedding traditions make you uncomfortable, and how did you or will you deal with these issues?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)


  1. I wanted both my parents to walk me down, but my Mum wanted the traditional and just my Dad walk me down. I asked not to be called "Mrs. Chris Richardson" though, no thank you, I have my own first name ;)

  2. My parents walked me down the aisle and I liked the symbolism of entering with one family and meeting another (our father also didn't like the giving away but I thought it was a nice compromise!)

  3. I also liked the idea of being walked down the aisle by my brother - but our officiant did not ask "who gives this woman away?" so I was happy about that. Also, I was introduced as "Mrs. My First Name My Last Name" since as of now I'm not changing my name. I think feminism is about having the choice to decide whether you want to be traditional or not.

  4. I totally agree with you about the symbolism of walking with your parents down the aisle! Thats exactly how i viewed it too, and insisted that they both walk with me, not just my dad.

  5. I walked with both of mine and then they let me go and I walked the rest alone. I wasn't being given away, I was showing the symbolism that without the two of them I wouldn't be the healthy, independent woman I was that day!

    I love when a husband and wife walk down together or when both the bride AND groom walk in with their parents.

    In my mind feminism is empowering women to make their own choices. You didn't make a choice because others told you to - you made a choice on your own account and that is what we should all be fighting for!

  6. My brother walked me down the aisle and when asked "who gives this woman away?" he replied "our mother and I do". For me the symbolism was important. While I am my own independent woman, my brother and mother have always been there in the background lurking as my keepers; the foundation of who I am. So the idea that I was leaving the nest to start anew with my husband was big to me and I found the symbolism meaningful.

    And I agree with what Hannah wrote above as well, b/c I was SUPER excited to be announced as Mr. & Mrs. so really any wedding tradition done b/c the woman wants it and not b/c its merely expected is empowering to that person.

    I find that b/c we all do it so differently and do things for different reasons, each detail about our individual weddings become that much more special.

  7. I def agree with you about the giving away part and being called, "Mr. and Mrs. His Name". Where does the bride/woman get represented there? I made sure I told the DJ I want it to be said, "Mr. and Mrs. His Name and Her Name! I actually hate when we get cards in the mail that say Mr. and Mrs. His Name...grrr!

    I love when couples do it their way with or without tradition.

  8. I agree that it's completely fine for the bride and groom to make up their own minds regarding which traditions they want to follow and which ones they want to leave behind. As far as I'm concerned, most traditions are far enough removed from their original meanings and are simply recognizable elements of the modern day wedding. As for who will be walking me down the aisle, my dad and I have such a special relationship that I want to share that moment with him and him alone. It has nothing to do with being "given away" as far as I'm concerned. Just the love between a father and a daughter.

  9. Yes definitely. The whole garter toss thing makes me very uncomfortable, especially with little children, grandparents and future in laws in the room!

    Also, my step dad is walking me down the aisle and my biological father doesn't know it yet. It will be hard to break the news to him as the wedding gets closer but it's something I have to do. I am planning to have two father daughter dances though so I think that will be nice to be able to dance with both of my dads.