Fathers Of The Bride: Tradition & Tensions Down The Aisle


The Crown Princess of Sweden will walk down the aisle next month by her father’s side. Her decision to include him in the ceremony has been publicly denounced as a step back for gender equality.

While the whole father-giving-away-daughter thing is still considered pretty common in America, the Swedes have long since rejected this tradition. Instead of being escorted down the aisle, Swedish brides walk hand-in-hand with their future husbands, thus symbolizing the equality of their union. Only 1 in 10 brides are “given away,” but some religious leaders fear that the high-profile wedding of a royal to a commoner could make the outdated practice a new trend.

Archbishop Anders Wejryd, head of the Swedish church, has issued a public statement regarding the Princess Victoria’s wedding. “Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden,” he said. “I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses’ equality.” Annika Borg, a priest and theologian, agreed with the Archbishop, before going on to blame Americans and our entertainment. She called Princess Victoria’s decision an “unSwedish” import from U.S. films and television. “The idea of the couple entering the church together symbolizes that the man and the woman are entering the marriage of their own free will,” she continued.

While in theory, we think it’s pretty great that the leading religious body in Sweden is pointing out the sexism in certain practices, there is something to be said for respecting the bride’s decision. The Royal Court stands behind her choice, and a spokesman claims that the walk will still be symbolic – just not in the way we normally think. Casting it in a slightly more political light, Nina Eldh explained: “This isn’t a father giving away his daughter to another man. The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation’s throne to the altar – and to the man who has been accepted.” The Telegraph notes that the choice of groom helps to keep the wedding from veering into Disney territory. Daniel Westling is hardly a prince – he is a “commoner” and a personal trainer. He met Princess Victoria through work, when she hired him to supervise her workouts.

But no number of couples crunches can make the issue any less fraught. When it comes to the ritual itself, the Jezebels are pretty split. Anna North says she never thought she would stroll down the aisle with her father, but is willing to think about it again when it is no longer an abstract question. Hortense is also unsure, though she says: “I do know for a fact that I won’t have that ‘Who gives this woman to be married’ bit at the ceremony.” Sadie is also going to do the walk solo because her “dad would find it weird. But,” she adds, “I have no problem with the tradition; I’ve seen it be really nice.” Margaret and Jessica are both of the “don’t love the idea but love my dad” camp, and expect to someday have their fathers accompany them to the altar.

As for me, I always thought I would have a “feminist wedding,” but at the same time, I would never want to hurt my dad. Seeing as marriage is in the far, far distant future, we’ve never discussed the issue, yet if he wanted to walk with me, I don’t know if I could refuse. As Hortense pointed out, the origins of the practice are decidedly creepy and have their roots in patriarchal power structures. However, if the bride and groom are “modern” enough to have an equal marriage, how much does the actual wedding ceremony really matter? While I applaud the Swedish church’s dedication to gender equality, for most of us non-royals, aisle-walking is really not a big deal. Sure, it’s a symbolic moment, yet like many holidays (for example: St. Patrick’s day) and traditions (trick-or-treat?), we’ve been doing it for so long that the ritual itself has become divorced from it’s original meaning. As the institution of marriage grows and evolves, so does the meaning behind formerly “creepy” symbols. What was once a moment of economic exchange is now a deeply rooted part of the most common commitment ceremony. For me, it would be nothing more than a way to involve my father in our (I’m talking mine and my partner’s) big day.

Swedish Princess Victoria Opts For Sexist Wedding [Sydney Morning Herald]
Feminists And Church Unite In Sweden To Black A Princess’s Wish To Be Given Away [The Irish Times]
Swedish Princess Emulating ‘Sexist British Tradition’ Of Giving Bride Away [Telegraph]

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