Traditions and Alternatives to Giving Away the Bride

marriage ceremony

Giving away the bride is an antiquated tradition from the days when women were their father's property until they got married. Then they became their husband's property. The bride was literally given away in exchange for a bride price or dowry. Fortunately today, most people don't view women this way, yet "giving away the bride" can still be an important opportunity to give thanks to your parents and honor tradition.

Below, you'll find both traditional and alternative wording for this portion of the wedding ceremony. Rather than giving away, your parents can instead voice their blessings for your union. These alternative wordings are also useful if your father is disabled or unable to walk you down the aisle, or if you want to include more than just your parent at this moment. These blessings can be used in addition to, or instead of, wedding guest vows of support.

To a modern woman, the idea of being "transferred" may feel dated and sexist. Rather than just nix this part of the ceremony, you can transform it into something affirming and meaningful.

Traditional Wording

In a traditional ceremony, the father of the bride usually responds to the officiant's question, like this scenario:

Officiant: "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?" or "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?"

Answer: "I do" or "Her mother and I do" or "Her family and I do" or (in unison) "We do."

Wording for Both Sets of Parents

This option allows both parents (or more) to be involved in the answer:

Officiant: "Who presents this woman and this man to be married to each other?
Answer: (All parents in unison): "We do."

Non-Verbal Support of Families

Eliminating the words allows family members to physically show their support. A few options include:

  • When they reach the end of the aisle, the father or parents of the bride hug her and then hug her soon-to-be spouse. No words are said.
  • If a couple walks down the aisle unaccompanied, they can walk first to their families, giving them each a flower and embracing, before meeting at the altar.

Feminist-Inspired Wording

Another option recognizes the bride's choice but allows for a parent's blessing:

Officiant: "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"
Answer: "She gives herself, but with her family's blessing."

Blessing Only

This wording allows others to bless the couple:

Officiant: "Does (name) have (his/her) family's blessing to marry (name)?
Answer: "(He/she) does."

A Longer Blessing

This longer blessing lets the parents acknowledge their support of the couple.

Officiant: "(Parents' names), do you support your child's decision to join together in holy matrimony with (name), and do you vow to receive (him/her) as a member of your family from this day on?
Answer: "With love in our hearts for both (name) and (name), we joyfully do."

When a Parent is No Longer Alive

If one parent is no longer alive, cannot speak, or is not present at the wedding, these options are a way to acknowledge the parent and the blessings:

Officiant: "Who presents this woman to be married to this man?"
Answer: "On behalf of all that have gathered here, and of all those not able to be with us today, I do."

or

Officiant: "Does this couple have the blessings of their family for this marriage?"
Answer: "With the knowledge that (deceased parent) loved and supported this union as much as I do, I freely give my blessing."

or

Answer: "On behalf of those who are with us, and those who have gone before, I give my blessing to this union."

Honoring the Love of Your Family

If the couple chooses to make the wedding blessing more about the new family they are creating, these could work:

Officiant: "Today, as we join (name) and (name) in marriage, we celebrate them as they begin a new family together. Yet we also know that this new branch of the family tree will be strengthened and enriched by the love, traditions, and knowledge of their family roots. Will you (parents' names) bless (couple's names) in their marriage? Will you celebrate them in their times of joy, and bolster them and their marriage in times of hardship? "
Answer: "We will."

or

Officiant: "This beautiful couple didn't get here all by themselves. They have been loved and cared for by you, their families, depending on you for sustenance, knowledge, guidance, and love. Without you, this day would not be possible. From this day forward, they will likely need your support in different ways, but they will still depend on that support. With this in mind, I ask (parent's names), as representatives of your family: will you take this (man/woman), (name), into your family and into your hearts?"
Answer: "We will."
(Officiant repeats the question to the other set of parents, who also answer "We will.")
Officiant: "May the blessing of their marriage extend throughout your families forever."

Presenting is an Honor

If someone besides a parent is presenting the bride, this kind of statement works nicely:

Officiant: "Marriage is in itself a blessing. But doubly blessed is the couple who comes to the marriage altar with the approval and love of their families and friends. Who has the honor of presenting this woman to be married to this man?
Answer: "On behalf of her loving family and friends, I do."

Using one of these examples, the tradition of giving away the bride can instead be a moment to include and honor your family of origin, as you begin a new family together.