In movies, it's always the dad who walks a bride down the aisle, sniffling as he gives her away, but that tradition doesn't fit all families or all cultural traditions. These days, there are so many other options.
Dad: the Traditional Choice for Walking the Bride Down the Aisle
It makes sense that the father of the bride is the most traditional man for the job. For many people, a dad is who gives guidance and can most be counted on. If that's true for you, then your dad will probably be thrilled to walk you down the aisle.
When Your Dad Has Passed Away
Choosing someone to fill your father's place after his death is extremely difficult. In this case, it might feel right to be walked down the aisle by a brother, an uncle, or someone else who's offered guidance and love throughout your life.
Sometimes the question is not, "Should my father walk me down the aisle," but rather, "Which father?" When you have a stepdad that you're very close to, or if you were raised by gay fathers, you may choose to have both men accompany you. This might take some finessing with your biological father, patiently explaining to him that you're not taking away from his role, you're just wanting to honor your second dad as well. Some people choose to walk arm-in-arm with both men or have one dad walk them halfway, with a "hand-off" to the second dad. If you aren't close to your biological father, there's no reason you have to choose him to walk you down the aisle. Your stepfather, adopted father, or really anyone else is a fine substitute. Again, there might be some hurt feelings, so be prepared to talk through them with love, understanding, and the strength of your convictions.
If you were raised by a single mother, it can be awesome to honor all that she's given you by asking her to accompany you.
In a Jewish wedding processional, both members of the couple walk down the aisle, accompanied by their parents. Non-Jewish couples can also choose this option as a symbol of equality—both between them and their impending spouse and between their parents. Be sure that the aisle of your ceremony venue can accommodate three people walking alongside one another, especially if you have a big dress. You might also choose to walk up alone, immediately followed by (or preceded by) your parents.
Just the Groom
In Hindu weddings, it's traditional for the groom to proceed on a horse, with his family walking alone. He meets his bride and her father at their home, or at the altar.
Just the Bride
This is a popular option for older brides and for second weddings. It can be a statement that no one is "giving her away," but rather that she comes of her own free will. Yet, it doesn't have to be a political statement. It's also frequently chosen when a bride's father has already passed away, and she doesn't feel like anyone else should fill his place.
Most wedding traditions assume that you'll have one bride and one groom. But what happens when you have two brides or two grooms? Some couples choose to hew close to heterosexual traditions, choosing the more feminine spouse to fulfill the traditions of the bride and the more masculine to fulfill those of the groom. There's no reason why one person can't walk down the aisle on the arm of his or her father to meet their intended at the altar. Other couples prefer to make new traditions. They may choose to enter together, to not have a processional, or to flip a coin to see who processes first.
Together as One
Walking down the aisle hand in hand is a modern and fresh approach. It says, "We enter this marriage together as partners." You'll give each other strength to calm any nerves, and experience the joy side-by-side. Doing so means that you'll have seen each other before the ceremony, but you'll have a different magical moment to remember instead.
No Aisle Walk at All
Some couples expressly plan it so that they mingle with their guests before the ceremony, and then, without drawing any attention to themselves, stand in front of their officiant. The ceremony begins without any processional at all. This style is especially fitting for casual and informal ceremonies, and of course, when you're eloping!
Choosing Who Walks You Down the Aisle
Whoever you choose to walk you down the aisle, know that it's a position of honor. It announces to the world that this is who you most lean on for support and guidance as you make one of the biggest decisions of your life.