One of the most dramatic moments in a wedding is when the bride is walked down the aisle. The guests rise and all eyes are upon the vision in white as she glides down the aisle on the arm of her beaming father. That is the ideal, anyway. Between the dilemma over choosing which “dad” should walk her down the aisle and teaching him about his role, getting to that perfect vision can take a little bit of effort. This is what you need to know about the role of the bride’s escort down the aisle.
The first step is for the bride to decide whom she would like as her escort for the ceremony. It is traditional for the bride’s father to have the honors; in olden times, the patriarch was literally handing off control of the young woman to her new master, aka the groom. These days, we don’t much concern ourselves with the chauvinistic origins of certain wedding customs, and instead focus on how touching the moment can be. If the bride is close to her father, the choice of ceremony escort is easy.
However, life is not always so straightforward, and a large number of brides come from divorced parents. If the bride has maintained a relationship with her father, even if it is not that close, she will likely want her biological dad to be her escort. Things get tricky when the bride has been raised by her step-father and considers him to be more of a dad than her birth father. In that case, she can definitely request that her step-father be the lucky man to serve as her escort. The bride also has the option of side-stepping the father dilemma altogether and asking her mom or brother to walk her down the aisle. In the case of a deceased father, most brides will opt for their mother, brother, or another close male relative like an uncle or grandfather as the escort.
In Jewish wedding traditions, both the bride’s mother and father are her escorts down the aisle. This is a lovely custom, although if the bride’s parents are divorced, it can become complicated. Hopefully the divorced or estranged parents will be able to adopt a cordial tone for the duration of the wedding for the sake of their daughter’s happiness. If there is no way for the bride’s parents to stand near one another without World War III breaking out, then she can either choose to walk with one parent, or one parent plus a step-parent, if there has been a remarriage. Certainly if the bride is close to both of her parents, the idea of excluding one of them would be heart-wrenching, in which case her best bet is to privately explain to her divorced mother and father how much it would mean to her to have them both walk her down the aisle as Jewish tradition dictates.
After the bride has sorted out the question of who should walk her down the aisle, there is the matter of educating her escort on how to do so with grace and dignity. The number one job of the bride’s escort is to help keep her calm and upright on her way down the aisle. The father of the bride should place his arm through the bride’s, so that she can hold her bouquet in front of her. Linking arms is not only nice symbolism, but it ensures that if the bride should stumble, he will keep her on her feet. In addition to that, since they are walking arm-in-arm, the bride’s escort can help her to keep a steady pace during the processional. As nervous and eager as they are, most brides would practically run up the aisle, if not for their father maintaining a leisurely pace.
Once they reach the altar, the bride’s escort will do a few things. In most ceremonies, the officiant will ask, “Who gives this woman in marriage?”, at which point the escort will answer in the affirmative. If the bride is wearing a veil, her father may push it back to give her a kiss, taking care to not tangle it in her bridal jewelry. Sometimes the blusher will remain back, or sometimes the bride’s father will replace it over her face after giving her a kiss (once again taking care not to snag her bridal jewelry in the fine tulle netting). Then he will shake the hand of the groom, and take his seat on the bride’s side of the aisle, next to her mother if they are on good terms, or in the row behind her if not. Then it is time for the bride’s escort to sit back and enjoy the rest of the wedding ceremony.