Back in the day, weddings only happened between a bride and a groom, and the only way for the bride to marry the groom was to be given away by her father. Luckily, those days are gone! Modern couples have so many more processional options and alternatives to giving away the bride.

You can still include your parents or other loved ones in your wedding ceremony while tweaking this dated tradition. Below we’re sharing nine alternatives to giving away the bride, as well as a brief history lesson and the exact script you can use to get your parents on board.

PS: Still plan to have the bride’s father give her away? Go for it! If that’s a tradition you want to uphold, we support you in designing a ceremony that works for you. But if you’re curious about some easy changes you can make to modernize this tradition, keep reading! Even if you decide to stick with the traditional giving away, you’ll at least have considered all of your options.

Where does giving away the bride come from?

The tradition of the bride’s father giving away the bride officially dates back to 1549 in a book written by the Church of England. But the concept of fathers arranging matches for their daughters and “giving them away” in marriage goes back much further.

This tradition stems from an age when unmarried women were considered the property of their fathers and given away as a transfer of property, often in exchange for a dowry. Of course, in many modern marriages, dowries are obsolete and women are no longer considered property (phew!).

brides father, gives away, giving away the bride at wedding ceremony, processional
by Erica Miller Photography

Why “giving away the bride” isn’t inclusive

We’re pretty sure the answer to this one is obvious, but just in case it isn’t we’d love to dive into why “giving away the bride” is not an inclusive term or practice.

To start, not all weddings have a bride. This is an extremely heteronormative tradition and is obviously exclusionary for couples who don’t have a bride or who have more than one bride. This tradition also assumes a bride will be given away by her father, but a bride’s father may not be involved in the wedding or the best person to take on this role. It also completely ignores a bride’s mother or other important loved ones in her life.

Perhaps the biggest red flag with this tradition is the concept of “giving away.” By referring to one member of the couple as a piece of property to be transferred from one man’s ownership to another, we not only remove their humanity by treating them like an object but we also remove their agency by not giving them any say in the decision.

hugging parents at end of the aisle during wedding processional
by Erica Miller Photography

“But I still want to have a special moment with my dad at my wedding!”

You can absolutely still have a special moment with your dad, or any parent or loved one, at your wedding. You don’t have to incorporate the “giving away of the bride” tradition in order to honour your parents and your relationship with them. Below we’re sharing lots of alternatives to giving away the bride that honour your beliefs and still show your parents how much you love them!

“But my dad has always dreamed of giving away his little girl! What should I tell him?”

This is something we hear from a lot of couples, so know you’re not alone in having a parent who feels strongly about this tradition. However, in our opinion, that’s not a good enough reason to incorporate a tradition you don’t believe in that removes your agency and personhood.

Before you try and talk your dad out of giving you away, take some time to reflect on this tradition. If it doesn’t sit right with you, figure out what you want to do (check out our alternatives below!) and what you feel comfortable with. Make sure you loop your partner in on these conversations so you can get their support.

With an alternative in mind, sit down with your dad or parents well ahead of your wedding ceremony. As long as the conversation remains respectful, you can explain your perspective and hear where they’re coming from. Remember that you do not have to justify why you feel a certain way or tolerate a conversation that impacts your emotional or mental health.

Once you’ve presented an alternative to giving away the bride to your parents, give them some time to adjust or ask questions. They may need a few days or few weeks to get on board.

parents walking their daughter down the aisle, brides father gives away bride alternatives
by Erica Miller Photography

“But what do I actually say to my dad to help him understand?”

For most dads who dream about “giving away their little girl” what they’re actually dreaming about is having an important role on your wedding day and being by your side, not selling you like cattle. They may have never taken the time to think about what the tradition stands for, too busy picturing themselves wiping away tears as they walk you down the aisle.

So rather than stomp on their dream, you can gently explain why the tradition doesn’t sit well with you and how they can still be involved on your wedding day. You could say something like:

“Dad, I understand that you’ve been thinking about giving me away at my wedding for many years. I love that you’re so excited for my wedding day and I definitely want you to be a big part of it. I don’t feel like the traditional giving away of the bride reflects our relationship or how I want to enter into my marriage. Instead, I’d love if we [insert your chosen alternative here]. That way, I still get to have a special moment with you and honour my beliefs.” 

Bottom line: You dad’s long held dream doesn’t override your agency and how you choose to enter your marriage.

couple walking into their wedding ceremony together, alternative processional ideas
by Erica Miller Photography

9 alternatives to giving away the bride

So if the tradition of the bride’s father giving away the bride is out, what’s in? Check out nine alternatives that might work for your wedding ceremony:

Each member of the couple walks in with their parents

Rather than just the bride and her father (remember, not all weddings have brides and not all brides have fathers!), in this alternative both members of the couple and all of their parents will be included in the wedding processional. That way, the spotlight is on both spouses-to-be and all of the wonderful people who raised them.

Each member of the couple walks in solo

Another option is to walk in solo, processing down the aisle on your own without any escorts. Both members of the couple can do this, representing their agency and independence in making the choice to be together. This is a great alternative if you don’t want to include your parents in the aisle walk or have too many parents to include and don’t want to choose which ones will join the processional.

alternative to giving away the bride, bride walks in solo
by Bobbi Barbarich Photography

The couple walks in together

One beautiful alternative to giving away the bride is for the almost-newlywed couple to walk into their ceremony together, escorting one another, instead of walking in alone or with parents. This is a modern option, as traditionally the couple doesn’t see each other until the end of the aisle. But we love the idea of a couple walking into their marriage together! Again, this is a great compromise if you don’t have relationships with your parents or have too many parents to include.

Parents walk their child part way

If you like the idea of walking yourself down the aisle but still want a sweet moment with your parents, consider this alternative. You can process with your parents part way down the aisle and then meet up with your partner or walk yourself the remaining length of the aisle, your parents walking a few steps behind. That way, you’re not being given away and you’re able to walk independently into marriage with the support of your family literally behind you.

processional alternative, groom walks in with parents, young hip and married wedding ceremony
by Erica Miller Photography

Parents join the processional

A great way to give your parents a meaningful role in the wedding party while removing the giving away tradition is by including them in your processional. Instead of escorting you down the aisle, your parents can have their own moment walking down the aisle with your other wedding attendants. They can then take seats of honour at the front.

The couple processes with their chosen loved ones

Remember, it doesn’t have to be your parents who walk you down the aisle! You can choose to process with anyone (or no one!) including your children, siblings, grandparents, friends or fur baby.

groom walks down the aisle with dog at vancouver wedding
by Bobbi Barbarich Photography

The couple greets their parents at the end of the aisle

This option can be added onto any of the alternatives on this list. No matter how you come down the aisle, you can take a moment to greet your parents before your ceremony begins. Many couples love to include a sweet hug with moms and/or dads before they join hands and say I do. This also gives you a chance to hug your parents-in-law, which is always nice!

Parents are included in the wedding ceremony

Rather than join the processional, or in addition to, your parents can take on roles in your wedding ceremony. For example, your parents can be ceremony readers, light the unity candle, sign your marriage licence as witnesses or hold your wedding rings. Your wedding officiant can even include them in your ceremony script, acknowledging the impact they’ve had on your life and relationship.

Parents are included in other special wedding moments

Just because you don’t want the bride to be given away by her father at your wedding doesn’t mean you and your partner can’t have special moments with your parents. But rather than going along with a dated tradition that is gendered and treats women as property, you can create something that feels more authentic to your relationship and the celebration you’re planning.

For example, you can do a first look with your parents, arrange to have special family photos taken, ask your parents to give a speech at your reception or rehearsal dinner, choreograph a special dance with them or involve them in pre-wedding activities, like outfit shopping. There are lots of ways to involve your parents in your wedding day and honour them in front of all of your guests!

parents of the bride and groom at wedding ceremony
by Page & Holmes Photography

Bonus: 5 alternatives to “Who presents this woman to be married?”

There is a religious tradition that sometimes accompanies the father of the bride giving away the bride. As the father and bride approach the end of the aisle, the officiant will ask, “Who presents this woman to be married to this man?” The father will then answer, “I do.”

But if that gives you the ick, go ahead and change it! Here are five alternatives to the who gives this bride away script you can use at your wedding ceremony.

  1. Remove it entirely. Unless it’s mandated by the religious body that you’re getting married under, you can remove the who gives this bride away script completely from your wedding ceremony. Good riddance!
  2. Change the question. You can make this question less dated and more palatable by personalizing it. For example, you can use your names instead of “man” and “woman.” You could also change the word “gives” or “presents” to something like “supports” to better represent your beliefs. For example, “Who supports Cory in marrying Taylor today?”
  3. Change the response. Another way to update this question is by changing the response. Instead of having just the father of the bride say “I do,” both parents could say, “We do” or “Her loving family.” They could even say, “She gives herself with her family’s blessing.”
  4. Ask both partners’ parents. If this question has to be asked at a ceremony (and we hope it’s not mandatory!), why are we only asking the bride’s father? Both partners’ families should be asked this question to represent the support of both sides, rather than representing the transfer of property. For example, this might sound like, “Who supports Cory in marrying Taylor? And who supports Taylor in marrying Cory?”
  5. Ask everyone. Rather than making this a question that is asked only of the bride’s father, why not take the opportunity to ask all of your guests for their support with a community vow? For example, “Do you, Cory and Taylor’s family and friends, promise to encourage and support them in creating a strong and vital marriage? If so, please say, ‘We do.'”
groom hugging parents at end of the aisle, wedding party processional
by Cedar & Sand Photography
parents of the bride and groom at wedding ceremony
by Aileen Choi Photo

Tips for ditching the traditional processional and giving away of the bride

Now that you have some great alternatives to giving away the bride, here are some tips to make those alternatives happen at your wedding ceremony!

Discuss your options early. Take the time to think about all of the traditions that you’ve seen in wedding ceremonies. How do you feel about them? If any don’t sit right with you, or if there are any you want to add, do some research and start having conversations with your partner. Make sure you know how you feel and you’re both on the same page before you involve anyone else.

Share your plan with your parents. You’ll want to ensure your parents and wedding party are aware of your plans for your ceremony ahead of time. Scroll up to see our script for how to have this conversation with your parents, especially if dad has been talking about walking his little girl down the aisle for years!

Be clear about what your plan will and will not entail. It’s one thing to tell dad the bride doesn’t want to be given away – it’s another to very clearly communicate your plan for the processional. For example, if you don’t want you parents to place your hand in your partner’s hand or lift your veil, make sure that is clearly stated.

Loop in your officiant and planner. Your wedding officiant and wedding planner have been to countless ceremonies and will be able to help you choose the right alternative to giving away the bride and ensure it happens as smooth as possible on the big day. If you need advice or support, turn to them.

couple walking into their wedding ceremony, young hip and married elopement, alternatives to giving away the bride
by Amber Leigh Photography

Need more ideas? Check out our processional blog posts

Ready to start planning your wedding ceremony with a processional that honours your beliefs? Check out our packages and get in touch to book today! 


written by Riana Ang-Canning
feature image by Thea Loo and Jeremiah Reyes