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The Bride's Guide Blog

Giving the Bride Away? Speak for Yourself!

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Posted by Talley Sue Hohlfeld, Etiquette Expert

I was reading through a couple of the etiquette books I have and ran across a mention of an oft-disregarded rule about the ritual of giving the bride away. 

(Please note: I make a strict distinction between "escorting the bride down the aisle" and "giving her away." Though in the past they often took place in a guaranteed sequence, being escorted down the aisle by someone is not the same as having the officiant ask the question, "Who gives this woman into marriage?")

It's quite common lately for the bride and even the groom to be "given into marriage" by both parents, instead of just her father. In those cases, both parents stand and answer that question. But what I'm hearing from brides is that their parents say, "We do."

I just discovered that this an etiquette violation, according to Miss Manners. And it makes sense, if you think about it. Etiquette is pretty legalistic in its approach to these sorts of things--you must never sign the thank-you card with your husband's name as well as your own; a signature is sort of binding, and he is the only person allowed to sign his name. Ditto Christmas cards and newsy letters.

So of course etiquette would say that you cannot speak for someone else, either. Your father should say, not "We do," but "I do" (and ditto your mother). There was a custom for the father to say, "Her mother and I" in answer to that question, which fit the "George and I love the coffee pot" approach to a thank-you note.

But if the mother is there, she can certainly speak for herself. And so if she will speak, each uses the single pronoun. They will speak at the same time--there is their unity.

Have you decided whether to use the "giving away" custom? Why or why not?

Comments (10)

  • I will not be given away, nor is anyone going to escort me down the aisle. This isn't an exchange of property. My parents did not own me before, and I can not be handed off to someone else, like some prettily wrapped gift. And I certainly don't need my parents' permission to choose the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with.
    Nobody's talking about giving my fiancee away, because nobody presumes they have the right to speak for him or that they ownership over him. I flatly refuse to have anyone speak for me or act as if they have any right to give me away, even if it is just in symbolic language of a wedding.
    I am not a possession that can be gifted upon another person. I am making a free choice to share my life with someone. I want my wedding to reflect that.

  • It just a tradition, and people can take it or leave it, but I have to agree with Katie on this one. I wouldn't want to be given away. I think the post made more sense if mentioned that it might refer to correct grammar rather than the correct way to behave. I'm a fan of being polite but not a big fan of etiquette.

  • I'm an Officiant (80 - 90 weddings each year). I agree that it's a tradition that has meaning to some and not to others. For many Dad's is very meaningful. I never say "give", I usually say "who brings this woman...". One alternative I came up with that I love is, "who brings this woman and with whose blessings does she come?" and he/she responds, "I bring her with the love and blessings of all her family and friends." Many brides like this alternative quite a bit, and so do I!

  • God gave me to my parents. And in being given in marriage, they will present a bride to my groom... being given in marriage... not as a slave, possession, or object... but rather as a blessing. I like the proper phrasing of "Her Mother and I do..." or even just "I do..." if the Dad is the only one walking down the aisle. "We do... seems informal if only one parent is on the aisle. After all in a sense the question asks who it is that presents this woman in marriage...who in her family or friends is being honored to walk her down the aisle. I'm not Jewish... but I like the idea of both parents walking...but most church aisles are not that the traditional way works for me!

  • I actually just spoke with my parents about this the other day. While my father will be walking me down the aisle, when it comes time for this part you mention, my mother and her husband (my parents have been divorced for 10 years and I love my mom's husband dearly, but no, he will not be walking me down the aisle) will stand and also come to the front by me. We are going to have the officiate say something along the lines of, "Who supports Sara as she marries ____?" They will all say, "I do". We haven't figured it out yet how the next part will go, but we will do the same for my fiance with his parents.
    We both firmly believe in the SUPPORT of our family in our marriage instead of giving away the bride--like the other girls have said.
    As for etiquette--I think in some places is outdated. Due to where I work I know for a fact it is not illegal to sign your significant other's name as long as they know you are going to do so or would have agreed to do so if they were present and able to sign. If you do it without their knowledge, and they would have never signed to begin with, then that is illegal and wrong. I really don't think anyone cares if I sign his name on the thank you cards, Christmas cards or whatever else.

  • I'm totally on board with what Sarah said. I love both parents saying they "support" the marriage.
    I also want both my parents to escort me and my fiancé's will do the same. We are not Jewish, but I really like this custom so we'll adopt it for our own purposes.

  • This is nice information need to know more

  • My father passed away when I was 12. I am having my brother walk me down the isle and giving me away along with my mom. How would I address my brother in the wedding program?

  • I defer to your etiquette knowledge and research, however, from a legal perspective, partners are able to form binding contracts for each other, therefore, "we do" could be statement that executes this action on behalf of the partnership.

  • Are you aware how to start a game off easily?

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