When bride Lela McArthur walked down the aisle to marry her beloved Steph Figarelle on Valentine's Day, their union may have appeared unconventional at first glance-after all, they were the first lesbian couple to ever marry at the Empire State Building. Still, Lela's grand entrance was utterly traditional: she chose to be "given away" to her betrothed at the altar.
Folklore says the tradition is rooted in the days of arranged marriages. Women were property of their fathers and so, as part of the transaction (which often included a financial exchange), it was up to the man to physically "give away" his daughter to the groom at the time of the marriage ceremony.
Not the most romantic custom to endure, indeed, but even today, a remnant of this action is still very much alive and well-only now with a twist. Following in the tradition of Charlotte Bronte (who was given away by a woman at her wedding in 1854), more and more brides are choosing to walk down the aisle with both father and mother, perhaps a sibling, and even, in Lela's case, by her future mother-in-law Charlene Figarelle.
Read on for our guide to identify who best fits your aisle style.
MOM AND DAD
Who it's for: This is the most popular alternative today. It's also the tradition in Jewish ceremonies, where the mother stands to bride's right and the father to her left. Obviously, you need to make sure your aisle is wide enough to accommodate you three (especially if you're wearing the full skirt of a ball-gown).
Who it's for: When you're so close to your brother (why, even your sister) that relegating him to an attendant position isn't enough, this is an option to really give your sibling the recognition you think he or she deserves. The fun part? Finding a "First Dance" song that is appropriately sentimental, yet not all Angelina-Jolie-Creepy-2000-Oscar-Speech-To-Her-Brother either.
Who it's for: This is actually one of the rarer duties asked of your closest friend. That's because she is usually bestowed with the job of Maid of Honor. Custom dictates that the one who walks you down the aisle usually leaves you at the altar (and then sits in the audience like the rest of the guests). Since the MOH stands up with the bride throughout the event, it may be a nice touch to have her walk you down the aisle and then stand next to you, serving dual roles.
YOUR FUTURE IN-LAW OR STEP-PARENT
Who it's for: These two people may hold very similar or very different roles in your life but we lump them both in the same category because they share one issue-it can be a touchy choice if both your actual parents are still alive and talking to you. Remember, your wedding isn't the time to create tensions between family-it is about celebrating love!-so it may be better to sidestep this issue. Say you've been estranged from one or both parents for a while (Kate Hudson had step-dad Kurt Russell walk her down the aisle, for example)? Then go for it!
Who it's for: This is the most modern alternative to the whole "giving you away" concept. You also avoid any tensions between family members if you don't feel right asking only daddy to escort you down the aisle. Plus, what's a grander entrance during your ceremony than a gorgeous composed bride greeting her fiancé from across the room in this manner?
Who it's for: As a sweet alternative to going solo, why not have your fiancé meet you halfway up the aisle so you walk together to the altar? Being joined by your mate helps alleviate any jitters you may feel about going it alone, plus really demonstrates how your future union is getting off on the right foot.
YOUR GRANDPARENT OR ANOTHER RELATIVE
Who it's for: When your parents aren't the right fit, having an uncle, grandparent or other relative is just as right as dear old dad. A nice added touch: why not split the walk between two different escorts? One can enter the ceremony site with you and then halfway down the aisle you can be given away to your fiancé by another family member, if you like.
Who it's for: More popular than you think, Fido has been tapped at quite a few weddings as the ultimate aisle walker. Man's best friend is often better suited too as an escort rather than attendant. The job is much shorter in duration and Spot won't have to sit patiently (which could be a true impossibility) through an entire vow exchange. Adorned with a garland collar, picking the pooch may elicit more of an awww factor than a wow factor.
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