Whether down to complex family set-ups, difficult circumstances or just a belief that women shouldn’t be “given away” by men, more and more brides are not walking down the aisle with their fathers.
Kensington Palace has confirmed Meghan Markle’s dad, Thomas Markle, will not be walking her down the aisle or attending the wedding. In a statement the bride-to-be said: “I have always cared for my father and hope he can be given the space he needs to focus on his health.”
The news comes after Serena Williams revealed her dad also pulled out of walking her down the aisle shortly before her wedding to Alexis Ohanian, due to nerves.
We spoke to brides and brides-to-be about the alternative people they chose to walk down the aisle with and why it’s completely possible to have a glorious wedding day without sticking to the tradition.
When Stephanie Finch, 29, from Brighton, got married in December 2016, her mum was the obvious choice to be by her side at the poignant moment she entered the room.
“My parents divorced when I was 11, I have an amicable relationship with my father and he came and watched from the pew, but it had to be my mum,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“Although of course I don’t think it’s a transfer of property, my mum was the person I always turned to for help and guidance, and it helped resemble the shift that now my husband was that person for me. She also did the ‘father-of-the-bride’ speech and stole the show.”
Meanwhile Rose Bucknell, 43, from, Huddersfield was walked down the aisle by her brother on her wedding day, while her sister delivered the traditional father-of-the-bride speech. The siblings’ dad died when Rose was very young and they’d recently lost their mum, too.
She describes feeling supported by her siblings as “the single most important thing on the day”.
“We’d actually brought the wedding forward in the hope mum would be able to make it, but sadly not,” she explains. “So to see my siblings rallying round me to make it all lovely despite the grief meant the absolute world.”
Liz Edge, 27, from Dorset, also lost her dad when she was young, so decided to walk down the aisle by herself for her wedding on New Years Eve 2015.
“I did have other options like my mum and step-father but it just didn’t feel right,” she says. “The concept of my father giving me away wasn’t something I wanted to adhere to. I wasn’t ‘giving myself away’ - I was deciding to commit to marrying this man and no one else made that decision for me. It felt empowering, daunting and incredibly special to meet my husband-to-be at the end of aisle.’
Like Meghan, other brides-to-be are currently considering alternative options for their upcoming weddings. Hannah Martin, 46, from Sussex, will be escorted into the room for her second wedding by her 15-year-old son, Ollie.
“My dad has already given me away once, and I thought it would be lovely for Ollie to take on a ‘grown up’ role in the wedding this time round,” she tells HuffPost UK. “My daughter with my partner will be my bridesmaid, but there’s no natural role for a teenage boy - especially as we’re having a small registry office wedding so there won’t be any ushers. This seems the perfect answer. I’ll be really proud to have Ollie by my side on such a big day.”
Two of the couples taking part in Not The Royal Wedding, HuffPost UK’s series following six couples getting married on the same day as Prince Harry and Meghan, will also forgo the father-daughter tradition.
Emma Tretton, 26, and Rachel Sutton, 27, will have their mums walk them down the aisle when they get married. “My mum has been there throughout my life, more than my dad,” Rachel says. “Therefore it feels more natural for her to give me away as she is a big part of my life.”
Similarly, Emma says she has always been closer to her mum and her step-dad than her father. She originally asked her brother to walk her down the aisle but he didn’t want to upset other family members, so she says her mum felt like the perfect option. “I felt bad that I didn’t ask her straight away but she understood why. I can’t wait to have her by my side.”
Meanwhile when Jo Want, 33, marries Will Tarran, 35, she will share the walking down the aisle moment with her entire family. Her mum and grandma (who she calls mama) will walk in first, followed by her and her dad, then her sister and niece as bridesmaides.
“To have my whole family give me away feels special and right - they all get to make sure I go,” Jo laughs. “I know it’s tradition to have your father give you away, but I wanted my mum and mama to be part of that too, especially as my other grandparents won’t be with us.”