For many, walking down the aisle is a rite of passage, but in a modern context, it is fraught with paradoxes.
That walk down the aisle traditionally ends with “giving away” the bride. The idea that a person can be “given away” is as anachronistic as the idea that a person can be bought or sold, and yet—unlike other anachronistic traditions—it is not without merit. If it were not for same sex marriage, I don’t think I would have ever seen the value in keeping this tradition alive.
Its origins are deeply misogynistic: it harks from a time when a daughter was a possession, and it was appropriated from the European elite by a pretentious aspiring bourgeoisie in the eighteenth century. This, of course, was just in time for Australia’s cringing nineteenth century middle class to adopt it in an attempt to assert their social status and pass it on to Menzies’ massively expanded middle class of the twentieth century. By the time of the sexual revolution, even bra-burning aunties of the social justice movement were taking comfort in having their daddies surrender their person to their grooms.
Okay, maybe I’m overstating it a bit.
The thing is, despite the way this tradition jars against my feminist ideology, the social changes seen over the last quarter of a century have invested this particular anachronism with a new significance. Whether it is a mother or a father giving their offspring away, when it happens in a same sex wedding, the support being shown is enough to bring even me to tears. And I’m the celebrant: I’m not allowed to cry!
Truth be told, it doesn’t even have to be a parent to have an impact on me. One of the greatest strengths of the rainbow family is how we come together to meet each other’s needs. And when I ask “Who gives this person to be wed?”, a member of the person’s chosen family has absolutely as much authority as their biological family.
And the beauty of this is that when a straight couple decide they want to stick with that tradition of the bride being given away, the echo of same sex couples revelling in the support of their families shines a new light on what would otherwise be a rather silly old tradition. Now, even a bride telling me she wants her father to give her away gives me a little gush.
When it comes to walking down the aisle, what matters is how firmly your nearest and dearest stand by you. How they express it really is a matter of choice.