Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Don't Want Him to Walk Me Down the Aisle

Dear ESB,

I'm getting married in November. My father and stepmother didn't speak to me for six years prior to my engagement because my stepmother interpreted a look on my face as "frozen" during a conversation we had about facials. My stepmother (who has been married to my father since I was two years old) is paranoid, narcissistic, and cruel. My father is loyal to her, however, so if she decides to shut someone out of her life, my father will shut them out too. Despite numerous attempts to reach out to them, they haven't met my fiance, who I've been in a relationship with for 4 years, and they haven't met our son, who was born over a year ago.

I sent them both a wedding invitation. My father told me that my stepmother won't come to my wedding because she "doesn't expect any relationship changes." I did apologize to her (for the perceived slight), and even asked my father for advice regarding how to make things right with her so that everyone could feel comfortable at the wedding. She wasn't interested in my attempts to reconcile though and has decided to just not come to the wedding.

In a recent email, my father said that he wanted to walk me down the aisle. I want my son to walk with me during my ceremony, and not my father, but I don't want to hurt his feelings. Should I set aside my feelings, and allow him the honor of walking me down the aisle? Or risk hurting him by walking instead with my son? I know traditionally the father walks with the bride, but our wedding will be anything but traditional.

This has been the most stressful part of my wedding planning so far, and I need some perspective. Thank you!

If You Walk Away, I'll Walk Away


Your dad forfeited the right to walk you down the aisle when he didn't speak to you for six years. And he hasn't even met your son? FUCK THAT.

Tell him you've got another plan.

Photo by Melissa Cowan


  1. Yeah, he doesn't really deserve that honor.

    Tell him you are thrilled he is going to come to the wedding and you look forward to reconnecting but you have made other arrangements for the walk.


    The wedding is about your NEW family

  3. Totally agree with ESB. You are being more than generous even inviting him, there's nothing wrong with setting some boundaries.

    I didn't invite my dad to my wedding (for very good reasons!) and I don't regret it one little bit.

    Given your history with him then you get to call the shots about how much you want him involved.

    Good luck! Standing up for yourself is scary - but you'll ultimately feel better at the end of it.

  4. Would you do a father:daughter dance with him? He may be more inclined to come if he feels involved in some way and that could be your compromise. And it could be one of those you-dance-for 30-seconds-then-invite-all-fathers-and-daughters-to-the-floor deal so it's less pressure for you. I think some time of involvement may help him see that you want a relationship with him and willing to work towards it (which you have already shown but a bit extra can't hurt).
    Good luck!!

  5. I don't know...I mean, I agree that it sucks that your dad turned his back on you for six years, but maybe this is his way of reaching out to you. I bet evil stepmom hates that he's going to the wedding as it is. If he's making the effort to reach out to you, maybe he wants the relationship between you and him to change.

  6. Could you have both of them do it, your dad and your son? In some traditions, both parents do, or the whole family does, so it wouldn't be completely unheard of. I also have an estranged father and am trying to use sharing the wedding planning as a way to make things better with him, but I refuse to bend to what he wants from this, so I totally get where you're coming from.

  7. I agree. He lost that right when he didn't speak to you for 6 years and maintains loyalty to someone who is being cruel to his daughter. You might want to make sure he knows you want him at the wedding and are happy that he's agreed to attend but still make it clear that your son is going to be walking you down the aisle. Best of luck, dad issues are tricky.

  8. wow, you don't want to hurt HIS feelings ? girlfriend, you are generous in spirit. too generous.

    while every story has two sides, based on what i read, your feelings are the ones i'm worried about. you sound eager to make amends with him, and that's wonderful, but that doesn't have to involve you changing your wedding plans. i think it was a HUGE step for you to invite him and his wife in the first place. perhaps he should try to ace the role of "Gracious and Enthusiastic Guest" before he goes for "Dad of the Year".

    as sparrowgrey mentioned, make sure he knows you want him there and look forward to seeing him. maybe he can do a reading ?

  9. I'm with 17 beats. It's your feelings I'd worry about. Only let your dad do it if you miss him and you'd be happy with him next to you. I'd have my son on the other side, just to ground me, in that case. Also, DON'T do it to heal the relationship. Only do it if that moment of him standing with you, stepmother, by the way, firmly elsewhere, would make you happy. Make sure you don't have secret dad missing that you need to satisfy.

  10. I don't agree at all with ESB or the other commenters!
    Usually when there is a break in a relationship is more than one side that's at fault. Be the bigger person. Who knows? Maybe your wedding might be the rebirth of your relationship with your dad and more importantly of his relationship with your son.

    And you don't have to completely forgo of your plans.
    Why don't you let both you father and your son walk you down the aisle? It would look so beautiful. Three generations walking together.

    I think having a relationship with your father is always worth fighting for (unless he's a psycho maniac, which this one doesn't seem like).

  11. I vote both father and son walk you down the aisle. You never know what you'll regret when it's too late, but you will know the peace of being the better person (yet again). Just don't expect the gesture to make him wake-up and realize he's married to a worthless person. I would also suggest telling/implying to him that his walking you down the aisle does not absolve him of past wrongs, but is your effort to salvage some kind of future between him and your new family.
    Sorry about your skank stepmom... it's heart-breaking when dads just act like men and not fathers.

  12. Wow, there is a lot going on here. First of all, I think that if you don't want him to walk you down the aisle, then he shouldn't walk you down the aisle. He hasn't been in your life for 6 years, so he can't expect to just jump back in and get to play all of the fatherly roles.

    That being said, it seems like 1)you do want a relationship with him (since you invited him to the wedding) and 2)this is an effort on his part to make amends. So if you choose not to have him walk you down (which is completely understandable!) make sure to verbally recognize the fact that he is making a nice gesture. You could possibly diffuse the situation by saying something like "I really appreciate you offering to walk me down the aisle. That means a lot to me after all that has gone on. But we aren't having a traditional wedding in any sense, given that our new family is nontraditional. We already planned for our son to walk me down the aisle, but I would be honored if you would...." and then come up with something that you would like him to do.

    My own wedding is in less than three weeks and I did not invite my father (who I haven't spoken to in over 7 years). Unlike the commenter above, I think sometimes these breaks in relationship do not have to be two sided. Fathers, by the pure fact that they are your father, should make the effort to have a relationship with their kids. My own father contacted me just the other day (after 7 years of silence) because his wife found out on FACEBOOK that I was getting married. Situations like these are not what you want to deal with when you are so close to a wedding!

  13. F*ck his feelings. Think about what those moments mean to you, and how you want it to feel as you approach your husband.

    I'm guessing that has nothing to do with your dad and his drama.

    Also, the fact that he's never met his daughter's FH, the father of his grandchild, is just crazy to me. I know that I just have a snippet of the info, but that shows such a lack of investment.

  14. Also consider the possibility that you cave and allow your father the honor of walking you down the aisle and then... he doesn't show up at your wedding. What if psycho step-mother convinces him not to go or shoves an ultimatum in his face? It sounds like she's made him choose between herself and others in the past. Would your feelings be hurt if this happened at the last minute?

  15. First I'm going to ask you to ignore the noise about future regret. That's WIC shit talking there. It's a wedding, but it's also only one day amongst many, and it shouldn't stand in for the 6 years he's ignored you.

    On the one hand, of course you should think about whether or not this is going to be a dealbreaker for him in your relationship (will he cut you off completely if you turn him down?), and if so, you should definitely think about whether or not losing your dad again will break your heart.

    At the same time, don't worry about your future emotional regret if you DO reconnect and things are all hunky dory in 5 years or something. This decision is a reflection of how things are RIGHT NOW. And in 5 years if you have a great relationship, it can serve as a reminder to him how he fucked things up by being a dickhead before.

    If you still can't decide, I'd ask you to picture yourself being walked down the aisle by your son and think about how you'd feel. Then picture yourself being walked down by your dad and your son. How do you feel? Anxious, confused, like you're working to appease someone else? Because that's how you will likely feel on your wedding day. Do you want that memory lingering later in life?

    Normally I'm a huge proponent for bringing families together, but that's when OTHER PEOPLE are trying to get you to hate your family member (i.e. my mom hates her brother, am I supposed to not invite my uncle? But I love him...)

    In this case, though, you have been hurt and neglected by your dad. So this decision only needs to make YOU happy. It's your call if you want to extend the olive branch, but by no means has he earned it or does he deserve it. If he is granted his request, it is only because you are truly an awesome and caring person who has a much bigger heart and more gracious personality than him.

    Also, as someone who grew up as the kid in this situation, I haven't spoken to my jerk of a grandfather since I was a kid. He wasn't at my mom's wedding, or mine and I've never missed his absence because my mother never did. I'd only notice the absence if it was something that upset my mother. So if you're worried about other people's feelings, I'd say this: Take care of yourself and your happiness will trickle down to those who care about you the most.


  16. Why not merrily walk down the aisle with your husband *and* son, the two most important people in your life?

    I concur with deciding not to do something that will make you anxious and worried, but at this point, I feel that going with option a) your dad, will be just as nerve-wracking as b) picking your son instead of dad.

    I think the most important thing to remember is that, no matter what you decide--who's there and who's not there, how you get down that aisle--you're getting married to the love of your life, and I'm willing to bet you'll be so happy that little else will matter that day.

    Oh, and ditto for giving your dad another special job to do if he doesn't get to walk you down--Although, you probably know to stay away from sappy father-daughter dance songs; that might prove to be even more awkward than a 100ft strut.

  17. what if you had your son walk you down the aisle, but included a part in the ceremony where your officiant asks both sets of parents if they support you in this marriage? then at least he'd feel included still and might be inspired to work on his relationship with you.

  18. He doesn't get to choose how much of a father he is when he wants. That's not right to you or your family. It's generous of you to invite him and perhaps pay tribute to him in some way, but he can't just waltz back in and take over.

    As for the stepmonster? You've tried. She obviously sucks. Be thankful she won't be there. I sure as shit wish mine hadn't been. I still don't want to talk to her and am SO happy I've only seen her once since the wedding. But that once was still too damn much.

  19. I think it's so cute that you will have your son walk you down the aisle! It's such a good idea. That said, this is no ones decision but your own. Will you miss not having your Dad at your side? Will you regret it if he is? Do what is right for you, the rest will work itself out. The only advise I have is that if it's about being mad at his horrible, gross behavior, punish him with something else. It's your day, do what is right for you.

  20. I'm totally on it with 17 Beats and ESB.

    I mean, srsly? he hasn't met your SON? that kills me.

    it's cool you love him and want to make amends, but well, he needs to grow up and take his medicine like a big boy, ya know? and only big boys get to walk their mommas down the aisle. ;)

  21. Whaaaaat. Of course he doesn't get to walk you down the aisle. You've already made plans, it's a non-traditional wedding, end of.

    Also, it's dead sweet that someone above has never experienced someone being a total twunt to them for reasons of their own (I'm guessing jealousy in the stepmonster's case) but no, it doesn't always take two to fall out.

  22. As soon as I posted, my own stepmonster texted me an asinine question. Which I gave a completely snide/snarky remark to.

    Also, the day after my wedding, whilst we were still in Hawaii, my dad rang and said:

    "We're doing ___. You do what you want. You have your own family."

    Thanks pops. You already did what you damn pleased in the days leading up to the wedding. Obviously I know how to take care of myself.

  23. WTF! He hasn't stood by your side for the past six years but yet he thinks he should be the one standing by your side as you go down the aisle???!!? Absolutely not.

    The whole antiquated idea is that the father walks you down the aisle and 'gives you away' to your husband. He gave you up a long time ago. I know that sounds harsh, but darling that's the truth. I gave this a lot of thought for my own upcoming wedding and decided that both of my parents will walk me down. My parents split when I was very young, but I didn't feel okay with my dad being the one to give me away when BOTH of my parents equally raised me and supported me. Obviously everyone feels differently about what they want, but it sounds to me like you had already figured out awhile ago that you want your son to walk down with you.

    I have an evil step-monster too, and I can definitely relate to what you're saying. There's a bizarre jealousy that some stepmothers have over father/daughter relationships. For the people that think it's probably two-sided, I will attest that I too have these outrageous stories and can assure you that it very well can be (and often is) one-sided. That being said, it does seem that your dad's trying to do some sort of patch job on your relationship, and it's clear that you would like that as well, so I like the idea that some commenters have suggested about a father/daughter dance. It's definitely unstable ground to tread as you explain what your vision is, but I would start by saying that early on in the planning process you already decided on the ceremony (and sadly he was nowhere to be seen), but that you would LOVE to do a father/daughter dance at the beginning of the reception.

    By the way, it super sucks to have a venomous crazy person in your life and having one that's in your family is extremely unfortunate. My own experience has shown me that crazy malicious people will always be crazy malicious people. So don't get your hopes up that your relationship with your father will all of a sudden be better. You can bet he's got strings pulling on him from another direction, and he's clearly not a strong man.

    You've got your own family now. Focus your love forward. Wishing you the best!

  24. I'm a bit late to the party but I'll just add my 2 cents.

    Saying he wants to walk you down the aisle is not making amends with your relationship. If that were the case, he would ask what you wanted. It sounds more like a dream that most fathers have. Don't get confused there.

    Walking down the aisle with your dad should feel natural. If you can't imagine it happening then don't force it. Your relationship is clearly not at that stage and there is some work to do before it gets back to that.

    I think you need to stand up for yourself. There are other ways to mend relationships and it has nothing to do with you getting married.

  25. Adding to previous comments, if you haven't already, you should talk to a counselor about your relationship with your father, he/she could add some insight about your relationship with him that us ESB readers can't. A counselor can help you make a decision and make you feel confident with your decision, and you should feel confident with everything you do on your wedding day!

    Best of Luck!

  26. Speaking AS an evil stepmother, there are always two sides to these stories. We weren't born evil. I would try actually talking to the people involved to see what the story is from their point of view. It is actually incredibly hard to be put in the position of being a stepmother, and most of us are honestly just trying the best we can of a difficult situation. It's sad to see women such as myself who try our best vilified with terms like 'crazy', 'evil', and 'psycho'. Clearly some bad things have gone down in these families, but it is rarely all on one side. Becoming a stepmother isn't so rare, and you never know, it could happen to you, too.

  27. Anon above, you're right that step mothers can be all sorts of people and can be wonderful.

    But I think you've misunderstood what people are saying here. People are calling this PARTICULAR step-mother evil and crazy based on the evidence of the letter and giving the writer the benefit of the doubt - because she's asking us for help and she seems kind and genuine and her story is sad.

    Step-mother jobs are hard, (and I happen to have a really good one), so we shouldn't vilify them in general (thanks Disney for not helping with that). But I don't think any of the commenters were talking about step-mothers in general. So don't worry :)

  28. Thank you to ESB and all of the readers who responded to my dilemma. I am so moved by your thoughtful and insightful comments and suggestions. There were so many wonderful ideas for how to include my father in the wedding but also hold onto my vision and be true to myself. I think right now, I'm leaning towards walking down the aisle with my fiance and son. I hadn't thought of that before, but it feels right to me. I also wanted to respond to the reader who suggested that becoming a stepmother is challenging and "could happen to me too." My fiance has a daughter from his previous marriage and I've been her stepmother for 4 years. You're right, it's challenging! I work hard every day to make sure that she feels loved, valued, and safe. I love her because I love my partner, and would not for a moment get between their relationship. She is most definitely going to be walking down the aisle at our wedding. She is our flower girl, and a cherished part of our family. Thank you lovely readers, with all my heart. I feel much more at peace today. xo

  29. I agree with ESB on this one. I just got married on Saturday (9/17) & my fiance and I had a situation slightly different than yours. His father has recently come back into his life after nearly ten years of silence. His father left his mother, and his four siblings when they were young and has barely regarded them since. Until the last few months. My fiance's siblings want nothing to do with their father. So out of respect for them we decided not to invite him. We got advice from other family memebers to not even tell his father about the wedding as it would be "rubbing salt in the wound". We decided to be honest with him instead. His father said he was hurt, but in the end, he made that bed and now he has to lie in it. My father has also been absent almost my whole life, and absolutely silent for the past thirteen years. I did not have him walk me down the aisle, nor did I even tell him I was engaged. We are not on speaking terms, so I didn't feel the need to include him at all as he has made no effort, ever. My brother walked me down the aisle and it was the most wonderful, beautiful moment. He was so proud to give me away and my mother was so happy to see him do so. In the end, even if my father had told me he wanted to walk me down the aisle, I would have told him no. My brother has been the one man that has been there for me from the beginning and will be in the end. He was the only that deserved the privilege. I think you'll be happier with making the descion to have your son walk with you, but I think you should be upfront and honest with your dad. Let him know why, that is, of course if he even wants to know why.

  30. I agree with ESB. But, mostly do whatever is going to make YOU happy. The whole tradition of the father walking you down the aisle and giving you away stems from back in the day, when the father then gave up his duty of taking care of you. Since he didn't support you as his daughter, he doesn't have the right to give you away. I think having your son do it is a great idea, or you could have your mom or grandpa do it. I had an evil stepmom too, that ruined my relationship with my dad. I walked down the aisle with my now ex-husband. My dad was sad probably, but he knew why I made that choice. Good luck :)