Friday, November 18, 2011

try to convince us to do The Walk. just TRY.

Hi there Ms. ESB,

I'm looking for an argument in support of The Aisle. 

My FH and I are in the early stages of planning an October 2012 wedding, and the first thing we agreed on was to trash everything we *know* about weddings, and just plan an event that we want to host, with and for the people we want to have there with us. By the end of it, we'll be married, but it may or may not end up resembling what folks expect from a wedding. Including not having an Aisle to Walk Down. This means my father won't be walking me down anything. I'm fine with the idea, and I'm not worried about my father (he will be involved in other ways, and it will be wonderful, we just haven't figured it all out yet). 

At this point, we're dreaming as wildly as possible - not quite hippy dippy marriage circle, but some kind of participation based, everyone's involved and it's a total celebration type of thing. There may be a grand entrance involved (air lift? enter on horseback?? smoke bomb POOF magician style?!?), but probably not a stately walk down a center aisle, if you get me. 

I'm just wondering, what is it about walking down the aisle that is so quintessentially American Wedding? There's a reason it persists as standard practice, and I respect that it has serious emotional significance for many people. Are you (or your readers) willing to play devil's advocate and try to convince us to do The Walk? Why should we? Or, really, just what is it that's so special about Walking Down the Aisle - what makes that moment an important part of the day? 



You've already decided to ditch the walk down the aisle but you're "just wondering" why the tradition persists?

If this is your sorry attempt to con me into writing some stupid research paper you put off while you've been DREAMING YOUR WILD DREAMS, you're out of luck.

Photo: Susie Bubble by Frederike Helwig for Ten Magazine via n &n

You better believe I made that tag.


  1. The reason walking down the aisle is traditional is because weddings used to (mostly) be in churches. There is a long center aisle in most churches, so you pretty much have to walk down it to get to the front.

    If you choose to do an alternative type of ceremony you don't need to hold to any tradition, but one assumes you're going to perform a ceremony in front of people, and you have to get to the ceremony site somehow.

  2. I had similar thoughts while planning my wedding- I was adamantly opposed to aisle walking, with my dad or without. I figured we'd just hang with our guests, and when the moment came, call everyone's attention and get married. My sister very very wisely advised me that I would be too overwhelmed to "just hang out" before getting married, so what we did instead was go off to another location with our photographer, just husband and me, do some photos, and arrive together. My sister gathered everyone together into their seats, gave us a call, and we walked in together, but not down an aisle, and not to music- we just walked around and in front of the crowd. Everyone spontaneously burst into applause. It was awesome. So yes, this can work, but as Allegra points out, you have to arrive somehow! Give it a little thought and keep in mind not only logistics, but your emotions on your wedding day too.

  3. I agree - the tradition of walking down the aisle is related to having the ceremony in a church. It's also related to the idea of the father escorting the bride to the husband and symbolically "handing her over" to the new male figure in her life.

    All of which makes me crazy as a feminist. That said? I still, without a doubt, wanted my father to walk me down the aisle and to meet my husband at the end of it. Because my father has never prescribed to the idea that he was "in charge" of me, and because he also has nothing but warm fuzzies for his new son-in-law, this tradition felt completely right to me, and I'm glad I did it.

    Lots of couples don't practice this tradition. Some come down the aisle together because their parents are either not in the picture, or there is baggage with the parent that would prevent one or both spouses enjoying the process of walking down the aisle. Lots of couples get married in places that don't have an aisle, or have a really short one. So my point is, plenty of couples have gotten married, without an aisle, and been very happy afterwards. I don't think it will hurt you to not have it.

    That said, it sounds like you're hesitant - you're wondering what the big fuss is about. And since (I'm assuming), you've never gotten married before, you don't know WHY the aisle is important, but you have a feeling it might be. Perhaps it might even be important to you, if you knew what the big deal was or what the feeling is of walking down the aisle toward your beloved with a man who raised you standing at your side, offering his visual blessing on the two of you getting married.

    You might not need an aisle - you might be fine without it. But if you think that it's a tradition you'd actually like to keep, do keep it in mind. Not all wedding traditions are bad. Some of them are really pretty awesome, if they fit with how your family and your relationship works.

    So, that's one ESB reader's perspective. Which is I think what you are actually looking for - some counterpoints to help you decide how important this aspect of the ceremony is actually going to be TO YOU.

    Really, ESB, we don't need to spank every indecisive letter writer, do we? ;)

  4. our priest explained it as a remnant of the old pagan rituals...the groom was waiting with his people and you arrived with your people to be "given away." you approached him (veiled) and didn't reveal yourself until the ceremony was over. the whole thing was designed to keep either of you from backing out at the last minute, since these arrangements were usually made by someone other than yourself for reasons other than undying love. the aisle itself is probably just the natural place for that whole process to end up.

  5. at our wedding, my husband, our officiant (my uncle), my brother (who held our rings but had no specific title) and our 3-piece bluegrass band led all the guests in a parade down to the ceremony site. my mom, dad and i hung back.

    you have to crest over a hill to get to the site and my husband paused at the top and looked back on all of our friends and family - bundled-up, chatting, many with beers in their hands - and said it was one of his most powerful moments at our wedding.

    my mom, dad and i (they are divorced, too, btw), followed behind after everyone was seated. the band changed songs and we walked in. it wasn't down a center aisle but was from the side. i actually think me walking in separate was more powerful for others than it was for me. i almost wish that i had been at the front of the parade, too, but i'm kind of glad that it was michael's special thing.

    all of that is to say that for us, that parade was incredible and that you need to take your venue into consideration. we HAD to walk down to the site somehow.

    an alternate story: our friends doug and janna got married in a little wine bar not long ago. they had set up a ceremony backdrop kind of in the middle of the long, thin building. at some point doug showed up and started chatting with people. then we were just sort of told we should start finding a seat. janna's sister appeared, almost walking down an "aisle" and then janna followed, by herself, right after - people were still sort of finding seats. she chatted with people and hugged some and eventually made it over to doug and their officiant. the most interesting thing was that doug and janna stood next to each other the whole time, instead of across from each other, often with janna's arm slung across doug's shoulder.

    it worked because it was right for the venue. neither of our different methods would have worked at the others' venue.

  6. Recently saw this wedding done "in the round." But they also did the walk down the aisle bit, check it out here if you are interested.

  7. I didn't walk down the isle. I am very shy, and I didn't want everyone turning around and looking at me. I knew that would make me uncomfortable, and I didn't want to be uncomfortable. We got married on a sailboat, halfway into the trip, so it really wouldn't have worked anyway. We all just hung out together on the boat, and when the time came, the captain rang the bell to get people's attention. The whole thing was fun for everyone, and I wasn't nervous, just able to enjoy myself. I wouldn't change a thing.

  8. I loved walking down the aisle (at the same church where my mum and grandma were married). My husband cried-- and he's not a crier-- the whole time I walked, while I grinned like a crazy fool. It was a nice moment of anticipation-- you're forced to take it slow and savour the fact that you're about to be husband and wife. I think you would lose that if you just showed up randomly, or were there all along. Not that it would be bad, just one argument for aisle-walking.

  9. Oh, and I should add if it wasn't clear: I was hanging out with the guests before at the cocktail hour. The original plan was for M and I to bartend but we were late getting there so just milled around with our guests.

  10. I like watching a bride walk down the aisle because it makes me cry and if it weren't for that initial cry I would go the whole day seemingly emotionless, so...yay for aisle walks!

  11. seriously, sounds like some kind of sociology paper, esb.

    anyway, why the hell do you care what we think? you already sound like you're going to have an "alternative" wedding, so just do it. i got married outside and there was an aisle, but i came down a hill, from the side of the ceremony with both parents in tow. like everybody else is saying, it's from churches, so if religion is not important to you and your dude, don't do it.

  12. Aisle or no aisle--think about it carefully before you turn your wedding into an experiment in crowd participation. It could backfire, big time. What if the guests don't get it? What if they just don't WANT to participate? Obvs the wedding is YOUR day but you have to consider all the people who make a great effort to be there for you.

    And honestly--I don't really get your issue with the aisle. I mean, not everything has to have some deeper meaning. Even if you ride in on a horse isn't the horse going to have to walk along some path (aka aisle) to get to the ceremony site? It sounds like you want to be different just for the sake of being different, not because you take any real issue with the traditions. And of course that's your prerorgative but I would caution you not to let your desire to be unique turn your wedding into some kind of wacky performance art piece.

  13. @strawberriesinparis - awesome. Thanks for an example of a not crazy town and not different for the sake of being different wedding; we're just figuring out how to make it ours and make sense to us, while we respect other options.

    Um, ESB, lady, you are the best at saying HELL NO - because you still pass it off for the crowd to source. Thanks.

  14. "what is it about walking down the aisle that is so quintessentially American Wedding"

    It's an American tradition to walk down the aisle? I feel like my brain is leaking out of my head with this one.

  15. This may be super dorky on my part, but what about the wedding scene in Fiddler on the roof, when all the guests surround the couple as they get married? I always thought it felt nice and intimate. I mean, you'd still have to get there somehow... but maybe if you all walked from a cocktail reception site to the ceremony site as a group? This may be a terrible suggestion, though...

  16. Wedding days have a rhythm to them, a pattern. And some stuff within that happens for a reason that maybe isn't obvious when you're planning. Like, the whole getting-ready thing is kind of emotional and transformational. And it's actually really cool if the guy has no idea what you're going to be wearing (mine did. I regretted it a little tbh). And the group photographs aren't what's published on photographer's blogs, but they're an important element and people get peeved if they don't happen, or they're left out. (that said, they don't need to take FOREVER)

    And that whole ta-da! entrance/aisle thing has a real meaning and emotional element too. I wouldn't say you have to do it with your dad though - I mean you don't have to do it at all - you and hubs could walk in together. Or you can do it alone. Or carried by 10000 black swans. That would be cool.

  17. If there's a ceremony, you have to somehow get into the room and into the spot where the ceremony will take place. The walk or procession or whatever clues everyone in that the ceremony is starting, so shut it and pay attention. Like Emily, I am quite shy, and was not looking forward to walking down a long aisle. Due to crappy weather, our ceremony got moved indoors. This was not what we wanted, obviously, but one nice benefit was a super-short aisle. If you love to make an interest, then play around with that idea. But maybe the entrance is just beside the point?

  18. *entrance, not interest. Though I'm sure you like to make an interest too.

  19. Dear ESB,

    I like it when you're snide in the mornings.

  20. I hated the thought of an aisle walk. I told anyone who would listen. If there was a way to slink in along the side wall I would have. I don't like all eyes on me.

    I found the shortest aisle possible, and refused to even discuss who might give me away. All of the usual escorts were no longer living, and I was determined to walk down myself. This was met with horror by everyone.

    Meanwhile I found myself walking around the house carrying a potted plant trying to simulate a solo walk. Mainly I looked like a jerk.

    The evening of the wedding some type of bridal mist came over me. The pictures show a picture perfect vision of a smiling bride who was made for the moment. I was told people gasped. My mom walked with me. Go figure.

    Don't waste a lot of time on this. I gave it more energy than it was worth.

  21. who on earth has the kind of time on their hands that allows them to write you such a pointless email?

  22. we got married in a park, and walked to our ceremony site with a wedding "cluster" -- some best friends and parents, moving as a crowd however we happened to move (though i did shift to walk the last bit with my father). we let it happen organically, and our guests ended up lining the path for us and cheering as we came in. it was amazing to be able to look each guest in the eye one by one, in that moment of utmost excitement and anticipation. this worked because we only had 30 guests, so they were the most important people in our lives--some we hadn't seen in many years, until that moment.

    not sure how many guests you're having, but that chance to survey your crowd - the people you love most in the world, who have your back, who you wanted with you on that most special of days - and to share the moment with them, feel their love enveloping you... that's what walking down the aisle is about.

    but i do think you can create that feeling another way if you want to.

  23. fucking a christ why would you even post this? Obviously YOU, esb, expect your readers to do the dirty work. No thanks.

  24. @Anon 7:53 know how in ages past warlords would display heads of their enemies as a warning throughout the land? I suspect it's kind of like that.

    Also, just because esb doesn't feel like doing the research doesn't mean she is prohibiting her readers from doing it. Many a shoe, or dress, decor detail, or jewelry suggestion has been found for those esb didn't want to answer to.

  25. dear anon 7:53,

    some of us enjoy a little dose of cunty snark in the morning !

    this post made me LOL ... and there's been a shortage of that in my life of late. gracias.

  26. lol @amanda! warlords, enemy heads- fantastic!

  27. If you can find a more creative way to get to your ceremony spot then do that. If you can't, it's stupid to avoid having an aisle just because you're trying to be non-traditional. Maybe you could SKIP down the aisle or something?


  28. I have to say, walking down the aisle felt incredible to me on my wedding day. I'm not religious, and my mum walked me in, and it wasn't about being "given away" or any of that patriarchal bull. It was just that after all the rush or getting ready all day, and the anticipation of months of planning, it was this incredibly emotionally charged thing, to be walking towards the man I had chosen to spend the rest of my life with. To me the wedding service should be about emotion, rather than showmanship, and I think that the walk in helps to build that emotion. Not sure that a puff of smoke would be quite the same?

  29. boring. If the bride wants something so 'non-traditional' why does she give a crap what anyone thinks. Bride - Dont try to be non-traditional and over creative when you cant come up with your own ideas.