Brides being Given Away — sexist?

An interesting post over on deprofundisclamaviadtedomine (parse THAT word I dare you!) talks about an article in the Telegraph from 2010. The telegraph article reports that the swedish princess is wanting to emulate the British tradition of the father giving away the bride. The church of sweden is up in arms about it because it’s a sexist tradition:

“Being given away is a new phenomenon which occasionally occurs in the Church of Sweden. I usually advise against it, as our marriage ceremony is so clear on the subject of the spouses’ equality. The couple know where I stand on this matter,” he said.

I can speak as a father — that was one of the happiest moments of my life, being able to “give” away my daughter to a young man that I respect and love greatly. (and who have since produced the two best grandkids on the planet!) I know it no longer has the meaning it once did .. there wasn’t any way she was under my protection or care while she was in college meeting this young man and building a relationship with him.

Still, the article makes several good points:

Where did this history of walking down the aisle together come from? Not from the norse history!

Nobody in American weddings wants to have the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, in my experience. The main reason for this, I think, is because it takes a way the bride’s big moment, when all eyes are on her.

Anyway, here’s the article .. feel free to comment!


Kate Walking Down the Aisle with her Father

Kate Walking Down the Aisle with her Father

This is several years old, but an interesting story anyway.

1. “Sexist British tradition of father giving bride away.” If the historical practice in Sweden is that bride and groom walk down the aisle together, that is probably not because Swedes were feminists centuries ago when the tradition started. I know it’s hard to believe that the Vikings, in between splitting skulls and capturing slaves, weren’t also working to create an egalitarian society. But I’m afraid that they probably weren’t.

Nope. Olaf probably wasn’t like, “What’s that, Hedvig? You say you want to go out with the warriors in the longboats and make a career out of slaughtering monks and then get married and have kids later? Sure thing, hon!”

“What’s that, Hedvig? You think you’d like to go out on some dates with the blacksmith’s son rather than marry the son of the earl? You say you want to marry for love, and you can’t guarantee you’ll stay a virgin until you find the one you’re ready to settle down with? And if you get pregnant and then no one wants to marry you you’ll just leave the kids here with me and your mother while you get a job looting? Whatever you say, sweetheart! We’re here for you!”

“What’s that, Hedvig? You want gender neutral wedding vows, and for you and Ragnar to both hyphenate your last names? That seems fair. And I don’t think Ragnar is less of a man at all if he agrees to that!”

Nuh-uh. Sorry. That was not what Sweden was like whenever the tradition of walking down the aisle together started.

2. It’s probably right that the British custom is gaining popularity in Sweden because young women are influenced by the custom as it comes to them through American movies. But isn’t it fascinating that many young women, even in Sweden, are attracted to, or at least willing to tolerate, the pretense that they are under the protection and authority of their father until given to the protection and headship of their husband?

Of course, it’s all make believe. If dad’s are going to give away their daughters, they should make sure their daughters aren’t giving themselves away while they still live in their father’s house.

I mean, just a thought. At least the Swedish ladypriests are sort of paying attention.

Daniel Westling, Crown Princess Victoria, Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf Photo: REX

Daniel Westling, Crown Princess Victoria, Queen Silvia and King Carl Gustaf Photo: REX

3. Nobody in American weddings wants to have the bride and groom walk down the aisle together, in my experience. The main reason for this, I think, is because it takes a way the bride’s big moment, when all eyes are on her.

And to be honest, I’m not sure that pastors ought to be too critical of this. It is true that our sinful flesh wants to be front and center and make things about us. But that’s true of the pastors too.

Besides, Christologically: the Church is the beloved of Christ. And when He presents Her to Himself as a radiant Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, the eyes of all creation will be on Christ’s bride, admiring the beauty that Christ has given to her and the love with which He wed her.

So I don’t think it’s wrong that the bride wants her “moment”, although it’s important to try to work with that desire to try to get the couple to see that their wedding is not the culmination of their existence, but rather points to the wedding that will be–the wedding of Christ to His Church.

Isn’t it interesting that after all these years so many women still love this ceremony?

They want to walk down the aisle alone and be the bride whose husband is waiting for her to receive her like his treasure–even though once they get married they will work outside of the home and inside of the home and essentially not be taken care of at all.

They want to have their fathers walk them down the aisle and give them away, even though neither European nor American girls are in any real sense under their father’s authority after adolescence begins. Teenage boys in America deflower virgins and then talk about it on facebook in front of their dads. I imagine most teenage boys would be shocked if a father said, “No, you can’t go into my daughter’s bedroom alone with her and close the door.” And if you opened the door and caught some little boy clambering all over your daughter and ejected him from your house after introducing his rear end to your shoe (which incidentally you paid for, just like you will pay to feed any grandchildren randy teenage boys might accidentally sire with your daughter)? The teenager would quite possibly feel self-righteous indignation at your tyrannical interference in his love life. Not to mention the fact that any hint of physical force used against such a child would almost certainly result in your arrest. Although if he is a child and therefore should not be beaten by a grown man the question is–why should he get to act like a grown man in terms of freedoms? A grown man should be able to protect his wife and baby as well as provide for them. If a teenage boy wants to take liberties with someone’s daughter the very least expectation he should have is that he might have to take a beating for it.

I wish when I was in high school dads had been like that with their daughters. I would have appreciated the encouragement toward chastity implicit in that.

But no. It’s horrible to take any steps to make sure your kids are chaste. It’s being a good dad if you let your daughter sleep with one or two or three or four or more selfish and irresponsible adolescents while she still lives at home with you. Do that and don’t say a word and you’re a good dad.

And yet brides want to be given away by their fathers.

They want to pretend that they have been protected by their fathers, and treated like a hidden treasure, and are now being entrusted to a man who is good and trustworthy and will provide for her and protect her, even though neither of those things is true. If women were guarded and protected by fathers and husbands, that would be the end of feminism.

And yet apparently it’s attractive to a lot of women, at least on their wedding day. How come feminism hasn’t destroyed this tradition yet, even though the reasons for the tradition were annihilated decades ago? Why did the tradition of the would-be groom asking the father of the bride for his daughter’s hand come back from the dead in the US, long after fathers had allowed their daughters to choose whom they would give their hands to and for how long?

It’s almost like young women wish that their fathers and husbands would be…dare we say it…


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Brides being Given Away — sexist? — 8 Comments

  1. Of course, my carnal/smart-alec side wants to ask if it were better if they be sold rather than given, but…. 😉

    Seriously, though, I cannot say I’m surprised completely by this, but it is a sad state of affairs to see such a hostility toward anything smacking of tradition.

  2. My dad did not give me away. However, my mum and dad marched down, then the flower girl, then the crucifer and wedding party. I marched with my Prediger arm in arm. From what I heard, it was a Germanic/European thing to do.

    To tell you the truth, I grew away from my Catholic and cultural roots and Wayne and I courted independently while at the Sem while my parents are in California. It would be dishonest of me to have Dad give me away, when they had very little to do with our courtship, other than their warm approval.

  3. The modern state Church of Sweden is truly antichrist:

    The above reads:

    “May 22, 1999 – The Lutheran state Church of Sweden, a member of the World Council of Churches, is as blasphemously liberal as it is possible to be. Bishop Dr. Karl-Gustav Hammar, supports the ordination of homosexual priests. A few months ago the Lutheran Cathedral in Uppsala exhibited poster-sized photographs depicting Jesus Christ and the Apostles as homosexuals. One photograph depicted “a transvestite version of the Last Supper” and another “a naked portrait of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist” (The Irish Times, Oct. 8, 1998).

    In 1984, then Bishop Krister Stendahl, stated in an interview with journalist Elisabeth Frankl that “to hold to a belief in just one God is idolatry” and that one can pray to God as “Energy” (Christian News, Nov. 19, 1984, translated from the Swedish Lutheran quarterly Biblicum). Stendahl claimed that God is more urgently concerned with bringing justice in the world than with “saving souls.” When asked directly if he believed in God, Stendahl replied, “I think I’ve risen above matters of faith and doubt. … I really don’t know what it means to ask whether ‘there is’ a God.” He said, “the whole question of God’s existence leaves me cold.” When asked about life after death, Stendahl replied that an idea of a heavenly paradise is a “childish human dream.” [END OF QUOTE]

    Please excuse the anabaptist fundamentalist source; just citing it for information.

    Stendahl was also the originator of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul”:

  4. I dreamed about that moment w/my Dad my whole life. My Daddy, giving me to the one who’d (insert vows here) he had given after talkin’ to. Dresses, parties, didn’t matter to me, I wanted my public moment w/my Dad & my dance, with that sweet man, whom God chose just for me. After my darlin’ Dad walked me, down that aisle, my Dad told me it was the worst day & best day of his life. I asked why, my Dad said, ” I was to give away, one of the 3 most precious gifts, He ever gave me. That was your Mother, your sister & you.” It was the best day of mine, even still, and his, too. However, he cried a river before he had to give his little girl away, to someone whom he didn’t know as well, as he did his daughter. Every Christian parent prays, that when that boy talks to you & asks your permission (I would not say yes, until THAT was done) you give away what you did hold in your hands & yet is intangable. Many knew, in that Church how gutting it was for my Dad, to do it for my sister & then me. Yet, no matter where, how, or why, we do it, it means everything for that little girl & that Daddy. I was his, My Dad’s, from the moment I 1st opened my eyes, he was there, to help, counsel, wisely instruct, discipline, and love me, every day & moment, of my life, up to that point. I know now, how hard & gutting it was to do what my Dad did, that day. It comes to every parent, Mumma’s with their boys, and Daddy’s with their girls.
    It was the best & worst day for both my Dad & I. I would not trade that moment, or my dance, for anything!!! Dad went Home to his Heavely Father, just 2 years later. Most little girls just don’t dream about a dress, or a Prince Charming…some know because of their Dad’s. I sure did.

  5. The practice of the father giving away the daughter is related to the Christian teaching of vocations (and as per Ephesians 5:22-33), where she is under her father’s protection and care until he gives her over to her husband’s. She isn’t property, she’s a charge and duty.

  6. This reminds me of the objections to Halloween as being satanic or pagan, etc. It is just goofy. Nothing could be further from the mind of a six year old who wants to dress up like Spiderman and run around the neighborhood with his friends getting candies from the neighbors. Basically, it is what you think it is. Halloween as popularly celebrated in America is just a fun kiddie holiday. Nothing more.

    So, if brides in Sweden think it is nice or sweet or sentimental, or special or whatever, to have dad walk with her down the aisle, the last thing she is thinking is that she is trying to revive some sexist something or other, because she likely is not even away of that idea. So, the church of Sweden officials embody the “old bitty” personality that revels in disapproving of anything they can.

  7. @J. Dean #1
    Seriously, though, if when asking her father’s permission, you first had to pay a steep price, perhaps more young men would be taking their education and careers more seriously these days. 😛

  8. Miguel :
    @J. Dean #1
    Seriously, though, if when asking her father’s permission, you first had to pay a steep price, perhaps more young men would be taking their education and careers more seriously these days.

    Oy… I’m STILL paying! 😉

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