Aisle-free ceremony

25
One way to avoid an aisle… go for a spiral!
Both of my (still married) parents want to walk me down the aisle but my partner and I are so shy that we want to avoid an aisle all together.

How can we…
1) avoid an aisle
2) still somehow start the ceremony off meaningfully? and
3) How can we include both sets of still married parents?

Jessie

To help me answer this question, I decided it was time for another episode of DUELING OFFICIANTS! See, every now and then I pull on the expertise of two wedding officiants — my parents! They're both Internet-ordained ministers, and between the two of them they've married dozens of people, often helping couple craft their ceremonies from scratch. They have different styles of officiating, though, so you'll get differing views.

In one corner, we have my father, the Reverend Dr. David Stallings. With a background in Zen Buddhism and Tibetan philosophy, he's a poet, and a former University professor. In the other corner, we have my mother, Reverend Therese Yakshi Charvet. She's comes from more of a Pagan/Wiccan perspective, with a focus on Earth-based religions and ceremonies. I presented them both with Jessie's question, and here were their answers:

Reverend Stallings:
Try this on. The parents, who often want to be meaningfully employed during the wedding for all the reasons pointed out in Offbeat Bride, are stationed by something like a chuppah (real or imagined, Jewish or not). The canopy of the chuppah has lots of nice symbolism. Each parent is at a corner of the chuppah. Traditionally, the bride walks in with her parents or father, but there is no reason all parents couldn't be pre-stationed at the canopy, welcoming into a new life/shelter, all together. Then the couple could walk in together, or from different directions, or whatever seems right.

This is all a little like Ariel's wedding, with all parents given a chore. But being stationed at a symbolic point, full of meaning (which could be integrated into ceremony) takes it a step further, I think. Chuppahs can be bought, but cry out to be meaningfully made by the couple or friends. Non-Jews are using them more and more. Other devices could be used as well, but there is such nice rich wedding tradition around the chuppah. Unless you're Jewish and into leaving such icons behind.

Reverend Charvet:
First off, being shy will be a problem at your wedding for many reasons—the aisle is just the start! You'll be the focus of everyone's attention, be photographed repeatedly, and pretty much all eyes will be on you! This is a day celebrating the two of you and shyness will make it excruciating. So, my first advice is tough, but GET OVER IT! Try hypnosis, affirmations, deep breathing exercises, a mild sedative, a drink, or some other substance that will relax you.

The simple-est way I can think of to avoid the aisle thing and involve all 4 of your parents is to have each parental couple standing in the front at the beginning (slipping out from behind a curtain or a flower arrangement), with their child standing withthem. Then, when the ceremony begins, you half of the couple steps away from their respective parents, and toward each other. Even during, this non-entrance however, all eyes will be on you — you'll be dressed up looking as spectacular, so what else are your guests to do but admire you? So back to my first suggestion to GET OVER IT! Try to enjoy the love and attention that people are sharing with you on your wedding day.


So in summary, Rev. Stallings recommends Jewish traditions, while Rev. Charvet recommends getting fucked up and getting over it. Or, you could combine both suggestions and sedate yourself heavily while standing under a chuppah. I would like to report that I did both these things at my wedding (Jewish tradition + sedative) and things worked out very well, as you can read in the book.

That said, of course I have a couple of my own suggestions:

Have your guests sit in a circle (here's more info about weddings in the round), with your officiant in the center. Your officiant introduces the two of you and your families. Then, you your partner should enter from opposite sides of the circle, each of you walking between your parents. Walk towards each other, from opposite side and meet each other in the center of the circle.

This way, only one half of the guests will be able to see you, because you're simultaneously walking in behind them and from opposite directions.

This way, only one half of the guests will be able to see you, because you're simultaneously walking in behind them and from opposite directions. All parents are involved, and each of you is flanked and fortified by them. If you wanted to, once you entered the circle you could walk all the way along the inside of it, sharing meaningful glances and smiles with each of your guests on by one — instead of facing them as an audience.

The six of you (the couple, and all your parents) then meet the officiant in the center of the circle, and your parents can then take their seats in the circle. At this point, everyone will be staring at you, but you're facing your partner so you can focus on their face and not the crowd. No aisle, all parents involved, and minimized staring — ta-da!

Also, read up on conquering stage-fright, because really that's what shyness is. Here's a great place to start. Good luck!

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  1. What about getting everybody in position and then allowing the guests in? Like, house doors open at 4:30, ceremony begins at 4:31. Or something.

    2 agree
  2. I've also had the bride and groom just hanging out before the wedding, greeting guests (a good way to calm nerves, you aren't suddenly "On display") and they just casually made their way up/over/to the officiant.

    Of course, Ariel, you know my love for weddings in the round or half-round is undying.

    7 agree
  3. Or you can reverse things, kind of like slythwolf recommended. Get yourselves in a room with the officiant, then have your parents or friends invite your guests/observers/admirers in to the room to share in the moment. If a crowd comes in, they'll be watching their step, fiddling with their own scarves, ties, socks, etc., and not as intent on just watching you.

  4. My future sister in law did this at her wedding and I think we'll copy her:
    the family members each brought up a rose and placed it in a large vase during the ceremony. It's a great way to include the family AND take the attention away for you for a minute.

  5. I actually need help here for our upcoming wedding. We've both been married before and now divorced, we've been living together forever, we have a son together and kids from our previous marriages. I don't particularly believe I need to be "given away" by my dad, at this juncture in my life. And it's such a hokey concept anyway.

    We've already got an aisle leading up to the arbor under which we'll be wed…now I just need an idea for the grand entrance, sans the father/daughter march.

    Any thoughts, anyone?

    2 agree
    • You could walk down the aisle together as a couple.
      You can walk as a big family coming together in unity or be "given away" by your son.
      You can walk solo.

      1 agrees
  6. Not that I'm asking anyone to convert, of course, I'm just bringing this up to illustrate a way the "march" might be avoided. I don't expect anyone to follow all our religious stuff, but the physical format is nice and low-key:

    Quaker weddings typically do not involve walking down an aisle because most modern Quaker meetings have seats arranged in a circle or square, and thus do not have aisles. The couple usually sits in one of the front benches (in the middle of the room), but you don't have to parade in in front of everyone if you don't want to. Everyone is settled for silent worship for awhile before the actual exchange of vows. Far less hoopla than most mainstream Christian weddings, and even sitting in the front bench is not as nerve-wracking because you're sitting at the same level as everyone else, not standing on a raised platform.

    Also, Quaker brides very often give themselves away, although that is up to the woman herself.

    3 agree
  7. Now I see the good side of 40 years of communism and a the disappearance of patriarchal traditions … there's no walking down the aisle, the couple simply walks down together hand in hand 🙂

  8. My partner and I have been thinking about greeting our guests rather than walking down the aisle. We thought it might be a good way to give each guest a hello, "we love and acknowledge you and your presence here" and then go into our ceremony. That way everyone feels included and comfortable.

    1 agrees
  9. I once saw a post about a wedding where the couple just milled around with their guests until it was time for the wedding to start and then went up to where the officiant waited. No aisle involved.

    3 agree
    • That's what we did–mingled with the guests until our officiant gave a signal to my pianist bridesmaid, and her playing was the cue for us to go up to the stage. To be fair, our guests were kind of confused about the whole thing. Especially when they realized there were no chairs so they'd be standing. Good thing we kept the ceremony to about 5 minutes flat.

      3 agree
  10. Wedding in a circle but most certainly having an aisle! My FH will strut in with his BM to a song he picked. Then the bridesmaids-FH's daughters, my MOH and flower girl and then, me and my Dad! One of the moments I wanted was walking down the aisle with my Dad.

    My friend did pick her church based on the short aisle length!

    1 agrees
  11. I also have been strongly averse to the processional, because it feels like a super awkward and slow parade. Forced timed walking, pre-designated route, costumes, music, onlookers…all of the elements of a parade.

    At one point, I was envisioning having a stage with a trap door that opens up, that allows me to just…pop up on stage. Obviously this is unreasonable.

    We're having our ceremony in our backyard, so we'll have the audience seated facing the house, and we'll pop out onto our back porch from our back door. No processional required.

    The main problem is that my dad is heartbroken about not having a grand entrance and not giving me away. Perhaps I will remind him that Koreans never had processionals before they adopted Christian (i.e. WIC) customs.

    3 agree
    • this is exactly my situation! i see that you posted this a year ago so what did you end up doing? my dad too is heartbroken, so how did you end up involving him?…or not?

      1 agrees
  12. Ugh I'm still struggling with this. My Offbeat ceremony will be in the middle of a train station rotunda. Round room, with a beautiful circle pattern in-laid in the center of the marble floor. No "aisle" to speak of, though I was considering making borders with white petals on the floor (which someone else would have to make happen, and I wouldn't see it until it's too late, so if it's done wrong, it will bother me. LOL 🙁 ). I was thinking having the Groom, Officiant, and guests already gathered in the middle, and then I enter from the side doors, alone or with my Dad. Or, with my 6 year old son/ring bearer. I want the grand entrance, and the reveal. But I would love the support of walking with my Groom down the aisle, and I was thinking of maybe having him meet me and my decided escort halfway, and then walking with me to the middle. BUT from door to center circle, it's only 21 steps. lol Too short to be so complicated? Gah.
    The grooms parent's will not be at the wedding, and both of my parents are alive, divorced, and each have a spouse. So me with 4 "parents", and him with none, is too awkward for any of these cool suggestions by the OP.
    Open to suggestions!

    1 agrees
  13. I've been struggling with the logistics of not walking down the isle for a couple reasons, as well. Our guests are traveling a long way to come see us and, honestly, I want every opportunity to hang out with them. The idea of hiding away while everyone else mingles and has drinks gives me FOMO and I feel like it will only heighten the level of anxiety. Also, I've seen too many brides walk down the isle looking flushed and frightened and that is not how I want to look or feel at the beginning
    of such an awesome event. My FH and I have decided on something along the lines of; we hang out, have drinks, mingle, probably confuse a few people before the ceremony, we bought an awesome handmade cast iron dinner bell (which we will keep forever and ever) which we will ring to get everyone's attention, people gather up and 5-10 minute ceremony ensues, back to drinking and mingling. BOOM! Ok, it's a little rough, but were working on it.

    5 agree
  14. This is the part I dread most – even though I've been in parades, a Catholic altar server, participated in Medieval-style courts, and loads of other dramatic on-show spectacles.

    Just remember: this wedding is about YOU AND YOUR PARTNER. Not some outdated tradition that has no meaning for you, or sends you into a panic attack.

    And as for the "Get over it" idea: Would you tell someone to just get over their broken leg? I wish it were just that simple…

    6 agree
  15. Argh. Dad has his heart set on giving me away, but I don't feel like being delivered from him to my groom. That wouldn't reflect our experience, at least in my eyes. I do want to honor my parents somehow, but the groom will NOT be honoring his (both will be present, now amicably divorced), and I don't want to highlight this disparity.

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