How to tell dad that another man is walking you down the aisle
Thanks to Jenna for uploading this to the Flickr pool | Photo by Keira Lemonis
My parents were divorced when I was very young, and a family friend stepped in to take my father's place in my life. I still see this man as a father figure, more so one than my biological father. The other man who helped raise me is gay, and at this point in his life knows he isn't going to have any children, and sees my brother and I as his children instead. When I asked he agreed to walk me down the aisle, but I don't know how to break that to my biological father, who I DON'T want to walk me down the aisle. Period.

How do I tell my biological father that another man who did more raising of me is going to walk me down the aisle instead of him? -Ellie

Ellie, I think it's wonderful that you've chosen the man who you feel is a positive father figure in your life to walk you down the aisle. Walking someone down their wedding aisle is privilege, not a blood right — one that you feel this Other Dad clearly earned in his role raising you.

As for how to break it down for bio-dad, here's my advice…

I think the best tactic to use when telling bio-dad is to make it less about “You're not walking me down the aisle, Dad” and more about “I've chosen Other Dad to walk me down the aisle.”

For all you know, your father may be relieved (some absent fathers find the whole thing awkward), but if he persists with questions — focus on the positive reasoning behind choosing Other Dad, rather than the negative reasons why you're not choosing bio-dad.

If bio-dad keeps trying to turn the conversation to “why not me?,” keep focusing on the positives of why you chose Other Dad. Pick a particular shared memory with Other Dad to share with bio-dad (ie “I knew on one of my and Other Dad's mountain walks that this would be just right”) instead of a negative against bio-dad (ie “You were hardly even around when I was growing up, Dad — of course I don't want you walking me down the aisle!”)

Additionally, you could create a different role for bio-dad in the ceremony — he could do a reading or start the ring warming or lead a song. If you opt for this tactic, it's less about “I don't want you walking me down the aisle,” and more about “I envision this other role for you instead.”

The important thing is to focus less on what you're denying him, and more on why it feels important to you to honor Other Dad. If the conversation starts to slide off the rails, try some Copy ‘n' Paste Conflict Resolution and politely end the conversation — ie, “While I wish I could change how you feel, I respect that we all have different opinions about weddings … and I hope you know that despite this disagreement, it doesn't change how much I love you! I'm so looking forward to seeing you at our wedding.” *click*

Comments on How to tell dad that another man is walking you down the aisle

  1. Thank you for this! I’ve been wondering how I should break it to my “never-there” bio-dad that my mother was going to be walking me down the aisle. Now I can do it with the least amount of drama possible.

  2. It was hard to tell my dad that no one was walking me down the aisle- my husband was going to meet me halfway- but he was in the camp of relieved. We’ve just had so much drama over the years, I think it released him from feeling too responsible during the wedding. I did ask him to do a reading though, and it was a great one that he chose.

    My mom, on the other hand, was pretty much mortified that no one was walking with me, to the point of asking my brother FOR ME if he’d do it but I intercepted in time, lol.

    Best of luck to everyone in this situation!

    • Thank you! This is a life saver. I have been distraught on how I wanted to walk down the isle. I don’t believe anyone can give me away, but my fiance and I both want the dress a secret until the walk. This solves every problem. Thanks!

  3. My dad left my mom 6 months ago after 30 years of marriage…we’ve never been close, and I always thought of both of my parents walking me down the aisle….now it’s gonna just be me and Mom, and this gives me some great ways of breaking the news to my dad…

  4. I’m so glad that you covered this topic! This seems to be an issue that many brides have been dealing with lately, and it’s an issue that I’ll have to deal with when the time comes. Thanks so much!

  5. Thank you so much for this. My bio-dad is still going to take it badly, (it doesn’t help that he doesn’t like Clayton, my Other Dad, or that he didn’t get to walk my half-sister either.) but I guess I’ll have to be willing to make allowances. Maybe say ‘I’ll still do the Father-Daughter dance with you!’ (which I don’t want to do, but hey, compromise is a bitch.) Still, I predict I’ll be ending it with the bit you put at the end. Oh well.

    I gotta say, as much as I don’t see my bio-dad as my father, I feel kind of sorry for him. As far as I can tell, none of his children even like him. None of us wanted him at our weddings at all although my brother did invite him, and I’m doing that too. And if he decides he’s not coming because of this, well, um… darn?

    • I’m cutting out the awkward “father daughter dance” from the start. Fiancé and his mom can have a song and dance whenever they want, there just won’t be an announcement about it!

  6. This is such a well-timed post for me. I’ve been trying to work up the courage to tell my stepdad that I don’t want *anybody* walking me down the aisle. My mom says it will break his heart if he doesn’t get to, but the thought of being “given away” makes me feel really squeamish. :\ Coming up with an alternate role seems like the best thing to do…

    • Boy was this a tough one for me! I didn’t handle things great because it honestly didn’t cross my mind that my step-dad thought he would be walking me (bio-dad in jail), and so I didn’t address it all. Then it came up in conversation and I wasn’t prepared and things ended quite badly. Still trying to figure out the solution to this one. I’m not fond of my step-dad, he was physically abusive when I was growing up, and he is now psychologically abusive to my mom (whom I love dearly!). After letting my mom know all of that, things have exploded. 🙁

  7. Well, I called my dad. I’m strangely relieved that I got his voicemail. Here’s what I said, in case anyone else needs ideas:

    “Dad, I know you’re not going to take this well, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and this is really what I want. I’d like Clayton to walk me down the aisle at the wedding. He helped mom so much with raising Joel and I, and he has no other children of his own. Since he sees me as his daughter, I thought this would be a great way to include him in the wedding. I’ll still do the father daughter dance with you, but this is a great way to thank him for helping so much when I was growing up.”

    I’m not looking forward to his reaction, but… oh well. I’ll wing it if I’m away from my computer. And if things go badly, they go badly. Hopefully we’ll forgive each other eventually.

  8. One of my girl friends just got married this past weekend, and she had her grandfather walk her down the aisle and had both her grandfather and her biological father “give her away.” Maybe this would work for Ellie (or anyone who has an absent bio-dad).

    In my case, I walked by myself down the aisle. My DAD was my maternal grandfather, and he died a little over six years ago. The only other person I would have had walk me would be my brother, but he was my Man Of Honor.

    You just need to figure out what works for you and DO THAT.

  9. Great advice for a sticky situation. Though I have to say that in general, I’m not a fan of the “Don’t be offended — I’m making you a reader!” approach. I see this offered up as a solution for all sorts of things (to placate a friend/relative who expected to be a bridesmaid, etc.) and frankly I think people see through it. If this dad is the type who believes he should walk her down the aisle just because they are related by blood, I don’t think he will feel any better about the situation if he’s reading a verse while some other man walks her down the aisle. With that said, I suppose giving him another part of the wedding will make him feel a little better in the long run. But I also have to add that if he didn’t earn the right to walk her down the aisle, then maybe he didn’t earn another special spot in the wedding, either. Sounds harsh but I have been in a similar situation.

    But thanks for the reminder of the conflict resolution thing! I seriously, literally, am cutting and pasting those lines into an email today that deals with family members and wedding drama. It sums up exactly what I meant. Thanks!

  10. Cassie, I’m a big proponent of the different roles approach. My father didn’t walk me down the aisle, not because I don’t love him, but because A) I wanted to walk down the aisle with my husband B) my father’s a poet and him reading one of him poems was way more meaningful than him putting one foot in front of the other with me.

    I don’t think creating alternative roles for people has to be an issue of dismissing them.

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