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*

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

  1. this is SO hard
    I’m trying to figure out how to skip the father/daughter dance (my family doesn’t really dance) without insisting on skipping the mother/son dance

    and the walk down the aisle–oh boy–thanks for the pointers. I have no Other Father but having no one walk me down the aisle is something I’ll have to explain.

  2. I’m having both my parents walk me down the aisle. I’d like my groom-to-be to do the same when he approaches the altar, to symbolize that both his parents and my parents give their blessing for the marriage (mine will be very family-/community- oriented), but I’m not sure how his traditional parents would take it. Anyone have any ideas on how to broach that subject?

    • We got married in a Methodist church and they have cut it out of the ceremony we used. The pastor asks instead for the parent’s blessing. My dad walked me down the aisle but I really liked that all the parents (DH has four due to remarriage) we’re asked to stand and say they were down with us…I think it would also work in a non religious ceremony too.

      • This! Thank you for fixing my problem. I’m having a surprise wedding and therefore my dad won’t know enough to walk me down the aisle, nor do I want him to. This solves the issue.

  3. Jess – I’d hit an all-positive angle with a side helping of flattery. Start by saying your parents are walking you down the aisle because they both mean so much to you that you couldn’t image doing it without both of them. Then say that, while you know it’s not very traditional, the idea of them doing the same thing with their sons sounds wonderful; it’s a public declaration of both you and your husband being brought to that point by your respective parents, and then starting a new life together. Make it sound like the idea of walking out with both of your parents is just too lovely and symbolic to just have the bride do it, and you want to include them as well.

  4. I learned today the my nephew is a wonderful ‘I don’t want to talk about this anymore’ buffer. Elbows in the boob and diaphragm aren’t fun, but at least it’s not “I don’t understand! What did I do??” Not to mention when I said ow, the baby started crying, and I had a wonderful excuse to get off the phone.

  5. 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…

  6. Thanks for posting the photo! This bride was really close to both her real father and her stepfather and wanted them both to walk her down the aisle. Her parents even danced with each others spouses on the dance floor!

    • I was planning on doing just that! I'm actually a little closer to my step-dad (who considers me his biological daughter) than my biological dad, but I love them both very much and it made perfect sense to me to have them both walk me down the aisle. Glad to see I'm not the only one! :3

  7. Historically, I’ve had a turbulent relationship with my father. He was mostly not around growing up and, when he was, so was my step mother…who had a hard time sharing my dad. Needless to say, our relationship was very rocky for a very long time. Over the past 5 years or so, I have worked really hard to let it go. Water under the bridge. It is HARD to let go…but personally, I couldn’t carry this baggage anymore. Either let it go (and salvage a relationship, if possible…or not). So that is what I did.

    The good news is that things are much better between us (far from perfect), but enough that I was comfortable having my dad (AND MOM) walk me down the isle together. Talk about awesome (and scary, since it was a very bitter divorce and they hadn’t seen each other in like 15 years).

    Good luck to you all, whatever you decide! Remember, you need to make sure you are doing what makes YOU happy and comfortable.

  8. My boyfriend has been an absent dad, but through no choice of his own. His ex-wife has made it very uncomfortable for him to participate in his daughter’s life. If he were to be at her wedding and see another man walk her down the aisle, it would just kill him. It’s so unfair. I think the nice thing to do is not have anyone give you away. See the film Last Chance Harvey to get the rejected father’s perspective. Heartbreaking.

    • I’m sorry Soozie, but I don’t agree with you.

      If your boyfriend hasn’t been a part of his daughter’s life, whether by choice or simply because he felt it would cause too much drama to fight for any sort of custody, then he needs to respect his daughter’s decisions. Especially if he really loves her.

      I’m sure he would want his daughter to be happy, even at his own expense. That is what a parent does.

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