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. Hibyrd — great suggestion 🙂 I’ll definitely have to try it once I get up the nerve.

    Alison — I did not know that — good to know! I’m not Jewish, though, so unfortunately that won’t really help me in terms of breaking it to the in-laws. But it might be a good reference. Thanks. 🙂

  2. Jess, we’re not Jewish, but it didn’t stop us from using a Jewish tradition in our wedding — in our case, we went on a Yichud walk immediately after our ceremony.

    It’s easy to say, “After doing some research about weddings, I was really inspired by the Jewish tradition of having both parents walking me down the aisle!”

  3. I used an avoidance route for this one. Not wanting to offend my father since we’re actually talking now, but still not close, I’ve just avoided all the father/daughter situations.

    I’m pulling the feminist card for walking myself down the aisle, though with my small venue there may not even be an aisle.

    Small venue with no dance space also eliminates the need for parental dances, especially since we’re not sure that the future hubbys mom will show.

    I really wanted my “other dad” to walk me down the aisle (I call him dad and see him more often. His wife is best friends with his wife and I’ve always thought of their kids as my sibling). It wasn’t worth the drama it would cause though.

    We’ve actually avoided alot of drama by not having anyone involved in the ceremony besides us and the minister. Our mantra: “piss off everyone a little bit instead of a few people a lot.”

  4. Haha that should say his wife is best friends with my mom… why is there no edit on here!?

  5. In my perfect world, we’d have both our parents walk both of us down the aisle.

    But while my parents would be alright, his parents are divorced and hostile towards each other, so we are back to the drawing board. :/

    • I’m in a similar situation, both our parents are divorced. My fiance’s father died a few years ago and his mom is remarried, but he’s not nearly as close to his stepfather he was with his bio-Dad. My parents have been involved in nasty litigation against each other for several years now and my dad has remarried a woman who wants nothing to do with me or my siblings. The weddings’ over a year away, but I’m sure we’ll figure something out. I’m leaning towards us walking each other down the aisle, through out our relationship we’ve always supported each other through our family drama (despite the fact we love our fam dearly). I’m trying to find other ways to have our parents and his stepfather feel included.

  6. Ariel: Good point, but I meant it more in terms of trying to explain the reasoning to the parents. Citing Jewish tradition wouldn’t really be truthful — I want it because I want to symbolize equality and the unity of two families (which I imagine would be the reasoning in the Jewish tradition also), but not because I saw it in a Jewish ceremony and liked it. But like I said, it might be a good reference when explaining why we want that in our own ceremony (which will be a traditional religious [Christian] one, for reference).

  7. But I am thankful for Offbeat Bride, even though I want something more traditional — it encourages me to push the boundaries on the symbolism that is important to me. Like gender-neutral vows and a mutual giveaway.

  8. I wanted to walk down the aisle with my fiance rather than with my parents or father. This went down amazingly and spectacularly badly. I can’t emphasize enough how poorly it was received, particularly by my mother.
    The result? My father’s walking me alone.

  9. Oh, Julie. I’m so sorry to hear that your discussion with your parents was so poorly received. Depending on how long it is until the wedding, could you reapproach the issue with them?

    I’m going through this a bit right now with my parents. In short, my father hasn’t been support of me or my marriage, and I don’t want him walking me down the aisle. I know it’s a topic that will have to be discussed with him more than once, and I imagine the same might be true of your father…

  10. I just got married and dealt with this. My father was NOT walking me down the aisle after all our less than spectacular history. I went through all sorts of options – grandfather, both grandfathers, mom, myself, good friends… At first I felt like it was super important to have someone there to support me and represent family and community, but in the end I was just too conflicted about choosing someone and decided to walk by myself. My family and friends surrounding me were support enough, and it felt just fine.

    We also didn’t do any traditional dances, nor the traditional family photos. Just a few group shots and that was good enough.

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