Family Fragmentation, or How Do We Get Down the Aisle?

Okay, guys – there is a topic that I have been avoiding in all this wedding talk: parents in the wedding.

We are sort of a fragmented family, and we have not always been this way. Fancee’s and my families are fragmented in different ways, too, and that makes it hard to always understand where the other person is coming from. I have two parents who have recently separated, and are undergoing the painful process of examining their marriage through a new lens, and figuring out how to handle their relationship. Of course, this also affects our (my siblings’ and my) relationships with them, and our relationships with our significant others. I’ve talked about this a little before, so I won’t go into it too much here.

Fancee has one parent. She has her mother, and her only other family is her grandfather.

Fancee's Family: Mom, Grandpa, Fancee

Here’s how this all relates to our wedding (besides, you know, weddings are about family, blah blah blah): I would love to have our families walk us down the aisle. I love the symbolism and ritual not of “handing off” from father to husband (um, obviously not applicable here), but of branching off of one family to form a new family. I love the idea of walking in with the family that raised you and walking out with the family you are creating. I love inviting your community to affirm and – in whatever way is appropriate for them – bless this change, and to show the change, to really have a representation of that in the ceremony.

Parents walking their daughter to her new family.


The thing is, we’re just not sure how to do it.

We could walk ourselves down the aisle, and I suppose that has some symbolism – coming from our own individual places and then joining together as a family… I could get behind that. We could walk in with our moms – but then does Dad feel left out? Walk in with siblings? Well, Fancee doesn’t have any siblings.

Who better to ask than the diverse and wedding-invested members of the internet? What have you done? If you haven’t done it, what are you thinking of doing?

On the plus side: someone asked recently if one of our families was the “primary” family and it made me realize how much we are making ourselves the primary family. We are definitely supported by all three of our parents, and by my siblings, and by our close friends. But now I feel like we are pulling each other closer – this is where our family will be, and this is the sturdiest place to lean on right now. And I think that that is something of a blessing in itself.

Photo by Bette Yip

(Uh, yes, we did have professional family photos done with our dog. We are so dorky! And cute, right? Right? Doesn’t Daphne look good at least?)



Filed under Marriage/Wedding/Engagement

9 responses to “Family Fragmentation, or How Do We Get Down the Aisle?

  1. Ellen G

    We have/had more traditional family compositions, so my parents and sister walked me down the aisle and A’s parents walked her down the aisle. She’s an only child. I’ll email you a link to our wedding pics so you can see what it looked like.

  2. Pro photos with family pets is so neccessary. Their family, too! If only the cats could sit as still as Daph….

    My family is super fragmented. Mom hates dad. Fiance’s parents are a happy married couple. And we each have a younger bro and sis. At first, we fiance and I were going to walk together. I didn’t want a”hand off” but as you said, it’s about coming together- from where you came from and where you’re going. So we decided to have our parents walk each of us down. Still not sure if he’ll go down first, or if I will, or if we’ll enter from different areas at the same time. I’d imagine that will throw people off a bit… kind of like a magic show! I love magic shows… anyways.

    I think the exciting thing about our ceremonies is that we write the rules (like everything else about our relationships) but the ceremony is symbolic and important. I think the ways couples choose to do them say a lot about who they are.

    So, um. I didn’t offer much help, huh. But I do know where you’re coming from. When we finish the final draft of our ceremony I’ll be sure to share. Maybe we can compare notes, yes?

    p.s. one of my grandmothers and one of Josh’s would be walking alone, so we’re having each of our brothers walk them down and then run back around to walk with our sisters. Haha… sounds like a Benny Hill episode. We’ll see how that one works.

  3. Since my wife and I each only have a mom, our decision was pretty easy. We each walked in with our moms. It was either that or walking in alone, or together, which I would have been fine with too.

  4. I would SO have pro photos done if we could get the two cats to actually participate…now THAT would be awesome!

    I’m with you – I don’t (never have) seen it as dad (or family member) handing you off to the partner…but rather coming in with the family you’ve been a part of your whole life so far, and joining/leaving with the new family just created. My mister really wanted his father to be a part of the ceremony, so he is actually going to have both parents walk him down the aisle to enter.
    I on the other hand haven’t decided yet what to do – both of my parents are deceased. I have two older brothers, older sister, and an aunt who will all be in attendance and are all so monumental in my upbringing. I’m leaning towards one specific brother (but then does the other one get upset), do I go for both brothers, do I honor my aunt and ask her (who is also my mother’s sister) … ack! Instead I’ll just remember to feel so fortunate that I’m having this issue – that I have too many to choose from, and such a loving, supportive network of family who would be honored to be asked.

    Tho none of that really helps you directly 🙂

  5. Though I know that we have a lot of time to think about this particular topic (about 15 months), we have already begun this conversation because my Fiancee’s mother has voiced that she would like to walk her down the isle. On her side it would be simple enough to have both of her parents walk her down the isle, she is their only child and therefore their only opportunity to ever walk anyone down the isle.

    Me on the other hand, I am not even inviting my biological father to the wedding, and I have only in recent years become close enough to my stepfather to even consider having him by my side on my wedding day. I would be fine walking down the isle alone, but if Lauren’s parents want to walk her down the isle, I fear that I would be disrespecting my parents by NOT having them by my side.

    I have plenty of time to sort it out, but I see how fragmented families can really complicate the situation. Its sometimes hard enough to balance what you want with what your partner wants, let alone adding what your respective parents may have come to expect and feel entitled to on the day their child gets married.

  6. OK

    SO I know you were AT our wedding, but this recap is nonetheless offered:

    Each of us entered from the sides. Our parents (insert whichever important family members you’d like) escorted us from our waiting spots off on the edges into the middle where the tree was. We each said “bye” to our parents and they sat in the front row on the aisle right there where we left them.

    Then we walked out the center aisle together.

    It’s funny because we literally left our ceremony til the last minute. It’s the most important part, which also made it’s details the hardest to commit to. We talked a long time about the walking in from where with whom issue. Both of us were super aware of the ick-factor symbolism of Dads giving you away. But we did really want our parents there to escort us along the final stroll from umarried to married, to really be there with us and supporting us. Having a visual/physical demonstration of their love and support and commitment to our life together was important. I think whoever those people in your family are who you think you would like to have accompany you on that stroll are the people who should come. It’s about you and not them.

    Then in terms of where to come from, we also struggled because we didn’t want one of us to come down the aisle “first.” And as it turned out, after entering from the sides was suggested (I think by trish, who suggested many of the truly meaningful touches that ended up in the ceremony) we really became attached to the symbolism of coming in from two physically separate places with the families we came from, but then leaving together as the family we are creating.


  7. OH. MY. GOD. I just used the wrong form of “its.” Just shoot me now.

    I blame med school and its brain fryification.

  8. I really want my parents to walk me down the aisle, because they mean so much to me and have supported me all these years. I also like the symbolism of them showing their support for my marriage by walking me. However, I’m starting to think that I have less of their support in this than I thought. So now I’m rethinking things. I asked my fiance the other day if he would walk with me if things didn’t work out with my parents walking me, and he said yes. So that’s my backup. Honestly I’m not sure I could make it down an aisle by myself.

    So that’s the only other suggestion I can offer, walk with each other if you don’t think the parent thing will work and you don’t want to go it alone.

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