During a wedding, the wedding procession down the aisle is one of the most iconic and important moments, which signals the start of the ceremony.
There are many different traditions and rules on who walks down the aisle and in what order, but most different alternatives agree that the groom is one of the first, as he will stand at the altar to wait, and that the bride is the last to walk down the aisle, making her great entrance escorted by her father.
This means that the father is a part of one of the most significant moments of the wedding, walking side by side with the bride, escorting her all the way to the altar, and then “giving her away” so that she may get married to the groom.
Of course, every single aspect of a wedding is full of small details that must adhere to the traditional rules, so there is a lot of care to be put into these things! And as the father walking the bride down the aisle is a pretty important bit, you should really know which side the father is supposed to walk and stand on, right?
So…what side does the father of the bride walk on? Why? And does it really matter? We will answer these questions and more, so you know all the basics and you can make sure the wedding day is absolutely perfect.
Let’s get right into it!
What side does the father of the bride walk on?
There are only two sides on which the father of the bride can stand: right or left. So luckily, the options are pretty narrowed down. The side that the father traditionally stands on can depend on the type of ceremony you are having for the wedding, as well as the religion.
For example, if you are having a traditional Christian wedding, then it is customary for the father to stand on the right side of the bride. In a Jewish wedding, however, it is customary for the father to stand on the left side, and the mother stands on the right side, as both parents give away the bride.
If you’re not taking religion into account, then historically speaking the major tradition is for the father to stand and walk on the right side of the bride, in the same way as in a Christian wedding.
This is because, in older times, men were supposed to always have their fighting arm free (the right arm by standard), so that they could defend the woman in case it was needed. So men were always on the right side, with their right arm free, and women walked and stood on the left side.
Another reason for which the father usually stands on the right side of the bride is that the bride will end up standing on the left side of the altar, with the groom on the right. So when the father gives away the bride, he will be standing between the bride and the groom, before disappearing and taking his seat.
It is also worth noting that, usually, the father will walk down the center of the aisle, with the bride more towards the left. This is so that the father ends up face to face with the officiant, to exchange a few words and officially give his daughter away for the ceremony to take place.
Is it important for the father to be on the right side of the bride?
So unless your specific ceremony or religious tradition states otherwise, the general rule is to have the father stand and walk on the right side of the bride. But is this tiny detail really that important?
It kind of depends on the amount of importance and significance you want to give it. Some people like to adhere to every last detail of the tradition, and they want to make sure it’s perfect so that the wedding meets all the etiquette rules, and so that it is “lucky”.
Other people really don’t care about these sorts of details, as the important bit is that the groom and bride are getting married, and for them to have a good time with family and friends.
However, having the father on the right side is important for a few small reasons:
- It will be easier for the father to talk to the officiant once they reach the altar if he is on the right side of the bride.
- It makes for a better picture and for a more convenient “give away” of the bride if the father is on the right side so that he ends up being in between the bride and groom once they reach the altar.
- As the mother of the bride usually sits on the left side, front row, it will be easier for her to see her daughter walking past if the father is on the right side, so that he doesn’t block the bride from view.
Why does the father walk the bride to the altar?
Now that we’ve gone over what side the father of the bride walks and stands on, and why this side is important, we thought it might be useful to clarify exactly why the father walks the bride down the altar.
It basically comes from the tradition of giving the bride away. In older times, women were not financially or socially independent, and they always had to rely on the closest male relative, usually the father.
So brides were seen as the property of the father, and once married, they would be the property and responsibility of the husband. (Very misogynistic, we know).
The tradition of the father walking the bride down the aisle is so that he can then hand her over to the groom, kind of like an exchange of goods. The father would traditionally also unveil the daughter, presenting her to the husband-to-be, before taking a seat and letting the ceremony commence.