A while back I got into it with a few folks from Unfogged about the tradition of a father walking a mother down the aisle. It was generally frowned down on there because of the patriarchal history behind it as well as some vague tie-ins about how fathers (and men more generally) inappropriately seek the be guardians of their daughter’s sexual virtue (or sexuality). Some preferred that the woman be walked down by both parents. Others suggested that a woman should not be walked down the aisle.
My perspective on the issue has changed somewhat. I used to believe that nobody should walk anybody down the aisle, for many of the same reasons that many believe that fathers should not walk down the aisle. Since getting married - or a little beforehand, actually - my view has shifted. While I have no desire to migrate to (or back to) a society in which women are a possession passed off from one man to another, I see a particular value in the social tradition. Namely, that when two people get married, one of the relationships that changes the most are opposite-gendered parents and the bride or the groom. For better and worse, over the 20-someodd years, Clancy’s father was the chief man in her life prior to marrying me. Boyfriends come and go, but a father is always there. The baton has been passed and now I am the one that will be there when her father passes on. The same, however, is true of my relationship with my mother. Mom and I don’t have a particularly close relationship, but she was still the most central womanly figure in my life until I dedicated myself to Clancy.
So now my view is this: Women should be walked down the aisle by their fathers… but men should also be “given away” by their mothers. At least, that is my “ideal” setup of the way that I would organize things if I were dictating wedding norms. However, I was not given away by my mother at my wedding. Clancy was given away by both of her parents. Really, though, it’s something that I only think about when it comes up. When I think about my wedding, I don’t think “That didn’t go the way I would have made it if I was king!” or anything like that. My setup, however ideal in the abstract, runs contrary to social norms. What we ended up doing does the same, but it’s more common than my plan. I mention societal norms as they relate to this as a sort of bookmark for a future post.
Despite the (incomplete) movement towards gender equality, weddings are still largely the domain of the bride. This is true even in cases where it’s not the wife’s family that is paying for the wedding. It has outlived one of its original reasons for being. The main reason for this, of course, is that weddings matter more to women than men. This is not universally so and my wife was relatively undemanding despite the fact her folks did bankroll most of our wedding. But when it came to what part of the state we would get married and whether we would get married in a church or not and various other things, if we disagreed she got her preference. The experience of more of my married male friends than not is the same. There were only two things I insisted on (Clancy agreed on one and didn’t care about the other) and beyond that my attitude was “Just tell me where to be and when.”
I periodically read complaints by women about all the things that men don’t do in preparation for a wedding. No doubt that men are slouches when it comes to things that we are not particularly interested in. Weddings fall into that category. By “wedding” I mean the ceremony and not act of getting married. At the same time, though, I wonder if this may be one of those “be careful what you wish for” things. Because men take such a detached attitude towards weddings, women get a lot more leeway than they otherwise might. If I was told from the outset of a wedding (of which I was the groom) that I would absolutely have to take a hands-on role and if I did so, I would insist on a lot more than two things.
We saw a little bit of that when it came to the gift registry. I was more involved in that part and Clancy and I were in frequent disagreement. We have rather different aesthetic tastes. She likes patters, designs, and bright colors. I like dull colors (dark blues, grays, blacks) and do not like patterns at all. So we would go back and forth and get frustrated when there seemed to be an inverse relationship between what she liked and what I liked. There were times when I was really tempted to say “Whatever you want” because the result meant less to me than the discussion. On the other hand, we did work through it and I got more of what I want than I might have expected. In part, I think, because my wife is less insistent than some that everything match and look right together and all that jazz. It’s easier to compromise when it’s an item-by-item basis rather than a full-on motif.
I think that there’s something to be said for spheres-of-giveadarn. I realize that may be easier for me to say when it’s men that often have to do less of the heavy-lifting on these things. But it’s not infrequently the case that women enjoy these things the same way that I actually enjoy stalking out the best computer or smartphone or car. It’s not all that bad of a deal, really. Yeah, you get extra work, but you also get what you want. And hopefully allows the other person to say to carry a little more weight (”I don’t care about t, u, v, w, x, y, and z… but I want a and b.”), when reasonable.