The bride is a vision in white. Not ivory or champagne – white is methodically and very deliberately chosen for this occasion. With a veil shrouding her delicate features, a lovely, blooming bouquet of garden flowers in hand, she walks toward her groom… alone.
There is no need for the preacher to ask, “Who gives this woman away?” There is no father-daughter dance. All of the usual customs and courtesies in this regard are without purpose. Because the father isn’t here.
I was never one to plan my wedding as a little girl. Having gone through multiple divorces as a child, a wedding – while beautiful – was never something I looked forward to as much as feared. It wasn’t until I was an adult, baptized into the kingdom of God, that I began to see the possibility of marriage being a truly beautiful thing. Even more, I found a surprising desire to be forever joined in marriage with a man God had picked out just for me.
It’s truly remarkable how God can take something that was once so terrifying and disdainful, and turn it into something beautiful. What God creates to be pure and lovely, man often distorts. Then, in ways and for reasons known only to Him, He sometimes chooses to redeem it once again. It’s what he did for me. I am so grateful and blessed to be marrying my fiancee in just over a month.
But come the day I marry, I will be like the bride in white, standing alone in front of my groom. My father, while very much alive, will not be standing behind me. He has his reasons, and while I disagree with them, I respect him. It’s a difficult thing to fathom, however, walking down the aisle alone and not being given to another man. I was surprised to find that even though I never dreamed of my wedding day until a couple of years ago, two of the things I wanted most on that day were to have my father give me away, and to dance with him. The symbolism behind it is important to me. To belong, to be protected and cherished, encouraged and guarded by my father, and then passed into the protection and tender arms of my new husband.
Unfortunately, it occurred to me recently that my father, as loving and good-intentioned as he is, gave me away years ago. After he and my mother divorced he re-married and soon after had two children. I love all three of them – there is no “step” in mother, as far as I’m concerned I have two mothers, and I love my little brothers more than I thought I could love two little guys. At some point after they were born, they became his second chance. His new family. I never knew it happened and I could never have seen it coming, and I don’t think he intended for it to happen. But at some point after that he gave me away. He gave me away to life, to adulthood to fend for myself, long before I ever met my soon-to-be husband.
I write this as an appeal to all of you fathers, or any man looking to become a father. When you become a father you’re not just birthing a child. You’re not taking on a responsibility for eighteen years and then calling it good. As a father you are the first person to represent God himself as the ultimate Father. You are not only rule-maker, enforcer, playmate and guide to your child, you are the protector, defender, spiritual leader, and example. You stand as the measuring stick to which every man will be measured against for the rest of her life. When your child becomes an adult, he or she will actually need you even more than they needed you as a child. It will just be in very different ways. Not less important, just different.
What kind of father will you be, or will you decide to become? While I respect my father’s wishes, I wish he would be there for me on this day I start a new life with someone. Perhaps the hardest part about respecting his wishes, is letting go of the illusion that I was protected, defended and – despite my independence and free spirit – still belonged to him until he willingly gave me to someone else to do the loving, protecting and defending.
I thank God that though I may have been given away a little too early, into what seemed to be an unforgiving, merciless world, I was never without protection or defending. I thank God that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and that his love is everlasting. My dad wont be there on my wedding day to give me away, but I plan to walk down that aisle with a vision of God the Father standing by my side, handing me over to my husband-to-be saying, “I give this woman away.” Thanks be to God he never really gives us away, he just brings someone else into the relationship.