Q. My daughter is getting married at the end of the month and although it's just around the corner, we are still arguing about who will walk her down the aisle. She wants both her bonusdad and me (her father) to walk her, but I say absolutely not. For the record, I'm grateful we are all paying for this wedding, but still, it's the father's place to walk his daughter down the aisle. What's good ex-etiquette?
A. Good ex-etiquette is based on the premise, "Put the children first" (Good ex-etiquette for parents rule #1) and even though your daughter is not a child, it's her wedding and therefore her choice. Granted, a dad may feel it's his "right" to walk her down the aisle -- that's understandable--but divorce adds another layer to tradition. Essentially, you are integrating past with present to form the future and your daughter wants to make a statement about her life by choosing who walks her down the aisle.
Most who don't like sharing the "glory" aren't realizing what a great compliment it is to both men when a child asks both father figures to walk her down the aisle. That request is acknowledging that both made an impact and hopefully worked together to help her feel safe and secure as she went back and forth between homes. Most children don't want their parents to break up in the first place, so this request means, in spite of it all, the parents have taught their daughter to respect the parent figures in her life. But, more importantly, it means the parent figures acted in such a way that they deserve respect. We aren't hearing, "No way my stepfather would walk me down the aisle." Or, "My stepfather was more of a father to me than my dad ever was." We are hearing, "I'd like you both to walk me down the aisle." Congratulations to all the parent figures for doing their best for the child they all love.
But there's a "wait a minute moment" to all this. Parental break-ups also put kids in the position of being peacemakers. They are often stuck right in the middle of their parents' disagreements, censoring what should and should not be passed back and forth to keep arguments at a minimum. The request for both dad and bonusdad to walk her down the aisle may also be yet another attempt to juggle allegiances. Let's hope the request is truly an acknowledgement of the parents cooperation and not another attempt to keep the peace.
Finally, there are all sorts of ways to approach the walking down the aisle question. My own daughter had her bonus dad walk her half way to where her dad was waiting. He then walked her the rest of the way, formally gave her away and then sat in the front row for the rest of the ceremony. Others walk the bride together. I've seen mom, dad, and their partners all walk the bride down the aisle. So, whatever is your daughter's choice, that's what you do. It's her day. Let love be your guide. Love is always at the root of the best ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at email@example.com.)
(c)2020 Jann Blackstone
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