Why "Who Gives This Woman to Be Married to This Man" Is Outdated

Ditch the traditional wording for a modern alternative.
Why "Who Gives This Woman to Be Married" Is Outdated
Photo: Delmaine Donson | Getty Images
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
Jessica Estrada - The Knot Contributor.
Jessica Estrada
The Knot Contributor
  • Jessica contributes wedding planning, wedding etiquette and relationship content to The Knot.
  • She also covers lifestyle and wellness topics for print and digital publications such Refinery29, Bustle, Well + Good, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, The Cut and more.
  • Jessica has a journalism degree from Cal State University, Northridge and is certified as a life and success coach.
Updated Apr 15, 2024

There are many wedding traditions that date way back. While some may have made sense in their era of origin, some are now considered outdated. Such is the case with the tradition of the officiant asking "who gives this woman to be married to this man" or some variation of it during the ceremony. To decide whether it's a good fit for your big day, it's important to understand the history of it, the meaning it holds today, as well as alternative wordings that you can choose from.

Below, learn everything you need to know about the tradition from ordained professional wedding officiant Orsella Hughes of Serenity Ceremonies by Rev. Orsella and wedding officiant Maria Romano, owner of True Love Knots.

In this article:

Traditional "Who Gives This Bride Away" Wording

There are many different versions of the "who gives this bride away" script. However, the most common ones, Hughes says, include "who gives this bride's hand in marriage" or "who gives this bride/woman away."

Other variations of the "who gives this bride away" wording includes:

  • Who gives this woman to be married to this man?
  • Who giveth this woman?
  • Who gives this woman to be married?

History of "Who Gives This Woman"

The tradition originated from the common practice of a father transferring ownership (aka "giving") the daughter to the groom and his family for payment. "This practice stemmed from the belief that women were considered their father's property, and marriage was seen as a transaction where the father would receive compensation, such as money, land or social status, in exchange for his daughter's hand in marriage," Romano explains. "Or the bride's family would provide the husband-to-be with some exchange of money, land or both."

Today, however, the phrasing has a different connotation. "The father giving the bride away is considered as his blessing and support to the union between his daughter and the man she chooses to marry," Hughes says.

Why Do Fathers Walk their Daughters Down the Aisle?

The father walking daughter down the aisle tradition goes along with the ritual of transferring ownership from the father of the bride to the husband.

In modern times though, Romano says many couples still embrace the tradition as a celebration of a family coming together and a sign of love and respect for the new marriage.

Hughes adds that the father escorting the bride down the aisle can also represent their journey as father and daughter as she makes her final walk as a single woman towards her future husband.

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You can, of course, slip the father walking daughter down the aisle tradition. Instead, you can opt for non-traditional ways to walk down the aisle such as walking each other or both partners being escorted separately.

When Is "Who Gives This Bride" Included in the Ceremony?

The "giving away" phrase is typically said by the wedding officiant after the father escorts the bride down the aisle during the processional. "Once the father and bride are up front at the altar, there is a short pause in the music for the question to be asked," Hughes says. "After that moment, the officiant can continue with solemnizing the marriage."

In religious settings, Romano says the question of who presents this bride is often asked after a prayer or a blessing during the wedding ceremony.

What Does the Father Say When Giving Away the Bride?

Once the officiant asks the question, the father will traditionally respond by saying, "I do," Hughes says. Alternative responses include "her mother and I do," she adds. Romano notes that in some weddings, the father or escort may also include the family surname in the response with something like: "on behalf of the Miller family, I do."

Do You Have to Ask "Who Gives the Bride Away?"

Nope! The decision to include the phrase or not is up to you. So if it doesn't feel like the right fit for you and your partner, you can skip the phrase all together. It's also important to find an officiant who will work with you to create the wedding ceremony to your liking.

"I personally ask my couples during the ceremony planning meeting if this statement should be omitted, included or rephrased," Hughes says. "For many fathers, this is a tradition they have been looking forward to for all of their daughter's life, so the decision to include the statement is a personal preference, not a requirement." So add this to the list of questions to ask potential officiants.

Wording Alternatives to "Who Gives This Bride"

"I find the phrase: 'Who gives this bride away?' cringe-worthy," Romano says. "It feels outdated, like a transaction rather than a celebration of love." If you feel the same way, there are alternative phrasings and ways to embrace the tradition in a more modern and inclusive way. File this under wedding rules you can break.

Tweak the Phrasing

If you want to keep the tradition but want it to feel more fresh and modern, Hughes suggests these alternative phrasings below.

  • Who gives the blessing of this union to take place today?
  • Who supports the union between these two individuals with joy and adoration?
  • Who stands with this couple as they commit to a lifetime of love and partnership?
  • Who celebrates and honors the love shared between these two individuals?

Use the Marrier's Name

To make it more inclusive, Romano suggests using the marrier's name, regardless of their gender, instead of bride or woman. "For example, I might say, 'Who presents Shannon?' and then direct that person to share a kiss or hug with the bride or partner," Romano says. "I always thank the escort and use their name, too. This simple gesture enhances the warmth and intimacy of the ceremony."

Ask Who Presents the Couple

Some couples choose to walk down the aisle together and in this case the officiant can ask "who presents this couple" and have the family or a member of each family respond. "This is always fun because sometimes the entire family stands and says, 'We do!' which adds such energy to this special moment," Romano says.

Skip It Altogether

And lastly, remember you can skip the "who gives away this bride" phrase altogether. In place of the question, when they reach the altar, Hughes suggests having the officiant leave some time for the father to hug his daughter and shake hands with their soon-to-be spouse while the music plays.

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