In Nigeria, weddings are a big deal. I’ve enjoyed my share of them (attending that is. lol) and for some reasons i do not want to critically analyse, i have started thinking about what mine would look like if i do decide to have one.
Of course, i thought about clothes, venues, food, music and all the attending glitterati. But what really occupied my thoughts was the tradition of fathers walking their daughters down the aisle, or the closest male relative if the father is dead.
Some historical perspective here; “In ancient times, it was very common for female children to have either arranged marriages or be purchased by their future groom so-to-speak. The root word “wedd” of Anglo-Saxon derivation actually means a “pledge” or “vow”.
This either referred to the groom vowing to marry the woman or it meant the barter money or trade agreement with the bride’s father for his daughter. The actual word wedding refers to a “wager”.
Therefore, the bride’s father would setup a type of contract with the groom that he would barter for land, social status, or even political reputation, which back then was as significant as it is today.
A female child in those days was known to be property of her father and so the transferring of “ownership” to her groom on her wedding day was indeed a legality.
The tradition of “giving away” would signify that the bride’s family would no longer have control over her or her possessions (dowry) and that her husband would respectfully take on the responsibilities and obligations that her father once boasted.” – Sarah Malburg
Of course, in our everyday Nigerian society, this tradition has taken on several meanings not too far from what it originally symbolizes but far enough that in single parent situations, it has created the awkwardness of looking for the nearest male relative to “stand in” as father. I remember having a conversation about this with my mother a long time ago and she said it symbolizes honor for the one who is responsible for raising the daughter to be the one to “give her away”. I smiled quietly to myself.
If there’s going to be an aisle, my father will not be walking me up or down it. Neither will any close male relative be doing that job.
While i do not subscribe to the ideas behind this patriarchal and archaic tradition, i do acknowledge the place of honor it gives the individual responsible for raising me to be the woman i have become. On that premise, the place of honor belongs to my mother. She raised me, she was mother and father and a whole lot more; therefore, if any aisle walking is to be done, i will be taking that walk with her.
If there’s anyone deserving of that honor, she is the one.