Vows aside, I’m of the opinion that wedding ‘rules’ are made to be broken. Just blokes getting a word in at the wedding breakfast? I raise you speeches by ‘best women’ and brides (I was one such mic’d up bride). More of a jumpsuit than a big skirt gal? These wedding jumpsuits will do nicely.
There’s more choice and freedom in the wedding arena than ever, yet ironically it’s also often the modern life event that feels most bound by tradition and subject to the weighty expectations and judgements of others. Going against the grain can seem daunting when you’re waist deep in wedding planning but, speaking from experience, it’s these steadfastly personal decisions that make your wedding day just that: yours.
In short, ditch what you don’t want and hold onto the stuff that you love. In my case, the latter was quite literally my mum.
All Images: Audrey Russell of Tandem Photo
I’ve enjoyed my fair share of long walks with both of my parents. I went ‘hiking’ in a baby carrier over the Lake District fells at the grand old age of three weeks and uttered my first word while waddling over a hill (I think it was ‘pub’).
From thrice yearly trips to Cumbria to trekking up and down the steep volcanic slopes of the New Zealand town where I spent a large part of my childhood, walking with my mum and dad is a daily constant when we’re together and always has been. It seemed only fitting that they both walk me down the appropriately very long and grassy aisle on my wedding day, walking with me rather than ‘giving me away’.
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Having my mum as my right (well, technically left) hand woman not only made all involved happy but it reflected the dynamic of the day, wedding planning process and our lives together thus far. As in life, my mum is far from a ‘behind the scenes’ player and her place in the spotlight has never been in doubt.
My dad did as much of the ‘conventional’ mother of the bride duties as my mum did – from labelling favours to ordering booze, he was integral in supplying the emotional and practical support that the guests don’t get to see when you’re having insomnia-fuelled jitters the week beforehand. Likewise, my mum finessed (read: edited) my dad’s speech and was most definitely on equal footing in terms of visibility on the day.
She approached our wedding menu tasting with the stoic rigour of a MasterChef judge, even though she’d forgotten her EpiPen making the fish sauce-infused Thai cuisine quite the risky buffet (she’s a nurse and picked her way around wisely). All in all my parents’ approach reflected my upbringing and went hand in hand with other elements of the wedding.
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As my husband is Thai Chinese, we incorporated a Chinese tea ceremony after the civil marriage service in order to honour all of our elders and show gratitude not only for their contributions to the wedding but the many years of care, love, and lols they’d granted us as a couple. We served both sets of parents tea first, followed by aunts, uncles and my godparents and it felt both joyful and inclusive.
This tradition isn’t the only cultural wedding custom to bring the whole family, and most vitally mothers as well as fathers, into the fold. Traditional Jewish wedding ceremonies see both sets of parents walking the bride down the aisle, preceded in the processional by the groom and his parents too (often both sets of grandparents will also walk behind the Rabbi).
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That said, you needn’t look to formal rites for validation of your aisle companion if you don’t feel compelled to. Priyanka Chopra-Jonas walked down that mega-aisle arm in arm with her mum when she married Nick Jonas and I’ve seen beaming friends walk hand in hand with both dad and stepdad or mum and stepdad.
Whoever has quite literally brought you to this place, with the love of your life waiting at the end of the aisle, is the right person/people to do the walking with you, whether that’s your mum, your dad, both parents, an aunt, uncle, sister, brother, best pal – it’s your call.
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While my ‘aisle in a Scottish field’ wasn’t quite Priyanka Chopra-Jonas length, it was, like any stroll with my parents, quite the hike. An enthusiastic bagpiper played over my meticulously selected bridal entry song on the sound system by mistake and by the time that we eventually arrived at congregation level there was total silence (“Hi guys!”).
My wedding dress resembled A Bug’s Life (turns out that ants like white) on joining my soon-to-be-husband but I couldn’t have been happier – this was all par for the course, bagpipe malfunctions and all. The walk gave us a chance to chat on the way and having my mum squeeze my hand before marriage lift-off, just as she would if I were saying bye at the train station or bringing her a cup of tea, made me feel like I was exactly where I needed to be.
If you’d love to include your mum even more in your wedding day, how about asking her to give a mother of the bride speech?