When every media outlet and blog is showing pictures of a dad weepily walking his daughter down the aisle and your dad is nowhere to be found, it’s deeply painful.
I didn’t spend my childhood fantasizing about my wedding day. It’s just not who I am. Even so, a few details were certain: I would wear a white dress, my mother would cry, and my dad would walk me down the aisle. My dad was distant, apathetic, and uninterested, but it felt like an inevitability that he would one day cry as he walked me down the aisle. Because that’s what dads do.
When I got engaged, it took me a few weeks to realize that I would be walking without him. I knew I didn’t “need” anyone to walk with me, but I wanted someone to. And so began my research. So much research, yet so few responses. There was the story of a girl walking down the aisle with her dog, but my bunny definitely didn’t seem up to the job, and also, no. My search for articles and precedents led me to the overwhelming notion that this conversation wasn’t being had, and if it was, it was in private.
When I finally approached brides in person, they told me stories of being escorted by their mothers, best friends, stepparents, neighbors, childhood friends, grandparents, and even walking solo. It was so helpful to hear these stories, not just for ideas, but to know that I wasn’t alone. Nearly 20 million children live in a fatherless home – one in four – yet when it’s your reality, you feel completely alone. When every media outlet and blog is showing pictures of a dad weepily walking his daughter down the aisle and your dad is nowhere to be found, it’s deeply painful. Not the type of pain that taps you on the shoulder while it runs past, but the type that takes a seat and stays for a while.
If you are a fatherless bride, my advice to you is this: Take a hot second to grieve. Don’t blaze past the sadness because it will eventually catch you with a vengeance. Recognize and validate the significance of your feelings.
In grieving the loss of my dad for the 600th time, I realized that when someone in a family falls down on their job, someone else will step up and fill in the gaps. When I finally opened my eyes and looked around, I saw a life filled with people covering the spots where I was exposed.
My brother became the obvious choice to walk me down the aisle. I considered my mother too, but it was important to me that she watch the whole ceremony, start to finish, from her seat at the front, like I had always pictured.
I may not have been my brother’s to give away, but he had spent years being my advocate and protector, both physically and emotionally, and I needed him to show up for the job one more time. Seconds before I walked down the aisle, he glanced over at me and said “Let’s do this, Kiddo.” Not a question, not a hesitation, just unwavering support and confidence.
My wedding pictures may not look like everyone else’s, but they are the perfect description of what it felt like to grow up covered in love.
Erin Jackson is the co-founder of Raise. She's a mother of two, wife, daughter, step-daughter, half sister, step-sister, proud millennial, and lover of travel. She also works as a marketing consultant and interior designer. When she's not working, you can find her planning her next trip, baking muffins, pretending she's going to go for a run, and avoiding playing Star Wars with her kids. She currently lives in Arkansas with her husband, Collin, and sons, Beckham and Reeves.