Brides? You can't give them away

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The Independent Online
SPARE A THOUGHT for Mr Thomas Parker on Easter Day. On Sunday the Methodist church introduces its new Worship Book. And Eleanor, his 29-year-old daughter, has chosen from it the optional wedding service - the one which dispenses with Mr Parker's services.

Her father will still get to kiss the blushing bride. What he will not do is give her away.

The Worship Book offers the choice of a traditional service or one where the bride is "presented in marriage" by a friend or relation.

Eleanor, a regular worshipper at her local Methodist church in London, has no intention of being "given away". "I know people are very keen on tradition, but I don't want to be handed over by my father like a bundle of old washing," she said. "I would feel stupid. I haven't lived at home for years. I went away to university at 18, and haven't been dependent on my father since I got a decent job when I was 24. For a grown-up it is demeaning."

Mr Parker, 64, is putting a brave face on it."I'm very happy for Eleanor. It's her day and her decision," he said. "She's grown-up and I want her to have the wedding she'd want, as any father would for his daughter. Times change and what was right before isn't always right now. The church has to keep up if it's going to hang on to younger people. It's up to Eleanor and her fiance."

The Reverend Neil Dixon, secretary of the Methodist Faith and Order Committee and convener of the liturgical group which revised the service, insists the church has to move with the times. "What we are discovering is a small but increasing minority that thinks giving away the bride is a throwback to medieval times. Some find it offensive or objectionable."

Charlotte Mullins, 26, will be given away by her step-father when she marries in July. "I like the idea of being given away but not the term," she said. "It's really redundant in today's society - I'm an independent woman, living away from home with my boyfriend. It's not like giving away a package but it's important none the less, as a symbol to give the father of the bride a role to play."

Gina Walter-Blain, co-owner of the Pronuptia bridal shop in Windsor, was married last December. "My dad is 73 and I'm the only girl in the family, so he'd waited a long time for my wedding," she said. "When we had the rehearsal the vicar said: `Dads always think they have a speaking part, but when I ask who gives this woman, he just has to step forward and give me your hand and then sit down.' When I told my dad, he was really disappointed - he really wanted to say, `I do', or even just, `Me!' When it came to the day, he gave me away, but he wouldn't sit down afterwards, and he stood up through the whole service, sniffling away. It was such a big moment for him."

Tracey Sharrock, Gina's business partner, said: "Weddings have changed over the last few years. There are more civil weddings; often the couples foot the bill themselves, sometimes the bride makes a speech. I believe in throwing etiquette out of the window and doing it your own way. But some things remain important. The family is at the heart of what it's all about, and the dad giving his daughter away is a very important part of that."

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