It’s said to be the proudest moment of any father’s life: escorting his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. But now that weddings are back, as part of easing lockdown, the Government has announced that Dad is going to have to miss out because of social distancing. What seems remarkable to me is that it has taken a pandemic to put paid to this dinosaur of a tradition.
Being walked down the aisle by your father is a custom from a time when women were considered incapable of being responsible for themselves. You came under the auspices of your father, lived at home, and then your husband ran your life. But now, more than 100 years after women gained the vote, and at a time when they are likely to have enjoyed a good education to university level, earned a salary, moved from the parental home into their own flat with friends before marriage and earn as much or even more than their husband-to-be, they are still passed from one man to the next at a wedding ceremony.
Many daughters may have wanted to walk alone but baulked at doing do for fear of upsetting their fathers. Now the Covid-19 restrictions gives them the perfect excuse to do so purposefully as a symbol of a firm and independent intention to marry – a scene that is far more appropriate to the 21st century.
What is also appropriate in these straitened times will be how small a Covid wedding will be. Gone will be the lavish ceremony, with hundreds of guests, from your father’s business contacts, to schoolfriends you last saw at a reunion a decade ago, and your future husband’s golfing chums, only there for the flowing fizz and to eye the bridesmaids. That’s not so much a wedding but a social networking exercise and the actual marriage matters not a jot. Now, Covid-19 regulations mean just 30 guests maximum at the ceremony and barely a reception. Groups of two households indoors or six people from different households outdoors can raise a glass to the happy couple.
I suspect plenty of people will heave a sigh of relief at this restriction – including a few fathers who lose out on the aisle walks, but gain on the finances. Weddings have become extravaganzas in recent times, with couples feeling bound to organise a day-long celebration, starting with the ceremony, then a sit-down lunch that stretches into evening, followed by a party into the early hours. Add in the dress, the marquees, the country hotel, the band, the food, and the champagne and it’s no wonder that wedding specialists such as hitched.co.uk estimate that the average cost of a wedding in 2019 was close to £32,000.
With today’s events – more akin to the modest ones our grandparents enjoyed during wartime – the focus will be not so much the wedding day as an experience but the marriage – a very contemporary commitment between two equal partners. If it catches on, and becomes the norm well beyond lockdown, it will truly be something to celebrate.