Celebrate and Include Both Fathers in Your Wedding Ceremony

by Jennifer Cram - Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (19/08/2020)
Categories: | Inclusive Weddings | Wedding Ceremony |
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Father escorting bride
                      down the aisleIn a traditional wedding the father of the groom has no role at all, except to stand in the receiving line, a practice that has long since been dropped by most couples in Australia. He doesn't even get to make a speech at the reception.

While the processional, as usually choreographed, includes the bride being walked down the aisle by father, in a heterosexual wedding,  the father of  of the groom tends to be very much in the background. Definitely time for a change!

There are so many ways to include both fathers in your ceremony. For some of these ideas I've looked to same sex weddings, where things tend to be different, as couples side-step traditional wedding planning advice and create their own traditions.

The processional


In a traditional Jewish wedding, the parents of the groom walk him down the aisle, followed by the bride who is escorted by both her parents. That's lovely. So why not do the same?
  • It honours all of the parents, not just the bride's father
  • It works brilliantly regardless of whether there are two grooms, two brides, or a bride and groom
  • It is great for everybody's nerves
  • It gives a real boost to the anticipation and sense of occasion at the beginning of the ceremony
  • It works whether or not you have bridesmaids and/or groomsmen, and whether you decide to have two processionals, each including their own wedding party, or have the bridesmaids/groomsmen walk down the aisle in pairs before either of you makes their entrance


Regardless of whether a marriage ceremony is a religious service, at the Registry Office, or conducted by a civil celebrant, invariably the person officiating is the person who welcomes everyone to the wedding. It does not have to be that way. There is nothing in the Marriage Act that requires that the person authorised to solemnise the marriage does that. A lovely alternative is to have both fathers welcome everyone, perhaps recount a bit of the family history, and then hand over to the celebrant. At one of my weddings, the families were immigrants only a generation back. So each father shared a very brief account of where they had come from and how they had established a life in this country. Then each paid tribute to the other family, embraced, and sat down. There was not a dry eye in the house.

Parental affirmation

Giving the bride away is so old-fashioned. But asking both sets of parents to give their blessing to the marriage is not only bang up to the minute and inclusive, it works regardless of whether you are bride and groom, bride and bride, or groom and groom

Father of the groom as the best man or groomsman

Perhaps not something you have thought of. But having the groom's father fulfil the role of best man or groomsman is a warm and loving way to acknowledge how important the relationship is.

Father of the groom standing with the groom to greet the bride and her father

A very simple way to include the father of the groom is to have him stand up with the groom at the beginning of the ceremony. This puts him in a position to not only support his son, but also to welcome and greet the bride and her father when they have made their way down the aisle.

Father of the groom as ring bearer

Send the groom's father down the aisle bearing the rings. There won't be any hiccups and the photos will be fabulous.

Fathers as witnesses

More and more couples are opting to have parents act as their legal witnesses and sign the marriage register and certificates, regardless of whether they have a wedding party or not. It's lovely. They always feel touched and honoured, and they show it.

Presentation of the rings

Invite your fathers to present your rings to you. It can be done in more than one way, each of which has its own inclusive feel because, when the rings are presented each of you will be receiving the ring you will place on your beloved's hand
  • Your father presents to you the ring that you will place on your partner's hand
  • Your soon-to-be father-in-law presents to you the ring that you will place on his child's hand.

Including both fathers in a ritual

There are a number of rituals (sub-ceremonies) that are a perfect way to include both fathers
  • Handfasting
    Have your fathers participate in the handfasting. They can present the cords/ribbons, or carry out the actual handfasting while I take care of the narrative. This can be especially interesting if they are expert at tying knots, whether sailor's knots, fisherman's knots, or the various knots used to tie down loads!
  • Unity Candle
    Traditionally both mothers light the taper candles that represent you as individuals and the families you come from. Why not have both sets of parents do this.
  • Sand Ceremony
    There are numerous ways your fathers (together with other members of the two families) can be included in a sand ceremony
  • Wine Ceremony
    The couple pours white and red wine into a goblet and shares it. Instead of having the two bottles standing on the table, have your fathers formally present the bottles of wine.
  • Warming of the Rings
    The rings are passed hand to hand so each person can hold them and warm and bless them or make a silent wish for your marriage. This ritual can involve everyone present, close family, or selected persons. Having your fathers, or both fathers and mothers, singled out to warm and bless your rings has a very intimate feel.

Leading you through your vows

As long as both of you say the required words to create your marriage, anyone can lead you through them (the  repeat after me section of the ceremony). One or both fathers can do this. Where you choose to involve both fathers, you need to make a further choice as to whether your own father will lead you through your vows, or your best beloved through theirs, and vice versa.


From ancient times we find records of fathers formally blessing their children. Such blessing are not necessarily religious. While in 21st century Australia a formal blessing, with the child kneeling and the father placing his hand on the child's head as he pronounced a blessing, is not common, there are many ways in which fathers do express wishes for happiness and success. I love to invite a family member to come forward to deliver a blessing after the couple has said their vows and exchanged rings. Where the bride's father has walked her down the aisle, having the groom's father deliver a blessing adds to the emotional symmetry of the ceremony. However, there is no reason why both fathers can't deliver a blessing in tandem.

First look

The First Look is a very popular photo-op. Before the ceremony, in private, the groom gets to see the bride and the moment is captured by the photographer. It is a wonderful way to calm wedding day nerves. Going one step further and having a first look with the parents, is pretty special too. What I rarely hear of, and I can't imagine why, is adding to this by having both sets of parents involved, so that after you have had your first look moment, your fathers (and mother's) are brought into it, giving the groom's parents a chance to see the bride before she walks down the aisle, and the bride's father (and mother) a chance to see the groom, and share a few words, before other guests see him.

When your father has passed away

Getting married without your father present is always bitter-sweet. You can honour him in numerous ways
  • Have your celebrant say a few words
  • His photograph on the signing table (so the bouquet is laid down near it while you sign the documents)
  • Light a memorial candle, incense, or lay a flower in front of his photo at the beginning of the ceremony. I usually have the couple walk to the table, stand with their backs to the guests, and do this silently and without comment before we start the ceremony. Playing his favourite piece of music at that time adds to the moment
  • Leave an empty chair and lay a flower on it


It is the relationship you have rather than whether your father is your biological father or your stepfather that is what's important. But it can get a little (or a lot) complicated when both your biological father and your stepfather are in the picture.

In recent times, however, rigid approaches to wedding planning, which could be described as do what has always been done or what other people want/expect you to do, has been thrown out of the window. And not before time. So I'm seeing loving and creative ways of including all parents. So far, the record has been 9 parents - biological and step - shared by the couple. They included all of them!

And we are seeing gracious gestures from biological fathers, such as extending a hand to a stepfather so that both of them walked the bride down the aisle, together.

Love and inclusion works magic.
Thanks for reading!

Jenny xxx Let's talk soon about how you
                      can have the best ceremony ever
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