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Why Meghan Markle should walk solo down the aisle on Saturday

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 15/05/2018 Laura Hampson
Meghan Markle smiling for the camera © Provided by Evening Standard Limited

It’s been a crazy few days in the Markle-Windsor household.

Meghan Markle’s father and sister have been accused of staging paparazzi shots, her brother has written her a public letter asking to be invited to the wedding yet again, and now her father has allegedly pulled out of the wedding – and from walking his daughter down the aisle – first citing a heart attack and then citing that he “didn’t want to embarrass her”.

Like I said, crazy.

However, while this has made an already-stressful time for Markle even harder, it also presents her with the opportunity of a lifetime: she could walk herself down the aisle.

Over the past century, many traditions and habits have been modernised to accommodate the fact that men and women are now considered equals – yet weddings are a tradition that seems to have fallen behind.

Why, in a time where gender equality is as topical an issue as ever, is the father supposed to walk his daughter down the aisle and ‘give her away’? Why does a priest still ask, “Who gives this woman to be married?”

This now-archaic tradition dates back to the time of arranged marriages, when unwed daughters were considered to be their father’s ‘property’. The father would arrange his daughter to marry a suitor he deemed acceptable and through an agreement/trade or dowry, he would thus ‘give her away’.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry - provided by Shutterstock © Shutterstock Meghan Markle and Prince Harry - provided by Shutterstock

Many brides decide to follow this tradition – as it can be a nice moment between father and daughter – yet many also decide to have both parents walk them down, have another family member walk them down or – something that is becoming more and more common – walk down the aisle alone.

Writer Alice Graham chose to walk down the aisle alone when she was 28 – and agrees that Markle should consider doing the same.

Graham told the Standard: “I chose to walk down the aisle alone, at age 28, as it reflected the decision process I underwent to marry my husband - one I made all by myself. I was a grown woman. I was making my own commitment to be married to my husband for myself, not to please my family or his.

“I think walking down the aisle myself was a powerful symbol of that, and after all, it’s not like my husband was accompanied by his dad to the altar. He went of his own free will and so did I.

Graham also considers the notion - that a woman is to be ‘given away’ by her father - to be archaic. She continued: “It suggests that a woman is property to be handed over by one family to another.

“Our Feminist foremothers of some hundred years ago fought to shake off the idea that women were chattel. I don’t understand why the symbolism of being walked down the aisle and given away persists even today.”

Fathers walking daughters down the aisle is something that still happens in many western countries – but it is an ideal that Sweden has rejected for a long time.

Meghan Markle during her visit to Rwanda - provided by PA © Press Association Meghan Markle during her visit to Rwanda - provided by PA

In 2010, there was an uproar when Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, heir to the Swedish throne, chose to have her father walk her down the aisle.

Most Swedish brides instead walk down the aisle hand-in-hand with their future husbands, symbolising the equality of their union – only 10 per cent of Swedish brides are given away.

So perhaps it’s time Markle took a leaf out of our Nordic neighbours books and walk up the aisle sans parents.

Markle has a long history of fighting for women’s rights. Since her rise to fame on Suits, the actress has used her star power to help put a global spotlight on the need for gender equality – in 2014 she even became the Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership for the women's agency of the United Nations.

Before her engagement to Prince Harry, this role allowed her to spend time with Hillary Clinton’s team and visit Rwanda – which has the highest percentage of women in parliament.

Markle now has the chance to make a poignant statement. This weekend she will be on the world stage, being watched by millions of people worldwide, and she should take this opportunity to show women that they do not need to be ‘given away’ at the altar.

Parents can be a star part of the wedding in other ways, but giving your child away is outdated and Markle can show the world that she is making her own choice by taking to the aisle alone.

Related: 9 times Meghan Markle was royally adorable with kids (Provided by POPSUGAR)

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