Swedish Feminism 101: Don’t Let Daddy Walk You Down the Wedding Aisle

As Sweden gears up for the Royal Wedding between Crown Princess Victoria and douchey looking Daniel Westling, plenty of scandals surround the wedding.

First up, Daniel had a kidney transplant last year therefore his health is poor now. Supposedly. If he says he’s ready for the wedding, so be it.

Next annoyance is that Swedes are feeling less inclined to pay for the wedding. While the Swedish media exclaimed, “all the hotels in Stockholm are booked!” the reality is different. I searched on Expedia and several top hotels are available during the wedding weekend. No shortage there. Festivities being paid for by the city and taxpayers is more than 10 million kronor (and the king putting in another 10 million).

And, the feminists are angry. And so is the archbishop performing the royal wedding ceremony.
He said,

“Giving away the bride is a fairly new phenomenon that occasionally happens in the Swedish Church…I generally advise against it, since our wedding ritual is so clear when it comes to the equality of husband and wife.”

Because feminism in Sweden is strong, this is considered a serious lack of judgment on the Princess’ part. Unlike American feminism where women quickly place a double standard, Swedish feminism sticks to its goals. The Crown Princess wants her father, King Carl XVI Gustaf to walk her down the aisle at the wedding ceremony. While this is common practice in the United States, in Sweden it is customary for the couple to walk down the aisle together.

Annika Borg, a priest and theologian, believes Hollywood’s movie weddings influences Swedish brides to have the American way. She says, “It’s unfortunate that Sweden’s future head of state has chosen to follow a practice that is not Swedish tradition.” That’s because only 1 in 10 Swedish weddings “give the bride away” by the father.

Of course the view by the Royal Court is different.

“This has a bigger dimension. This isn’t a father giving away his daughter to another man. The symbolism is that the king is leading the heir to the nation’s throne to the altar — and to the man who has been accepted.”

I understand the Hollywood sensationalized fairy tale weddings. There’s no movie where bride’s father didn’t walk her down the aisle. And they are beautiful. If I had a western wedding, I want both my parents to walk me down the aisle or no one at all. Because both my parents participated in my upbringing, they both have the right to take part in this important tradition.

While some traditions last, others are subject to change. A dowry was traditional for thousands of years, but no longer common practice. And there’s the obsession with dads and daughters. Forgetting the cute ‘daddy’s daughter’ ideology, the real traditional wedding is about about cutting an expense, the daughter, for a price to the new owners (a dowry). That’s why patriarchal power still exists with the man in such weddings, they “give away” the daughter. I prefer my parents to say “we give our daughter blessing to marry this man” than “we give our daughter to this man.” See the difference in semantics?

Of course, Victoria should do what she wants but I find it strange to not follow Swedish traditions. I want to know why she came to such decision. The Royal Court’s statement justifies a practice that is archaic and American.

Does it make sense for the King to lead the future Queen down the aisle and give her to the common man? Or maybe the issue is not about feminism but about traditions, should this still happen anyway?

I wonder if more Swedish brides will be “given away” after the royal wedding or will stick to Swedish traditions.

26 thoughts on “Swedish Feminism 101: Don’t Let Daddy Walk You Down the Wedding Aisle”

  1. Ah – here’s the issue I started on the other wedding post. Am ahead of the trend!

  2. I don’t know much about the swedish royalty or any other one. We do not have royals in my country, so I’m sorry for my lack of knowledge on the matter. But my personal opinion is that if that is what princess Victoria wants, good for her to stand up for what she wants. That’s what makes a good princess or future queen. I applaude her for not being afraid to let others know that she WANTS her father to walk her down the aisle. Who knows. Maybe other swedish women deep inside want men to court them and all of that, but are afraid to say it outloud.

  3. Of course Victoria can do what she wants. No one is talking about forbidding her to do so. You can actually be opposed to something while still being forgiving and allowing. So that’s a straw man argument on your part I’m afraid Latina girl ;-)

    No, I don’t think that she should have her father walking her down the aisle. It’s bad a judgement on her part.

    Yes, she should have her wedding how she wants it, because it’s just that, her wedding.

    But I still think it’s a bad judgment and a very poor decision. And since I’m lazy, I’ll refer to my comment on Sapphire’s previous blog post. So there :)

  4. @ Latina Girl

    I agree, but I guess because I’m American it’s totally different ;) But for the most part, I feel that if Victoria does indeed want her father to walk her down the aisle then, why not? She has her own personal reasons, that may or may not be influenced by ‘Hollywood movies’. Yes, they are glamourized a terrible lot, but still, who are we to judge?

  5. It would be nice to know the real reason why Victoria wants her dad to walk her down the aisle. Prefer not to have the Royal Court filter irritate us all with politically correct answers. Though if the reason was Hollywood influenced, then a real slap is heading her way from the gender equal supporters in Sweden. And really, it’s the Swedish Royal Wedding, not an American one.

  6. Princess or not, she seems to be getting crap from every direction (but she is a national figure and has been trained her whole life to deal with this, but at the same time she was born into this and did not apply for this position…ya know?). I do think the whole sexist thing is just a bit silly, personally.

    When I get married, I’ll definitely have my dad walk me down the aisle, probably my mother too. Why? Because I love them, and it will mean a lot to both of them (and for the same reasons you said Sapphire) and to me. Do I see it as sexist? No. Do I understand the background history? Of course, but context change. If I don’t view it as sexist, then to me it is not. You can give things power or take the power away. Her father footing half of the bill is also reference to a dowry. “traditional”(using this term loosely due to the wide variety of people that will read this, and I am referencing American/Anglo) weddings are paid for by the bride’s family, as a modern representation of the dowry. Is this known by many? No, probably not, it’s just ‘tradition’ now. (and it is more and more common for the groom’s parents to pay for the reception/open bar too, in all fairness)

    It all depends on context for me. If Victoria is going at this from a sexist point of view, then it is sexist. If she is looking at it from a non-sexist point of view, then I don’t think it’s fair to impart one’s opinion onto her. Now in regards to maintaining Swedish tradition and her break from that…I don’t know. To me, it’s a different issue related to the same subject. She is stuck in a difficult place. If it really is *such* a huge deal, I’m sure the aisle is long enough to compromise. Her father can walk her down half way, and she and Daniel can walk down the other half together. It’ll probably last 10 minutes anyways. :)

  7. @Mattias
    Sorry, when I said “wants” I wasn’t talking about not being forbidden =). Of course it’s implied that she can do whatever she wants. I was only saying that traditions are one thing, as well as peer pressure. But having the courage to make her wishes manifest even though most disagree speaks well of her in my opinion, which would make her a good feminist, sort of lol. But Sapphire is right when saying that we don’t know Victoria’s real reason.
    Funny when you said you’re lazy! =)

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  9. This is a very hard situation for her.

    She is under constant scrutiny and there will always be a group who will criticize her. Personally, it’s her wedding (even though most of Sweden wants to think it’s their wedding too), so she should do whatever makes her happy. It’s her moment, and her special day. If she sees fit to head to Vegas and get married by Elvis on stage, more power too her.

    The problem I find (and I see it in several places) is that Swedes have a double standard on a lot of issues. “Everyone is equal in Sweden.” Oh really… I beg to differ. If everyone was/is equal, why are you judging/questioning her on how she walks down the asile? I don’t think she’ll be questioning your wedding how you walk down.

    Personally, I think it would be awesome if she went down the asile while riding an elephant with a pride/fetish parade dancing to a dubstep remix of YMCA.

  10. @Andrew – You’re right, I didn’t even think about it that way. We’re all projecting our opinions onto her wedding. She should do what she wants, it’s her wedding. And hopefully, it’s her only wedding.

    I think she should have a bunch of bhangra dancers follow behind the elephant. Skip the YMCA song!

  11. I couldn’t care less about the wedding, but I completely support Andrews idea with the elephant. I could almost imagine paying part of that kind of wedding.

  12. @Sapphire – Bhangra dancers and drums on a float following her into the church while she rides an elephant. Give the media something GOOD to write about (and when they blast it, call them racists!)

  13. @Andrew
    Yes! that’s more or less what I wanted to say, but couldn’t word it. It’s like if there were double standards in Sweden. If some of them are really so openminded and non-prejudiced, why are they criticizing her?

  14. To be honest, who walks who down the aisle on a wedding is really unimportant in the long run, it doest even amount to a petty thing in the bigger picture. What feminists really should aim their focus on is. Equal pay for equal work, it is extremly rare for a woman to earn the same salary that a male with the exact same job description would earn.

    We also have rapes and sexual harassments, and in some countries they even perform sexual mutilation on women. Compared to all these, any feminist who would rage against some simple wedding procedures should be ashamed when there still is so much oppression against women in far worse ways in this world.

  15. @Latina girl – It goes further than that. It just scratches the surface. I wish I studied more sociology in university, it would fun to do some research into Swedish society and the double standards that exist (or believed to exist).

    @Björn – You hit it on the head sir. I couldn’t agree more.

  16. At least she is getting married and isn’t suffering from loverat-itis like her poor sister. Anyway the wedding isn’t the important thing really (it’s just one day) the marriage is the thing.

    @Bjorn – again sir you’re right – hats off to you.

  17. @Princess – I have a solution for Princess Madeleine. I’m gonna dress up and present myself to her at her sister’s wedding as a gift from the Canadian people to appease her and her love life. If that doesn’t work, I knock back a 12 pack of beer and get a sign that says “Marry me Princess Yummyboobs!” It’s a flawless plan! Bulletproof to be exact.

  18. @ Andrew

    Our fair princess Madeleine is in a very delicate situation. She has a boyfriend who she would marry but it turns out that he had an affair with another woman. She can NEVER take him back because that would reflect badly on sweden. Even if she wanted to forgive him and take him back she never can.

    She cant officaly meet another guy within a few years because that too would reflect badly on sweden. Her love life is extremly public and she has to chose carefully who to fall in love with. I really feel for that poor girl. Her chosen man is cheating on her, she must feel horrible and she cant even solve the situation as a normal couple would simply because she is a princess.

  19. In my humble opinion I think that Princess M is much prettier then Princess V. Her ex is an idiot cos the handball floozy was booted (ugly). Men are such pillocks some time.

    Poor M if situ is as Bjorn laid out then she’s stuffed. Well can empathise with her on the making bad choices a la your male partner.

    Their brother is bit of a cutie but also seems a wally. Though don’t get me started on our Royal Family!

  20. I’m American, and I’ve always felt disturbed by the traditional (and largely christian) weddings where the bride is given from the father to the husband. Perhaps it’s because so few people actually stop and ponder where it came from and what it means: In a time when women had no rights, the daughter was the “property” of her father until she was transfered (for a payment even, as you mentioned) to her husband, aka her new master. I also dislike the theme of wearing white for virginity.

    This is reflected lately in “purity balls” (again, almost exclusively christian) where fathers swear to protect and “cover” the virginity of their daughters until they are married, some girls as young as five and having no concept of sex and virginity. To me, that’s like saying “you are not capable of making your own choices so a man needs to make them for you.” And as far as I know, there’s nothing similar for young boys. Rather, in very rare events, the boys instead promise not to have sex because they will be “ruining” someone’s future bride!

    I seem to have ranted, I digress. Unfortunately, to be a woman here and to make any negative comment or criticism of such christian-style weddings is to be called a feminazi (which I personally define as someone that just hates men or is a megalomaniac rather than someone that wants equality).

    Out of curiosity, do Swedish brides take the name of their husband, or retain their own names, or is there some other system in place.

  21. Wanted to point out quickly too, that one can be concerned for equal pay, genital mutilation, and archaic traditions all at the same time :)

    The reason this touched nerve with me is from personal experience, in that everyone on my side of the family (and probably a few on his) will go absolutely apeshit when I break from the traditions :) And also the aforementioned purity balls related to the christian wedding traditions taking away the woman’s sexual autonomy, especially when many are too young to even know what it means.

  22. I have always been uncomfortable with the idea of my father walking me down the aisle to “give me away”, as well as the tradition of the man asking the woman’s father for permission to marry before proposing. I find it condescending and cheesy, but it is the norm in America, so I am often told that I am a cynic or non-romantic when I say this to my friends! Maybe I should marry a Swede? ;)

  23. Actually, the man traditionally asks the fathers permission to marry his daughter if said daughter is under the age of 21. And he ask the father after he has asked the girl and has been accepted by the wench. I would be honoured if my father walked me down the aisle. In fact, I have already asked him to. Traditionally it meant that the girl was going from the fathers care and was being given to her husbands care and that she was now her husbands responsibility. I really do not mind those traditions, they are a part of our culture and one shouldn’t bitch about them. I think people should remember it is THEIR wedding day and they can do what the hell they like. If people do not like it – tell them to get stuffed. So if you do not like those traditions then just do your own thing – you are not bound by law to have a traditional wedding! In Holland women can keep their own surnames, as in many other parts of the world. I know that most of the woman here keep their own surnames but put it behind their husbands name. As I am damn proud of my surname I will keep mine and put my future husbands behind mine ;-)

  24. OH BLAH! Why can’t people mind their own damn business? She wants to give the wanker another chance, fine. She wants her dad to walk her down the aisle, fine. I want my mother to gt off my ass about how I’m useless for not “pursuing my career” and happily being a housewife..but that’s my problem, just like their situation is theirs. I feel terrible for people who can’t just have their own lives. It’s hard enough to muddle through life successfully without half a billion people judging you…poor girls! I’d hug them if I could!

  25. Oh, and btw, the “giving the bride away” business isn’t some archaic tradition about ownership. That’s an anthropological misconception. It has to do with religion. In religious tradition, God entrusts ‘the gentler soul’ of women to the care and keeping of their father, who, when she marries, gives over her care and keeping to her husband. That’s not intended to make her less, it’s intended to protect her from the untoward intentions of unscrupulous men.

  26. Tradition is stupid. People should do as they please as long as they aren’t hurting anybody.

    Unfortunately there is no equality in the world. In Sweden, men are less worthy than women. In Iran, women are less worthy than men.

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