The row started when a bride due to marry on Saturday in a church in the Stockholm archipelago asked to be given away by her father. The priest conducting the ceremony refused the bride’s request.
“These are two equal people, and being given away has never been a Swedish tradition,” said Rev Yvonne Hallin, priest in charge of the Church of Sweden parish of Djurö, near Stockholm.
The decision caused consternation in the bride’s family. The mother of the bride, who chose not to be named, said it was an old tradition in her family for the bride to be walked down the aisle.
“I think my daughter can decide for herself how she wants to do it. She’s thirty years old and is extremely aware of equality issues,” she told news agency TT.
But church authorities are adamant that it was not suitable for a woman to be given away.
“This symbolizes that the father is the owner of the daughter and that he is giving her away to her new owner,” said Rev Eva Brunne, diocesan dean and assistant to Bishop of Stockholm Caroline Krook.
Brunne told The Local that the tradition of giving away a woman was un-Swedish. Traditionally, Swedish couples walk down the aisle to the altar together.
The practice of being given away “only came into our church in the seventies and eighties through American TV shows,” she said.
The Diocese of Stockholm leaves the question of whether to allow fathers to walk their daughters down the aisle up to individual parishes.
“My policy is to talk to people. When couples insist, my personal reaction is ‘that’s too bad for you, but I’ll allow it’,” said Brunne. But, she added, parishes which completely forbid the practice “have my full respect.”
Rev Yvonne Hallin insisted that her church would not be making any exceptions for Saturday’s bride.
“I don’t care what they do in other churches. Here, the couple walk in together,” she told The Local.