Courtesy of Samantha Darby

My Daughter Is Walking Me Down The Aisle, But She Isn't "Giving Me Away"

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Planning a wedding means honoring some traditions (as long as you want to), like wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue. It means including traditions like your best man giving a speech at the reception and, for a lot of brides, it means having your father walk you down the aisle to give you away. But as I plan my wedding to my fiancé, I've decided to change up a few things, and I decided that even though my daughter is walking me down the aisle, she isn't giving me away.

My daughter, Alice, was only 6 months old when I met my husband-to-be. She was young, I was a new mom, and I was finally healed after some devastating blows. When I was six months pregnant with Alice, I realized that my marriage was officially over, and when she was 2 months old, I left. It took me a few months to realize it was the best decision of my life, but when I met my fiancé, Nick, I was ready. I felt like me for the first time in a long time, and I wasn't relying on any one to heal me, to save me, or to make me better. Anybody who's ever been a single mom will tell you the same thing: your kid can't save you. But they can encourage you to love yourself, to stand up for yourself, and to be who you were meant to be. Alice did that. She still does that.

I went through hell after my last marriage to reclaim myself, to be my own person again, and I wasn't ready to be "given" to Nick.
Courtesy of Tse Gallery

So when Nick and I met, he knew all about Alice. Nick and I spent two weeks texting and talking on the phone before our first official date, which included Alice sitting between us on the couch as we ate sushi after a babysitter mishap. I asked him over and over again if it was OK, if he could understand me having a baby, and her needs coming above everyone else, including him. He promised me it was fine — in fact, it was better than fine. He didn't think of Alice as something to "deal with" and he didn't consider her my "baggage." He just thought our relationship was worth it. He thought I was worth it. But more importantly, he thought Alice was worth it.

I cried when he told me that he wanted to coach Alice's future softball team. I cried when he told me I wouldn't have to go to parent-teacher conferences alone, and I cried when, a year later, he proposed to both Alice and me on the beach.

Alice agreed. On our first date, she reached for him out of my arms and kissed him right on the lips. They say babies are excellent judges of character and that night? I knew. I just knew Nick was going to be in our lives forever.

I can't even begin to explain all the ways Nick made Alice and me feel. Coming out of a relationship that was toxic and emotionally abusive, having a man who texted me every morning to ask how both Alice and I were doing was such a shock to my system. We had only been dating for a week or two when he told me to always reach out to him if I needed him, no matter what. And as my baby refused to sleep during those long nights, I knew I could turn to him at 3 a.m. with my frustrations and tears.

He was always there, for both of us.

Nick always knew that Alice and I came as a package deal and he didn't just accept that, he loved that. After a few months of dating, I cried when he told me that he wanted to coach Alice's future softball team. I cried when he told me I wouldn't have to go to parent-teacher conferences alone, and I cried when, a year later, he proposed to both Alice and me on the beach.

Courtesy of Samantha Darby
Together, Alice and I are walking towards Nick, to start our new life together as a family of three.

There are a lot of wedding traditions we plan to keep. We're saying traditional vows, we'll cut the cake together, we won't see each other before the ceremony — but I won't be given away at my wedding. I went through hell after my last marriage to reclaim myself, to be my own person again, and I wasn't ready to be "given" to Nick, even if it was a symbolic gesture that didn't mean anything else. But more importantly, I'm not the only one joining Nick in a new family. Alice is, too. She's not giving me away. My dad isn't giving Alice and me away. Together, Alice and I are walking towards Nick, to start our new life together as a family of three.

Like a father walking his bride down the aisle, I know that Alice and I walking together is more symbolic than anything. But after so many nights of envisioning how our lives would look together, worrying how we would make it, and then feeling empowered when I realized we had everything we needed together, in each other, I'm more than ready to make that symbolic walk towards Nick with her. Because I no longer have to worry. Nobody has to give me to Nick, but the three of us, Alice, Nick, and me, can belong to each other.

It's the foundation Nick and I built our relationship on. It wasn't just him and me, together. It was always us three, from the very first date to the night he proposed. And I know that even if Alice breaks away from me down the aisle, like I expect her to do, so she can run to Nick like she does when he comes home from work, I'll get to walk as a strong woman, right into my future.