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I believe this came about as a Jewish tradition. Why is this done and what does it symbolize?

Is a father walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding a biblical tradition? What is the father's biblical role in the wedding specifically?

Does the father have a role in the wedding if this is the daughter's second marriage, after a biblical divorce in her first marriage?

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The idea is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. However, there is a biblical concept of "headship" that applies to every husband, which would seem to apply both to a woman's father prior to her marriage.

For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. Ephesians 5:23 NASB

The root of this comes from Genesis 2, when God brought the woman to the man--and not the other way around.

The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. Genesis 2:22 NASB

This is illustrated further in Genesis 3, where the woman sins first, but God's interrogation begins with Adam.

When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 NASB

Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” 11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:9-13 NASB

The idea of "headship" is certainly a controversial topic today. However, it is likely the concept upon which the modern marriage ceremony is built. The giving of the bride by the father to the husband symbolizes the transfer of responsibility.

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curious (as I haven't thought much about it), would you factor-in Laban's handing of Leah (and then Rachel) to Jacob into your thinking? – warren Oct 8 '13 at 22:05
    
@warren Yes, but that wasn't honorable headship. – Narnian Oct 8 '13 at 23:40
    
agreed. Just wondering if part of the tradition can be traced there :) – warren Oct 10 '13 at 13:47
    
@warren: Not likely. I won't take this opportunity to give you my reasons, but if you'd like to hear what they are, feel free to get in touch with me on "chat" or via my email (which is in my profile page). Don – rhetorician Apr 29 at 15:30

In Numbers 30, we have God's commandments regarding oaths.

According to these commandments, a man is directly bound to fulfill his oaths, but a woman's oaths must be approved of by her father if she is still in his care, or by her husband when the father hands her care over to him.

The approval of a father is given if he "holds his peace" on first hearing of his daughter's oath, or of a husband if he "makes no response" on first hearing of his wife's oath.

In regard to a widowed or divorced woman, if it can be established that her husband did not approve of her oath when he was alive, then she will not be bound by it (Numbers 30:9-12).

Reading Stephen Edwin Banks' 1895 thesis entitled, "Development of the Law Pertaining to the Contracts of Married Women", it can be seen that these ancient commandments eventually found their way into Anglo-Saxon law.

The requirement of approval was not intended to disempower a woman, but to protect her from being preyed upon. This aspect of the law has all but been forgotten in modern society, where one can see it is of the greatest benefit to unscrupulous agencies for it remain so.

Conclusion

A father walking his daughter down the aisle and giving her to the groom is the modern equivalent of the Jewish practice of passing on the responsibility for a daughter's protection and welfare to another man -- one, of course, who would meet his approval.

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Interesting and informative answer. Don – rhetorician Apr 29 at 15:21

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