Both of my (still married) parents want to walk me down the aisle but my partner and I are so shy that we want to avoid an aisle all together.
How can we…
1) have a wedding with NO aisle?
2) still somehow start the ceremony off meaningfully?
3) How can we include both sets of still married parents?
To help me answer this question, I decided to pull on the expertise of two wedding officiants — my parents! They're both Internet-ordained ministers, and between the two of them they've married dozens of people, often helping couple craft their ceremonies from scratch. They have different styles of officiating, though, so you'll get differing views.
In one corner, we have my father, the Reverend Dr. David Stallings. With a background in Zen Buddhism and Tibetan philosophy, he's a poet, and a former University professor. In the other corner, we have my mother, Reverend Therese Yakshi Charvet. She's comes from more of a Pagan/Wiccan perspective, with a focus on Earth-based religions and ceremonies. I presented them both with Jessie's question, and here were their answers:
Try this on. The parents, who often want to be meaningfully employed during the wedding for all the reasons pointed out in Offbeat Bride, are stationed by something like a chuppah (real or imagined, Jewish or not). The canopy of the chuppah has lots of nice symbolism. Each parent is at a corner of the chuppah. Traditionally, the bride walks in with her parents or father, but there is no reason all parents couldn't be pre-stationed at the canopy, welcoming into a new life/shelter, all together. Then the couple could walk in together, or from different directions, or whatever seems right.
This is all a little like Ariel's wedding, with all parents given a chore. But being stationed at a symbolic point, full of meaning (which could be integrated into ceremony) takes it a step further, I think. Chuppahs can be bought, but cry out to be meaningfully made by the couple or friends. Non-Jews are using them more and more. Other devices could be used as well, but there is such nice rich wedding tradition around the chuppah. Unless you're Jewish and into leaving such icons behind.
First off, being shy will be a problem at your wedding for many reasons—the aisle is just the start! You'll be the focus of everyone's attention, be photographed repeatedly, and pretty much all eyes will be on you! This is a day celebrating the two of you and shyness will make it excruciating. So, my first advice is tough, but GET OVER IT! Try hypnosis, affirmations, deep breathing exercises, a mild sedative, a drink, or some other substance that will relax you.
The simple-est way I can think of to avoid the aisle thing and involve all 4 of your parents is to have each parental couple standing in the front at the beginning (slipping out from behind a curtain or a flower arrangement), with their child standing withthem. Then, when the ceremony begins, you half of the couple steps away from their respective parents, and toward each other. Even during, this non-entrance however, all eyes will be on you — you'll be dressed up looking as spectacular, so what else are your guests to do but admire you? So back to my first suggestion to GET OVER IT! Try to enjoy the love and attention that people are sharing with you on your wedding day.
So in summary, Rev. Stallings recommends Jewish traditions, while Rev. Charvet recommends getting fucked up and getting over it. Or, you could combine both suggestions and sedate yourself heavily while standing under a chuppah. I would like to report that I did both these things at my wedding (Jewish tradition + sedative) and things worked out very well, as you can read in the book.
That said, of course I have a couple of my own suggestions:
Have your guests sit in a circle (here's more info about weddings in the round), with your officiant in the center. Your officiant introduces the two of you and your families. Then, you your partner should enter from opposite sides of the circle, each of you walking between your parents. Walk towards each other, from opposite side and meet each other in the center of the circle.
This way, only one half of the guests will be able to see you, because you're simultaneously walking in behind them and from opposite directions.
This way, only one half of the guests will be able to see you, because you're simultaneously walking in behind them and from opposite directions. All parents are involved, and each of you is flanked and fortified by them. If you wanted to, once you entered the circle you could walk all the way along the inside of it, sharing meaningful glances and smiles with each of your guests on by one — instead of facing them as an audience.
The six of you (the couple, and all your parents) then meet the officiant in the center of the circle, and your parents can then take their seats in the circle. At this point, everyone will be staring at you, but you're facing your partner so you can focus on their face and not the crowd. No aisle, all parents involved, and minimized staring — ta-da!
Also, read up on conquering stage-fright, because really that's what shyness is. Here's a great place to start. Good luck!