Q. Please advise me regarding the best (and most proper) way to conduct a church wedding with the following strictures.
I will wear my mother's white silk-velvet formal wedding gown. There will be three bridesmaids, and my younger sister will be the maid of honor. There will be no best man, no groomsmen and no ring bearer or flower girl.
Also, I do not want to be given away, since my father is dead. Is this likely to offend a maternal grandfather? Or should I have my mother give me away? I don't consider it properly respectful to my father for my grandfather to give me away, so I need to know from you whether I'll have to elope.
Can this be conducted just as a formal church wedding would be? A friend who said that mine would be a "weird" wedding was my motivation for double-checking this with you before proceeding.
When one leaves out all groomsmen does it have to be a "private wedding"? What are the distinctive features of a private wedding?
A. This may come as a shock to your friend, but the style of a wedding, formal, private or weird, is not determined by the cast of characters.
It will be an even bigger shock to her, and many others who regard weddings as shows with so many parts to be cast, to learn that you fit the wedding to the individuals concerned, rather than supplying people to fit the demands of the wedding.
The point of being given away has to do with going to marriage from the custody of your parents. That is why older, independent brides often omit this, as do those who object on the grounds that it seems like a man-to-man deal. (In the Jewish wedding, both parents accompany both principals.)
A fatherless bride who has been cared for by a stepfather or other relative will often choose him, and it is in no way disrespectful to your father's memory for your grandfather to give you away. Although it is less traditional, Miss Manners thinks it makes even more sense to have your mother give you away.
In any case, the custom is certainly not necessary to the ceremony. Nor is it, however usual, required that the bridegroom supply exactly enough friends to match up all the bride's friends who are serving as bridesmaids. The point here is to be surrounded by your close friends, not to draft people for a chorus line.
The formality of a wedding is determined by the clothes and the procedure. A private wedding is one to which you want to avoid asking people you think you should ask, so you tell them that practically no one is invited.
Go ahead and have your formal wedding. There will be nothing weird about it -- unless you invite that funny friend of yours.