Question: Who should walk the chasan and kallah down the aisle to the chupah?
Short Answer: The Rama cites the minhag for the fathers of the chasan and kallah to walk down the chasan, and the mothers of the chasan and kallah to walk down the kallah. While others have the minhag that the parents of the chasan walk down the chasan and the parents of the kallah walk down the kallah, the main thing is for there to be no fighting over this unimportant issue.
I. Why Walk Altogether?
The Nit’ei Gavriel (Nisuin 14:1) suggests that the source for walking the chasan and kallah down the aisle to the chupah is from Rashi on the Gemara in B’rachos (61a) that Hashem created angels to escort and help Adam HaRishon prepare for his wedding with Chavah. The Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid) also cites the Baal HaTanya who suggests that the chasan and kallah are escorted to the chupah because they are too embarrassed to walk themselves and need someone to lean on for moral support.
Similarly, the Tashbeitz (465, as cited in Yismach Lev 104) suggests that the chasan and kallah need to be flanked by escorts, as they are comparable to a king and queen who are always flanked by servants and officers.
II. Flanked by the Fathers
Notably, the Rama (Yoreh Dei’ah 391:3), when discussing whether an aveil can walk his child down the aisle, mentions that the minhag is for the fathers of the chasan and kallah to walk down the chasan, and the mothers of the chasan and kallah to walk down the kallah.
The Beis Avi (Rav Yitzchak Isaac Leibes zt”l, 1:142 & 5:140) noted that the minhag in Poland and Galitzia was like the Rama, that the two fathers walked down the chasan and the two mothers walked down the kallah. The Beis Avi suggests that this is the more proper minhag, because often other family members, and not the parents, walk the chasan and kallah down the aisle. By always having men walk the chasan and women walk the kallah, it prevents an uncomfortable and tz’nius situation where non-parents walk the chasan and kallah down the aisle.
This was apparently the minhag of Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l (at least for his oldest child; see Yismach Lev, ibid, regarding how the younger children were walked down).
The Sheivet HaLevi (3:187) felt very strongly that the two fathers walk down the chasan and the two mothers walk down the kallah. He even refused to allow a family to change its minhag because he felt that for the parents of the chasan to walk down the chasan and the parents of the kallah to walk down the kallah would be a violation of u’v’chukoseihem lo seileichu – the prohibition not to follow the ways of other nations.
III. Flanked by the Parents
On the other hand, the Beis Avi (ibid) cites the minhag of Lita – that the parents of the chasan walk down the chasan, while the parents of the kallah walk down the kallah. The Beis Avi suggests that the source of this custom stems from a Zohar on the story of Adam and Chavah – that the parents of the kallah bring her to the domain of the chasan. However, the Beis Avi clarifies that because nowadays the chupah is not owned by the chasan, and the yichud room instead functions as the chasan’s “domain,” there is no need for the parents of the kallah to both walk her down.
Nevertheless, the Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid) notes that the minhag of Karlin-Stolin was that the parents of the chasan walk down the chasan, while the parents of the kallah walk down the kallah.
Moreover, the sefer Yismach Lev (ibid) notes that this was also the minhag of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l.
IV. Different Minhagim?
What should be done where the chasan and kallah have different minhagim?
The Ba’er Moshe (5:165) writes that if the two sides have different minhagim, they should follow the opinion of the majority of attendees. The Nit’ei Gavriel (ibid), despite citing the Ba’er Moshe, appears to rule that the two sides should ask a sh’eilah for a p’sak on what to do in this situation.
The main point, however, is to not cause fights. See Nit’ei Gavriel, ibid. Indeed, there is a story about Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l that when asked what his minhag was regarding who should walk the chasan and kallah down the aisle, he remarked, “Whatever the other side wants!” See ShemaYisrael.com (Rav Scheinbaum, Bo 5770).
Likewise, Rav Avraham Pam zt”l (Yeshurun Journal 11, p. 831) used to say that fighting over ridiculous issues such as who should walk a chasan and kallah down the aisle classifies as “yisurin shel hevel” – silly problems.
Next Week’s Topic: Should ashes be placed on the forehead of the chasan at the chupah?