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by Abigail Van Buren

Modern Brides' Trip to Altar Is Crowded With Relatives

DEAR ABBY: A young bride-to-be who signed her letter "Touchy Decision in Ohio" (June 18) prefers her stepdad walk her down the aisle at her wedding, but is worried about what her biological father (whom she sees once or twice a year) and other relatives might think.

In my many decades on this earth, especially during the last 10 or 15 years, I have seen all sorts of changes in wedding etiquette, including the customs governing who walks down the aisle. In addition to fathers escorting daughters, I've seen brothers escort sisters and children walk their mother to the altar. In "Ohio's" case, the logical solution, and the more appropriate one, to me, would be to have both gentlemen escort her down the aisle, one on either side. What could be lovelier?

The bride-to-be should consider that the hurt feelings that often crop up on sensitive occasions such as this, if not attended to beforehand, can tarnish the memory of the event in the minds of loved ones forever. -- BARB H. IN SPRINGFIELD, MASS.

DEAR BARB: Thank you for your response. Opinions regarding "Ohio's" letter are numerous and varied. A majority of those I heard from agree with your suggestion that both dads share the task. However, others viewed it differently. My newspaper readers' comment:

DEAR ABBY: If the biological father wanted to be a part of his daughter's life he should have made more of an effort to be there for her. The stepdad no doubt put up with all the growing pains associated with raising a teenager as well as other parenting challenges. These are the prerequisites for walking a daughter down the aisle. Although most males can father a child, not all of them can truly be a FATHER. -- STEPDAD TO A WONDERFUL DAUGHTER

DEAR ABBY: I can't believe how ignorant, uncaring and selfish a bride would be to dump her dad on her wedding day. Everyone will notice and everyone will care.

Ladies, unless your father is a total loser who was absent, a drunk, a jailbird, an addict or a deadbeat, walking you down the aisle is his privilege -- no one else's. It also shouldn't be based on how much money he was able or willing to fork over for the wedding. This is the day a real man and father has looked forward to since the day you were born.

And to any man who is asked to escort a bride down the aisle: Before agreeing, ask what her situation is with her father. You may be taking a spot you don't deserve. -- MARY IN OHIO

DEAR ABBY: My daughter wanted her stepfather and her biological father to be part of her wedding. So her stepdad (my husband) walked her down the aisle to where I was sitting in the first row. I stood up, gave her my handkerchief and kissed her cheek. Then her father stepped out from the row behind me, and her stepdad handed her over to her father, who walked her the rest of the way to the altar and gave her away. Everyone was happy with this amicable solution. -- JOYCE IN ALABAMA

DEAR ABBY: I was in the same situation at my wedding. My solution was to have my stepfather walk me down the aisle and my father do the father/daughter dance. That way both men were acknowledged and each one given his special time. -- KATHY IN NEW ENGLAND

DEAR ABBY: Rather than worry about her father's feelings, the young woman could have her mother walk her down the aisle. Mom has been the constant in her life and there's no reason she shouldn't accompany her daughter to the altar. That way, Mom gets recognition for her part in raising her daughter and no feelings are hurt. -- GRETCHEN IN THE HEARTLAND

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)