In Brief

Serena Williams explains why her father did not walk her down the aisle

Tennis star’s father sent last-minute text an hour before her wedding to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian

Serena Williams

Serena Williams has explained why her father and longtime coach Richard Williams was not by her side at her wedding.

The tennis ace married entrepreneur Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of message board empire Reddit, in a lavish Beauty and the Beast-themed ceremony in New Orleans in November last year.

The meticulously-planned wedding included ballroom decor, a band playing her favourite selections from the Disney musical and an “around-the-world-themed dinner”, Vogue reports.

However, in the latest episode of HBO documentary series Being Serena, the sports star revealed that there was one last-minute unplanned change: her father texted her an hour before the ceremony to admit that he could not walk her down the aisle.

“He was in New Orleans, he had a suit, and I know he was really excited,” she explained in the documentary.

But faced with the scrutiny not only of guests but also the world’s media, her father and longtime coach, Richard, was overwhelmed with anxiety.

An hour before the wedding, “he wrote me and said: Serena, I don’t want you to be mad at me, but I just can’t walk you down the aisle. I’m not myself anymore. I’m just too nervous”, she explained in the documentary.

Despite the emotional blow of the last-minute withdrawal, Williams says her first thought was for her father’s health.

She replied: “Daddy, it’s okay, if you don’t want to come to the wedding at all, that’s okay too. I’m not going to be upset with you about it, so I don’t want you to be upset about it.”

“Maybe a lot of daughters wouldn’t react the same way, but I know the struggles he’s had these last few years,” she told film-makers.

“His health is better now, but I know he still doesn’t feel like himself, doesn’t feel like he’s perfect. And if he doesn’t want to be up there in front of a lot of people, I completely understand.”

Coincidentally, the episode “aired during a very public debate over whether Meghan Markle’s estranged father would attend her wedding to Prince Harry”, says HuffPost.

Thomas Markle, a retired lighting director, said that he was unable to attend due to scheduled heart surgery, amid widespread speculation that he was embarrassed by reports that he had “staged” paparazzi photos of his preparations for the wedding.

On Thursday, Markle confirmed that her father would not be walking her down the aisle, and requested that the media give him “the space he needs to focus on his health”. 

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