When You Want – And Don’t Want – Your Family to Be There
Most weddings come with their fair share of family drama, regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple. But there are some unique challenges LGBT weddings can present when it comes to inviting both extended and immediate family. Should parents who refuse to accept their child’s marriage be invited, or is it better to save the aggravation?
The Joys of In-Laws
When you get married, you don’t only marry the man or woman you love, you also marry that person’s entire family. You go from two people who are just dating or seeing each other to a full-fledged member of the family. In most cases that means having to deal with an aunt who kisses on the mouth even during cold season or a sister in law who makes a few too many jokes about being an alcoholic in training. Every family is a bit strange in their own way but, in some families, there’s also outright abuse, neglect and toxic relationships.
For LGBT couples, hitting up against a wall of rejection is frustratingly common. In some families, there’s no discussion – the relationship is rejected outright in clear and certain terms. In some ways, this dynamic is almost easier to handle, since everyone knows where the other stands. But in other families the problem is more subtle and, as a result, harder and more painful to deal with. In these cases, family members may say they don’t have a problem with the relationship initially but once marriage comes up, suddenly there’s a lot of resistance. Suddenly, a couple that wants to take the next step and get married realizes that some of their family and friends aren’t quite as supportive as they thought. In these cases, the couple is stuck in a quandary – do they invite these guests and hope for the best or leave them off and deal with the fallout later?
To Invite Them or Not?
The decision whether or not to invite family or friends who aren’t supportive is a difficult one. On one hand, it’s natural for people to want their parents, family members or long-time friends to celebrate with them but, on the other hand, couples also don’t want to turn their marriage into a political platform nor do they want to have to spend their special day worrying about how someone is going to behave or what they might say to other guests.
Deciding whether or not to invite a loved one is especially difficult as it forced LGBT men and women to confront a painful reality – that the love someone has for them is conditional. Coming to terms and dealing with this against the backdrop of planning what is meant to be one of the happiest days in your life is overwhelming, confusing, frustrating and extremely painful. At the same time, there’s a ticking clock as invitations do need to be sent out by a deadline.
The only way to make the decision is to ask yourself how you’ll react if that person – or people – actually show up. Imagine you walk into the venue or reception and you see them – does your heart sink to your stomach or is it filled with a sense of love and true acceptance? At the end of the day, that’s what really matters and that will tell you how you need to proceed.
Dealing With the Aftermath
No matter what a couple decides, there’s bound to be some fallout. Should they choose to invite the person, they’ll need to deal with the potential for problems on their special day and should make a plan in case something does happen. Of course, it’s always the hope that a family member or friend who has a problem with the LGBT community would be willing to put that to one side in order to be a part of your celebration. But the fact is that in these types of relationships, there’s often a history of creating a scene or otherwise throwing a wrench into the works.
If you decide to forget the invitation and simply not include the person in your celebration, you may need to have answers ready when people ask about where that person is – especially if it’s a parent or sibling. There’s no need to go into the entire back story or detail who said what and when, just keep it simple. If someone asks where a relative is simply tell them that person chose not to come. That’s usually enough to end the conversation with a minimum of discomfort. Should someone miss the hint and press for more details, I found that telling them “They didn’t feel it was something worth celebrating,” usually does the trick for even the most inquisitive guest.
For LGBT couples planning their wedding, making a decision on how to handle unsupportive family members can cast a cloud over an otherwise happy event. No matter what choice these people make, it will affect their wedding and the start of the new life. For some it can be the start of bridging the gap while, for others, it becomes the definitive line where their old family ends and a new, healthier and more supportive one is born.