Should I tell my Christian grandmother about my Pagan wedding?

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Your grandma might be more bad-ass than you're expecting. More photos from this wedding here.

I have a very close relationship with my Grandmother, however, in all my years of being so close with her, I, uh, "forgot" to mention that I am not Christian, but in fact Pagan. She is very religious and while it isn't overbearing — if anything it's wonderful that she has so much faith — this is very troubling to me because telling her than I'm Pagan would absolutely break her heart, and I really really really do not want to do that to her. Lying, yes, but with every good intention possible.

I've been dreaming of a hippie, backyard wedding, but now I am freaking out because even though I know no matter what that my Grandmother will always love me, but I know that she will feel directly responsible for me "straying from God."

I've contemplated having two ceremonies, but do you had any advice on how I should approach this, and do you think there's any way I can really get away with this grand and terrible scheme I am trying to hatch? -Kei

Certainly having two weddings is a work-around to avoid confronting the situation, but alternately, this could be an amazing opportunity to deepen your already close relationship with your Grandmother. Do you really want to build your wedding around an elaborate scheme concocted to protect your grandmother from your true self? Or do you want to use your wedding as a chance to live your life with integrity and allow your grandmother to finally know the full and authentic you?

Of course only you can know the specifics of your particular relationship and your particular grandmother, but if you're close to her, it seems like you have been presented with a chance to really deepen your relationship with her. Potentially, you have the opportunity to act as an ambassador, giving your Grandma the chance to learn that Pagans aren't Devil-worshiping Hell-bound freaks… they're quite lovely, actually. She's loved and admired a Pagan for years, and not even known it.

You have the opportunity to act as an ambassador, giving your Grandma the chance to learn that Pagans aren't Devil-worshiping Hell-bound freaks… they're quite lovely, actually.

In keeping this secret from your Grandmother, you're also denying her the opportunity to surprise you with her acceptance. I have a friend in Seattle who, after months of agonizing over it, decided to come out to his Southern mother about his open marriage. "What a coincidence," she responded. "Your step-father and I have an open marriage too!" I'm not saying your Grandmother is going to be all, "OMG, YES! I was JUST making plans for my Beltane celebration! Would you like to come?" But if you're as "very close" with her as you've described, she may be more accepting of her heathen granddaughter than you expect.

You've been given an invitation to stop protecting your grandmother from who you are — you're both people of faith, and I want to believe that people of faith can work to find the common ground. My mother was raised Catholic, and went Pagan in her 20s… and I know she's found a lot of similarities in the focus on ceremony, ritual, altars, and idolatry. I'd love to hear from Pagan readers about any specific first-hand experience they've got with finding common ground with Christian family members.

Alternately, it might not be worth it. You could have two ceremonies with an empty day in-between them, starting with the more traditional Grandma-friendly one. It'll be twice as hard to plan and more than a little sneaky, which begs the question of what's worse? Outing yourself to your grandmother and bracing for her to be upset who you truly are, or potentially fracturing the relationship by lying to her?

Update

Kei, the original gal who asked us this the question wrote in via comments about how the situation turned out. It was such a powerful comment that we thought we'd post it here:

Hello, everyone. I know it's been a year or so since I asked this question, and I still appreciate all of the advice that was passed onto me. But in the event this thread is read all the way through, I just wanted to update everyone.Two months after this question was asked, it was discovered that my grandmother had stage 4 esophageal cancer, which is, as it turns out, one of the worst kinds of cancer to have if you want to attend your granddaughter's wedding the following year. The issue with my religion was a non-issue at that point – because bringing it up to her and risking bringing an additional weight on her already stressful situation was, in my opinion, not worth it.

She passed away that December, a week before Christmas.

In that time I learned that I should have really just told her before all of this happened. I do regret not saying anything, but I don't regret trying to make her last days as comfortable and loving as I could make them for her. Nothing was more important to us than to make sure we were there for her when she was ready to leave.

So, as the featured questioner of this article, to whoever has this problem and you are searching for an answer here: Life is so short, I hate the cliche, but you really have no idea how much time you'll have left to do something that you want to do. To be honest with my grandma about my beliefs was something I wanted to eventually come to terms with, but just that quick, she was taken from us. I had no time to decide if it was really the best idea, but regardless, I find myself wishing that I could have told her, because our relationship was strong and I know that she would have loved me regardless.

All the best,
Kei

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  1. Y'know what, though? My absolutely awful advice is just to do it. Just have your wedding your way. Pagan rituals are lovely, and honestly, Pagan-lite ceremony is not too different from stuff Christians do. Lighting candles? Having a prayer? Saying lovely words about the couple and offering warm wishes for a happy future?
    One way to help grandma feel like you haven't turned your back on the baby Jesus may be to open your wedding ceremony up to the crowd. Have a moment of silence for everyone "to reflect or offer a silent prayer or well-wish for the couple." That allows everyone the opportunity to send their love and energy your way while celebrating your union via their own faith, in their own way.

    20 agree
    • Hell, you could even invoke Jesus and Mary as aspects of Divinity along with whatever other deities you choose to acknowledge (if any) on the day of. I definitely know Pagans who embrace Mary as an aspect of the Virgin Goddess, and Jesus as the Reborn Sun.

      IMHO, it's all aspects of the same thing anyway. 🙂

      9 agree
      • You might not want to do this… as a Christian, I can honestly say that even though your Gramma will probably love you despite your different religious beliefs, most Christians would find referring to Jesus in this way as very offensive.

        21 agree
        • This. As a Christian, I believe this is wrong. While you may believe it, if it's intended to bridge the gap between you and the grandmother, it won't.

          To the original topic though, I recommend being honest about it. When my bestie rejected Christianity it took a few deep and meaningfuls for me to understand her, but I love and respect her despite our differences. I'm really glad our friendship is still strong and we can be open yet tactful about those things.

          5 agree
        • Yes, most Christians do not believe that Jesus is an aspect of the Reborn Sun. Meanwhile, most Muslims regard Jesus as an important prophet, but do not believe that he is the son of God. Most Jews believe that Jesus was one of a number of false messiahs, though some believe he was a prophet to the gentiles. These are disagreements very much like the ones that led to Jesus being crucified in the first place.

          Should Christians find the beliefs of Jews and Muslims to be very offensive? Should Muslims find the beliefs of Christians and Jews to be very offensive? How can we be peacemakers if we spend all our time being very offended by each other?

          Still, if offensiveness is a concern, it's simple enough to have someone ask for the blessing of Jesus on the marriage, and nobody need make or hear any statement on his precise theological status, nor that of his mother.

          11 agree
      • I totally agree that it is all the same thing on a certain spiritual level, and I think it's appropriate for private practice, although not my practice.

        However, as a Wiccan who often does public rituals, I avoid crossing religious lines like this for large, public, or diverse events. Some pagans find paganism after experiencing oppression or abuse from a Christian or Catholic church, and this kind of evocation risks startling and offending them as well, just as it could be taken as much more offensive to Christian witnesses than simply stepping into another world of religious practice.

        9 agree
      • To many people, Christians, Pagans, and folks of any other religion, it's not all the same thing. If you aren't going to do a Christian ceremony, leave the Christian gods out of it. You wouldn't expect a minister in a Christian ceremony to call upon Cernunnos and Cerridwen in a Pagan/Christian wedding, would you? Do your own religion the same honor. It's disrespectful to your own path as well as to the path of others.

        3 agree
  2. My parents were actually really accepting of it when I came out to them. They sort of subscribed to a "God loves everybody and is in everything, so as long as your faith doesn't encourage you to mistreat yourself or others, it's all good!" mentality, which I was really pleased by. But then, they're both very liberal Californians. 🙂

    My fiance's mom actually surprised me quite a bit as well–she's Catholic, and raised my fiance and his siblings Catholic (although none of them really practice anymore and my fiance and one of his sisters are actually practicing other faiths). When she asked (REALLY DIRECTLY, OMG) about what my religious beliefs were and I said "Well, I'm just kind of a well-intentioned Pagan," she said "Oh! Okay! I've done some of that myself!"

    Turns out during a period of domestic upheaval (fighting, physical abuse, and eventual divorce) with my fiance's biological father, she embraced some of ye old Goddess-worship as a means of empowering herself and learning to appreciate herself as an independent woman, rather than as someone's spouse or as someone's mother. Although she eventually returned to her Catholic practices, she maintained a good opinion of Pagans in general because she understood some of the value of the practices.

    Maybe you could approach your grandmother with some prepared discussion points about the similarities between the nice aspects of Paganism and the nice aspects of Christianity–if you could draw connections betweens the faith you used to practice and that she still does, you could make it easier for her to understand that your faith isn't a betrayal or rejection of hers, but rather a better-fitting version of the same path she's on.

    20 agree
  3. We didn't tell anyone about our Pagan ceremony, and to be honest, no one noticed. well a few of our pagan friends picked up on it. My dad's side is Catholic and they loved the ceremony and remarked on how different it was.

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    • This is our plan as well, because these things have come up with our various christian grandparents and the acceptance generally isn't there.

      My good friend is doing the ceremony and is wording it so the pagans there will say "ah, yes, so pagan with that circle talk and all" while for the non-pagans, it will be subtle to avoid anyone feeling uncomfortable. I am doing more overtly pagan things beforehand with my close witch friends, my (awesome) catholic mom, and hopefully my fiance's energy-working mom.

      3 agree
    • How did you pull that off? just curious because my love and I wanted to do something similar (both have religious families) but have no idea how to execute it.

  4. Husband and I are both pagan, our families are Christian (Catholic in his case, Protestant in mine). Both sets of my grandparents are pretty religious, we didn't say anything to them before the ceremony. We wrote our own ceremony that was "Pagan Lite" – we got married outside, on the husband's parents' land, and had Pagan elements in our ceremony (including a handfasting), but no one said "hey you're having a Pagan wedding!" We put in wording and readings that mattered to US (including an excerpt from the TV show Numb3rs connecting the concept of love to the cosmos) and we got TONS of awesome comments about how meaningful and lovely our ceremony was.

    Maybe this could be another option to the trying to do two ceremonies? My one grandmother gave us a little bit of gruff about not getting married in a church, but other than that, both of our families loved the ceremony and most of them still don't know that we're Pagan (our parents and siblings know, but that's about it).

    Best of luck!

    7 agree
    • Hi, just curious as to which specific reading from Numb3rs you chose. I'm a physics grad student (as well as a Lutheran witch) and have been searching for romantic science-y readings.

  5. good question, I didn't get married until both my grandmothers passed away. I remember a conversation with my mother before then that basically ended with her saying "I had to have a church wedding for your grandmother, YOU will have a church wedding for your grandmother" perhaps that is why I waited so long.. 🙂 Although my grandmother's would have been sad, they both loved me and would have come to the wedding regardless of who officiated and where it was. I would done a lot of research into the aspects that are similar (most christian rituals have roots in pagan rituals) I probably would have included a blessing or something that my grandmothers could recognize or ask them to lead grace before food as a way of including them and the religion I was brought up in.

    2 agree
    • This reminds me of a story about my great grandmother (an observant Orthodox Jew) regarding my Dad (a Methodist).

      After my parents had been dating a few years my great grandmother apparently confronted my grandmother and bluntly asked "Is Lynda waiting for me to die to marry Bob? Because I wish she wouldn't." I've never heard from my mother whether or not that was a factor in the long courtship, but they were married shortly thereafter.

      A similar situation is what caused me to come out to my mom as poly. My boyfriend and I are planning a commitment ceremony and I realized my mother would kill me if she ever found out that I had had such a thing and not invited her. I told her that was why I felt the need to tell her and she pretty much told me that I was right.

      Ultimately, your grandmother wants to be at your real wedding, whatever that might be. She'll probably be really hurt if she were to find out that she wasn't – regardless of why.

      3 agree
  6. I have to go with the just do it your way suggestion. I struggled with this myself with my father and the end i did it my way without any pause from my Christian family, right down to the handfasting which I explained was merely a joining system. I had a earth based blessing, a ring warming and had the guests form an unbroken circle around us and the people I thought would oppose told me how excited they were to go to a creative wedding. One thing I did do was prep my dad, we never had the "I'm pagan and never told you talk" but I explained all off the "different" things I was doing to personalize my wedding so nothing was shocking to him that day and I was so much more comfortable and less stressed about it.

    5 agree
  7. My fiance is Daoist-if-anything and I'm fully Pagan. Luckily our families are pretty cool with it, being fairly nonreligious themselves. We're planning a handfasting in the ceremony, and will give a brief explanation of what that is in the programs.

  8. The question of how to tailor our ceremony to be "authentially us" yet not alienate some of the very Christian guests / family was definitely a point of discussion when we were planning our ceremony. We ended up using a rather long quote from "The Fifth Sacred Thing" by Starhawk to both cast our circle and open the ceremony — it acknowleges religion and belief, with a bent towards the elements, without hitting anyone over the head with it. My Catholic sister tied our handfasting cord, and I think a general acknowlegemet of belief, rather than religion, really helped grease the wheels.

    That being said, there was some drama. Apparently our ceremony was "stealth pagan" enough that one major participant didn't realize it was a pagan ceremony, and stepped out literally moments before it started because of religious conflicts.

    Excerpt from Starhawk's "Fifth Sacred Thing":
    The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth.

    Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

    To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws and our purposes must be judged. No one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

    All people, all living things, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirti flourish in its full diversity.

    To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

    To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives

    7 agree
  9. I'm a Christian. I think you might be surprised by your grandmother's response. Being a Christian isn't about practicing religion a certain way, it's about a relationship with Christ. If you haven't expressed an ongoing interest in Christ, or talked about activities at church, or concern about what God wants you to do about a certain situation, etc. your grandmother probably knows already that you're not a Christian. The pagan thing might throw her a bit, but she'll be ok.

    17 agree
    • I agree. Your grandmother may not be aware that you are Pagan, but if you two are close she most likely knows that you are not a Christian. I say give her the benefit of the doubt. My grandparents are very religious and are constantly surprising me with their acceptance of my different life choices. Unconditional love is a powerful thing 🙂

      3 agree
      • I absolutely agree with these sentiments.

        My partner & I are planning a full handfasting and no one's batting an eye at any of the religious stuff. We opened with my partner's parents by saying, "you should know we aren't having a Christian ceremony" because many people conceive of weddings as either church or non-church.

        Actually, the things that's been most surprising to some so far are traditions they assumed to be secular and in all weddings – like walking the bride down the aisle – and me gently explaining that there will be no aisle. The removal of the bits often practiced in secular weddings around here have been the big deal, not the introduction of other religious elements like the Call to the Goddess.

  10. The biggest problem I can see in terms of a wedding is, if your grandmother is Catholic, and expects you to be married in a Catholic church, or in any other way expects your marriage to be "sanctified" by a Christian authority. Otherwise, a Pagan-lite ceremony would be just the ticket.

    As far as talking with her, I honestly would say let sleeping dogs lie. My grandmother is a deeply religious Baptist, and I'm an atheist (black female atheist? almost unheard of in the South). I have absolutely NO intentions of telling her. I love her, she loves me, she would never reject me if she knew, but I know it would hurt her and make her feel that she failed in some way. We just dont discuss religion.

    5 agree
  11. My family includes pagans, Baptists, Catholics and Jews… we all love each other dearly, so despite our differences (and occasional mutual incomprehension) we all get along fine.

    As far as "coming out pagan to Grandma", it may not actually be essential that you do so for the purposes of the wedding. If you would feel moved to share your worldview with her anyway, have a chat over a cuppa, and things will likely go better than expected.

    What you might chose to do instead (or "as well") is actively search for ceremony elements that have "echoes" of Christian rituals. What does your grandma expect to see and hear at a wedding, that isn't "Jesus-specific"? Sharing a cup? Lighting a unity candle? Wrapping your hands with a ribbon? Blessing the company, calling for witness, charging then blessing the couple?

    My point is, if you worry she'll be defensive or confused by your explanation of how your faith differs from hers, just tell her that you're not having a church wedding, you'd like something more of an "old Irish tradition" (or "Scandanavian" or "Native American" etc–) and then show her a ceremony that has enough of the familiar to reassure her.

    And relax– she loves you! ^__^

    2 agree
  12. I'm pagan too and come from a big Catholic family. I love my Grandma, I'm very close to her. I've never "come out" but she knows I don't go to church anymore. My mom may have told her I don't believe, but not sure.

    I'd like to have a non-religious wedding someday. My boyfriend is an atheist and his family isn't all that religious (but they are Southern). I think I will slyly add some pagan traditions to the ceremony someday.

  13. We had a handfasting and just kept our wording more pagan lite. We hadn't really discussed our specific beliefs with anyone. We had a small group ranging from agnositics to Mormons. Most people just thought it was a 'cool Celtic thing', which was fine by me.

  14. We used our ring warming as the multi-faith avenue to make sure my Very Anglican Aunties had a chance to pray over us – which was perfectly appropriate: once we'd laid out the wedding plans and it was clear that there wasn't a church involved, I knew that the important thing was to make sure they had a chance to feel like we'd respected their wanting to bring God's love to us.

    2 agree
  15. Be careful. It's nice that so many people have encouraging stories to tell you, but you need to remember that she COULD always refuse to go to your wedding. I'm pagan with Pentecostal parents and when they found out we'd be having a pagan ceremony, they didn't show–none of my family did. But that didn't ruin the day… the only people that really matter are the ones who'll love you and be there for you no matter what 🙂 I hope everything goes well for you.

    9 agree
    • Some friends of mine had a similar problem. Ultimately I guess it all worked out fine, but a pagan ceremony that was also in-game with their LARP characters also getting married, at our weekly LARP event? Yeah. Too weird for the bride's family to deal. Though her dad surprised her by showing up at the last minute.

      Honestly though, I think it's better to be honest all the way around. If Grandma decides not to show, that's her baggage.

  16. I'm terrified to tell my super-Christian mother that I'm an atheist for the same reason. I know she would consider it some failing on her part that I stepped away from the religion in which I was raised, and I don't want her to be upset with herself for something that was completely my decision.

    That being said, I don't want to have any Christian elements in my upcoming wedding, and this has caused some tension. She's given me some grief about "not inviting God to the wedding." It's important enough to me to hold my ground and do what I (and my fiance) want, but I still can't bring myself to tell her the real reason why I feel that way. I'm sure I haven't heard the last of it, but even though my mom might say a few things now and then about it, I still think it's worth it to do my wedding my way.

    I am definitely worried what will happen when I have kids someday though. My mom will wonder why I'm not raising them Christian. I have a feeling that when that time comes, I'll have to finally break down and tell her the truth, but I still can't bring myself to do it just yet.

    2 agree
    • I think you must be my secret twin. My fiancé and I both are atheists, and my parents and grandparents are Southern Baptists. Fiancé and I don't want a religious ceremony, period, and I'm very worried that my grandma will be upset about that. They don't know that I'm an atheist, and I don't want to tell my grandmother in particular. I honestly think she would worry herself into an early grave.

      The having kids thing actually worries me more than the wedding thing. :\

      1 agrees
    • i'm having the same problem with my super-devout baptist grandmother. i'm an atheist, my husband-to-be is apathetic at best, and i'm having freaking panic attacks over ma being at my wedding. i'm being very adamant about having no religious/spiritual elements in the ceremony, because i don't want to start my married life off lying, but i *really* don't want to offend ma, she's the last grandparent i have. that being said, anyone tries to bring my 11 month old daughter anywhere near a baptismal pool, i will karate chop them >.<

      1 agrees
  17. I say tell her, and if she'd still like something about her beliefs being mentioned maybe she could do a reading?

    1 agrees
  18. This is not just a lie with a good cause — it's a very long-term lie. You have to be able to keep it up basically until Grandma dies. In my family there is absolutely no way I could hide the fact I was having 2 weddings. Somehow it would "leak", if not before the wedding then certainly afterward.

  19. I'm not pagan (I'm agnostic/non-religious) and when I did come out to my parents – I just "haven't mentioned it" to my grandparents but I think they know – I was met with acceptance *and* disappointment. And I am quite close to them, they're really normally accepting, liberal, progressive people who are fine with people of any faith and even no faith. They attend a super-progressive (not quite Unitarian but not far from it) church. I expected a bit more…I dunno. I got the "acceptance" but not the "happy".

    1 agrees
  20. No matter who you are, you are still her granddaughter. I think, little by little, she will understand why you are like that or what do you believe. The most important thing that you will be able to tell her the truth as early as possible so that you will know her reaction. Because if you will keep it, you still be living in a dupe world. You must be ready to accept their decision. You can do it. Their love to you will always prevail.

  21. When I told my fairly xenophobic dad I was converting to Islam, the conversation went like this:

    Dad – That means no Jesus, but there's still God, right?
    Me – Well, not entirely, but yeah, pretty much.
    Dad – So that means you'll pray a lot and go to Muslim church?
    Me – Uh… yeah.
    Dad – Well thank God! Good to know you're finally doing something to get your life in order. Pass the ham.

    I ended up not converting, but the moral of the story? Parents will surprise you.

    8 agree
  22. I "came out" as an atheist to my parents in a rather public setting (I invited them to the Youth Service at my unitarian church many moons ago), and though initially upset at first, they saw that I was still a good person, serving the community, etc and ultimately they knew it shouldn't deter their relationship with me. I say give your grandma a chance to show you she unconditionally loves you – and at the very least it gives her an opportunity to learn more about your faith, even if she doesn't agree with it. Good luck and have a fabulous wedding, however you end up creating it!

  23. I "came out" to my one set of grandparents that I'm atheist. I wish I could say that they were awesome about it. For all I know, my grandpa is. But, my grandma all but disowned me. Any/all acknowledgements of me involve mailing me a card to acknowledge an occasion complete with a note that she donated the money she would have sent me to a Catholic missions that have agreed to pray for me.

    But, honestly, now that we're past the rawness of being hated, I'm *glad* that I told them. It sucks to lose family like that, but its also good to know that she's so afraid of people outside of her religion that she chooses to demonize me (no, really, I'm possessed by some demon in her mind) rather than accept that not all people believe the same things. Because of this, we chose to not invite her (or anyone else not accepting of our choice in religion), and now we know that ALL people invited love us for who we are, in the complete package. We're not worried about people hating our choices on our day, nor are we worried about fights or passive-aggressive moves. And this takes so much stress off like you wouldn't believe.

    3 agree
  24. Hi! I'm the person featured in today's post!

    Firstly, WOW. Thank all of you so much for your input — I did not expect this much of a response at all! But then again, this is off-beat bride, and it is quite popular. 😀

    I wanted to touch base with a lot of people who suggested I go Pagan-Lite with the ceremony. This would totally be an option for me if I wasn't inviting a TON of people from the Pagan community to my wedding, and if my fiance's mom was not officiating and doing the ceremony (she's been practicing Wicca for something like 35 years). That and most of my family could care less what I do with my religious side so long as I don't kill babies or animals, so all in all, being outwardly Pagan is not an issue, it's just about my grandmother. But I do appreciate the advice, so thank you for that.

    My other grandmother, however, suggested that we try out the traditional Polish broom-jumping, which involves putting on a babushka and an apron immediately before the broom jump. I think this would be ironic and adorable, and I get to keep my broom. But I will still be having a blatant High Priestess calling gods to the circle, and lots of people who I expect will want to say a lot of good things about Fiance and Me and talk about how we all met at a crazy Symbel.

    However, at my Mom's behest, I have agreed that I *should* tell her because no one wants her to show up and be offended, and at least give her the option to be there or not until the reception. Now the challenge is how I'm going to tell her and hope she doesn't immediately try to explain why I'm wrong.

    I'll certainly keep everyone posted! Once again, thank you so much for the advice, everyone. Seriously, I feel much less alone and confused about this. Bless all of you!

    5 agree
    • First of all, kudos and good luck. Telling your grandmother might be difficult but it could be amazingly rewarding.
      My g-ma knows that I've been pagan since I was 15 (and isn't too happy about it) but, when it came to my wedding, she was a little hesitant because she didn't know what to expect.
      It turned out that all I had to do was explain the ceremony to her and she was fine with it. Basically she summed it all up with "Someone lights candles and then jibberjabbers about love and blessing the day? Sounds like a wedding to me."
      I lucked out because she's always thought of me as the weird one so she didn't have any real expectations. I hope that your relationship with your grandmother allows for you two to have good conversation about the situation. My advice would be to point out the similarities of your religious views (Love! Harmony! Not killing kittens!) and offering to explain/discuss anything she isn't sure about. Hopefully she'll be able to understand that being pagan isn't wrong- just different.
      Good luck and blessed be!

      1 agrees
  25. I'm Pagan and my husband is Atheist; we both come from Christian families. What I did was to have a ton of information on our "wedsite" in the FAQ section, explaining what a handfasting is, etc. It didn't hurt that DH is Scottish and it's part of his heritage as well. I put the wedsite URL on our invitations and a note that anyone with further questions could ask. Avoidant? Yes. Worked like a charm? Yes! If anyone needed to express shock or rant, all I know is they must have done so in their own homes looking at the wedsite, because they did not do it at our wedding. I think giving them time to adjust was a good thing. 🙂

    3 agree
    • I'm currently writing a FAQ for my parent's parents to circulate amongst their family for anyone who's concerned – as well as to later on publish to our wedsite and I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see yours!

  26. Good choice to tell her the truth! Personally, I find a lot of my friends (both Christian and non-Christian) always seem to think they have to hide things from me if they think I won't like it. Usually, when they tell me such things, they're right in that I'm disappointed/dislike their actions… but I prefer to know what's what rather than be ignorant of the real lives of the people I love! I hope your granma is the same way!

    Actually, when I think about it, I've had people I'm close to (including my FH) "come out" to me that they don't believe in God… and yeah I was upset by that. But while I was concerned for their salvation on the one hand, I was also seriously hurt that they would keep something like that from me for so long- the secrecy was far more damaging than knowing they had different beliefs from me.

    I hope it all goes well with your granma…

  27. I had a really close family friend who was really really offended that we were having a non-religious ceremony in the church I grew up in. (It's a long story, but suffice to say that my parents, who are religious and the priest, were all cool with it.)

    She pretended like she was OK with it when I told her, but then would pick fights about the wedding (food, clothing, etc). Eventually, it got so out of hand that we ended up disinviting her the the wedding. It was really sad, because I had thought should would be really supportive and it turned out to not be the case. It also ruined her relationship with my whole family – I am in touch with her and her relationship with my parents and sister is still strained a year later.

    My only point is that not every one is self-aware. Just because your grandmother seems OK with it at first, doesn't mean she actually is and that may play out in other things.

    I do think it makes sense to be honest and tell her before the wedding (who wants drama on the day), but at the same time be prepared that her words and actions may not coincide.

    The other thing to think about is how you will feel looking out at her during the ceremony – will you feel judged or concerned about what she's thinking? That's obviously not the way you want to feel.

    Anyway, it's a tricky situation and I hope it all works out for you!

    – Becca

    2 agree
  28. Well this article came at a time when my fiance' and I are in the planning stages of our wedding ceremony. Right now we decided to do without a ring for either of us and do a handfasting our church. You see I am a kitchen Christian witch and he is an agnostic, kristna with a touch of Buddhism going to a Unitarian Universalist Church. I kinda agree you should tell your grandmother that you are Pagan. Grandmothers as I have noticed are a bit more forgiving and open minded than the parents. My family, except for my sister in law does not know that I technically I am a Pagan.For all for the most of my family I am relapse Christian who has not return to the Catholic church since my divorce. Depending on how you present it to your grandmother, get some information for her to read on and be open to any and all questions from her. Hopefully this will keep the bond between you two strong

  29. I'm Wiccan, and like you am doing the full-out whole hog Wiccan business for the ceremony.

    I really believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt on this stuff, even if you do tell her, and the reaction seems unenthusiastic.

    My family has known my religion a long, long time, and I notice when I bring up the religious elements of the wedding everyone tends to go a little quiet. My partner's parents do the same thing. It surprised me at first, especially with my family, but I realized I had to stop the emotional jump to interpret silence or awkwardness as disapproval. Instead, as I realized from talking to a couple of friends and my partner's parents starting calling asking for information because they want to be well equipped to answer questions, I think it's just that everyone is being super cautious to not offend me!

    My family believes in and respects my religion enough that they want to be careful not to make light of it or assume anything about what I'm doing. It means a little more work – and an awful lot of awkward silence where I need to volunteer more and more information before anyone seems to feel equipped to participate in the conversation – but it's coming from a place of love and care, not discontent

    In contrast, I've realized some of my non-religious friends are super excited about it because even though it's religious, they seem to equate non-Christian as non-religious, which is actually pretty offensive ideologically, but they're the ones skipping and jumping to talk about my 'alternative' wedding. Even though I know there's a bit of an uncomfortable connection there, I'm also taking the skipping and jumping where I can get it.

    Your handfasting/wedding will be FANTASTIC. They are so core celebration and frivolity, that anyone religiously comfortable enough to attend will have a good time.

    As much as it would be a disappointment if your grandmother doesn't attend – and I think a lot of us have acknowledged that as a slight possibility – I think you should give her the opportunity to let you know what she needs. It might even be that you end up compromising to have two ceremonies, where she only attends one, or she attends both but enjoys one more – but then you can do it *for her* and don't have to worry about deceiving her, or her finding out the wrong way.

    If there's any silence or awkwardness – which has been a super common response for me: space to digest, then information, information, information!

  30. I told my mother that I was having a pagan handfasting, not a Christian wedding. She was supportive, as always….but I'm still not sure how my other family members will respond. I have a mix of Mormons and Catholics at various levels of faith extremes. I've often realized that for most people it's just a matter of not understanding, of fearing what they do not understand. So, we're taking steps to educate our friends and family about the process, about what we're doing, and how to be prepared. We'll also let them know that we understand if they are uncomfortable to come directly to us, and they don't have to watch the ceremony if they don't want to. We're fine with reception-only guests.

    Everyone's family and individual circumstances are different. Some parents take a child's sexuality or religious choice as a slight against their parenting skills, others go "hey cool" and let it go. I hope your grandmother is of the latter kind, and I'm sure with information and love she'll grow to understand. Good luck!

    1 agrees
  31. I actually find it pretty heartbreaking to hear of how many parents and grandparents rejected their children/grandchildren after finding out they are Christian. Seems pretty weird to me since out religion is based on the fact that God is Love. Plus, I would be more hurt if my child or grandchild faked a belief in something (which I WOULD find offensive to my religion) rather than just having a wedding authentic to themselves.

    I personally would tell her, but then I have always been very open about my religious beliefs. There have been some things that I keep to myself and share with very few people (Like my sexuality) but that is just because I believe it is my business and in my case, most people will never really find out unintentionally. However, my religion shapes who I am and a lot of the decisions I make so it is one of those need to know things.

    Whatever you decide, I hope it works out perfectly. I think if you grandmother is that close to you that the honesty will just help your relationship grow.

  32. There are two things you said that really stick out to me: "She is very religious and while it isn't overbearing — if anything it's wonderful that she has so much faith…", and that you said that you are worried she will be upset because you are "straying from God."

    As some people have alluded to before, there seems to be this misconception that there are three schools of thought: Christian, Jewish, and the "non-Christians", aka atheists, "heathens", and "devil worshippers". Four, if you count the current American mentality that Muslims are not practitioners of a legitimate religion but are automatically terrorists (but aside from being ridiculous and untrue, that's a rant for another day). Atheists seem to get a particularly bad rap. When I told my very traditional, old-fashioned Catholic mother that I was Pagan, she was both upset and supportive. Upset because I wasn't Catholic as she had raised me and she didn't particularly approve of Neo-Paganism, but supportive because at least she was able to provide me with a belief in some sort of god, even though it was not the one of her choosing. So, basically, I wasn't Catholic, which sucked, but at least I wasn't an atheist. Your description of it being wonderful that she has so much faith leads me to believe that she may feel the same way.

    That being said, my mother knows, but my grandmother does not. Now, my mother is a much more devout, traditional, and old-fashioned Catholic than many her age or many in the church community she raised me in. My grandmother is even more so than that. My grandmother actually refuses to attend masses at your standard Catholic church and only attends pre-Vatican-II Latin masses. One of my cousins is a make-up artist, and when my grandmother was told that there were pictures of her decorated in body paint for an art project, she contacted several family members and requested that we pray for my cousin. I am both terrified of coming out to her as Pagan and coming out to her as gay (although the latter is a bit silly because one of my uncles is gay, so it's not like she hasn't had years to come to terms with that sort of thing). What if she doesn't want to stay in contact with me? Will I have the same fears that you are having if and when I get married? However, I believe with my grandmother, and I hope with yours, that a belief in unconditional love for family will outweigh the problems they have with the whole Paganism thing. I know you decided to tell her and I can't wait to hear what happens. And just remember, you've got us at Offbeat Bride to vent to and rejoice with and to offer you support (and I'm sure many family and friends as well!). Good luck!

    1 agrees
  33. So, it looks like lots has been input and figured out since this was posted. Nevertheless, I really recommend that you read Raven Kaldera's "Handfasting and Wedding Rituals." It's in lots of libraries and has LOADS of good information in it. If you've got most of your actual-ritual-planning done (which it sounds like you have) it won't be as useful as it could, but I STILL recommend it. There's lots of great advice for dealing with family, and the mixed-faith ceremony section is particularly awesome. Really, I recommend this book for anyone considering a non-standard ceremony, as it has tons of great advice!

    1 agrees
  34. I had to struggle with this as well. My fiance is atheist, so I pretty much had the say in what kind of religious or spiritual traditions to draw on. My parents were very disappointed when they heard we were not going to get married in the Catholic church, but I told them that I believed it was disrespectful to simply get married how someone else wants you to, especially when you don't believe in it yourself. My parents didn't fight it, mostly because they know what a spitfire I am! Yes, there was almost a grieving process that my parents had to go though; but in the end it truly is all for the best. Never cover up who you are or lie about it to please others, no good ever comes of it.

  35. We had an issue where, since we were having a civil ceremony, we weren't allowed to mention God, which really freaked out my Dear Husband's mother. So we came up with a couple solutions, We used a ring warming as a way to include Everyone's beliefs. We invited the guests to take a moment and put positive wishes and prayers into the rings. (I'll dig up the exact wording later) It gave the christian guests a chance for a private moment of prayer for us and everyone else could add their positive engery. We also chose spiritually neutral readings that had a spiritual suptext, and invited my husband's uncle to pray for us before dinner. By including and acknowledging her faith, my Mother-in-law was much more comfortable with some of the more off beat things that happened.

  36. My husband and are not religious in the slightest. His parents are as old as my grandparents, so this is where my 2 cents comes in. (We're getting weddinged in two weeks, in case there's any confusion here). My husband was raised in the Nazarene Church and was very religious until just before he left for college. His family is all VERY religious as well, to the point where we aren't even mentioning the marriage to his older and more traditional family members. This doesn't bother me because they're so old and frail (many in their late 90s, many of them not remembering too much at all anymore, all of them telling my husband he just needs to meet a good Nazarene girl and settle down to have a family even though they've met me).

    Hubby's parents, like I said, are the same age as my grandparents. The fact that these two very conservative republican folks have embraced me with all my tattoos, body piercings, and wacky hair colors baffled me a bit at first. Honestly, I don't think they understood what we were doing with the wedding (getting married by a friend ordained online, outside, BBQ, cupcakes, and casual clothes). My husband's mother, I found out two weeks ago, has been reading my wedding blog this entire time. She told my husband she feels like she's gotten to know us both even more as a couple and really enjoyed all my posts, including the posts about where the tradition of changing your name come from and all of our reasonings for doing what we're doing.

    The bottom line is this: these people took the time to let it sink in about what we were doing and remained open-minded. They truly love both of us and they're just happy we're happy. I think your grandma will feel the same way.

    2 agree
  37. Interesting article and comments — I see "Catholic" mentioned here several times in several different ways; and as a Catholic, I have often had some "other" Christians tell me that Catholics are "too pagan"; (obviously, that is probably not going to ring a bell with "real" Pagans — but some Christians are quite serious in thinking that Catholics aren't even Christian). Some Protestants find our use of sacramentals, images, prayers to Mary and the saints, etc. to be "pagan." Some Christians (I know this is not as common, but I've heard this many times) even object that Catholics "use" too much from Paganism — celebrating Christmas near the Winter Solstice as we do, talking about the Sun at Easter Vigil Mass, etc.

    The fact is, Catholics believe the material world is good. God created it to be good, and we are meant to USE it, not pretend we are bodiless spiritual beings. Philosophically / theologically, we also believe that human beings are good (despite original sin), and that the Will (that part of you that makes you want something) can only be directed towards to something that is either 1)good or 2)appears good because of some aspect of it. Therefore, if Catholic missionaries found a culture with certain practices and traditions based on the natural order, they "baptised" or "Christianized" those practices (please, no bashing on Missionaries — let's just say another time, another place; just trying to make the point that some "Christian" practices were actually adapted from Pagan ones).So, the whole celebrating of seasons and the cycles of nature = good. That's why we incorporate it into our liturgical year! The elements of nature are good — we use fire (candles) and water (blessed holy water) in our services.

    So, I'm just pointing out that there is always room for common ground. Ironically to what it might seem, there is actually quite a bit of discussion that's possible between a Pagan and a Catholic, as well as other kinds of Christians, of course. You might be able to incorporate some of those things that would make your grandmother comfortable – lighting a candle, etc.

    That said, I agree with another poster: it might be better to leave "Jesus" out of it than to call Him something other than God, in terms of appealing to / making comfortable non-pagan guests. They might be more in agreement and more comfortable if you speak in general terms of goodness and unity, etc., then actually making theological statments about specific deities.

    Also, as other people have said on here, you never know how someone will react; you cannot judge someone's reaction just because they wear a business suit and tie, or because they attend Church weekly. On the flip side, there *are* some small minded people out there with tattooes and piercings! So you never know until you try being really honest with people.

    Also, it's totally your decision about what/when to tell your grandma. But — I think there is a place for just "playing along" (i.e., if someone is nearly senile and close to the end of their life, is that conversation really going to be productive for either of you or the relationship? Nod, smile, say "I love you," and keep going.) But if someone is a major and ongoing part of your life, and likely to be so for the future, it seems to me like it would be difficult to try to keep covering it up. But maybe that's just me; I'm a terrible liar!

    1 agrees
  38. Are there any readings from the bible that you feel would be appropriate for your ceremony? It can be referenced in a respectful manner, and your grandmother may appreciate it. There are many meaningful passages – even the passage about man caring for the earth in genesis.

  39. We're having a handfasting, with a full circle and callings too, and the way we're handling this is to make sure everyone knows from the beginning that it is a pagan handfasting. We're also spreading the word that if anyone feels uncomfortable attending the ceremony they can still come to the reception with no questions asked. Our wedding website has a lot of information on handfasting and what it is so people like my Catholic grandparents can decide beforehand without walking out in the middle of the ceremony. That said, I have been "out" since I was twelve so it might not be the same situation as yours.

  40. It always seems to be the pagans working themselves up so as to not offend people 🙂
    I wonder how many people getting married in a church really care if any of their guests are uncomfortable with organised religion?
    I'm not getting at anyone here, but I love reading offbeat bride and it's amazing some of the stories you get to hear about 🙂 and also sad that some peoples loved ones choose not to celebrate with them just because they are pagan, gay, whatever.

    Good luck to everyone, let and let live

    5 agree
  41. It may be worth at least broaching the subject with your grandmother on the topic of paganism (not specific to your wedding), just to see if she has any views on paganism as a whole. That would at least give you an idea on what her reaction might be.

    I see nothing wrong with a pagan-lite ceremony that doesn't specifically cry out "pagan". What specifics were you thinking could be an issue for your grandmother? Most "pagan" elements would actually most likely just be seen as eccentric to the unknowing.

    1 agrees
  42. We had 2 ceremonies, just flat out. We are both in the broom closet with our parents and grandmothers, but wanted a religious ceremony that wasn't going to be a lie. So we had 2.
    We had our handfasting in May at the Renaissance faire we both volunteered at. This is where we just did whatever we felt like doing: our small, outdoor, rennie, pagan outdoor wedding. We didn't do any of the legal bits there, but that is where we became husband and wife.
    We did the big white monstrosity (our parents wishes) in November that same year. It was completely secular, (I think we had one mention of "the divine being" but that was it) led by my sister (who didn't want to be a bridesmaid, but wanted to help) and felt "spiritual" enough to keep the grandmothers happy.
    The closest we came to accidentally outing ourselves was J's aunt came to the handfasting and we weren't expecting it. So we had to pull her to the side afterward and explain. She didn't have a problem with it, she just wasn't sure why his parents weren't there.
    However, and this is very big, while this worked for us, Your Milage May Vary!

  43. Like Brittany, we had a pagan ceremony and didn't make a big deal of it. We didn't have any fall-out from our Christian relatives, and in fact had many comments that our hand-fasting ceremony was the most beautiful and unique ceremony many had attended.

  44. My ceremony was very pagan-lite. We had it at my grandmother's baptist church, because it was free and made my grandmother ecstatic. However, I wrote the entire ceremony. The pastor gave me his wedding ceremony book and I did a web search for pagan ceremonies. In the end it wasn't even noticed by anyone other than my mother and my maid of honor. It was sort of spiritual but I avoided any direct terms like God, Gods, Goddesses and such.

  45. This sounds so similar to our attempt to have an atheist ceremony with 2 religious families. I'm not going to lie, it was a huge struggle. As much as your family loves you the giant nonsensical head of "TRADITION" loves to butt in. We got so many guilt trips from our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. and they were just upset we weren't having our wedding in a church, not that it was an atheist wedding. Only our friends that accept our beliefs were the ones who knew that this was an atheist wedding. See the way we got around the confession of our beliefs to our whole family was to request a personal wedding. It wasn't lying perse but rather providing selecitve information. On the day of, all we got were compliments. We brought tears to the people who were pushing for the traditional church wedding. Their comments were all about how personal and truly loving it was. Like no other wedding they had been to.
    I guess my best advice for the situation is expect some resistance, expect people to act hurt because "TRADITION" blinds them to what's really important, two people coming together in love and wanting to share it with their families. In the end it is almost like trying a new food for the first time. You don't think you're going to like it but when you actually try it you might actually like it better than what you eat everyday.

    1 agrees
  46. My fiance and I are athiests. He has a very religious protestant grandmother who is 93 years old. My family is Catholic. While it is certainly anything but easy, we have decided not to make a lot of commotion about religious differences or our lack there of, but we do not want to lie either. We do not want anything on the day that we give our vows to be centered around a lie. Our wedding will be about us uniting in marriage and love and it will not be about religion. I have an aunt that is a nun that has asked to give a blessing and we explained our feelings about religion–as awkward as that was–and she took it better than I expected and has agreed that it will be more of a toast and non-secular. If our religious family members want to take a moment of silence and pray silently during the ceremony, we are ok with them practicing their beliefs on our wedding day. We do not want them to feel uncomfortable. It is my hope that they will walk away from the ceremony appreciating how unique and beautiful it was.

  47. My fiancée and I are both practicing pagans and want to incorporate some aspects into the wedding. My grandmother is protestant, my aunt and uncle are catholic and his mother is Jewish. It's going to be interesting nonetheless but we're going to make it not as pronounced as some of the weddings I've seen. Small, calm and collected. Something that represents us rather than something that we feel that we don't need. Isn't that what marriage is all about?

  48. By not being open with your Grandmother, you are bringing a little darkness into an otherwise beautiful and light filled relationship. You will always think of that one (shameful?) secret between you. Now, to come out to ease your concience would be a rather selfish thing, but if you are worried about her being hurt by your pagan-ness or your pagan wedding, you should at least have a discussion with her about the nontraditional elements that will be in your wedding. If you have this discussion, you will be setting the stage for the wedding, easing your fears, and opening the door to a more full conversation that will help you and your grandmother more fully understand each other. I had the conversation with my Mom long before I met my hub. It took her a little time to be comfortable with me calling myself a witch and being so open about my religion, but now it never comes up as a topic of stress and often leads us into some interesting and fulfilling conversations. On our recent trip to Rome and the Vatican, it even lead to her making some interesting observations, suggestions, and jokes!

  49. This is rather late, but this whole article and its comments are awesome to read! I have the same problem, except with my parents 🙁 I want so badly to tell them that I am Pagan (now pursuing Wicca). The problem is that I know for a fact that they won't be accepting of my religion. They believe that the Harry Potter books are evil because JK Rowling researched Wicca/Witchcraft in the making of the books; they believe that Pagans worship the devil; and they believe that anyone who is a Pagan and/or practices any sort of magic is involved with the Devil. If I tried to tell them otherwise, they wouldn't listen, even if I was just trying to inform them without me telling them I am a part of those beliefs (I have tried this before). Does anyone have any advice for what I should do in this case? I would love to have blatant Paganism/Wicca in my ceremony, but I don't know how this is possible.

    • In this case I might stay "in the broom closet" as they say. With some people there is no reasoning, and if you think that you might have a falling out, it would be best to avoid the topic. That said, it depends on what is important to you. Is it important to keep contact with your parents or to be completely open with them? As for the wedding, there are lots of ways to include both the God and Goddess and other elements that are not obvious. Making a handfasting ritual part of it, using certain wording, and lighting an altar candle for each of the directions are blatantly pagan to those in the know, but not necessarily to your parents. You could also have your seating in a circle and have the flower girl throw petals around the border without any vocal invocations. Or if you feel full honesty is more important, and the risks feel worth it to you, your parents may surprise you with their understanding. (here's hoping) 🙂

  50. Hello, everyone. I know it's been a year or so since I asked this question, and I still appreciate all of the advice that was passed onto me. But in the event this thread is read all the way through, I just wanted to update everyone.

    Two months after this question was asked, it was discovered that my grandmother had stage 4 esophageal cancer, which is, as it turns out, one of the worst kinds of cancer to have if you want to attend your granddaughter's wedding the following year. The issue with my religion was a non-issue at that point – because bringing it up to her and risking bringing an additional weight on her already stressful situation was, in my opinion, not worth it.

    She passed away that December, a week before Christmas.

    In that time I learned that I should have really just told her before all of this happened. I do regret not saying anything, but I don't regret trying to make her last days as comfortable and loving as I could make them for her. Nothing was more important to us than to make sure we were there for her when she was ready to leave.

    So, as the featured questioner of this article, to whoever has this problem and you are searching for an answer here: Life is so short, I hate the cliche, but you really have no idea how much time you'll have left to do something that you want to do. To be honest with my grandma about my beliefs was something I wanted to eventually come to terms with, but just that quick, she was taken from us. I had no time to decide if it was really the best idea, but regardless, I find myself wishing that I could have told her, because our relationship was strong and I know that she would have loved me regardless.

    All the best,
    Kei

    2 agree
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