How we're talking to religious guests unsure if they want to attend our lesbian wedding

April 2 | Guest post by Sarah Brewer

Sarah, of "Who's the 'groom' in your lesbian wedding?" fame is back. This time she's sharing how she's dealt with religious family members that felt conflicted about attending a lesbian wedding…

How we're talking to religious guests unsure if they want to attend our lesbian wedding
Photo by Devin Bruce

My future wife and I have a wedding website that I'm hoping becomes a resource for our guests leading up to the wedding, replaces a lot of the paper goods and postal mail, and gets people excited/involved in the wedding. But it's also a way to talk about that weird awkward stuff like the fact that we aren't inviting kids to the wedding, and a way to offer info about what is involved in a lesbian wedding.

Now, you and I both know that it's the same as any other wedding (or as different as every other wedding, as the case may be). But within our community, it's kind of a rare thing. I mean, this will be MY first two-bride wedding! We have specific people who have issues with our relationship for religious reasons and I wanted to offer a non-confrontational way to talk about that subject and maybe squeeze out a few "yeses" from those who are on the fence.

So I wrote this for our wedsite, to address the conflicted religious family members…

As you can imagine, being part of a two-chick couple is not always simple on a cultural level. Holly and I are incredibly fortunate to live in a time when it's fairly accepted and generally safe for us to be together openly. We also live in a state where's it's been legal for two ladies or two dudes to get married for over a year. Yay, Washington!

We're from the "red" side of WA that did not approve the marriage equality bill.

While we have a great group of friends and family (and even acquaintances or relative strangers!) that love us and are extremely excited for us, there are plenty of people who still struggle with accepting that us being together can be both normal and good. Perhaps you're one of them. You might also be unsure if you're going to be comfortable coming to the wedding.

While you struggle with your answer to the RSVP, allow me to share a few thoughts to consider.

  • Note: I'm not of the mindset that every marriage must be "blessed" by God. The existence of civil marriage and the separation of Church and state creates a healthy space where free people can enter into marriage on whatever premises they (BOTH) choose. I consider this an important component of a free society. But, the following assumes a religious or quasi-religious perspective on marriage.

When you attend a wedding you are doing two things: witnessing the marriage vows, and celebrating the love and commitment of the couple. The question to ask is: is my acting as a witness to these vows and celebrating the love of these two people dishonoring to God?

It's a question many people I care deeply about are struggling with. This is actually a good thing, in fact, I think we should probably struggle with it a bit more.

The marriage sacrament, as it exists today, is not what it was 1,000 or even 100 years ago. We tend to romanticize the history of marriage with fairy tales about true love but generally speaking, the motivation for marriage more frequently had to do with convenience, safety, money, property or power. Often, it was a kind of slavery. These practices still exist. We see remnants of the colorful legacy of marriage at every socioeconomic level: the gold digger, the shotgun wedding, the offspring factory, the partnership or "merger," etc. These marriages may meet some need in one or both partners, but they certainly don't require love or even fidelity.

Returning to the original question: is celebrating these unions honoring the sacrament or "spirit" of marriage? Is this the relationship God had in mind when he put his first two kids together in the Garden?

Here's the kicker, is the quality of the relationship more or less important than the quantity of men or women in it? If you believe it's less, I'll be the last person to ask you to compromise your beliefs or to share in our special day. Peace and love be with you. But, honestly, after seeing my share of abuse, infidelity, and broken marriages, I think we shouldn't just assume God is on board at every boy-girl wedding we attend.

But, even if you cannot fully celebrate the quantity of ladies in our marriage, maybe you can be part of a celebration of love and commitment between two fellow humans.

Because, against all odds, by design, tradition, or accident, people still like to couple up. And, when the coupling is characterized by love, willingness, mutual respect, honesty, faithfulness and joy, I think that's a win for humanity all around.

How are you dealing with family members who may be conflicted about attending your wedding?

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  1. My partner and I are struggling with this ourselves as we plan for our September wedding. For us, we've been running into bigoted comments and anti-gay activism from people we have already sent save-the-dates to. I fear some family members we have invited may be there for us, but say harmful things to our other gay and transgender friends.

    The biggest issue I'm facing now is how to "uninvite" one aunt. She says she wants to come. Meanwhile, she is sending emails around the family to "pray" that the supreme court will bam marriage everywhere. She supports the Governor or Indiana with the recent religious freedom bill and posts that where it's visible to me. When asked why she would want to come to our wedding, her response was that she's looking forward to the "family reunion." Initially I wanted her to come, so that maybe she would open her mind and change her beliefs. Now that she is actively promoting anti-gay messages, I simply can't be okay with her there. I work for an LGBT organization. She isnt only insulting my relationship or our wedding, she's also working against what I do for a living – essentially who I am. This is incredibly difficult for us to figure out next steps without making more waves in already conservative families.

    11 agree
    • My wife's family did not attend due to religious concerns. I had an aunt who invited herself (only parents and grandparents were invited) so that she could be here for the fictional family reunion. No amount of protesting could keep her away, but luckily for us, she was at least supportive of our marriage. I'd recommend a heartfelt email/letter/phone call along the lines of, "Hey, you've been saying some things that are really hurtful to me, and it doesn't seem like you can be supportive of my marriage. It's important to us that all of our guests at the wedding are truly able to celebrate with us, so we have to rescind your invitation. We're looking forward to catching up with you at (upcoming family event), but you will not be welcome at our wedding." And then hire one of your friends to be a bouncer and kick her out when she shows up anyway.

      30 agree
      • I agree with Snazzy,'s advice. If you are concerned that people at the wedding may behave in a shitty manner (for ANY reason!), designation one person in advance to escort them away from the party. Pick someone who is a good communicator, firm, and who will not be drinking a lot at the wedding. 🙂

        5 agree
    • I have no words of wisdom – I just wanted to acknowledge what must be a really tough time for you and your partner. I hope you are able to resolve it. My very best wishes to you both.

      12 agree
    • Maybe I am rude, but I would try to get my hands on one of those e-mails and send it as an attachment in a message that states–without apology–that only supportive and loving people are to be in attendance, and since she is obviously neither she can forget about saving any date, as she is no longer welcome.

      This is actually my nice version of what was in my head when I read this.

      While I get that some people like to make claims against same-sex marriage by dragging God and Jesus and a whole lot of hate into it, I stand behind the fact that marriage is between more than one person of consensual age who for whatever reason wants to legally bind themselves together. As much as I support people choosing to include religion in their weddings, it is not a religious binding. If it had to somehow be "ordained" by God, only theist would be able get married. I am Atheistic Pagan, my fiancé is Atheist. God will not be at our wedding. Does that mean we should not get married?!

      A wedding is a celebration of the marriage of at least two people. If they are not coming to celebrate with you, they do not need to be there. And you do not have to apologize for it.

      13 agree
      • Totally off-topic, but I would love to read a post about being an Atheistic Pagan.
        /derail.

        7 agree
      • God will be at your wedding. More supportive than you know, accepting your "OMG go awayz!" attitude of him.

        Give fairness and love a go, even if it is towards a deity. It does not have to be about what others claim is right and wrong – what is a sin, what is not. It is merely a celebration, involving all of those who congratulate you.God made you, He loves you, and (not unlike that "kind of creepy" cousin that is often avoided), He is there.

    • Elphaba and I are on the same page.

      Just uninvite her. I don't think there's a need to be nice. She is pretty blatantly exploiting your invitation for booze, food and seeing people she hasn't in a while.

      If she wants that so much, she can throw her own effing cookout in her own backyard party for her like-minded folk. No need to use you as the reason to do it.

      I would tell her straight up: you've made it clear you don't support our relationship or our marriage since we extended the invitation. We have decided that you will no longer be welcome at our nuptials and the decision is final.

      If other people drop off because you're "being the bigot", drop them, too.

      You don't need those kinds of people in your life and you especially don't need the stress. Boot 'em and make it known why.

      I speak from experience when I say it SUCKS to have to do that, but I don't regret the decision in the least. You don't support my relationship; you don't support me. You don't support me; you're not welcome in my life.

      14 agree
    • I'm so sorry you have to deal with that. I absolutely get wanting to "call people in" by inviting them to experience your wedding, that was a big part of my motivation for writing this! But , let me be clear, in no way do you have to tolerate bigotry, hostility or other shitty behavior from friends/family at your wedding. We come from a place where the majority of the folks who struggle with our relationship are civil and kind. It's still incredibly hurtful when they decide "conscientiously object" to certain things, but they do not (usually) take action in direct opposition.

      There are a few people who have and these people are no longer in our lives and are not invited to the wedding, bummer for them!

      I have a few pieces of advice, but these are very colored by my own values and personality:

      I tend to be an indirectly confrontational person. Meaning I handle most of these situations via postal or email. It may not be the best way to handle conflict, but it reduces the amount of emotional trauma I experience. In this situation, do things that take care of YOU.

      Accept that you will make waves. You don't have to go out of your way to *try* to cause drama, but you will. If you try too hard to not make waves, it will just come across as if you are apologizing for who you are which will hurt you and you'll probably cause drama anyway.

      Be direct and kind. This is where the "indirect confrontation" of email comes in handy! Write a very short and neutral email to this woman telling her that, due to the fact that she has been very open about her opposition to marriages like yours and the fact that she is actively advocating against your right to marry, you are not comfortable with having her at your wedding. You can say something softening things like: "I respect your right to your opinion. I still care for you and want a relationship with you, but this attitude is not something I will tolerate while I celebrate my love and commitment to my partner."

      Believe me, I can throw out some fiery darts when I get pissed off, but when dealing with family, I find that using kind and neutral language minimizes the backlash on you. Now, this lady will be angry and she will be shitty to you, just accept that now. It may also end your relationship for a while (what a tragic loss!!). But taking the "high road" and not engaging in her shitty dialogue will, I think, minimize the damage to the rest of your relationships with family members.

      13 agree
  2. Your words are just perfect, and perfectly gracious. While I'm a girl choosing to marry a boy in a nonreligious ceremony, I look forward to the day when ALL my friends can be married, legally, without fear of bigotry or judgement casting a dark cloud over their special event.

    15 agree
  3. Very nicely handled. But why are you inviting people that aren't supportive of you? Why would you want that sort of negativity in your lives, let alone at your wedding?

    • Probably because she wants the people she cares about to celebrate in her love. There are plenty of people that don't support my fiance and we're a straight couple. I'm still going to invite them to the wedding because it would mean the world to me for people I care about to be there. They don't have to support me, just share in my joy.

      4 agree
    • Xandria hit it on the head. I absolutely don't want people to come to the wedding who aren't excited to be there, but the truth is there are a LOT of people in my world who are just really freaking confused and conflicted about it and it breaks my heart that they may miss out on our day simply because they're not sure if it's "okay" for them to come. I think going to the wedding will actually show some of the on-the-fencers that love really is LOVE!

      I also wrote this because our wedding is giving us a good opportunity to really get into the reason behind the lack of support we've received in some quarters which, hopefully, will continue beyond the wedding itself.

      6 agree
      • We had friends who came to our poly collaring ceremony who said "This is the first time I really got your relationship." We stood up there and talked about love and commitment and our responsibilities to each other and it became clear that this wasn't all just about kinky sex. It was an elaborately woven support network.

        I could easily see something similar happening among the "I love you, but I've always been taught this is wrong" crowd that surrounds many gay people. There's a difference between being opposed and just being uncertain and dismayed.

        11 agree
  4. I completely understand why some gay people would prefer to have our less-than-fully-supportive family there. It would be less heartbreaking for some of us to have our family there knowing they aren't fully supportive than to not have them there at all. It's a shame that most gay people plan weddings knowing we have to navigate through this cloud of homophobia that still hangs over us.

    My partner and I are getting married this year and, personally, I do not want anyone who isn't 100% supportive of us there. I've dealt with enough homophobia in my life; I can't bear the thought of experiencing it at my own wedding. As far as I'm concerned, someone who doesn't fully support our relationship doesn't deserve to be there to celebrate it with us.

    4 agree
    • I totally get this, I want a crowd full of loving supportive people to party with on our wedding day. But the reality is, there will be some people there who love us but just…aren't…sure… And that's going to be true for our whole like. I've accepted that the best we might get from some people very close to us is loving disagreement, and I still want these people to be part of our relationship and get to witness our (very awesome) wedding!

      I honestly believe that, for most people, the deeper they are in our lives, the more likely attitudes are to change.

      1 agrees
      • If it helps, a perspective from 50 weeks post-wedding: my husband is trans, so to his very-religious mother, ours was both a gay wedding and one where everybody would be calling her "daughter" by the wrong name. She told us early on that she wouldn't be comfortable attending the wedding, for roughly the same reasons you describe: she didn't want to be perceived as endorsing "a dilution of an institution that needs my protection." We told her we accepted her decision, and would regret her absence, but didn't pressure her any further.

        By the time the invitations came out, however, she was sending us the names of old church friends and extended relatives whom she thought we should invite (which also meant that he'd have to come out to all of them so they'd recognize the name on the invitation). Clearly, she wasn't embarrassed to be associated with us anymore – and in the end, she actually walked down the aisle with the rest of the wedding party.

        I'm still not 100% certain how the change of heart happened, but I can identify some contributing factors: 1) we live in the same city and interact frequently, so she had a chance to see our relationship in action and judge its validity on its own merits; 2) her mother died during our engagement, and she was suddenly more invested in keeping her family close; 3) I don't think she quite believes our religion (UU) is real, so a wedding performed by our minister probably seemed like a civil ceremony plus some spiritually-harmless playacting (yay…); and 4) two of her church friends turned out to have trans family members, and I suspect-but-can't-prove that they gave her a talking-to.

        I don't know how to replicate these results – I don't recommend killing off grandmas as a family-bonding exercise – but perhaps they'll stand as one example of a way these things can work themselves out eventually.

        (NB: my mom, on the other hand, while superficially supportive, spent the whole engagement non-consensually outing my fiance and I to relatives who weren't even invited and criticizing every single decision we made as another attempt to heedlessly flout tradition and personally exclude her. I've talked to her maybe three times since the wedding, and man does it feel good.)

        6 agree
  5. I am having the same issue with our wedding in October. My fiancees family is really very supportive and wants to be involved, but my side of the family is opposite really. My mother and father are going to come but my brother has told me that he cant sit in witness of something he doesn't believe in. Which by itself wouldn't be awful, I could live with having my brother miss my wedding (I missed his wedding because they gave a weeks notice and I was out of town) but it also means my little 4 year old niece wont come. What I am more mad about than him not coming is turning my niece into a bigoted person. So as of right now I will have maybe 3-4 family members there while my fiancee has 3/4 of the wedding be her family. Its frustrating to say the least. I still sent save the dates and will send invitations too, just hoping he comes around.

    1 agrees
  6. I honestly almost cried, my fiance and I are having similiar struggles. We dont know if her parents or family will attend. I think this is a great way to inform them, I most likely will be taking and making my own.

    Thank you so so much for sharing this and giving me some hope.
    Lots of love!!

    2 agree
    • Thank you! I'm so glad it is useful and it gives you some hope! :')

      The truth is, some of the people stuck on the "ONE MAN ONE WOMAN" definition do so for non-logical reasons. So they will not be swayed by logic. I'm hoping that getting people to really think about *why* they can't come to our wedding when they can go to weddings for other couples they don't "approve" of will do some good, even if they don't come.

  7. I'm dealing with similar concerns (I'm a gal marrying a dude, but we're poly). Beautifully put!

    1 agrees
      • Oh don't worry about it! Actually as soon as I posted that I thought "maybe I shouldn't be hijacking her post like that with my poly issues…".

        😀

  8. Brilliantly said!

    Polite & respectful, while demanding that people reevaluate their definition of what makes a marriage.

    I hope your loved ones get a wake-up call and come celebrate with you!

    2 agree
  9. Almost cried from this- it's such a well done sentiment!

    Having an alternative-family in a normative community can be scary sometimes. We've moved several times looking for our "right" place. Unfortunately while you may be able to choose your community (if you're lucky) you can't choose your family. I think this post strikes a great compromise and does so with tact and dignity.

    1 agrees
  10. Well done!

    I would find it hard to be as nonconfrontation as yourself – but I think you've done an amazing job adding to the conversation some of your guests might be having.

  11. As someone who will be marrying his boyfriend in a few months, I'm dealing with similar issues. Your thoughts are well-articulated and compelling. Unfortunately, these would fall flat in the face of my family's hostility and obstinacy. Some of them (including my mother) expressed bigotry so virulent I won't repeat it here. Let's just say there's not one lie or distortion about gays they don't believe without question.

    The only relative I've invited is my sister, even though when I told her about my wedding she told me she doesn't "support the lifestyle" (rolls eyes) but will come to support me. I'm a little afraid my mother will show up uninvited and cause a scene (this is unlikely though). Meanwhile my fiance's family might as well be having a reunion. They've been nothing but wonderful to me but still. *sigh*

    • I'm so sorry to hear that your family is so unsupportive. When this post went up on Facebook, we totally got some comments from well-meaning (?) folks saying they would attend a gay wedding, "even if I don't support the lifestyle the couple has chosen." I wanted to scream IT'S NOT A LIFESTYLE OR A CHOICE UG, but not point in arguing with people on Facebook.

      Very much related post: The drama-minimizing guide to not inviting family members to your wedding

      3 agree
    • Even if you don't think your mom is likely to show up and make a scene, it's *super* worth it to ask a friend to act as bouncer, if you have anyone to whom that role comes naturally. (For us, it was the 6'4" dude who looked exactly like you'd expect someone with a sword-and-axe collection to look.) It's one less thing you have to think about.

      (Also… on the knitting forums I frequent, posts have an "agree" button *and* a "love" button, so you can either say you're on board with their comments or just send them a shot of support. Consider your "love" button clicked… and let's not examine that sentence too hard, ok? *g*)

      2 agree
    • Not inviting hostile family members is a TOTALLY valid and important tool as well like I mentioned above. This post is primarily directed to ambiguous or conflicted would-be guests as a way to help "bridge the gap." However, you have no obligation to start building bridges if there are torches and pitchforks on the other side of that gap! Preserve your mental health and walk away from those confrontations. Maybe throw some glitter

  12. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! I have been struggling with this and how to address it. My fiance and I are dealing with his family. He is agnostic, I am Jewish and his kids are Dutch reform. Marriage is a church ceremony in the kids eyes, and divorce is frowned on to say the least(we both are divorced.) None of his siblings will be attending and 2 of the 4 kids who said that they would be attending now won't because of us not being in the church. We set the entire wedding up so that they could attend, from selecting a date to having a wedding and not eloping. Only 1 of his cousins now may attend, but we are really expecting him to pull out too. I am disheartened by people that freely spend time with us and say they enjoy our company, yet cannot bring themselves to celebrate or support us. Thank you again for this, you really have touched my heart.

  13. Can I please borrow this for our wedding website??? I just started planning my wedding (we got engaged in October but my fiancee is in medical school and there is no way we could plan, book, and pay for the day we want before she starts clinical rotations so it will be a 3 year engagement and planning time) and we are ALREADY having these issues with some of my family! Including a cousin who asked when we were having the ceremony to make sure our "fake" marriage wouldnt overshadow her sister's real one – a month after we got engaged when her sister wasnt yet engaged. She got engaged a month after that and is rushing to be first and far away timewise from us (and sees no issue in the fact that her fh has taken away her independence because the church says women must be subservient to men). She cant have what she was hoping for because she is rushing so much but cant be overshadowed by a "pretend" wedding.

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