OPEN THREAD: How can you share in the excitement of wedding planning when your family doesn't approve?


Photo by Robyn Icks Photography
Photo by Robyn Icks Photography

Three months ago I proposed to the girl of my dreams. She took to wedding planning like a fish to water. Bridal magazines have overrun both of our apartments. Her mother and sisters are a constant presence. We've gone on dates to visit no less the half-a-dozen vendors. She's having the time of her life, and it fills me with unspeakable joy to see her so happy.

But I'm miserable.

I have known since the day that I came out that my parents would not be attending my wedding. I can remember seeing my father cry three times in my life: once at my brother's birth, once when begging me not to "pursue a path of sin," and once when I told him I was getting married. Neither my mother, nor any of my six siblings will attend my wedding. My aunts and uncles have also declined. I have been forbidden from telling my last living grandparent to "preserve her health."

How can I share in the excitement when my wedding feels like the final nail in the coffin of my relationships with my family?
-Erica

Oof, we are so sorry this is happening to you. Some folks deal with this situation by just not inviting certain family members, but we know there are other options too. Our readers offered a lot of comfort to a bride who felt like she didn't know how to enjoy wedding planning when she didn't have many friends, and now we'd love to ask y'all this one:

What's your advice for brides and grooms who feel like they can't enjoy their weddings because their families don't approve?

  1. First, I'm sorry your family is not open enough to your joy to see what they are missing. I know that's not much comfort, but I am sorry. People get so wrapped up in what they think is right that they miss out on the joy all around them, whether it's a marriage of people of different religions, ethnicity, or of the same sex.

    As for advice, all I've got is that you can only control your response to them, not their response to you. If they are causing you pain, then you need to let them go, and let the pain go. Maybe it's a letter instead of a phone call. "Mom, Dad, I'm sorry you don't approve of my life. I will always love you and appreciate what you have done for me. But I will do what is best for me and for 'Mary.' You are always welcome to be a part of our lives if you choose to, and we will miss you if you choose not to."

    Then, it's truly a grieving process. You *are* losing something, the support of people you thought you had. Acknowledge that. Those feelings of loss aren't wrong, they're perfectly normal. But once you begin working through them, you can start to enjoy what you do have — which is a beautiful fiancee and the beginnings of a great life together. Focus on your future together, and know that you did all you can to include your family.

    It's not perfect, but what is?

  2. That sucks. Truly, it does. I think everyone will agree there. But what you're going through–all the feels, all the confusion–is very normal. You're transitioning from the family you were born into to the family you're building with your wife, and that's challenging for everyone. For some people, the challenge doesn't surface until joint holidays. For others, it doesn't surface until grandchildren come into the picture. But it will always come, and sometimes seeing the normality in your pain can help it not seem so overwhelming.

    When the pain gets really bad, remember that you can't control your parents any more than they can control you. They're their own people and free to make choices that are right for them, even if they desperately hurt you, and vice versa. Remember that you're not sacrificing your relationship with them over nothing–she's the love of your life and worth everything, right? Not to mention your own sanity. You are worthy too.

    And remember that this isn't the end. Your parents are going through a transition right now too, and that's hard for them as well. "Losing" your child to marriage isn't easy for any parent, and it's harder if the parent disapproves of their child's partner for whatever reason. But plenty of parents have come around after seeing how happy their child is in their marriage. Maybe your parents will be part of that group. Maybe they won't. But that's not under your control. Only your happiness is under your control.

    • Speaking as a bride, who doesn't have the support of my family, I understand how rough it is. My family to begin with has a very rocky relationship with me but when I found my partner in crime I thought they would be supportive. Turns out no. It hurts and I can tell you there is a profound loneliness that only people like us will feel throughout this process. You will get looks from other friends and love ones, it will be hard when your picking out your wedding attire, and going to vendors but the biggest key is not to feel like you are better off without them (b/c they are family and its clear you love them). Instead realize that just because they are family does not mean they will always know what is best. This day is about the two of you as a couple. The start of your journey as family. It will hurt and I'll be honest it'll hurt more from seeing the support others have, just take comfort in your partner.
      Also cut her a little slack if she is not always the best at understanding. It hurts her to simply see you in pain and to know that the people who raised this amazing person rebuke her.

  3. First off I am very sorry that you're going this. My first reaction is to tell you that it's their loss, not yours but I know it doesn't feel like that. Because it is your loss, it's the loss of the support of your family and that's a terrible thing to have to go through.
    During our planning a saying we came back to when people would challenge our non-traditional ideas was "We cannot control the behavior of others. We can only control our reaction to it." It's natural to be hurt, angry, and sad about a situation like this. But, on the other hand you mentioned that your future wife's family is completely on board and helpful and that your future wife is loving wedding planning. Embrace that part of it. Focus on the good and the rest will sort itself out. Your parents may come to accept your choice in the future, they may not, but it sounds like you're marrying into a very loving and supportive family which is more than a lot of people can say.
    Hugs to you and chin up! It can't rain all the time and you're marrying the love of your life! That's what really matters 🙂

    • yes to "we cannot control the behavior of others" … find the family that loves and supports you. step back from the others. you deserve people who love you celebrating your life and your love.

  4. Could your last living grandparent keep a secret (assuming they would be happy for you and not as nasty as your parents)?

    If there's a chance you could have a happy family member I would take it. The close minded folk will still be close minded but you might get to have the reaction your news deserves

  5. I'm sorry you have to go through this. I hope you and your family reconcile someday but it sounds like your wedding isn't going to be it. Your marriage might be the final nail but you didn't hammer it in.
    For me, it sometimes helps to recognize when I'm powerless in a situation. Doing that seems to give me 'permission' to focus on what makes me happy. So in this situation, I would be saying this to myself: "Yes I'm sad my family can't enjoy this with me. Maybe someday they will feel differently. Maybe they won't. I can't alter that path but I can ENJOY THE SHIT out of my fiancee and her family."

  6. Do you have an older friend, mentor, or "auntie" who you could invite into the wedding planning process? Someone who could come to dress or suit fittings, cake tastings, etc? It could be that having a stand-in could be more sad than going alone, but maybe having an older person on your team cheering you on could be nice.

  7. Maybe you need to lean on your friends and chosen family a bit more for support right now. Also, I'd try not to let the sadness that "losing" your family has instilled in this process overshadow the fact that you are also gaining a new family. Maybe this is a great time to embrace that new family and let them be the support you need.

  8. This is so terrible and I am so sorry for you. I am a big advocate of understanding that we all have a DNA family but we can also choose to have a chosen family that supports us, that we can count on. As I've been adulting more, my relationship with my DNA family has become clearly not the best, but it isn't the worst either. I've realized since my folks and brother moved across the country that I cannot spend more than 24 hours with them without completely falling apart. Most recently, I have become sober and they don't understand it and therefore don't respect it and push me into the belly of the addiction and enabling beast. In addition, I am getting remarried, and my mother finds it problematic that I am having a second wedding. Therefore, I have a mother in my life who is not completely against me, but who is snarky and unbearably passive aggressive when the topic of my wedding comes up. But I have lots of other support in my life, people I have chosen to surround myself with, people who love me unconditionally and help to push me to be better rather than trying to tether me to some mythology that doesn't make sense for me anymore. I guess what I'm saying is, while it's definitely legit to be sad about the family you were born to being dicks, you can also look to the family and friends you have chosen for support. And if Gramma would support you, fuck everyone else and please tell her/invite her. <3

  9. Oh my gosh- my fiance is right there with you, and it breaks my heart to see parents treat their children like this. When he told his parents about our engagement, they had a huge, screaming, awful fight, in which his father especially said all sorts of nasty, unprintable things about him. Oh, and we're straight and my fiance is 30 years old (not a kid, for crying out loud), so you're in plenty of company- families can just be awful when you fly in the face of whatever expectations they have.

    You know what's helped us the most? Not to be trite, but therapy- we found someone who could help us understand what was wrong with/upsetting his parents, and learn to draw lines with them (specifically I liked Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or look for LMFTs who are licensed marital and family therapists). Think of it as very specialized pre-marital counseling. Our therapist has really helped him deal with his family rejecting him in ways I never could, and it makes the wedding planning actually possible for him to enjoy, instead of just reminding him what he doesn't have. He decided to draw a line and not see or speak to his parents for a while, and she helped him not feel guilty about having to make that choice. And now that he's beginning to have a limited amount of contact, she's helping him decide what is best for him as he does that. It's so hard to see clearly when it's your family, and therapists have a map of similar problems they've seen and studied before that can really help, and techniques for not losing it when things really suck. Also- don't be ashamed to grieve. This is a happy time in that you're getting married, but you're also experiencing a serious loss- of the relationship you used to or hoped to have with your parents, not to mention the rest of your family. It's ok to not be hap-hap-happy all the time. Just tell your partner what you need, let her hug you and give you a rest from the planning when it's too much. And remember you're doing something scary, and hard, and necessary- try to be proud of standing up for yourself. Oh, and have a damn good party (if that's what you want)- you deserve a celebration!

  10. The wedding is about the two of you and the love you have for each other. At the end of it all your partner is the one that truly accepts you. I know that you really love each other to make it as far as marriage when you knew your family was against this all this time. It's your parents fault for not accepting as something beautiful as true love. You should still invite your siblings and let them decide for themselves. I would tell grandparent as well but I would understand if you didn't. At the end of the day take this as a declaration of love. That through all the chaos and madness of the world you were able to raise above it and found the most amazing thing in the world love. I know you are losing family but if they never really accepted you for who you are(someone who was willing to sacrifice for love) they are the ones who is truly losing out. Because despite all of our differences, love is what we all share. It's the great unifier — our one universal truth. That no matter who we are, where we've come from, what we believe, we know this one thing: love is what we're doing right.

  11. Like a lot of posters had said before, your wedding is about you. I think a lot of us are in the same boat, though. My fiance's family is from the East Coast and mine are from the West Coast. We are getting married in San Francisco, and a good majority of his family decided they "can't afford to come" or that it's "too far away." We are both hurt that they have decided they can't be there, but in the end, it's about us two. The bottom line is that you simply cannot please everyone.

  12. I'm right there with you. My partner's family is over the moon about our upcoming wedding, and everyone in my family cried tears of dispondence when I told them we were engaged. No amount of telling myself that this is "my day" makes me feel better, because a central premise of a wedding is that our community of loved ones stands in support of our marriage. While I trust that it will be a beautiful day, I also know that I will feel my family's disapproval acutely. I look forward to being on the other side of the wedding and moving forward in life with my wonderful wife.

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