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?
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,