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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Comments on Should I tell my Christian grandmother about my Pagan wedding?

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • 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. :\

    • 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 >.<

  7. I say tell her, and if she’d still like something about her beliefs being mentioned maybe she could do a reading?

  8. 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.

  9. 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”.

  10. 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.

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