No matter how loving and accepting of your relationship your family and friends may be, there are bound to be one or two people who don’t seem quite ready to handle a gay wedding. Maybe it’s your grandparents who love you and your “special friend,” but because of their religious beliefs or because they haven’t caught up to 2011, don’t understand why two gals would need to get married. Or, perhaps it’s the wisecracking Republican who is inexplicably dating your otherwise cool friend from the office. Immature cousins, drunk uncles, even well-meaning moms and dads could all harbor a little homophobia – or at least discomfort about attending a lesbian wedding.
So, what’s a lesbian bride to do? If the person in question is blatantly homophobic and likely to cause some sort of scene on your wedding day, cross them off of the guest list and don’t look back. However, the more likely scenario is you have a potential guest who you expect to stand awkwardly in the back rather than join in the fun or someone who you fear will make an off-color remark. Here’s some advice on handling those folks.
Spread the word
It’s your day, and you shouldn’t have to do the dirty work. Instead, ask an understanding aunt or an outspoken friend to spread the word that homophobia in any form will not be tolerated at your wedding. This tactic could be effective with aforementioned immature cousins or Republican boyfriends. Have your appointed ambassador casually, but clearly, tell the likely offender that you and everyone else is really excited about your upcoming wedding, and that gay jokes or political discussions about same-sex marriage will take away from everyone’s happiness. Let them know that if they can’t be on good behavior for one day that they should stay home.
Embrace their traditions
If you’ve got some otherwise-loving grandparents who seem a less than thrilled about your upcoming nuptials, they may require a less direct approach. In all likelihood, this will be the first gay wedding they’ve ever attended. So, for all they know, the after-dinner entertainment will involve naked ladies and a stripper pole. Assuming that isn’t what you have in mind, take them out for lunch and talk to them about what will go on at your wedding – what you’re wearing, your vows, the menu and the music you’re playing. Once they get the sense that your “big gay wedding” will actually be strikingly similar to every other wedding they’ve ever attended, they may feel more at ease.
You could even take it a step further by incorporating some of your family’s cultural traditions into your ceremony. Even if you’re not religious, your Jewish grandparents may be thrilled to watch you get married under a chuppah. Jumping the broom, lighting a unity candle, serving Italian wedding cookies – whatever tradition your family considers sacred – consider adding it to your day. Grandparents love that stuff, so throw them a bone.
Give them a starring role
Parents may be the trickiest bunch to deal with at your lesbian wedding. They’ve been dreaming of this day all of their lives, blah, blah blah, and now it’s not going to look they way they imagined. Your parents probably have had a few years to deal with the fact that their little girl likes girls, and hopefully they’ve embraced your fiancé to some extent. But, they may still feel uneasy about your wedding because they’re not sure what their roles will be on the big day.
If you were straight, they’d know exactly what to do, but you’re not and your parents may have all kinds of questions swirling around in their heads. “Am I walking my daughter down the aisle? Can I throw a bridal shower? Can I still have a dance with my daughter if she’s wearing – gasp! – pants?” So, well before the big day, sit your parents down and tell them how important it is to you that they be involved in your wedding, and let them know exactly what special duties you’ve picked out for them. Dad may be so happy to hear he’s walking you down the aisle, he may not even care that he’s giving you away to another girl. And maybe you can convince your mom that two brides at the shower means double the fun.
If you don’t want traditional things like a bridal shower or you’d feel awkward having your dad walk you down the aisle, you can still give your parents meaningful roles at your wedding. You could, for instance, ask your literary mom to read a favorite poem, or if dad loves music, let him help you choose the band.
Plan a few practice rounds
Engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelorette parties and rehearsal dinners serve a special purpose for lesbian brides. Yes, they’re fun and you get presents, but they are also kind of like “dry runs” for your wedding day. These pre-nuptial parties give everyone opportunities to cozy up to the idea that there will be two brides on the big day. Awkward silences, terminology gaffes (“No Grandma, we’re not calling Susie my “special friend” anymore.”), and the inevitable clashes that come with merging two families will all come out before the big day. Better your mom learns how to spit out the phrase, “This is my daughter’s wife Amy,” at your wedding shower than at your reception dinner.
And, if your and your fiancé’s parents have nothing in common other than lesbian daughters (not a bad start), the wedding will be more pleasant if they can start getting to know one another a few months beforehand at your engagement party.
Help them help themselves
If you’ve got a particularly difficult person on your must-invite list – your buffoon of a little brother who can’t say the word “lesbian” without snickering or your mom who is still telling her coworkers you’re marrying a man – you may need to bring in reinforcements. Send them some thought-provoking articles or books about gay marriage. Or, better yet, if you have a gay friend whose mother gracefully fulfilled her mother-of-the-lesbian-bride duties, ask her to give your mom a call. Your mom may begin to warm up to the idea if she realizes she’s not the first person in history ever to go through this, and your friend’s mother may be able to share some practical advice that wouldn’t have occurred to you.
As for your little brother, try having a serious conversation with him, and if that fails, resort to whatever tactics you used to torment him into submission when you were kids.
How did you handle homophobia at your wedding?