I’m having an issue that I’m really stuck about concerning a wedding. My parents are a little off-beat when it comes to religion. They still see themselves as Christian, but they do a lot of new-age type stuff along with it. A few years ago I converted to Hinduism. They are a little unsure about this. Not completely against it, but more just confused because they don’t see what I see in it. My boyfriend and I are planning to get engaged this fall and I’m almost dreading it because a wedding is going to put these uncomfortable issues right in everyone’s faces. Being that I’m a dedicated Hindu now, I desperately want a Hindu wedding, but my one living grandmother knows nothing about this. All my life I have been forbidden to tell her or the other members of that family anything about non-traditional practices. My parents are going to have a huge problem with telling my Granny that I’m having a Hindu wedding. I don’t want to upset and offend my family, but I can’t do a Christian ceremony either. I’m starting to think that my only choice would be to elope and that thought breaks my heart. (The boyfriend is an atheist, but his family doesn’t know he’s not Catholic. He is looking forward to having a mostly Hindu wedding and thinks it’s really cool.) Is there any advice you could offer?
Yes. This is it: you’re having a Hindu ceremony, and you are (not your parents, you are) telling your granny and telling your family. My prediction: you’re going to cry a lot, but you’re growing and growing is painful. And you are going to have an increadable, emotional joyous wedding, because you have earned it.
Because here is the deal: there are things we can compromise about on weddings to make our families happy: we can wear a long dress instead of a short dress, we can have a sit down dinner instead of a picnic, we can have pink flowers instead of yellow. We don’t have to make any of these compromises, but we can. But here is what we cannot compromise for our wedding, no matter how upset it makes our parents: we cannot compromise ourselves, we cannot compromise the integrity of our new baby family, and we cannot sacrifice honesty.* And there is no wiggle room in that.
Why? Because weddings are a process of becoming a full-full-full blown adult in the eyes of your community.** That’s part of what makes them so f*cking hard. So, if you’re old enough to get married, you are old enough to tell your granny you converted to Hinduism. And you know what? My bets are on the fact that your granny will live (your granny might even be happy for you, grannies are surprising like that). But you know what else? Your parents might be upset. It’s hard letting go of your kids. It’s hard to realize that they are adults, and they have their own families now, and their own faiths. So the wedding process is hard on them to. And you’re right, getting married is going to put all of these uncomfortable issues right in everyone’s faces. Because that is what getting married does. Always. To everyone. That is what it is designed to do. That’s what growing up is.
You cannot step into your new marriage, and your new family, without the fundamental honesty of honoring your most basic beliefs. So, I’m going to tell you what my heroically brave grandfather always said, “Being brave isn’t not being scared. Only idiots are not scared. Being brave is being scared, and then doing it anyway.”
Good luck lady. And congratulations. It’s a huge deal that you are ready to do this, and the wedding at the end of the path is going to honor that.
*And honesty can mean a lot of things. One of the things it meant to me was aesthetic honesty, for example.
** You can, of course, be a full-full-full blown adult in the eyes of your community without gettting married. But the inverse is not true. Weddings are a formalized rite of passage into a new stage of adulthood. There is just no way around that.
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