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Ask Meg: Weddings, Faith, and Honesty


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Ask Meg: Weddings, Faith, and Honesty | A Practical Wedding

Dear Meg,

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.

Photo by the fabulous One Love Photo – our wedding photographers and sponsors of the site. And *magic* makers.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • ElfPuddle

    I don’t have anything to add to what Meg said, but I wanted to scream a resounding “YES” to your bravery, and send you hugs as well.

  • Liana

    When I eloped and didn’t tell anyone, after I told my parents I told my grandmother, who was 84 at the time and is a die hard Catholic (but also the most open minded lady I have ever met), but when I told her, she didn’t care, she said she was happy for me and him, blessed me and said my parents will come around eventually. She was very smart about it. So you might be surprised, they are a lot older and wiser and have seen and dealt with a lot more stuff that we have. So best of luck! Your Hindu wedding will be fabulous!

  • ellen

    This is not quite the same, but I think the emotions are: When I came out as bi to my parents my mother said the equivalent of “Whatever. But don’t tell your grandmother.” A few years later, I came out to my grandmother and she said “Huh. What does your mother think?” and after I said she didn’t approve, she said “Well, I’m ninety years old, I’ve lived a lot longer than your mother.” Age gave my grandmother perspective that she would not have had at a younger age. Good luck!

  • http://2000dollarwedding.com Sara E. Cotner

    Aaahh! Thanks for my new mantra, Meg: “We cannot compromise ourselves, we cannot compromise the integrity of our new baby family, and we cannot sacrifice honesty.” Brilliant!

    • Zeke

      TOUCHÉ!

  • http://onecatoneperson.blogspot.com Angie

    I agree with Meg, your grandmother just may surprise you. Mine did. When my fiance asked them to bless our marriage, my 70-something hard core Catholic grandmother’s first response was, “How do your parents (who are Jewish) feel about you marrying a Catholic girl?” And my fiance said, “They love her.” (They love me, yay!) Then without a word, she hugged him and kissed him. When we choose to get married, I think everyone around us steps up in many ways. It’s a beautiful thing.

    • http://www.bearandhoney.net jules

      “When we choose to get married, I think everyone around us steps up in many ways.”

      I love this, and I think it’s so true. It takes courage from more than just the couple to support a marriage, which is why it was important to me to have a public ceremony instead of eloping (like I have sometimes wanted to do during the planning process!)

  • http://www.DimHorizonStudio.com Nicole

    Honesty is ALWAYS the best policy. Be brave, its your wedding. Not your parents wedding. This is something that took awhile for me to realize with my own. Once I said what I wanted and laid it down, everything else fell into place. Don’t worry, things will work out.

  • http://www.sourismariage.com Mouse

    YES. The wedding is the redefinition of yourself and your new family of two in relation to the rest of your community. Go for it.

  • http://www.fancynotion.blogspot.com/ Kerry

    Great advice here. While this is far from an ideal situation, your wedding is a great time to practice sharing your unique perspectives and values with the world – as you will continue to do this for the rest of your life. What better way to start than with an event so wrapped up in happiness! This will also help set precedence to your family and friends to how your own new family will operate, religiously-speaking (i.e. if you choose to have children and bring them up in these traditions).

    *It is wonderful that your partner is so supportive of your wishes – good starting point!

  • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

    Grannies definitely can be surprising. Mine constantly surprises me. When I told my very traditional granny I was moving to NYC with my then-boyfriend and that we would be living together, I expected a lot of hand-wringing and disappointment that we weren’t getting married. But she said, “Oh good.” Turns out that since everyone in my family (except her and my Pops) had gotten divorced at least once, she was all for us living together before we committed to marriage. Five years later, we’re now getting married, and she recently told me she was glad we took our time! Age and wisdom do amazing things to people, and I bet your granny is no exception.

    Good luck, and I’m sure your wedding with be incredible!

    • http://www.katiejaneparker.com Katie Jane Parker

      *will be, not with be. I can’t type.

  • http://aweddingofourown.blogspot.com Lindsey M

    “we cannot compromise ourselves, we cannot compromise the integrity of our new baby family, and we cannot sacrifice honesty”
    I may be putting that quote up on my WALL. No, seriously, I will be putting it in my daily planner. That is just so true. My fiance and I have felt like a little family for a long time now, but this ceremony, this wedding, is a way of showing those closest to us what this little family values, and what we are choosing to include as important.
    When I think about it that way, it’s easy to say no to the things that don’t feel authentic to us, and to stand up for the stuff we feel strongly about, even if his family doesn’t like it. (Handfasting ceremony, anyone? His family thinks it’s weird. We both think it’s an incredibly special symbol of our comittment to each other.)

  • Mel

    I’ve shared a little on this site in comments before that all hell broke loose when I told my family we were not having a wedding in the Catholic church, or any church. Horrible things were said to me, tears were shed, I was incredibly offended, my mother was hurt as if I was personally out to get her, insinuating that our vows wouldn’t really count if not in a church, God would not be in the room, etc. – it was awful. But some interesting things came out of this.

    It became clear that this was about my mother needing to deal with her own crap – do her own work of separating her identity from me. And she somewhat has. Once it became clear that my fiance and I were making this decision together and this was the only way it was going to happen, the craziness mostly went away. And it was amazing to feel what it feels like to stand up for yourselves as a couple, a family unit – it is hugely bonding and made me proud.

    Eventually, my mother started getting kind of excited and helping me with some details and helping me pick a dress. Easter came around and I mentioned that my fiance going to church with my family would be a first for him. She was shocked he had never been in a Catholic church. I said, “Mom, this is what I’ve been telling you – he was not raised Catholic or in any religion. He was not baptised. It is not his fault. I can’t make him marry me in a setting he doesn’t understand.” After she recovered from the shock of me marrying an unbaptized person (!) who I know she thinks is a great guy, I think she really had a realization that there were things she didn’t understand in her first swell of anger. She had thought we were naughty adolescents rejecting religion out of rebellion. (I can’t tell you how offensive I find that.) But she has somewhat come around.

    So anyway, expect trouble but also expect some eventual evolution. Most people will just want to be happy for you. Good luck! Let us know how it goes! -Mel

    • http://www.princessmax.blogspot.com Rebecca

      Thanks for sharing a story about how you got what the writer of the letter expects. Because she should be ready for that, as well. Not all grannies are surprising. Mine certainly isn’t. (We call her Bad Grandma and I haven’t talked to her in 10 years.) However, I agree that she should tell her grandma and I want to add that she should consider doing it before she gets engaged. I found that the prospect of a wedding made everyone (including me) overreact to everything. If she can get this hurdle out of the way before the heightened state of The Engagement, it might help.

    • http://pronkyeah.wordpress.com Michelle

      Mel, I experienced that as well. It’s a long story, but after our Catholic priest refused to marry us (four months before the wedding) because we had just moved in together, we had a hell of a time finding another Christian church of any denomination on such short notice. My fiance is Lutheran. When we told my parents we were looking at chapels and Lutheran churches, they sided with the priest! “We never should have let you move in together.” “You know most of your relatives won’t come if it’s not in a Catholic Church,” etc.

      It was truly the hardest and most emotionally trying experience of the entire engagement – from my own parents! But it was the first time I really stood up to them. I’m timid otherwise. And after my fiance explained how hurt I was, they backed off. We did end up in a more tolerant Catholic church, but that awful time did prove to be a learning and growing experience for our baby family.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Large swathes of my fathers extended family boycotted his wedding to my mother (his mother and sisters came at least, his Dad was dead though. It was the aunts and cousins that were a problem!) because it wasnt in a Catholic Church. The priest was adamant my mother would have to convert before he would marry them. Mum was adamant she was not turning her back on the faith of her youth for one that was (in all honesty) aimed at the same God, just with different ritual.

        So, they went and talked to the minister at Mums Anglican church and he had no problems marrying them. I know this was nearly 30 years ago now and in a provincial town in NZ, but still! So closeminded!!!

        And I agree about Grandparents often having a more open perspective than expected. Try her – and soon!

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Mel, I’m in the middle of telling my mom that I’ve broken away from the Catholic church and it’s world war three. There is a lot of crying and hurtful things being said. And some bad silences too. My shrink said that it is a lot of her own issues that she’s dealing with, just like you said. It’s good to hear you say that it worked out in the end and that your mom came around. I’m really not sure if my mom will. She’s not open minded in the least bit when it comes to religion.

      • http://www.bearandhoney.net jules

        Ms. Bunny, I had to have those conversations with my mom over and over again — as a young teenager, as an older teenager, as a twenty-something, etc.
        I even tried going back to the church in my early twenties and when that didn’t take, it sparked another conversation.

        I think it definitely has to do with my mom not being comfortable questioning her religion and her faith, so she could not see my reasons for leaving as valid reasons for not being “Catholic” anymore. Now I’m a Lutheran-Buddhist-naturelovin’ mystic, and it works for me. My mom is just happy I go to *any* church at this point.

    • Juniper

      Thank you, Mel. Because “it’ll all be sunshine and rainbows anyway,” may not arm everyone for what they can really expect. My mom has told me that my dad may boycott my wedding because I’m an atheist and they’re Catholic (and if he doesn’t go, she’ll feel obligated to support him by not going). My dad’s mom will certainly say snide things behind my back, and possibly to my face, when she finds out that I’m an atheist. But I’m pretty sure that my mom’s family will be supportive, even if they disagree with me.

  • Emi

    Gotta say, I love this advice and I also love these positive “surprising granny” stories in the comments. Such a great antidote to the stereotype of the rigid, closed-minded older relative that all too often comes up in wedding planning discussions.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    The problem here is between your mom/dad and your grandmother, it isn’t yours, except that you’re a good sport to share the burden with your family. Grandparents are older, and as we get older we can develop perspective. Your granny may have grown and your mom/dad hasn’t noticed. And, if she does throw a fit, you need to make clear to your mom/dad that they are on your side. Which they most likely will be, given that parents almost always love their kids more than they love their own parents. Biology is good like that:).

  • Jessica

    “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.”

    Great food for thought.

    I’ve been thinking about the meaning of marriage lately. (I’m not engaged yet, FYI.) About the different nuance that marriage has versus cohabitating. About how certain elements of the whole marriage and wedding process seem….less than ideal in my particular circumstances, and how it makes me feel anxious and inferior.

    However, this is a great point. Weddings can be a funnel for our unresolved issues and a chance for us to grow into mature adults. What a fantastic perspective and positive outlook on some of the more challenging aspects of getting hitched! That’s why I love this blog.

  • Rosanna

    I’ll go beyond that. If we have not to compromise about our faith, why should we compromise about logistics? Whoever loves me will care that I am happy — so as long as it isn’t illegal they have no right to b*tch or even try to direct me to do (or not do) something.
    And I agree, oftentimes grannies are FAR better equipped to deal with issues like conversion, coming out and sex than.. parents!

  • Sarah Beth

    As it has happened many times before, today’s post came just when I needed it. I’m in the process of trying to formulate a ceremony that isn’t as overtly religious as my mother, and most of our family, expects it to be.
    A lot of need a little nudge to remember that our wedding needs to honestly reflect who we are. This is wonderful advice.
    But I also realize that the strength required to fully be yourself, and step into married life authentically, is often a lot more than we expect. We think of ourselves as fully adult when we’re shouldering all the responsibilities of single life. And we aren’t by any means “incomplete” when single. It’s just that the act of marriage, of forming a family, is a different leap entirely.
    If a Hindu ceremony is what you want in your heart of hearts, and is an honest reflection of the two of you, then your wedding will be a joyful event for you.

  • Bridette

    This hit a nerve with me. Since I have started wedding planning, I cry at the drop of a hat. Every bridal show puts me in tears…I read this blog and I cry about half the time. Its ridiculous.

    This post finally revealed why. I am a people pleaser. I work WAY too hard and making my family and friends happy. This isn’t to say I am a passive little wallflower. I’m not. Im a hard core exec with a vivacious attitude towards life. But I hate to disappoint. My family lives 5 hours away and I go there often because someone is throwing a party or someone ‘needs’ me.

    I think I have been crying because I know that when I take that vow, I have a new family. It doesn’t mean that Im leaving the old one behind. It means that there will be choices to be made – every xmas, every thanksgiving, every birthday. I can’t be two places at once. I will choose my husband because he will be my family. Sometimes, it will be easy to decide…sometimes it will coincide with my family’s wants and needs but inevitably it won’t. I think Im crying because it means I’m an adult and I am no longer exempt from making the icky decisions. I can’t ask my mom to deliver bad news for me.
    Thank you for posting this. Whether you have religious differences or not, this advice holds true.

    Hindu bride – whether your family gets mad or not, the reality is you made this decision a while ago. Its just a follow thru of a previous choice. Your day will be beautiful because you are choosing your mate – Have a joyous day!

    • Kendall

      I cried a LOT around the holidays for this exact same reason. I suddenly realized that from now on, I will never be able to please all of the families in my life. I had to work really hard to explain to my fiance that I would be crying about this no matter who I was marrying – it wasn’t just his family that made me burst into tears. I’ve since reached a happier place with these thoughts, but they’re still there. It’s good to know I’m not the only one thinking about it!

    • jolynn

      Wow! I am you! I have been struggling with this for the last several months–I have always been a strong center of my family, and while it is a bit of a relief to not hold that tough role anymore, and to fully be myself (not just in religious thoughts separate from all of theirs), it is terribly hard. It is also a significant change in my self-view, and I didn’t expect the massive sense of loss and “now who am I?!” that came.

      It gets better! I have discovered that I once I looked directly at the issue it got better, but it is still tough.

  • http://stacymaried.blogspot.com Stacy Marie

    Meg is right, grannies are surprising…my hard core Catholic grandma didn’t blink an eye when I told her that I was getting married in a Unitarian Universalist church.

  • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

    I recently discovered APW and am pouring over all the posts – such wonderful stuff, thank you.

    This post is really interesting and I love how Meg’s advice is actual real advice – straight forward and honest. The concept of “being honest to yourself” in your wedding is such an important one but I think it’s sometimes hard to decipher which aspects are important for this honesty – where do I draw the line?

    I am lucky in that although the wedding I am planning is very complicated culturally, our friends and family are very UNCOMPLICATED.

    I also wanted to say that sometimes (often!) when you “break with tradition” and are true to yourself people get really excited – and your burden is often lifted because everyone’s expectations get thrown out of the window and they will come curious and open.

    Best of luck with your planning!

  • Kate

    Hey there, longtime lurker, not engaged yet. Meg, you’ve referred obliquely to your journey of growing up Christian and ending up celebrating your wedding in the Jewish tradition and attending temple–I would love to hear more about what that was like for you, if it’s possible. My partner is atheist and I’m a progressive Catholic (which means certain things wouldn’t be straightforward even if I were marrying another Catholic) and one of the things I most struggle with is how we might be able to celebrate milestones together in a way that’s meaningful to me and feels authentic to him.

    • jolynn

      I have this exact issue. My significant other is agnostic and I am a very independent Christian from a hardcore Christian family. I don’t know how to stay true to my beliefs without making less of his, and I a bit want to find one aspect of our relationship that is easy and coasting instead of trailblazing together through thorny things.

      Communication. And I find that I have to pointedly be stubborn in order to not let his quieter beliefs win.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        Boy am I glad that my fiance and I are both nominally Christian – we both have a history with the church, but dont see it as currently relevant to us but we still believe in God.
        Now for planning a wedding that doesnt embarrass us with its references to God, but pleases his still very Christian family and my quite Christian extended family!
        hmmm… perhaps thats something I could do while job hunting after last months redundancy!

    • Marion

      oh my goodness, so glad i’m not the only one in a similar situation! (progressive christian with an agnostic-pretty-much-atheist-ex-catholic partner). i would love to hear other people’s stories about their experiences.

  • http://www.hungrybruno.com Adrienne

    When I told my Nonna (who is 80, Italian, and super-Catholic) that I was moving in with my fiance, she was like “cool, that’s what people do these days.” I thought she was going to be fine with our non-religious ceremony. But then my aunt (who is also Catholic) told her, without talking to me first, that my fiance is not just “not religious” but an atheist. I was waiting to tell her in person when we went to visit a few weeks ago. This is the opposite of a big deal to me (I’m mostly an atheist, too), but it was a big deal to her. We were out for a walk and she asked why I wasn’t getting married in a church. I told her we don’t want a religious ceremony, but hey, we’ll still be married at the end of the day! And then, sadly, she said “not in the eyes of God.” Sigh. It took me a second to come up with a reply, but I said something about God caring more about how we treat each other and the world than whether or not we get married in his house. I’m still not sure if she accepts it per se, but she hasn’t picked any fights over it. My mom said it’s more important to Nonna to have a good relationship with her first grandchild than to be “right.”

    I know that wasn’t the most uplifting accepting granny story, but that was my experience. Not nearly so terrible as I expected.

    • Alyssa

      Ooo. I’m sorry to hear about that Adrienne, but I’m glad that it went better than expected.

      But you bring up an excellent point for Hindu Bride; what if someone tells your family before you do? Then not only do you have to deal with your initial worries, but the pain and upset that might come if your grandmother hears it from someone else. Even if she’s okay with it, she still might be upset that she heard it from a cousin and not from you. All the more reason to have this discussion with her yourself.

  • Anni

    Thanks for posting this. I think what you’re saying is so essential, but takes so much courage.
    My fiance and I were both raised Lutheran. Our parents, with the exception of my father, are all Lutheran and our moms both see faith as very important. When we were about 18, both my fiance and I realized that we no longer believed in God. Over the course of a scary but wonderful journey, we realized we are atheists.
    The only problem is we haven’t told anyone besides friends. Every week FMIL asks us, “aren’t you going to start going to church again? you’re living in sin!” and we grimace. We’ve already had the ceremony in the church vs. not fight, and it wasn’t pretty. FMIL still thinks she can convince us otherwise.
    I really loved the line about the integrity of our baby family, because that’s exactly it. I have to stop complaining about the hypocrisy of how our family talks about non-believers considering I don’t even have the courage to come out as one.

  • Alyssa

    Meg is so right about your baby family. AND about growing up. We all pretend that we have already done it, but just because we’re adults functioning in society and paying our own bills doesn’t mean that we are truly grown-up’s to the rest of our family.

    While keeping your religion from your grandmother and the rest of the family may be “protecting” them, your parents are probably mostly protecting YOU. They know that if they react negatively it will upset you and your parents don’t want that so it’s best to pretend it doesn’t exist. Which is wonderful and fine, but it will hurt worse in the long run. I would sit your grandmother down and explain your decision, not just about the wedding but about your faith in general. They deserve to know you as you truly are, all of you.
    But I’d also sit your parents down beforehand and explain to them why you’re telling your family. That way it’s not a surprise when Great-Aunt Jeannie calls to gossip about it. And they’ll need to heads up just so they can have your back if there is negativity.

    And this may not work with your family, but with mine sometimes if you ACT like it’s a big deal it BECOMES a big deal. (Not that your religion isn’t a big deal. But I think you know what I mean….) If I let my family think that a decision in my life is open for discussion, it becomes a Thing. And then they jump at the opportunity to pick sides, offer up advice and use the issue to dredge up old grudges that are only marginally related. (“You’re Hindu now? I remember how when I wanted to go to beauty school and Grammy said no, so I TOTALLY know what you’re going through. She’s awful, isn’t she?”) So if your family is anything like mine, make sure they realize this isn’t a THING, it just IS. And while you understand their point of view, it’s your decision and your life and you can’t wait to see them at your wedding.

    And then come back and be a wedding graduate because it would be totally awesome to see a APW Hindu wedding; it’ll show the diversity of APW readers.
    But mostly because I’m shallow and think Hindu weddings are STUNNING and I like to look at pretty pictures.

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    i have little wisdom to add to all of the brilliance of the women above.

    change is always scary and sad. and we’re always the better for it after.

    try not to dwell on whatever sadness, hurt, discomfort comes from these hard conversations and look ahead to the freedom that honesty brings, and the innate happiness of a new marriage (no matter the surrounding circumstances).

  • http://www.HowToBeAGrownUpBlog.blogspot Kim

    I feel you, girl. What I’d like to share is that even on the issue of faith, I’ve recently found a way to compromise with my family without having to compromise on my values. But it takes a lot of patience and creativity to say the least.

    A few ideas: perhaps you could have a point in your Hindu ceremony in which you incorporate some sort of Christian ritual (that does not conflict with your Hindu values). Perhaps you could play a Christian song or have your grandmother recite a Christian prayer. You could even have a little introduction to it in which you acknowledge your family for instilling the loving values of their faith in you (if that feels genuine). In the end, it’s less about the content of the disagreements with your family and more about letting them know how much your treasure them.

    Oh, and I second what Meg advised, especially about having an open, honest, scary discussion with your grandmother. Best of luck!

  • Julianna

    I’m not sure I want to get too far into the details here but I will just say that not all grannies are surprising, not all parents are open-minded, and even when they are these are still hard discussions & hard decisions. I would try as much as possible not to borrow trouble worrying in advance, because you may be pleasantly surprised, but also to realistically prepare yourself for the difficult terrain ahead. I absolutely agree with Meg’s advice on staying true to your self & your new baby family. The only advice I would add, from someone who went through an incredibly intense, emotionally draining, horrible experience with family + religion right after getting engaged, is to sit down with your partner & sort out a list of your ideal ceremony’s features, and then another list of the ceremony features you are open to/could compromise on. For us, we were pretty much not ok with the ceremony taking place in a church, but were ok with it being generally judeo-christian in tone. Yes, our ideal wedding would probably be officiated by a Unitarian Universalist minister. But it turns out my uncle (who is a Catholic priest) is SO much more open than we could have ever imagined, has officiated multiple interfaith weddings and will work with us to craft a ceremony that we can feel comfortable with & honest about.
    Maybe it makes me not a fully-fledged grown up yet, but having my father attend my wedding is something I couldn’t bear to compromise on.

    • Alyssa

      Bull hockey! (I’d use the actual words, but I don’t want Meg to spank me for cussin’ on her blog…)

      Making the decision to compromise on your wedding and satisfying both your partner AND your family so that everyone can be happily included in one of the most important days of your life is complete and irrefutable evidence of your full-fledged grown up status. Bravo you to for making to through a very tough time and knowing that when you were creating memories, your dad being included was one you needed to have.

      Besides. I still call my father “Daddy,” because that’s what his name is to me. Don’t care what social implication that might have or what anyone thinks. Still makes me fully-growed.

    • Chelsea

      Some of the best advice Meg ever gave was that it’s your day first, but it’s a little bit everyone else’s day, too. So I think that finding a compromise that you could live with that made your father happy is (as Alyssa said) “complete and irrefutable evidence of your full-fledged grown up status.” People who aren’t mature enough to handle what you went through, and that Hindu bride is going through, make one of two mistakes: they either give up every shed of their individuality in pursuit of manking everyone happy, or refuse to budge an inch on anything, even things that don’t really matter (see: The Kn*t Boards). The fact that you, and so many people on here, are able to separate what you’re willing to compromise on from what you’re not is amazing, and what the whole process of building a baby family should be about.

      • meg

        Indeed.

    • Julianna

      thanks everybody :) even though we have found a happy resolution, I guess it still hurts to think about and relive the negative emotions (that all came up right after we got engaged – talk about missing out on the bliss phase! – and one more reason to have those conversations *before* rather than after).

      and I will also add a piece of wisdom from my mom (who was amazing, through all of it. like a mama tiger protecting her cub – “well if they won’t come if it’s not a Catholic wedding, then I’m not inviting them!”)… as stressful as the whole topic of religion was for us, she pointed out that every family has its issues and every wedding that gets planned has its snags, and this just happened to be ours. That helped me feel not as alone in dealing with it all, and also helped me find the joy & blessings in other areas that were harder to see through the haze of tears. We haven’t had major illnesses to contend with, or have to worry too much about the budget, or deal with too much other family drama (*knock on wood – still have ~6 months to go). So this was our thing. I don’t know if that really makes sense or not, but it helped me find a little perspective when it otherwise felt like an all-consuming, spinning-out-of-control situation.

    • Sparklekitty

      Atta girl! Thanks for sharing.

  • Karen

    While planning my wedding (that never happened) I got in a huge fight with my mom about this whole issue. My fiance and I were not religious. My mom is Christian and his mom is Mormon. My mom basically told me that I was not going to have a “real” marriage if we didn’t have a religious ceremony. Since we never made it down the aisle, I guess I’ll never know what the final outcome would have been, but I did agree to let my childhood pastor perform the ceremony…..yeah….I gave in….Meg’s right. Don’t do it.

    Sadly, I know this issue just added one more reason to the “why we should not be getting married list”. I just knew that the way things were going….with our relationship, with what we were planning. Very little of it felt right. So I chucked the whole thing out….even the fiance. Which is extreme, but it was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. And we started over and things are better now then they ever were. We would have been getting married this month and that’s hard, but I learned a lot. So I’m thinking next time….we’ll get it right.

  • http://twochicksnest.blogspot.com Two Chicks Nest

    Grandparents can handle a lot more than their kids think they can. My aunts were dead set against me coming out to my grandparents thinking that they didn’t need to know. I felt like I needed to tell them if I was going to continue to have a real relationship with them instead of avoiding them. I wanted them to have a say in whether we had a genuine relationship or not instead of making that choice for them. They took it well, but we never spoke directly about my gayness so I didn’t really know how okay they were about it. I included my grandpa on group emails from time to time about marriage equality and one day he wrote back saying, “We will give our 100% support to you. You are in our daily prayers and hoping before too long that the same sex marriage law will be changed. Love you. Take care. Nana & GP” Did I mention that they are church going Catholics? (My favorite part of the story is that the next month they won a trip to Hawaii from their church raffle. I like to think that their god approved of their prayers and their unconditional love for their family.) Oh and they came to my wedding and totally embrace my wife as a member of the family. One piece of advice that I’d give is to “come out” as Hindu to your Granny before telling her about the wedding. Give her time and space to digest the news. Good luck to you!

    • FK

      Aww… I love stories like that. I got tears in my eyes. Beautiful.

    • meg

      Sniff! That’s…. great. That’s what you always hope Grandparents will be able to do – help you step back and see the big picture. Sometimes they can’t, but when they can, well, what’s better than that?

  • lidarose

    Hindu bride, I want to hug you. Especially after reading this: “All my life I have been forbidden to tell her or the other members of that family anything about non-traditional practices.” I know that Meg and others have pointed out before that the definition of “traditional” is wonderfully subjective, but I feel the need to raise this point again. Hindus have traditions! Thousands-of-years-old traditions! If Wikipedia is to be believed on this point, it’s actually the “oldest living religion” of all, and maybe even the “oldest living major tradition.”

    Suddenly modern-day Christianity and 100-year-old churches seem a little non-traditional in comparison, don’t you think?

    I suspect that none of my grandparents will attend my outdoor wedding this summer because it’s not in a Catholic church and it’s not going to be a Catholic ceremony. I love them anyway, and I know they love me. I’ll have them in my heart. And you know what? I’ve always felt like God’s house is the entire universe. We mortals are the ones who built the churches. Under the trees is where I feel closest to God. I know that’s not true for other members of my family, and I respect that. I also respect myself, and I’m at peace with choosing to honor myself and my partner in how (and where) we make these promises to each other. Love and peace to you, Hindu girl.

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.blogspot.com Charise

      My grandpa was a Catholic deacon and he used to get so riled up about the whole Catholic-marriages-must-take-place-in-the-Church thing. He felt like you couldn’t get closer to “God’s house” than outside in nature!

      Even though I had a nonreligious ceremony, I still thought about that at my outdoor wedding last October, just 6 months after he died.

  • peanut

    I think this is part of the reason that the “engagement period” exists: so that we are forced to get all of this stuff out of the way before the wedding, and so that you can start out your new baby family on a sort of clean slate. At 28, I thought a bunch of issues between my mother and I had already been worked out, but it turns out there is a lot more lurking underneath that would not have surfaced for a while had we not been made to confront it during wedding planning. It will totally suck to have to deal with all of this on top of the regular wedding planning stressors, but just think of the relief you will both feel when all is out in the open. Your family will get over it eventually, or at least get used to it enough to not have a nervous breakdown, and you will be able to continue building your new family without having to walk on eggshells around your parents and grandparents. Good Luck!

    PS – I too found that my grandmother, who I thought was super conservative, was way cooler and more supportive of us moving in together before marriage and waiting a while to have children compared to my mother … I think mothers have a harder time accepting that their daughters are now completely separate beings compared to grandmothers, who have already gone through it and have a better perspective on the whole thing.

  • sarah

    I married a woman and invited all of my great aunts and uncles who I hadn’t seen since I was a wee tot. Half of them came and gave us generous gifts and were incredibly lovely. I could NOT believe it.

    It cemented for me why I think that gay marriage is important — but I think my thoughts about gay marriage completely relate to marriage as a whole. Gay marriages need to happen in order to people (especially our older relatives) to understand that we are loving adults making a family — not crazy rebel kids who want to stir things up. Gay marriage allows gays to honor and expand their families instead of break from their families. For many years the coming of age ritual for gays was really a divorce from your family of origin, but marriage allows gays to come of age by engaging with their families, honoring them and being respected and encouraged in return.

    Weddings are a beautiful but in some ways painful ritual, but at their heart they are about families… about defining ourselves within our families, about expanding families, and about growing up — Sometimes pain is a necessary part of this process, but pain is a part of all growth. I am so happy that I didn’t let my fear stop me from inviting all of my great aunts and uncles to our wedding. Yes, they didn’t all come and I know that some of them were probably horrified that I was marrying a woman — but half of them did come and those who did were so lovely. It was one of my favorite things about the wedding — knowing that i was held by the generations before me.

    • meg

      Beautiful. And this:

      “It was one of my favorite things about the wedding — knowing that i was held by the generations before me.”

      is why I got married. And having the same faith or sexuality as the generations before you is totally not necessary for that magic to occur.

  • april

    ” I would try as much as possible not to borrow trouble worrying in advance, because you may be pleasantly surprised, but also to realistically prepare yourself for the difficult terrain ahead.” -Julianna

    Exactly. And not to be a Debbie Downer because I’m wishing and hoping with all my heart that Hindu Bride’s family and granny are nothing but supportive and full of joy for her and her beloved; but there’s the other part of me that thinks, “They might not be.”

    Such was my situation. My parents had never met my fiance, but I was honest with them straight off and told them he was agnostic (as I am), and that we’d never be Jehovah Witnesses like they were, but I was happy and loved him. They expressed no desire to meet him, and when the wedding finally came round, I invited them because well – they’re my parents. And I *KNEW* they’d want to meet him and see us happily married even though when it comes to faith and religion, our views are extremely different. To my surprise and sadness, they flat out rejected us and our wedding and chose to not attend. Instead, my mother sent us loads of JW literature which was a total smack in the face and said our marriage was her “great disappointment”. Cue massive crying jag. Anyhoo – we married and I’m happy, but the family’s response was tough to deal with.

    I agree 100% with Meg: be honest, be brave, and stand up for your new baby family. But also understand that even though one can be honest and up front, the response you get may be difficult to cope with.

    • jolynn

      I’m so sorry that this happened! I am very, very glad that you did the right thing for you, however. (I don’t know how to say I’m proud of you without sounding snotty, so I’m proud for you?)

    • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

      Wow, your situation sounds extremely difficult to deal with. And I’m really sorry you had to deal with it.

      I’m going through my own…my family is not taking my rejection of their religion well at all. I understand this is all a process we have to go through to explain to our families that we are grown ups, and I agree with Meg’s advice that we need to defend our baby family, but that advice seems much more simple than it is. It’s terribly rough, and it’s causing mental anguish like I’ve never experienced before. I’m not sure my mom will actually ever come around. She will come to our wedding, but I’m worried she’ll cry though the whole thing (and they won’t be tears of joy).

      So Hindu bride’s family might not end up being as accepting as so many people think they will be. From personal experience I know that it is rough and I hate it. Hopefully she won’t have as bad of a backlash as we have experienced. The only thing that is getting me through it is the fact that I have an amazing fiance to lean on. He’s incredibly supportive. Oh and I started to see a psychiatrist because the whole thing was causing my depression to increase. So I’d recommend that to her if things start getting really rough.

    • meg

      For the record – I never said it would be easy. I said her granny would live, and I stand by that. It’s not going to be easy. However it plays out is going to be hard, in one way or another. It will, however, be worth it. Because hiding who you are? That takes so much energy…. and for what?

  • http://whitehindu.blogspot.com Carolyn

    These comments are so wonderful and Meg’s advice is more sure and confident than I ever expected. I wrote to her only yesterday with these fears and that quickly she came up with this beautiful post.

    I thought maybe she would tell me to respect my parents and not do what I wanted, so it’s wonderful to hear the support for doing the wedding our way (my man’s and mine).

    I am crying right now with a mixture of gratefulness and more fear. I know it’s going to be hard. Hopefully in a year or so I can come back and be a wedding graduate here! I’d love to share details of how this goes with everyone.

    (It is hard to say how Granny will respond, but I’m taking a clue from the Thanksgiving when I wore red lipstick and she implied that I looked like a hooker).

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      Well… At least she only thought you looked like one, rather than accusing you of actually being one! :)
      Best of luck. Be prepared for tears. Consider taking your fiance for support. Remember that your faith is a non-negotiable!

    • meg

      I will say this – my experience with these sort of things is – there is always someone who you expect to take it well that will be a DISASTER (and when it’s happened to me, I usually ended up more sad about the respect I lost for that person than about the idiotic and/or hateful things they said). And there will always be someone who you were sure was going to be awful who responds with a profound amount of grace.

  • Katelyn

    Oh Meg and your wonderful readers who know exactly what to ask and you know exactly what to say.

    I’m pre-engaged. My guy and I have been together for 5 years, but we’re still really young. So we’re talking about getting engaged, but not quite there yet.

    My oldest brother got married last summer, my older brother is getting married this summer, and my mom is on a mission to get me married the summer after. To appease her, I told her yes, we are getting married, but no, not that soon. And it wouldn’t be a traditional wedding. Her only requests are that “it’s in a church, even if it’s not Catholic, and that the immediate family are there.”

    Ok, I *thought* those were easy enough. But I’m an atheist (she is unaware or in denial, still haven’t worked that out). And his entire family is non-religious. And it’s been eating away at me. But Meg really is right. As much as I want to please my mom, these are *our* beliefs. And doing anything different would be a lie and I would feel guilty and ashamed about it.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      We are getting around this kind of risk by using a de-consecrated church and brining our own celebrant.
      Questions for you to think about: Would something like that work for you, or would being in a church at all be too much? Could your Mum be talked around to a different location with a nominally Christian ceremony (but with no prayers, and no hymns)? Is it something you are willing to consider compromising on?
      Good luck! :)

      • meg

        Another option: You can ask your mom, or someone else who is religious to say a prayer on your behalf. I mean, they are going to be praying their hearts out for you anyway (That’s kind of what weddings are, one huge communal prayer for the couple. Plus a party.) So, letting them say it out-loud, even if it’s not part of who *you guys* are, just part of who your *loved ones* are, could be really beautiful.

        • Katelyn

          I think that’s a great compromise, Meg. Even if I don’t want to be married in the eyes of God, it doesn’t mean my family can’t use God to show support.

          And yes, I’ve done some research into nondenominational ceremonies at churches. It’s pretty much impossible to have any ceremony in a church in downtown Chicago unless you’re a member. And my hometown is very, very religious, so bringing in another officiant won’t fly.

          I grew up hardcore Catholic and have a lot of respect and admiration for my hometown Monsignor. I may speak to him and see what he has to say. He’s a really down to earth kind of guy so even though I am prepared for some harsh words, wouldn’t be surprised if he was also very helpful.

        • Juniper

          “That’s kind of what weddings are, one huge communal prayer for the couple. Plus a party.”

          My boyfriend, I, and many of our friends our atheists. Not all weddings are communal prayers.

          • meg

            That’s my point, you see. That comment was in response to someone who didn’t want God or prayer in their wedding in an emotionally dishonest way, but did want to honor their religious family. What I’m saying is – the people around you who do the God thing will be praying their hearts out for you, atheist or not, because they love you, and that is how they express love. So. If you need to honor people like that in your life, like the commenter did, my point is that it is NOT emotionally dishonest to ask them to pray out loud what they are praying in their heart, because it’s not implying you believe it at all. You don’t have to, of course, but you can do it in a really honest way.

            So yes, a wedding with all atheists might not be a communal prayer, it might be communal well wishing. But the rest? It’s a mix of communal prayer and well wishing. Which is a good thing. People love you the way they know best to love you, not the way you know best to love them. And that’s rad.

  • http://jannalouise.thehoskincentre/blogs/wedding Janna

    We lucked out in some ways.

    I was raised an evangelical Anglican and am now a traditionalist sort-of-liberal Anglican.

    My fiance was raised with no real faith, so far as I can tell – if anything, more of a New Age or pagan religious base – but became a Christian when he was 17. Since we got together (about two and a half years ago now) he has been attending the Anglican church with me. He is more conservative than I am and loves the traditional service at the church we found when we moved last year.

    We moved in together about four months after we met. (We knew right from the start we’d be getting married someday.) His family didn’t bat an eye; mine mostly held their tongues and included him in family events, but here and there I was told that I shouldn’t be living with him (we aren’t actually “living in sin” by the way), that he would never actually propose, etc.

    Well, he did propose (Christmas Day 2009), and we are getting married in 59 days!

    We will be having a traditional Christian ceremony, the bulk of which is taken from the Sarum Rite (one of the oldest known Catholic rites in existence; my classicist brother has translated it for us from the Latin). We are having a medieval theme for the entire event (which we decided one evening in Subway, a couple of months before we moved in together). My uncle, who is an Anglican bishop, will be officiating, and the ceremony will take place at “his” cathedral.

    Since basically nobody in his family, and many of our friends, are not Christian (we have a Muslim family on the guest list and lots of pagans and New Agers), I am creating an annotated leaflet for the ceremony. It’ll be a longish booklet in the end, and a lot of work, but it’s worth it to me to have all of the words that anyone says right there in black and white, along with commentary that explains why we say certain things and why I’m not offended that I’m going to say I will obey my husband and other stuff like that (did I mention that I have a couple of aunts who are feminists?). I figure, they may think we’re crazy, but at least they can look at their attendance at our ceremony as a learning opportunity.

    Everyone who knows us knows that we are Christians. (And if they don’t, they will soon!) I actually expect more trouble from the feminists than I do from the non-Christians, just because my one aunt is like that. But you know what? It’s my wedding, and this is what I want: something that truly reflects my beliefs and values. And the beautiful language of the Sarum Rite is very much a part of that, as are some of the interesting traditions that we have learned about in reading the translation my brother did for us. And you know what else is a part of that? Having our friends and family there to witness the vows (including those who are not Christian or heterosexual); having a child-friendly ceremony (complete with activity packets); and having a disability-friendly event (from venues to requests that guests treat each other appropriately to ensuring that the food is allergy-friendly).

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    My mom was raised Catholic and my dad was raised Jewish. My mother’s parents did not come to their judge-officiated ceremony (within a few months of meeting no less- and still married 40 years later). It was very hurtful at the time and I think that they ended up regretting not attending.

    My husband’s parents are quite Catholic, but we told them directly that we were not having a church wedding or Catholic ceremony. We did have a bible reading which was our compromise. They ended up loving our ceremony, probably because it was so honest and reflected us.

    I do agree that the ceremony needs to reflect the couple and be 100% what they want as a “baby family.”

  • Tessa

    I am so glad I read this post, it was very poignant for me. I have a very similar situation. I’m pre-engaged and I still haven’t even told my conservative, evangelical Christian family what I really believe. I know that it will not go over well, as I have alread tried to tell them I’m “searching” (I’m not, I already decided that I do not desire to be a Christian) and that alone brought pandemonium. I am so scared to tell them the truth, but after reading this I realized that I must. I need tostand up for myself and what is important to me, and my spirituality is one of those things. Thank you so much for the advice, Meg.

    • Katelyn

      Tessa, a well-constructed and thought out argument, and a little bit of stubbornness go a long way in this conversation.

      I also recommend a neutral location :) Easy getaway.

      Best of luck to you!

  • Jezebel

    Yes to integrity!

    I have a relative who’s engaged, and despite the fact that nobody in my family has been to church in two generations, she’s having a Catholic ceremony in a Catholic church at the behest of her FMIL, and the entire prospect of pretending to believe in a faith to please someone else makes me queasy (especially one so steeped in ritual; I feel like it would be different if it were a laid-back Unitarian or something, since my family is more lazy/secular than atheistic, but my understanding of Catholicism is that it’s generally taken quite seriously).

    At the end of the day, it’s not my place to criticize her wedding, and I’ll certainly be there to wish her and her new husband the best, but it saddens me to watch her compromise on something so large. But who knows? Maybe that was a compromise she didn’t care about, and she’s saving the big fight for what colour the chair covers will be.

  • Anonymous

    My fiance and I were both raised Catholic, my family practicing more than his. I’ve ended up significantly “more Catholic,” if there is such a thing, than my relatives though, and certainly much more so than his. I’m not looking forward to having to defend ourselves when it becomes known that our marriage planning is going to involve things like taking a class in Natural Family Planning, as we won’t be using birth control after we’re married – and if we get any resistance from the parents’ about moving in together, which we plan on doing soon, we’re going to have to go into way more detail than I’d like in order to explain that they have nothing to worry about, because we may be living together, but we won’t be sleeping together. But I guess we have to be just as honest about having found Catholicism as so many here have had to be about losing it!

    • lolo7835

      @anon The Mr. and I are both cradle Catholics, and are getting ready to start the next round in our pre-cana classes. We are both pretty liberal Catholics, and so have decided that NFP isn’t for us. Never once, did a single member of any part of our widely religiously diverse families-ask us what our plans were in terms of birth control/NFP. A large number of my friends are catholic, and with one exception I couldn’t tell you what any of their practices on family planning are. Because it is not my business. (the one exception was all about talking about how hard NFP is/was since they didn’t have kids until 3 years after they got married. And I mean like, texting me about having to take her temperature if you know what I’m saying. I even heard about her honeymoon, she’s a total over sharer.) Whatever you decide, it is not your family’s business what goes on in your bedroom after you are married. I would suggest saying if they give you grief about it “why are you asking about my future sex life?” Smile-and don’t break eye contact. Or say, “We are choosing to practice a family plan based upon our religious beliefs.” Smile-and don’t break eye contact. I might not agree with NFP, but sheesh. As long as you understand the amount of hard work that goes into successfully practicing NFP, it’s part of what you believe for yourself, and you aren’t trying to sign them up for advanced NFP classes with matching t-shirts: then they need to butt out.

      And you might be suprised about the moving in thing. My more conservative Catholic parents lived together before they got married, and had seperate floors in the townhouse they lived in. They gave my grandparents a tour, showed them the rooms, and they were fine with it. My mom still thinks that her mom was okay with it because they were so upfront and honest about it.

  • http://www.whatdeliciousness.blogspot.com WhatDeliciousness

    I see two issues here.

    One is about grannies and not upsetting them. My brother (a tattoo artist) spent a year wearing turtlenecks in summer to avoid my Yaya seeing his ever increasing tattoo collection, mainly based on the fact that Mum and Dad were so horrified, and I mean REALLY horrifed. Eventually Yaya discovered his big secret. Her comment (in broken English) was ‘Doesn’t matter. Good head. Good heart. Is okay.’ Sometimes we forget that our grandparents have lived through many years of life experience, but some of them also experienced the Depression first hand, two world wars, being new immigrants to English speaking countries. They can surprise us with their ability to see the bigger picture. Not saying it always happens, but you never know til you try.

    The second issue is about ‘disappointing’ you family, and balancing up whether it’s better to ‘do the right thing’ and comply with their beliefs and to assert yourself and say no. When planning our wedding I found it very very very hard to deal with this issue, and in retrospect I can’t even say I did it well. Ironically my husband and I had the opposite situation – pressure to have a Hindu wedding from his family because they felt that a civil ceremony lacked meaning, surprise from my Yaya that we weren’t having a Greek Orthodox wedding, and the opinion from my family that weddings should be low key (read:inexpensive) because they’re just one day etc etc. I wouldn’t have minded having a Hindu wedding but my husband was dead against it, reasoning that as a non practicing Hindu himself it was ridiculous.

    In the end we agreed to have the ceremony we wanted AND an additional Hindu ceremony, stipulating that the onus was on my husband’s family to arrange it i.e. if a Hindu wedding is important to YOU, YOU need to take responsibility for it. Two things came into play here, first and foremost they didn’t want to have actually DO anything. And second they realised quite how disinterested we were in having a Hindi ceremony as well as our civil ceremony, we made it really clear that we were happy to turn up and go through the motions but that’s all it meant. So it never went ahead.

    We still made a lot of compromises that I wasn’t entirely happy about and I wish we’d been more assertive early on in the planning rather than try and accommodate everybody else’s ideals.

    • Aine

      Also, we have to remember RE: grandparents, that what we do is not seen as a reflection on them the same way it is for our parents. In other words, while my dad would die of embarrassment if I got a tattoo, his dad wouldn’t bat an eye. They care because they love us, but they don’t have to care the same way they would if it were their children being shocking (my dad will be the a totally laid-back grandpa).

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Adventures Along the Way

    What a great post and thoughtful, honest comments. I am a Christian and come from a evangelical, southern Christian background, but have been attending an Anglican church (not in the south) for years now, and my husband is Agnostic (and grew up in the Catholic church as a kid). The decision to get married (and then the eventual decision not to hold the wedding in my hometown/church that I grew up in) revealed to me how much I always try to please other people. It took a long time for me to work through my fear and indecision and to gather the courage to make the choice right for me, and for our relationship. But eventually I felt ready enough (largely thanks to a very wise pre-engagement counselor who asked good questions of us, and to a very patient boyfriend). And it was hard. There were rough days and weeks and some long letters from people, and people who told me that they disagreed with my choices or they were “concerned.” I felt like I was somehow disappointing lots of people and it was emotionally exhausting. But in the end, I learned more about having the courage to make choices that are right for me/us, even when others (with whom I am close) may not agree, or may only semi-agree. Surprisingly, there were a few people who I didn’t think would come to the wedding, who did come and were loving and happy for us. And we created a ceremony that felt right to us- a religious service with wording that focused on love (my husband was okay with this) with also civil elements, in an unusual, non-religious location. So, to all of you dealing with this type of stuff…I wish you the best, and I wish you courage. And may this strengthen you as a person and as a couple.

  • HeatherN

    I love this discussion on both the issues at play here- the religious & the grandparents.

    As far as the religious issue goes, we were very fortunate to face this early on in our relationship, so it wasn’t as big of a debate when we got engaged. I grew up with a very strong Christian faith & was very active in my church. When I began dating my now-fiance, my mother & my church would not accept him because he was not a Christian. I have kept my faith, but am a lot less supportive of the church I grew up in because of this. My mom made negative comments about him for at least a year, though she eventually did get to know him for the wonderful person he is. Recently my closest aunt became very upset when she found out we are not getting married in a church, and that we are having a private ceremony of immediate family only. Our solution is to have this aunt say a blessing at the reception. It is a compromise that keeps true to what we want for our wedding, and yet also honors the immense role she has played in my life.

    About the grandma issue, I’d love to see this explored more in another post. As a generation who was married long before the WIC ever existed (at least in the overwhelming way it does now), they have a refreshing perspective on weddings today. Many times I feel like we are trying to get back to the simplicity and affordability of weddings that our grandparents’ generation achieved so well. I think sometimes we spend so much money on the wedding things we think will impress people, but I know my grandparents & many others could care less about chair covers or favors or photo booths or dessert bars- they just care that at the end of the day, you are married and happy. And the thing that really does impress my grandparents is how we are managing to plan a very practical and financially responsible wedding (aka being true to & honest about our finances & future personal & financial goals).

  • lolo7835

    Ah this discussion makes me miss my paternal grandmother. She never met my FI and I would have loved to tell her about wedding plans. Even if she thought they were weird, she would have just smiled and said ‘that’s what young people do these days’, and then kicked off her shoes and swapped old polish stories with my great-aunts. She was just excited if people had good food, dancing, and booze at the reception. I can just hear her….”no one will remember anything except the brides dress, and if you run out of alcohol. Just make sure not to run out of beer” Oh how I wish I could tell them some of your stories, she just loved weddings period.

    Our families have been pretty cool with ceremony stuff, although I stress about if people are going to think we’ve become something we’re not. Not to get into a huge amount of deatil, but while we might believe in the basics of Catholic teachings for us, there are still plenty plenty of things that we don’t agree with and that upset us very much. We’re trying to debate how to balance the two ideas between the ceremony and the reception. We’ve already refused to donate to the requested non-profit our church requested in lieu of a church fee (and that one was a doozy with the receptionist let me tell ya) The big decision at the moment is we’re going to make some kind of marriage rights statement at our reception, we just haven’t figured out how/when yet.

  • Tristen

    We had a Jewish ceremony, though I was raised “Christian” and my grandparents are hard core Catholics.

    It was a little weird breaking the news. Not about the ceremony itself, but about the fact that we’d be making a Jewish family, raising Jewish children, no longer celebrating Easter. It’s still REALLY hard sometimes.

    But, its working out. We’ve hosted Passover the past two years, and I think my grandparents are starting to see that I’m the same person, but in a new family, a new light.

    Good luck! Be strong.

  • Marina

    I may have a somewhat different perspective–I DID compromise on the ceremony, and it turned out really well.

    I was raised agnostic Jewish and my husband was raised Unitarian. When we first started talking about the ceremony, my husband suggested that his sister lead a spiritual-not-religious ceremony, which I thought was a terrific idea. But when I brought up that idea with my (more or less liberal, Reform Jewish) grandma, she was really unhappy. I was shocked. She strongly requested that I find a rabbi to lead our ceremony.

    My then-fiance and I talked it over, and decided that the things we really wanted in a ceremony were 1) led by someone we knew and trusted, 2) a minimum of God language or exclusionary language or zionism, 3) rituals we felt connected to, not ones we went through automatically because they were traditional. We decided we would try and find a rabbi who could fill those needs, and if not then we’d ask Zack’s sister to do it and, as Meg said, my grandma would live.

    And then I spent a HORRIBLE six months auditioning rabbis. Oh my god. I hate meeting new people in groups, I felt so awkward calling people and being like, “So, you don’t know me, but would you marry me?” and I was horribly afraid that someone would yell at me for marrying someone non-Jewish and therefore killing the entire Jewish race. It was incredibly stressful.

    BUT then one rabbi recommended that we talk to this one cantor, which is… I guess more of a lay-leader. And she was perfect for us. We met with her half a dozen times for prenuptual counseling and felt like we got to know her fairly well. And the ceremony itself was fantastic. There was more Hebrew and god-language than we anticipated, but… I don’t know, it was still just magical. In retrospect I wouldn’t change a single thing.

    It doesn’t sound like this situation is exactly what you’re in–you sound much more committed to specifically Hindu traditions than I was to my vague agnostic spiritualism. But I encourage you to identify the things about the ceremony you want that are most meaningful to you–the things that compromising on would absolutely be a betrayal of yourself. And then see if there are any aspects that maybe you could compromise on. Weddings are a transition between your past family and your future family, and it’s okay to include some of your past as well as your future.

    • meg

      I wouldn’t consider that a compromise in the sense of this post – AT ALL. I mean, had you, theoretically, asked me for a post on the subject I think I would have said something like, “Having a Rabbi is probably important to your granny because Rabbi’s and weddings have a lot to do with people identity about being Jewish and not wanting to loose that. Since you’re looking to do something vaguely spiritual, maybe you could find a Rabbi to do that.”

      That’s a whole different animal from say, “I converted to Judaism, and my husband was born Jewish, and my mom says we have to have a priest at our wedding and whaddaIdo?” By which I mean, I think it’s very important to make compromises to make everyone feel part of the important ritual at hand, but you need to be careful that in making those compromises you don’t do something antithetical to your core beliefs. I mean, our greater family is interfaith, I’ve walked the path, I get it.

      Anyway, I felt like that was important to clarify.

      And ACHEM, don’t call you cantor a lay leader, yes? She went to 5 years of Cantorial School (they study right next to the Rabbi’s at rabbinical school and have lots of the same classes, but they have a musical focus and have to audition). So, she’s a full fledged member of the clergy, and a RAD one it sounds like. Our Cantor also did a lot of amazing work with us in our wedding lead up.

      • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

        I for one appreciated the description of what a cantor would be to those of us who arent Jewish… sometimes I wish there were more descriptions of specific religion “stuff” on here than there is – it would help us all understand each other better! (Wikipedia has become a good friend since I started reading this, but I still havent figured some of the things out yet!)

  • Jamila

    I know this is a couple of days late, but… I was TERRIFIED of having the wedding ceremony I really wanted because my husband and I belong to a VERY non-traditional church. We weren’t worried about our families because some of them belong to the same church and the others already knew and accepted it. But I was terrified of what our friends might think. Growing up, I’d dealt with A LOT of grief about my religion – to the point where some of my “friends” tried to (and I quote) “save my soul from hell” and not in a very nice way. But I knew that it was really important to both of us to start our marriage in the way that felt right to us and for us that meant being honest about our relationship with God and the role we wanted God to play in our marriage. So, you know what, we did it our way. And you know what else, it was A-MA-ZING!!! It was so full of love and joy that just thinking about it now makes my heart happy. All of our friends were so accepting and peaceful and joyous for us. So PLEASE go for it! Like Meg says, don’t compromise on what’s really important and be honest. You will be so happy in the end.

  • http://casapim.wordpress.com carapinzinha

    dear hindu bride,

    i feel so much(and so deeply) your pain!
    unlike most people i came from an non religious family, my father being a radical atheist. i’m the only child and i simply adore him, but i converted to catholicism. first i decided not telling him, but it hurts, it hurts so much to hide something that makes us happy just to avoid that someone we love gets hurt.
    he found out about my conversion through other persons, and i think that it was bough the worst and the best that could happen.
    the worst because i’m his child and I should have tell him.
    the best because, well, honestly it takes the guts i don’t have.
    sometimes i just wish my father could accept me for who i am. but he doesn’t. i’m now going to make my firts communion and i haven’t told him yet, because i already know how hard it will be. still, i’ll do it. because i trust in his love for my, and i hope he can put his radical atheism and hate towards catholic church aside in the name of our love. if it doesn’t happen, maybe the love i thought he had for me was an illusion.

    i hug you and hope you can be brave enough to tell your decision to your family. yes, it will hurt a lot, but in the end you’ll see who is really your family, and those will be the ones that love you no matter what.

    ps. i also decided to tell my story because most times you read stories about issues between atheist children and religious parents, and normally those are seen as those who have prejudices and are inflexible about their opinions. well, my father is one of those but from the atheist side. radicalism is a matter of personality, not faith.

  • Eliza

    I think it’s possible to be a “grown-up” in some parts of your life, but then still feel like a kid when dealing with parents and family. For me, religious issues cropping up during my engagement really helped me to feel like an adult with respect to my family.

    My fiance is Jewish and athiest, and I am an athiest, but was raised Catholic. When we were first engaged, we planned to have a secular wedding, including some religious elements to reflect our backgrounds. My parents then informed me that we “had to have a church wedding,” and it “had to be officiated by a Catholic priest.” I was devastated — I felt powerless. It was then that I realized that my parents still thought of me as a kid — someone they can give orders to. This situation forced me and my fiance to be honest with my family about our beliefs, and–importantly, I think–forced us to deal with our parents as adults. It was a painful process (many tears, angry letters written to me), and there is still fallout (some relatives have decided not to attend the wedding), but I am proud I was able to assert myself–I actually felt like a grown-up! This stuff was going to come out eventually (like, for example, when we don’t want to have a baptism or a bris), and having it come out now has allowed us to start our marriage in a way that is honest and true to ourselves.

    • elizajane519

      This is my situation exactly- down to the fact we have the same name, it was actually kind of creepy because I wasn’t sure that I hadn’t written this. My mother has stated, “unless we can prove to her that God doesn’t exist we have to get married in a Catholic Church.” My brother wants to know what exhibits we are bringing to the trial and his girlfriend said they are not getting married after seeing what i am going through. I hope we can resolve this peacefully with everyone attending.

  • Sumana

    Hi, I’m an occasional reader of this blog because of the different perspective it offers. I am a Hindu, an Indian and have been married 15 years, and live in India now (though I did live in the US for 13 of the last 15 years). So, not the typical reader of this blog I’m guessing.

    I thought you might be interested in the slightly different point of view I bring. I come from a long line of ‘liberal’ Hindus. My 90 year old Grandmother is the most liberal person I know. That said, here’s my two cents: It’s important to be honest with yourself and your family, but a Hindu wedding is never about only the couple, or the ‘baby family’. It’s always about the whole family.

    So here’s my suggestion – be honest to your entire family about who you are and what you want. Bite the bullet and tell your grandmother and that side of your family that you want to have a Hindu wedding. Invite them to be a part of it, tell them how much joy it will give you and remind them that Hinduism has ‘traditions’ that go back over a 1000 years. And as a compromise – because that’s a big part of a Hindu wedding! – have a simple western ceremony officiated by a Justice of the Peace. You do need to have your marriage registered, so instead of going to the courthouse, perhaps you can arrange a simple ceremony in your backyard. This semblance of a western ceremony, though not Christian, might ease certain members of your family in more easily accepting the unfamiliar traditions of another religion. It might be a bit more work for you, but then Hindu weddings are always a lot of work!

    Good Luck! and I wish you the very best in your new life as a married woman.

  • Esther

    It’s been hard for me to comment here because it touches on one of the most hard and painful parts of my engagement process. I’m a liberal (but very committed!) Anglican; he’s a nonpracticing lapsed Pagan. His family is Jewish; mine is Evangelical. My pastor has been very supportive of us, but both sides of our family are giving us grief. My parents are still disappointed that I’m marrying a non-Christian, and they’re already harassing me repeatedly about the how-will-you-raise-the-children question. (When I tried to calmly explain to my mother how we had discussed and planned it, and why I would be happy for them to come to church with me but wouldn’t be heartbroken if they didn’t, she finally retreated with “well, of COURSE you can out-argue me, you’re smart.”) Meanwhile, his dad and stepmom hate the idea of a service with any explicit Christianity in it; his dad actually said that he wouldn’t be in the wedding party if the ceremony involved Christianity.

    We’re slowly, painfully working through this stuff, but it’s incredibly hard. It’s especially hard for me, because I DO identify as Christian (by faith) and Jewish (by blood and heritage), and I’m trying to negotiate people telling me both that I’m not Christian enough and not Jewish enough. So while it was nice to read comments talking about how people can surprise you with how accepting they are, it was even more helpful to read other people’s experiences of when it *wasn’t* easy, and how you work through it anyway.

  • Diane

    Awesome thread, it helps a lot. I am in the middle of painful discussions with my very catholic parents regarding my wedding with my atheist boyfriend. My dad won’t attend the civil ceremony, unless we give in and accept to have a church blessing afterwards. I’m myself agnostic, and this doesn’t really help me see religion in a very good light. We agreed to give in to the church blessing after the wedding day provided we can have control over the ceremony – We’re OK for receiving a blessing, but don’t want to have to profess faith or commit to raising our children catholic. I don’t think God exists, but my family does exist, and I’d rather compromise than not having them around me for the wedding. Then again, my situation is different from Hindu Girl as I’m not willing to make too many sacrifices over my lack of belief (which is why I suspect religion often wins).

  • Emily

    This was reassuring for me to read. I’ve recently become engaged, am 20, and over the past few years my religious views have been diverging from that of my parents. Their comments have been that we are too young and should just have fun with each other, but my grandmas were my age when they got married and I was thinking about how it would be nice to maybe talk to them about this. Even if my parents eventually come around, they will also have to deal with the likelihood that I will not get married in the church. I’m scared that I will upset them, but I need to be honest too.

  • cem

    Thanks to all for your excellent comments. my fiancé and I are in a similar situation, but in reverse. We are both Jewish and have become more religiously observant than our families of origin. We intend to have a traditional religious wedding, which surprises our families and we have been castigated for not seeing “the big picture,” which would likely involve doing everything in a manner more comfortable to everyone else.

    I can’t agree more with Meg — I am open to discussion of colors or linens or flowers, etc., but I cannot compromise on who I am as a person. I have made that compromise in the past, but I will not do so for our wedding day.