Wedding Undergraduate: Growth & Separation

It seemed logical to kick of APW Pride week with a wedding planning post from an LGBTQ perspective. So I’m delighted to bring you Nicole’s post about learning to merge families that don’t necessarily want to be merged, and about finding a way to build your own support when you need it. Plus, as a bonus, it include’s Nicole and Annie’s brilliant idea of the Team Leader approach to family problem solving (must start using this ASAP).

Nineteen months ago, my girlfriend, Annie, asked me to go on a midnight walk in the middle of a blizzard in her hometown. We held hands and laughed as we trekked down to a park, feet freezing and eyelashes full of snowflakes. Being the romantic she is, I didn’t find it odd when she started asking me questions about our relationship. When she asked, “What’s your favorite thing about me?” (I promise, she’s not a narcissist) and I responded, “Your questions,” I probably should have known that the next thing out of her mouth would be “I have a very important question for you. Will you marry me?” While I was thrilled to say yes, what I didn’t expect was how this question – will you marry me? Are you ready to be married? Would reverberate through my family in hurtful ways through the next year and a half.

We learned very quickly that engagements and weddings and marriages are not just about the two individuals who decide to enter into them. They are, incredibly, about families. In both actual weddings and the blog world, family relationships are thrust into a unique spotlight, for good and obvious reasons. In my experience, these narratives seem to occupy one of two extremes when the engaged discuss family relationships. At one extreme, the discussion seems to surround the people who are close to their family. They have lovely, glowing wedding celebrations that are true mergings of two families, and everyone cries tears of joy and makes ludicrous demands about Jordan almond favors and gives toasts that pull on the heartstrings. At the other extreme stand the brave individuals that speak openly about deep and painful estranged relationships, biological parents that aren’t in the picture, and parents who have not been in the same room for decades.  I can only imagine how heartbreaking it could be to deal with issues of this nature while planning for a marriage. I try to beat down my envy for those in the first camp, and I give major props to the second for their honesty and courage. But what about the space in-between the extremes? What happens when members of your family of origin are simply pretending that you aren’t engaged? When they refuse to fully support openness and authenticity for people who are not straight? When they don’t seem to support their children’s progress into adulthood and marriage?

What do you do with that?

Over the course of our engagement, Annie and I have learned a tremendous amount about our relationship dynamics, our goals for ourselves both as individuals and as a couple, and our relationship to our faith tradition. But above all things, our engagement has been a serious study of what it means to be and to become family.

When Annie and I told her parents that we were engaged, their basic reaction was: well, we were kind of expecting this! Then they ordered us champagne at dinner. Since then, they have been steadily supportive and excited about our impending marriage. When we told my mother, she simply cried. When we told my father, he smiled grimly and went upstairs. Since then, the crying and silence has taken on other forms.

My family does not approve of our decision to get married. Their disapproval stems from a variety of sources, including the emotional wounds of divorce, a cultural Catholic heritage, and the belief that we are too young to marry. For the most part, my family and I disagree over what marriage is, can be, or the role it should play in my existing family.  Over the course of our engagement, these differences came into sharp focus, and have left us feeling very alone in the planning process.

In the aftershocks of my family’s disapproval, I am beginning to deal with expectations that I cannot meet. It has forced me to confront the fact that I am not a mere product of my family of origin, and that I am an adult who is fully capable of her own wise decisions. In my family, adulthood and independence are not a given. They are lived and struggled into, after being voluntarily chosen.

And of course, this hasn’t just affected me; this affects my partner in a different but equally serious fashion. Annie has been slowly coming to understand that some members of my family may never include her with open arms. This is an incredibly painful, but realistic possibility that we are both still coming to terms with. This process may be gradual, but it is steadily moving us to a newer understanding and clarification about who we are, what we love, and what we stand for.

I firmly believe that weddings (among other things) are about disparate families coming together to become one melded whole. However, my own experience is living proof that sometimes, this is not actually possible. People must have the desire to be joined, to be open to others. If this desire is imbalanced, the enterprise is guaranteed to fail.

Building a family (along with planning a wedding, ironically enough) is really difficult. But it’s the most immensely worthwhile thing that I have done with my life up to this point. It is a constant discussion, with active listening and storytelling. It means reevaluating our goals, hopes, and values to be sure we’re on the same page. It’s a crash course in an examination of boundaries between the families we come from and the families we are creating. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to treat our families the following way: each of us is the “team leader” for our respective families, but we are on one “team.” Certain situations need to be tackled by the team leader alone; other situations require the whole team’s input. I am also learning that I am not responsible for providing my partner with a happy, healthy, loving extended family. That’s something I have no control over, though I do have control over the way that I interact with them and the way that I honor her as my first priority.

Annie and I decided to grow a garden this spring. With excitement, we planted seeds in late winter and incubated them in a small indoor greenhouse. We watched the cucumber and tomato plants sprout. We carefully planted them in larger containers and have nurtured and watered these plants daily. It’s come time to separate a few of the small plants and once again place them into larger pots. We’ve hesitated for a few days now because we know, in a few instances, that the roots have become intertwined. We know that pulling the plants away from one another could be damaging. Roots are the foundation and source of nourishment, and they run deep. But unless they move into pots of their own, they will never be strong enough to bear fruit. We will take our time in doing this. We will be careful. What nature has so beautifully reminded us of is that new growth requires separation.

Photo: Kelly Prizel

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  • Beautiful post! and beautiful picture! What a thoughtful, honest post! Thank you for making me think about my family relationships and seperation.

  • The metaphor for repotting planst works very well, and the Team Leader approach is brilliant.

    Thank you for this very insightful post, and I hope your engagement and marriage will bring you good soil, warm sunshine and refreshing showers so that you can intertwine your branches and get solidly rooted in your baby family.

    • The rooted plants is a lovely metaphor indeed. What a thought, that we need to learn to grow apart from our families, but still being who we are in part because of them.

      Thanks for posting — this gives me a lot of food for thought today, as my partner and I grow our own baby family. <3

      • PS —
        LOVE those pink shoes!

        • So glad I’m not the only one who superficially focused on the shoes through this well-written, insightful post!

          • Class of 1980

            And the girls are cute too!

  • “I am also learning that I am not responsible for providing my partner with a happy, healthy, loving extended family. That’s something I have no control over, though I do have control over the way that I interact with them and the way that I honor her as my first priority.”

    Exactly. My partner and I are in a very similar situation. It sucks. It’s hard to hear about all the amazing weddings where the parents are all best friends yet I know my situation isn’t as hard as those who have extraneously challenging parental relationship. Finding a space to validate the struggle with a family that loves you, but isn’t supportive or isn’t supportive in the way you need them to be is hard and most of the time I just feel guilty for “complaining”. Shouldn’t I just be happy that they aren’t opposing to my marriage because I’m marring a woman? Sometimes, as awful as it sounds, I wish it was that simple. Thanks for sharing your story :)

    • liz

      that’s the same quote i was just about to copy and paste.

      even in the situations where in-laws ARE “best friends,” there’s always going to be a time when you need to stick by your spouse despite what your family thinks. getting that “honor her as my first priority” idea down is HUGE.

      awesome and well-written post.

      • I was going to copy that quote too! :)

        We’re in the in-betweeners category, I think. Both J. and I have pretty good relationships with our own families and each other’s, but because of culture/language barriers, there will never be a “best friends” situation between our parents or even us and each other’s parents, I think. I recently attended a wedding where the love and mutual respect between the in-laws was completely palpable… and I ugly-cried through the toasts, mostly because it was so beautiful watching my friends join their families in such a visible way, but partly because I was sad that our families won’t ever look like that. This quote was a good reminder to me to keep working at the relationships we have and not look longingly at the ones we wish we could have.

    • Our situation is a bit different, but when it comes down to it, my parents have never really warmed up to my partner the way they have with past boyfriends. It’s difficult to go from his really welcoming and inviting family to mine that give forced hugs and seem so still around him. And it pains me that they act like this around him.

      But that quote really puts it into perspective. I can’t control them, nor can I be held responsible for their behavior. Maybe some day they will warm up, maybe not. But I need to let go of the guilt that he isn’t welcomed with open arms.

    • Lethe

      That quote you pulled is key. You can’t ultimately control the way your family interacts with your partner – but your partner picked you because of who you are, not who your family is. And she probably picked you in part because she knows you have the ability to create the loving and supportive communities you need together, even when they aren’t found in the usual places.

    • Edelweiss

      “Finding a space to validate the struggle with a family that loves you, but isn’t supportive or isn’t supportive in the way you need them to be is hard.”
      In addition to “I am also learning that I am not responsible for providing my partner with a happy, healthy, loving extended family.”

      Both those sentences have just made me mature overnight. I haven’t been able to get them out of my head, because I’ve been the converse of these. I have the “tough” family and my intended has the “amazing” family. I’ve just looked at my family as my problem and my sole responsibility is to protect my partner from them as much as possible as the team leader. I haven’t thought about what he’s missing out on. How he sees his sisters’ husbands embraced and loved by his family and that he has to process that he will never get that validation from mine. I’ve had 29 years to learn how to find my self-worth in my family context, he’s only had 4.

      And although I try my best, when I help him through his own family dramas there is a constant voice in the back of my head whispering how lucky he is.
      I had the ugliest of ugly cries alone in the bathroom at his cousin’s wedding thinking about how my extended family will never have that love, but not once did I think about that impact on him.

      I need to do better. Thank you for pushing me.

  • marbella

    This was really well written, and I love your analogy about the seedlings and their roots. Thank you. Wishing you strength to deal with your family and hope that they come around to support you. Honestly I think such a lack of support puts you somewhat in the ‘other extreme’ camp. I have to say that as a person who dealt with planning a wedding and navigating the very difficult divorce of my parents, although horrible, I don’t think is worse than having to deal with parents who do not support you getting married – we are just planning for one day to go smoothly, then our parents don’t have to see each other again. What you are dealing with is much more prolonged.
    This was a bizarre post to read today as I just got shocked awake from a dream about talking to the priest who married us a few months ago (Catholic) about why the church should support gay couples and marriage, and he was agreeing with me and telling me that many priests feel the same way. Sad that it was just a dream….

  • bumblebee611

    Thank you so much for this post. It’s beautifully written and captures so much of the family dynamics operating in my own partnership/engagement. I am a bi woman and divorced parent of two children, including one with special needs. I am engaged to a man of a different race and class and cultural background (who has never married before and has no biological children). While my own family has been thrilled at news of our engagement and is excitedly anticipating our fall wedding, his parents’ initial reaction could best be characterized as dismay and denial. His mother pretty much pouted, said something sarcastic, and then changed the subject, and his father told him (in a behind the scenes email) that he would ruin his life by spending it with me. (Oh, and did I mention we’re about 40, professionally accomplished and financially stable, have lived away from home for over 20 years each, etc. so I think we’re old enough to decide on this one? Grrr!)

    Yes, we both have parents who are married to each other and don’t have complicated stepparent relationships, etc., but ours isn’t exactly the idealized engagement/wedding planning story, either, and it’s hard to feel alone in this sense. I’m grateful for your honest and forthcoming post, and for the knowledge that there are others in this place, too.

    • Nicole

      Wow! It’s a great reminder that, for some parents, age doesn’t even matter here!

      thank you for sharing:)

  • Courtney

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • Remy

    I am crying at my desk. Thank you, Nicole, for sharing your truth.

    Although I have had my struggles with biofamily, my coming out (at 13) was largely a non-event. A few years down the road, in the middle of a couple of tough adolescent weeks, I turned to my mother during a PFLAG commercial and offered to find out about a meeting for the local chapter, if she was maybe interested in attending. She snorted and said, “Remy, our family has a lot of problems, but your being gay is not one of them.” Okay, then.

    So I was unprepared, after more than a decade of bringing boyfriends and girlfriends and best friends who were queer or “alternative” or whatever to my family’s large holiday gatherings, after hearing my favorite aunt express her anger (during one of these gatherings) at those who voted for Prop 8, after knowing that my family standing was based on my actions and not my orientation and that my dad and my aunt and my grandparents LOVED me, for the hurt I would experience when my girlfriend (now fiancee)’s family more or less disowned her over our relationship.

    It wasn’t as if they had no idea; she’d come out to her parents as bisexual at 19, and her siblings knew before that. It wasn’t so much of an issue then, apparently. But over the past decade, they’ve backslid to the point that my sweetie gets snapped at over the phone when she refers to me as her novia, instead of simply her amiga, and that when we visited her parents the weekend after she proposed to me (after two years of dating in which I’d not met them) because we were in town, they refused introductions and essentially pretended I was invisible, although in the same room. Her mother says she can’t support our decision for religious reasons, and her little sister is following that same line. Her brother is largely silent (although his girlfriend was happy to meet me and her toddler is adorable, so that’s one bright spot. I hope I get to see more of him growing up.).

    Unless they do a 180 (or at least 120) in the next year, they won’t be attending our wedding. And that hurts her. It hurts me in some different ways — mostly I am angry that they treat her like that. And to a lesser extent, I am angry and mortified and ashamed to be treated like that myself. I have been lucky enough not to have that sort of personal prejudice in my life before, but it’s the same sort of grief that I felt upon hearing the tallies on Proposition 8 votes; the same feeling that these people, who don’t even KNOW me, think that I’m somehow less than.

    She loves me, and she loves them, and — as you point out, Nicole — she honors me as her first priority. That is SO HARD for her. I appreciate it so much. And I appreciate my own family more because of this experience.

    • My one bit of advice to you: keep reaching out. When we got engaged, my mother flat-out told me she would never attend a sham wedding in which I was pretending to marry another woman. But they ended up coming because their Catholic support group encouraged them to attend even though they didn’t approve. So. Invite them, follow up with them when they don’t RSVP, give them the option to change their minds up to the last minute, and don’t expect them to be super thrilled if they do show up… but if they do, I say you take it as a really big baby step in the right direction.

      And then please – guard your hearts carefully! Do not get your hopes up and then allow them to ruin your big day. Make your plans in your head and your heart for them to continue being awful, prepare yourself in advance for great disappointment, and do what you can not to dwell on it in the moment.

      • Remy

        Thank you. It really helps to hear from someone who’s been through a similar situation. We’re planning out how best to do all of that. And occasionally having crying jags over stuff like the Grey’s Anatomy episode where Callie and Arizona get married. :P

      • Lethe

        My advice might be a little different just because my experience was: neither my parents nor any adults from my mother’s side of the family came to our wedding. There was never really a chance they would. You know your own situation better than any of us can, so I guess I would say: if you think reaching out could help, and you have the emotional strength to do it, then as Cindy says, definitely go for it. If you do, you can know that no matter what the result, you were the bigger person. But if you have experienced a pattern of you reaching out and the family acting disrespectfully in return, there is absolutely no shame in making the decision not to spend energy on trying to reach them emotionally while planning your wedding.

        My wife and I sent invitations to my family, but that was it – beyond that, we made the choice to focus on the people who love us and were happy and excited to come celebrate our marriage. And our wedding was fabulous, and on that day it didn’t feel incomplete – I wanted my loving community around me and thanks to focusing our energies in the right place, that is what we had.

    • Class of 1980

      Religion is supposed to make families closer, but sometimes it’s the only thing that divides them. I wish it wasn’t so.

  • This brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this, Nicole. I think it is really important to realize that we are not “responsible for providing [our] partners with a happy, healthy, loving extended family”… because when I read this, I felt immediate relief. I have been disappointed to not have that, and I felt relieved to see that I’m not the only one who doesn’t have that.

  • emily rose

    This was beautiful.

    The only disappointment was that there weren’t more pink shoe photos.

  • “new growth requires separation.” Love this! I am in the process of leaving a job/office that felt like a family in order to grow in my career. This feels so right to me right now. Beautifully written and universally applicable.

  • blair

    This post could not have been more timely. I’m experiencing similar situations with my fiance. His family is less than accepting of me and tend to make that more clear than not. My family, on the other hand, has embraced him since the first time they heard me speak his name and relish in my excitement to have him in my life (which has only grown tremendously over the past 9 years!). Yes, 9 years! Their unwelcoming behavior of course somehow trumps the situation I’m dealing with in regards to my own family (I’m a product of divorce, where my father has been–well, a sore subject). Despite my “team’s” personal drama–the hardest thing for me is trying to create my own family niche while being repeatedly slighted by his “team.” It’s nice to hear how someone has managed a similar situation and pulled through it, for the better of both you and your fiance (or wife already?). Thank you for this beautifully written post–it’s calming and strengthening and came right when I needed it most.

  • clampers

    I’m crying into my Chipotle burrito right now.

    “…everyone cries tears of joy and makes ludicrous demands about Jordan almond favors…”

    HA! Loved that line.

  • Amanda

    Thank you so much for writing this. There is a truth in this post that is absolutely beautiful.

    Also, congratulations New York! I hope that someday my state (PA) will follow suit.

  • How anyone could consider you too young to marry when you write such wise words, I have no idea. And kudos for bravely outing your situation as one of the “in-the-middle” ones.

  • Shannon

    This post really touched me deeply – thank you! I’m always a little jealous when I hear stories about these terrific in-law situations where both families accept the new marriage into their respective families… It does happen! But there are lots of us in that middle ground too.

    My partner’s family does not accept our impending marriage, though they never actually come out and say it. It would actually be easier to deal with if they were willing to talk about it. It has taken me quite awhile to learn that it is much better for me to step back and be pretty much 100% hands-off when it comes to my partner’s family. If they show me respect, I will respond. Otherwise, I stay out of communications with them. Keeping my distance makes it a lot easier for me to support my partner. His family does not accept or respect him either, but because they are his family, the situation is a lot more complex for him than it is for me. I like your “team leader” idea a lot, and I realize that this is exactly the solution I have begun implementing. My partner is the “team leader” around communicating with his family, and when he’s waded through that he can fall back on the strength of his new family, i.e. his relationship with me. The same is true for our interactions with my family – they are loving, accepting, and supportive of my partner and our relationship, but there are definitely times when I take on the “team leader” role with them.

    It’s been a tricky thing learning to separate myself from my family of origin (all of whom are very important to me), and embrace the idea of creating my own family. The family I am creating with my partner exists both on its own and also within the larger unit of my circle of family and friends, and to a certain degree the circle of my partner’s family and friends. I definitely feel that a very important aspect of marriage is the family/community aspect. I think each new marriage (legal or not) creates more opportunity for people to learn to be a part of each other’s lives and overcome differences. That being said, there are often some people within the families who are not willing to take that opportunity, or insist upon only having relationships on their own terms. It is not our responsibility as the newly marrying couple to make sure everybody is happy with our union.

    This post was very timely for me – both comforting and thought-provoking! Thanks!

  • Yes to giving up control over others. And yes to Lauren’s insight that we have much to learn from all posts.

    Families are tricky and it has been really, really hard for both The Boyfriend and me to make peace with the fact that his mother is never going to be in a place where she can be the kind of mother/mother-in-law we want.

  • Exactly this whole post. Thank you.
    You’ll read a bit in my post tomorrow, but suffice it to say, my family is of the Catholic variety, like yours, and although they decided to attend our wedding at the last minute, they continue to treat us as though it never happened, and we are simply good friends/roommates. My wife’s parents, on the other hand, are fully supportive of our relationship, and have really filled a void I didn’t exactly realize I had.
    It’s a difficult struggle to plan a wedding without your parents involvement It’s similar in some ways, I imagine, to planning a wedding after a parent has died, but very different in that it is their choice, rather than circumstance, not to participate. Especially after seeing their excitement and involvement in my sister’s wedding two years prior. For me, at least, that is what made it so very painful.

    • I can’t wait to read more tomorrow, Cindy. I think you are very wise.

    • Nicole

      You are so welcome! I am so excited to read your post tomorrow. The faith background element is especially interesting to me, since Annie and I are still practicing Catholics, and figuring out how to negotiate that piece as well. I’m curious to know how your family dealt with that.

      • Well, we’re atheists, so we’re not really navigating religion together. Julia’s parents are not really religious so it’s not an issue with them. My parents, mom especially, continues to pray for the salvation of my soul and me to change my sinful ways on a daily basis, I’m sure. Love to chat more at length with you if you like, contact me via my blog if you want.

      • It so disappoints me that those who count themselves among the most “religious” seem to truly miss out on spirituality. My fiance’s family heartily disapproved of our decision to live together before marriage, despite the fact that he had been married before. Thinking we were making a thoughtful gesture, we asked his uncle to marry us… only to be told that we needed to step back and examine our “life journey.” (Obviously we found another officiant)

        Though a recovering Catholic, I still firmly believe in a God of Love, and feel badly for those who spend time with an interpretation of God who condones feeling superior and judging others. If we return to organized religion, it will be in our own way.

        Thank you so very much for sharing, Nicole and Cindy.

  • Belle

    That plant analogy at the end was so stunningly beautiful and well put. Thank you so much.
    I’m lucky enough to have very welcoming and supportive future in-laws and my parents have been the same to my fiance. That said, the growth and separation theme of this post still rings true for us in some ways. Even though the relationship is good, it is sometimes difficult to extricate exactly what we want because our collective parents’ over-enthusiasm. Creating our baby family is becoming more and more difficult as we try to plan our wedding and lives together while our parents continually try to (extremely well meaningly!) impose their values and ideas on us.
    It’s difficult but this post has reminded me that growth and separation are important if we want to grow our baby family seedlings the way we want them and not the ways others expect them.
    We too will be careful not to damage the roots when we move the plants.

  • What a beautifully written post! I really enjoyed reading it, and am taking all the wisdom within to heart. Thank you so much!

  • Jo

    Oh, this is beautiful. I was in tears, and so very happy too! The plant metaphor was incredible.

    I love the “team leader”: that’s exactly what we do, I just never called it that!

    • Meredyth

      Yeah, it is a good one. I also like the idea for different projects / aspects of life. For example, while wedding planning I’ve been “Team Leader” but he’s on my team. When we move in two months I think he’ll fall into the “Team Leader” role. We play to our strengths or interests. One person being the team leader sounds like no fun at all.

    • Alakazaam-infromtiaon found, problem solved, thanks!

  • Ashley

    Thank you so much for this post. As my partner and I plan for our wedding, I have been fighting low-grade disappointment that my family hasn’t shown more excitement. I read about all these couples whose parents feel so strongly about who should be invited, or what kinds of table runners they should have, or the kinds of beer served, and I find myself wishing I knew what I could propose that might cause my parents to have such a strong reaction.

    Of course, when I think about the couples out there whose families won’t support them at all, who disown their gay children or ignore their child’s partner, I feel selfish for wishing for more than what I have. My family has always been supportive, and have embraced my partner as a part of the family in all the ways that they know how. I try to tell myself that their lack of involvement in our wedding has more to do with who they are and who I am–I have always been extremely independent, and they have always given me the room for that–but I can’t help feeling that if I were marrying a man, if there was script I was following that was familiar to them, that they would be reacting differently.

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience in building your baby family. It’s always great to know that other people are thinking these same things, and learning some of these same valuable lessons. I’ll definitely be sending this one along to my partner!

  • What a beautiful, heartfelt post. I especially like: “One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to treat our families the following way: each of us is the “team leader” for our respective families, but we are on one “team.” Certain situations need to be tackled by the team leader alone; other situations require the whole team’s input.” No matter what your relationship or the relationship with your respective families, this is such a fantastic piece of advice, and I think it can be one of the hardest issues to tackle for newly married couples. Best wishes to Nicole and Annie!

  • Class of 1980

    Great metaphor and I love that picture.

  • Jamie

    Beautiful. Our family dynamics mirror yours almost exactly; DP’s family is wonderfully supportive and mine is, well, reluctant at best. There were moments in our wedding planning that were absolutely devastating as a result of that conflict. Even our wedding day was a bit tumultuous at times. (It is a little better now, though. A little.) We were bolstered by a loving and protective community through the process, and I wish you that blessing, too.

    I still struggle with my feelings of guilt over not providing my partner with a truly warm and inclusive extended family. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not my job.

  • Beautiful post.

    It made me think about how I had behaved when my mom came out. Sadly, I was once someone who did not welcome my mom’s partner with open arms. Hard to believe now, but I was 17 and I was embarrassed and confused and hated that my mom was “making” me adjust to something that was out of the ordinary.

    I only share this because now I cannot imagine my mom with anybody else and I cannot imagine my life without two moms. Yes, I was young, but in some ways I think our 17 year old self comes through anytime we are forced out of our comfort zone. “No. no. no. no. I won’t do it! YOU change.” Stomp. stomp. And maybe because I developed and grew, I hope the same for your family–not because you will “need” their blessing, but because more love is always wonderful.

    I am beyond impressed with your perspective because you have recognized the most important part of this is that you are an individual with choices and that you are not bound to the “rules” of your family. It is very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  • “Roots are the foundation and source of nourishment, and they run deep. But unless they move into pots of their own, they will never be strong enough to bear fruit. We will take our time in doing this. We will be careful. What nature has so beautifully reminded us of is that new growth requires separation.”

    Thank you for this. Wise words from a wise lady, and applicable to so much of life – not just weddings!

    I wish you two the happiest marriage in the world. You’re already on your way!

  • Rymenhild


    My family welcomes my partner enthusiastically (for the most part; exceptions tend to fall into the category of “welcoming my partner in a lukewarm manner”). My partner’s family, whom she loves very much and who loves her, is slooooowly warming up to me, after three and a half years of dating. (It helps that they think I’m less awful than her sibling’s heterosexual significant other.) We’re probably up to the point where her people won’t be horribly shocked when she moves in with me.

    However, when we announce our engagement, I anticipate all sorts of religion-related drama. (We’re Jewish. I’m Conservative, which actually means centrist, and her family is Orthodox, which means right wing.) And all the drama is going to be in that middle space you’re talking about. That’s what happens when a close-knit, loving and overprotective family deals with their adult child’s choice to build a new baby family out of a structure that threatens and frightens them.

    (Okay, that sentence came out awkwardly. I hope it was comprehensible.)

    Anyway, thank you for sharing this post. I appreciate your story, and I understand exactly what you mean.

    • Nicole

      “That’s what happens when a close-knit, loving and overprotective family deals with their adult child’s choice to build a new baby family out of a structure that threatens and frightens them.”

      Yes. This.

  • Even though I’m straight, this post definitely brought up some stuff for me regarding my own relationship. I think some interfaith couples (at least the one I’m in) go through some similar situations with family of origin, especially extended families. We’re not engaged (yet), but I know if/when we get married, there are members of my extended family that literally will pretend I don’t exist. And while intellectually, it’s easy to write them off, in reality, it’s more complicated. Also, even though my immediate family loves my partner, I know they don’t think it’s ideal. I’ve already had to answer the, “Is this really a good idea?” questions.

    I can see so clearly the path we will walk down with our families once we get engaged (planning what will probably be a secular Jewish ceremony that neither side will like). I can also see how those will be good lessons for later, especially if we decide to have kids. I’ll definitely be keeping the “team leader” strategy in mind; I think it’s always helpful, and needed for me to remind myself that my partner and I are on the same team.

  • Anne-Marie Becker

    What a beautifully written post — thank you for sharing.

    • Nicole

      Thank you everyone for such kind and thoughtful comments!

      As a general confession/FYI: the analogy in the last paragraph was all Annie. She is uniquely fantastic at fitting analogies, and she also happens to be a stellar writer. I am trying to pressure her to write a post on her own:)

      • Edelweiss

        She should! That analogy was amazing, I first read this yesterday and reflected on it 3 times in the past 24 hours. (and PS I just came back to re-read your post again because so much in it resonated very deeply with me – you did an AMAZING job being both deeply honest and bringing your over-arching themes to light).

  • Caitlin

    This is beautiful and made my day. Thank you.

  • What a beautiful perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  • Moz

    I wish you guys nothing but joy x

  • ka

    This entire post is one of the smartest, most insightful things I’ve read anywhere on weddings to date.

    Thank you. :)

    • Nicole

      Thank you! I am so flattered:)

  • I love the bit about each person being the “team leader” for her/his side of the family but approaching relationships with each family as a team. Fantastic advice!

  • Nicole

    This might not have come out as clearly as I wanted it to, but I did certainly anticipate my family’s reactions. Anticipating someone’s reaction as being negative is very different from dealing with the actual emotions that follow from that rejection. And you’re certainly right, anonymous…sometimes acceptance will never come. Which is why we’ve been focusing on our baby family and the fantastic community that we have elsewhere in our lives.

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