Q: The short version: I’m having a very, very gay wedding and don’t want to invite family who have historically been weird about The Gay Thing.
The long version: Sometimes people describe same-sex weddings as “just like a normal wedding but with two brides/grooms!” My wedding is probably not going to be like that. There are lots of reasons why: My husband to-be is a very flamboyant and femme gay man, and will probably be dressed accordingly. I’m part of a religious tradition that does weddings without an officiant, and with rituals that probably most of my guests haven’t encountered. I’m also part of a drag house, and members traditionally attend one another’s weddings in full face. While we’re not doing anything for spectacle (fiancé has firmly shot down my request for a wedding falcon), having a wedding that’s authentic to us means it’s going to be fairly offbeat.
What feels most non-normative is that my fiancé and I are in a polyamorous relationship. I see my boyfriend a couple times a week, we all have dinner together, boyfriend and fiancé are going to go see Power Rangers tomorrow, it’s all very civilized. While we are in no way doing a three-way marriage, there’s no way I’m getting married without boyfriend in the pew, and he’s offered to be day-of coordinator at the wedding.
Both sets of parents and siblings know about my boyfriend and are at various places on the approval-to-disapproval spectrum. I’m inviting some of my parents’ friends who were very dear to me growing up, and I feel fine about maybe talking with them about who this other person getting forehead kisses is, if it even comes up at all.
But(t), there is one corner of my family that I just wince when I think about having them at my wedding. They were relatively fine when I came out, but they’ve never been a significant or supportive part of my life. I feel like I’ve spent a million Thanksgivings listening to them talk about my cousin’s semi-pro baseball career, and I don’t think they know what my career is. When the daughter of the family blew up at me on Facebook and said some weird/mean/possibly homophobic things, none of them said anything about it when I saw them at my grandparents’ anniversary party the next week. They’ve never talked to my fiancé in five years of family parties. While none of them have been actively hateful, it almost makes me cry to think about them being rude, or awkward (or taking hateful Snapchats like they always do) of my beautiful chosen family of weirdos. They’re not a part of my life, and I don’t trust them to be kind.
My grandmother, who I’m very close to, would be very hurt and upset if I didn’t invite them. And while I’m not close with them, not inviting them is sort of a pretty final relationship-ending move. My mother is a big advocate for family, and is already struggling with the non-traditional dimensions of my life. One more g-d thing that she doesn’t get about my wedding feels like a lot. My parents are also giving my fiancé and me money for the wedding, and might insist on inviting them as a condition. It feels hard to think about justifying not inviting them when there hasn’t been one thing I can point to as a reason, just a string of shadiness. But I want people who are excited about and supportive of my marriage at the wedding, not just attending for the free drinks and obligation.
What should I consider when doing the calculus of whether to invite them? If I do wind up inviting them, do you have suggestions for how to handle their possible unpleasantness around my beloved chosen family?
(Also, if I invited them and their long-term significant others, that would be TEN PERCENT of my venue’s max guest list. TEN. PER. CENT.)
Grumpy Gay Hates Perfectly Wholesome Straights
A: HOLY HELL. This is so unacceptable.
I had to read this line over and over to grasp it: “They’ve never talked to my fiancé in five years of family parties.” For five whole years they have never acknowledged or engaged with the person you are intending to marry? They’ve had countless opportunities but couldn’t treat your partner with basic human decency? This is really awful, and as a queer person who cares deeply about family, this situation is my nightmare.
It’s Pride Week, so for all the well-meaning people who might say, “You can’t choose your family,” and, “Your wedding isn’t for you,” and would urge you to be graceful and magnanimous and turn the other cheek—they can take many seats (somewhere else). GGHPWS, you get to choose who you invite to your wedding, and you don’t have to invite unkind folks.
Queer weddings are not all like typical straight weddings, and they don’t need to be. To me, you’re in a classic position where all I have to say is, “Do your thing, honey.” (And on that note, why not falcons? It seems a totally reasonable ask.) But with that, I do have some practical thoughts for dealing with the situation, since grandma’s feelings and possible family financial support are potentially on the line here.
First off, let’s not assume the worst, because you actually do have proof you can point to in regards to the subsection of the family (which I will now call the haters) being actively hateful. Giving the silent treatment/not acknowledging a human is painful, and is designed to make them feel unwelcome and unimportant. What are they going to do at your wedding? Ignore the person you’re marrying? It’s entirely possible your mom and grandma would be able to imagine how much that would suck for you, and agree (at least to some extent) with your desire to keep your guests limited to people who affirm your partnership. Not saying grandma won’t be upset, but give her some credit—she’s seen some things in her life. Your mom and grandma are allowed to not like the situation, but they just might understand it.
However, if that convo doesn’t work out (or you don’t have the capacity to take it on), you still have a right to either not invite the haters (but be ready to face emotional/financial consequences) or get creative about it. There’s lots of ways to make sure they either a) don’t disturb your wedding, or b) don’t attend your wedding—without actually tossing them off your list.
One option (and the one my dad chose in regards to having me out and proud at his third wedding): send the invitations with a note about how people should expect a big, fierce, polyam, drag-filled wedding and explicitly say, “If you’re uncomfortable or cannot fully embrace and celebrate this union, please do not attend. We have a zero tolerance policy for making our guests feel unwelcome. Otherwise, we’re so excited to have you share in our joy,” or something to that effect. AKA: no haters allowed. Technically, they’re invited though, so you should be off the hook.
Another option, if the haters have to attend and you want a low-impact way to create a level of safety, make it a phone-free wedding. Ask people to check them at the door (and designate someone to collect them). At the very least nobody will be making a “look at the freaks” Snapchat about you, or mean-girl texting each other about your fabulous friends. Take away the tools of cowardly prejudice and let them think their horrid thoughts all by themselves. Divide and conquer, amiright?
There’s probably a bunch more ways to self-select your guests or at least minimize their ability to detract from your day, but as our EIC, Meg, points out: “If worse comes to worst, and you feel like you have to invite some unideal people, chances are you won’t be paying attention to that shit on your wedding day. You really just tune out anything that isn’t a good vibe, as long as it’s quiet. Also worth saying: someone almost always ends up being a dick at your wedding, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.” So if somehow some of the haters end up on the guest list, at least rest assured that you’ll be too busy getting married and having the time of your life to worry about the miserable assholes in the back who can’t appreciate good things in life.
No matter what you do, make a decision you can live with. There’s no way around it that won’t ruffle a few feathers, but please, put your relationship and your chosen family first. The people who love you will somehow muddle through for this one day, at least. Protect your hearts, GGHPWS, because it’s not easy being gay in this country (or the world, for that matter), and we have to hold onto our moments of joy with both hands.
Oh, and if the haters don’t end up coming and you have some extra invites, we wouldn’t say no to you sending some our way. Your wedding sounds like it’ll be utterly divine. <3