General Question

Zorak's avatar

How do you deal with parents who are embarrassed about your gay wedding?

Asked by Zorak (19 points ) November 19th, 2010

Pete and I are planning a very very small wedding (basically just one step above going to the justice of the peace). We’re not inviting a lot of people (maybe 15, just immediate family), and we’re not having a reception. It’s going to be simple, and quick – neither of us has any desire for a traditional all-day-long affair. We’re planning on holding the wedding in his home town – which is about 8 hours away from where my folks live.

Pete comes from a big Italian family – and his family is fantastic! They couldn’t be more loving and supportive.

My family, on the other hand is rather small – I don’t have any brothers or sisters – and to put it bluntly, my parents are just plain embarrassed by the fact that I’m gay.

They’ve done their best to ignore the fact that I’m gay, and avoided any attempt at getting to know Pete – in fact they’ve only met him once. Through all the years we’ve been together, he’s never once been invited to their house. And my parents have never spoken to any of my relatives about the fact that I’m gay or engaged – despite the fact that all of my relatives know (except for my grandmother).

My extended family has been so incredibly supportive – except for my mom and dad. When I called to tell my parents the wonderful news of my engagement, my mom answered the phone and simply said “OK, I’ll tell your father” and then hung up the phone. There was no “Congratulations!”, no “We’re so happy for you”, not even a simple “That’s nice dear”.

Now that the big day is upon us, I’m not sure how to deal with everything. We want a simple wedding. But since it’s going to be 8 hours away from where my family lives, and since my only immediate family has such a negative view of my wedding, and we haven’t even spoken since the day I called to tell them of my engagement (almost a full year ago), I just don’t know what to do.
It would be nice to have someone to represent me at my own wedding. But I really don’t want my parents there – Should I invite my parents to the wedding?

If so, what should I say to them? I don’t even know where to begin the conversation after not speaking to them for so long.

If not, isn’t it going to be odd that only Pete’s family shows up to my wedding?

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45 Answers

JilltheTooth's avatar

First of all, Congratulations and welcome to Fluther.
Can you send them an invitation? It seems a bit impersonal, but it will save you the angst of dealing with their angst. If they respond to that by saying they’re coming, then you can deal with the logistics. I’m so glad for you that Pete’s family is so wonderful, that’s truly a blessing.
Also, maybe some cousins could come to represent you?

janbb's avatar

You need to make sure the day is a comfortable and happy day for you, not to worry about what will look odd. I think it would be great if you can have some of your supportive extended family there to be with you; maybe invite a few that you would like to have. If it is important to you to make the gesture of inviting your parents, do so – perhaps in writing so that you are not hurt by their reaction. But you must realize that they will very likely not come, so if inviting them and them rejecting the invitation will caue you pain, don’t do it. Perhaps in time, things will change with them, but I would protect your own feelings right now so you can enjoy this wonderful thing.

Mazel Tov and welcome to Fluther!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I’d be embarrassed about them.

tinyfaery's avatar

Maybe you should just be straight (haha) with them. Tell them that you love them and want them to be a part of your big day. Tell them that their behavior hurts you. Tell them that you are who you are and you aren’t going to change. Also, let them know that you are not going to hide who you are and who you love. Tell them if they can’t accept you for who you are you will not bother to include them in your life.

What happens next is up to them.

Don’t let anything ruin your wedding day. You deserve every happiness that every other couple does.

Congrats!

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JilltheTooth's avatar

@noelleptc : Did you test your link? Or am I missing the joke?

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Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Congrats on the wedding. You could set them down and tell them you love them and hope for their support. If they can’t support you the next best thing is for them to not ruin your day. Good luck.

iamthemob's avatar

There’s a mythology surrounding weddings that tell us it’s about the groom and (especially) the bride. Being gay doesn’t prevent this myth from sinking in.

In the end, however, it’s much more stressful than enjoyable while much of it is going on. And, it ends up being more about making sure that other people are happy, especially the parents. Add to it the pressure of wanting your perfect day to be…well…perfect, and each problem seems insurmountable.

There’s no really good way to handle your issue, unfortunately. All I can suggest is that you keep a level head, know that things will go wrong, don’t take it to seriously, and remember that sometimes all you can do is contain fallout instead of preventing it.

You can’t know for a fact that they’ll wreck the day. In the end, they really must be invited at least. If they don’t show up…well, the great thing about being gay is that because so often we get rejected by our families, we get to pick the people that are our real families.

The person there to represent you should ideally be one of your parents or immediate family, if possible. If it’s not, you get to choose someone who really represents you. In the end – that’s an opportunity, not something to be sad about. You really get to show your love for someone who has shown their love for you.

In the end, cheesy I know, that’s what really matters. Just keep in mind that your parents will, unfortunately as it may sound it’s going to be, are going to be your partner’s in-laws. If you choose not to have them there, your partner may feel some of the guilt that he was the reason why. If they choose not to come…it’s more clearly on them.

The best choice in this situation may not be the one that has the best results. But hoping for the best from your family often feels better than expecting the worst from them.

lemming's avatar

If it’s important to you that they come, you should make sure they know that. You don’t want to give them a half-assed invitation because you were afraid they would reject it and then look back in regret. Good luck and congratulations!

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crisw's avatar

Congratulations!

I don’t know if you are familiar with the work of Dan Savage, but the topic of parent relationships is one he deals with a lot. Looking over some of his columns on this may be useful- plus he’s so damn fun to read.

MrItty's avatar

Congratulations to you on your impending nuptials. Personally, I feel this is your day, not theirs. Therefore, you should do whatever will make you happiest and most comfortable, not them. If that means inviting them, do it. If you don’t want them there, don’t. The guests who come – regardless of how many or which guests – are there for you and your fiancé, not anyone else. That is, there’s no reason for it to feel “weird” about his family being there and yours not – the ones that are there are celebrating your pairing, not each other.

chyna's avatar

Congrats on your wedding. It is you and your partner’s day. No reason to make it an unhappy or stressful day. Don’t invite your family.

Supacase's avatar

I say invite them. Maybe seeing how supporting Pete’s family is will make them see how inappropriate their behavior toward you has been. Be sure to explain that this day is very important to you and you expect them to respect that if they choose to attend, which you hope they will.

Congratulations! I hope the wedding is wonderful.

lynfromnm's avatar

If it will cause you any tension or upset on your wedding day, I wouldn’t invite your parents. It’s YOUR glorious wonderful celebration, after all.

It sounds like you’ve made every effort to include your parents in your life, with little reciprocation. How would you feel about sending them an invitation with a “disclaimer”? Add a note that says “I’d love to have you here, if you want to share our joy. If you feel uncertain I’d rather you didn’t come. Much love!” It’s an honest, direct approach and should be guilt-free.

GingerMinx's avatar

Congrats, I would invite your parents and let them decide if they want to come or not. Then I would realise the day was about you and your partner and I would enjoy it, sounds like a great family you are marrying into and in the end it is going to be your parents who miss out due to their prejudices.

squirbel's avatar

You’re their only child. While raising you, if they were looking forward to a daughter-in-law [your mom], those dreams are dashed. While raising you, if they were looking forward to grandchildren [both], those dreams are crushed.

Perhaps if you had another sibling and then you turned out to be gay, they’d treat you better. But in the end – that’s not the case and the feeling of a family blood line ending is a horrible feeling indeed for those who care about it. It’s not that they are homophobic [they might be, but this wasn’t clear], but they see the end of their lives very clearly, with nothing to pass on. This is something parents gather much joy from.

At the very least, send an invitation, and call them saying “I’d really love to have you here on my wedding day, it means so much to me!” Let them know what it means to you, and so they can meet their son-in-law. Remember, marriage isn’t just about the two getting hitched, it’s about the two families joining together as one. One can’t be selfish and assume that that is their day and their day only.

Remember to always wonder what your parents are thinking and going through, they are human just like you.

You seem like you take the approach that says family is important. I praise you for that. I hope your family shows up to meet their son-in-law and his family [now their family]. Good luck!

marinelife's avatar

I think you need to think through all the possibilities: how you would feel if you invited them and they did not come. How you would feel if they came and behaved badly. Think it through and then decide whether or not to invite them.

But in any case, you need to have some people there who represent you. So, if you decide not to invite your parents or they decide not to come, invite some other members of your family that you love and would like to have see you marry or even invite one or two friends.

Take care. Enjoy your day.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

In your shoes then I wouldn’t invite your parents, why have them distract from an otherwise joyous occasion with love and support all around from other family and friends? If it’s not a big secret your folks are jerks about you being gay then it won’t seem odd they’re not at the ceremony. Invite the people you really want and who you feel will really want to attend to celebrate you and your partner rather than for decorum.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Congratulations!
Invite your parents and family.If they don’t show and people actually ask you why,you can always say that they haven’t told you why yet ;) I think that would be a hint that it’s none of their business.If not, just keep saying that you don’t know until they give up.Then go have some fun on your big day!

kess's avatar

The generation of a family’s bloodline is brought to an abrupt halt.
The dreams of parenting grand or even great grand children being dashed.
The difficulty in accepting that your offspring in still unsure whether he is male or female

Knowing these thing came not by the hand of providence, nor of a stranger but by the will of their very own.

Plus who would be looking forward to pumping hands while sharing hypocritical smiles and nods?
How does one deal with crocodile tears, forces laughter and smiles that never reaches the eyes?

The smart and honest person will do all in their power to avoid such a situation, and should never be ashamed of their action.

crisw's avatar

@squirbel
“While raising you, if they were looking forward to grandchildren [both], those dreams are crushed.”
@kess
“The dreams of parenting grand or even great grand children being dashed.”

For heaven’s sake you know that gays can adopt, right?

And the same would be true if the couple were infertile or chose not to have children.

@kess

“The difficulty in accepting that your offspring in still unsure whether he is male or female

Knowing these thing came not by the hand of providence, nor of a stranger but by the will of their very own.”

Forgive me, but I have no idea if you think the parents are this ignorant or these ar your own views.

Gays do not choose to be gay any more than heteros choose to be hetero. And gays are quite sure what sex they are.

I hope that the OP’s parents aren’t this ignorant, but if they are then they should be referred to PFLAG.

iamthemob's avatar

@kess – I’m confused as well. I’m inclined to echo @crisw‘s sentiments in this case.

I wonder why people think that two gay men getting married means that, somehow, the hopes for grandchildren are somehow crushed, or dashed, or whatever. It’s just a wedding…it’s not like they’re getting a massive dose of radiation…

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m sorry that your parents won’t share in your joy. How lucky for you both that Pete’s family is so accepting, as well as the rest of your family.

All I can suggest is that you keep the door open to them, no matter how often they slam it in your face.

Good luck and congratulations. (Who gets which in a gay wedding, by the way? I’m not trying to be snarky, but in a hetero wedding, we say “congratulations” to the groom and “best wishes” to the bride, for reasons that have never been fully explained to me… or which I cared not to hear or even speculate about.)

squirbel's avatar

Adopting has nothing to do with bloodlines. I specifically used this terminology for a reason.

Grouping my statements with another’s strips mine of its true meaning. Please don’t do that.

iamthemob's avatar

@squirbel – I’m responding solely to your statement here – but the issue is that the dreams aren’t crushed. Plenty of gay men have kids pretty close to the old fashioned way. Being gay doesn’t stop that urge.

MrItty's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I don’t know who this “we” is that you speak of, but I have never heard of such a thing. You say all manner of congratulatory phrases to both members of the couple.

squirbel's avatar

I’m not making a statement as to what ‘is’ or ‘isn’t’; rather, my entire answer was dealing with what the parents ‘may’ be feeling.

Your reality is not shared with everyone, and I was providing insight into another reality; one that truly exists.

Once again, please do not react to my posts on Fluther with a knee-jerk reaction. I often post with hypotheticals, and do not appreciate being grouped with someone else’s actual beliefs. I made it very clear in my writing that I was posing a hypothetical.

Last point – any child of gay unions cannot be the bloodline child of both sets of grandparents. Someone’s line is dying, or is further limited.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@kess: Homosexual people have genetic offspring too.

iamthemob's avatar

@squirbel – You’re getting too defensive. Regardless of your intent to create a hypothetical, you didn’t present it as one. There wasn’t a “may” in there – you said their dreams would be crushed.

My reaction was, for the most part, directed at people who thought that there was nothing hypothetical about it. It’s an assumption that some make, that is extremely troubling.

Aside from all that, the OP has probably gone through all of this with his parents before. I don’t know of a single gay man who, at some point, has not had the child discussion at some point, whether it has been with their parents, about what their parents think, etc.

My only objection to your insight, then, would be that as stated above, it’s something that more than likely has been considered. Your post was clearly congratulatory, but in this situation, perhaps the last thing I think anyone should be doing is validating what the parents are feeling in any way. To be upset about their son finding the person that he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and to make that clear, is something that cannot be validated.

Zorak – Don’t, however, take my statements above as a reversal of my opinion that your parents should be invited and welcomed as much as possible. On that point, @squirbel and I are in complete agreement. ;-)

squirbel's avatar

My question is:

Why aren’t the parents’ supposed feelings to be validated? Isn’t everyone entitled to have their own feelings, without being judged?

My main point is to “live and let live”. Just because someone’s outlook differs from one’s own does not mean they should not be validated. That is close-minded. If you see defensiveness in me, it may be because I defend the unpopular opinions. People need to learn that no one is right, while at the same time everyone is right.

Just let people carry their own opinions, without being hateful to their thinking.

iamthemob's avatar

From a general perspective, I agree to a point. I don’t believe in “Live and let live” as an absolute, because there are plenty of opinions that people hold that are dangerous, hateful, or just plain wrong – and I don’t think that any effort should be spent to tolerate them. However, this is pretty much isolated to those opinions that, when held, necessitate that the person infringe on or fight against the civil rights of another.

Everyone has the right to feel whatever they feel at the moment. There’s nothing wrong about it. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s right, or that we should attempt to explain good reasons why someone should feel a certain way.

Here, if the parents are so upset that their son is gay that they have ignored it, never reached out to his fiance, treated the engagement call like he was telling them about the weather, and haven’t mentioned it in the entire year leading up to the wedding – can there possibly be a good reason for that? No. Should we attempt to find one? No. Should they be expected to get over it and not ruin what should be a joyful event for their son? Yes. And they’ve had a year to adjust to the idea of the marriage – and it sounds like years to get used to his orientation, and to get to know the fiance.

I have no problem defending unpopular opinions – but there are some opinions that are just wrong. I’m not being hateful to anyone’s thinking – but rather stating that thinking that is hateful should not in any sense be validated. This man’s parents have held onto an opinion that has allowed them to become so distanced from their son that he is contemplating whether he should invite them to his wedding. I’m satisfied that no one should respect or validate whatever the reasons they may have for doing that.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Well said, @iamthemob. Except that I apparently agree past the point that you do: people are even entitled to the hateful, dangerous and ‘plain wrong’ opinions and ideas—but direct actions that follow from those misguided beliefs have to be stopped sometimes.

iamthemob's avatar

@CyanoticWasp – Don’t get me wrong – people are entitled to any opinion or feeling that they have. But if it’s the hateful kind, they have no moral claim to them and better expect that I’m gonna attack them – subtly or bluntly, depending on the necessity.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

It sounds as if you already know the answer to your quetion. In an ideal world, they would attend because they understand, accept and embrace not only your lifestyle, but your choice of a partner. Your parents have tacitly made it clear that they are currently unable to accept the fact that you are gay and planning to marry a man. Because of this, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to invite them.

It is a sad story, but in looking at it from afar, you are an adult who deserves your day of happiness. Surround yourself with people who desire to celebrate the committment you and Pete are making to each other. My best to the two of you.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Actually, even if they didn’t understand, accept and embrace any part of your lifestyle or choice of partner, they’d attend anyway and hope for the best for you because they love you. My parents attended my first wedding even though all of the first sentence was true. They didn’t approve of my lifestyle (at the time), didn’t understand why I was doing it, and didn’t approve of my partner. But they didn’t say a word about any of that beyond what we had already discussed earlier. And they were around to help me pick up the pieces six months later.

You have to keep hoping that they will grow up, since it’s not as if your lifestyle is going to change in the way mine did, and accept you for who you are. If they can’t, then they deserve your sympathy, because they are the damaged ones.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@CyanoticWasp I agree with you whole-heartedly. Our parents attended the weddings of my elder brother and sisters thinking that they had little chance in maintaining their marriages, and in two out of three cases, they were right. The difference was that they accepted their children’s decision on a partner and lifestyle, and they hoped for the best.

I suppose it comes down to whether the OP is willing to deal with his parents either declining an invitation, or voicing their opinions about the situation before/during the ceremony, or living with the guilt of not extending an invitation in which they would have been willing to attend.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@squirbel “While raising you, if they were looking forward to a daughter-in-law [your mom], those dreams are dashed. While raising you, if they were looking forward to grandchildren [both], those dreams are crushed.” – wow, these are so not the reasons people should have children but yet they do and I see that as a big problem. It doesn’t matter if the kids are gay or straight, no one needs to be pressured into having to marry or have children just because a parent is incapable of realizing that they shouldn’t have had children just to ‘pass the line on’.

janbb's avatar

To continue what @Simone_De_Beauvoir said, one of the best lessons of parenthood is the discovery that your kids are their own people and not clay for you to mold. Such things as career choice, religion or atheism, and sexual orientation are really theirs to discover. It is at times painful to learn this lesson, but ultimately liberating for all in the end.

squirbel's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Well, if you believe that, your opinion is so far removed from mine we couldn’t have a legitimate discussion about the purpose of children.

The long and short of it is this – your opinion is self-serving, while mine has a wider focus – on the family as a unit that deserves to have its line passed on.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@squirbel Perhaps you’re right that our opinions on parenthood are different but I disagree that my view is self-serving, it’s actually serving my children rather than myself.

iamthemob's avatar

@squirbel – your view is self-serving in that it privileges concerns that you find more important – that the parent’s desire to continue a bloodline is more important than a child’s desire to share his love with the person who loves him. It also privileges the passing of blood and genetic material rather than experiences and beliefs that a family unit shares.

My father was adopted, and I shared more in common with his grandmother than I believe most grandsons and grandmothers. To find out that I was not related to her by blood was more shocking than any revelation in my life. However, my pride in how she lived her life is something that I plan on passing on to my children, whether adopted or not.

In my eyes, the connection that a family shares in terms of who its members are, what they did, and what meant most to them are values that pass on despite blood, not because of it. Passing that on is more important in terms of the family line than anything related to what happens to be in my DNA.

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