Should unsupportive relatives be invited to my daughter’s lesbian wedding?
Q I’m so glad I found you! My daughter and her wonderful perfect girlfriend just got engaged! We adore our soon-to-be daughter-in-law and our whole extended family is comfortable and supportive with the whole idea. But the family of our soon-to-be daughter-in-law is not accepting. Her mother is slowly, painfully coming to terms but she refuses to acknowledge the engagement … sort of. Her stepfather is not accepting at all and her extended family seem to be fairly homophobic.
My soon-to-be daughter-in-law has stated she doesn’t want to invite any of them to the wedding. I’m torn. My heart breaks for her, but the right thing to do is to invite them, I think. She has stated that she doesn’t want them there if they aren’t supportive, she doesn’t want them to attend due to a sense of familial obligation, or to gawk.
But the goal is to give them an opportunity to see love, in all its forms, to see how normal regular people love and accept love, in all its forms. The hope is that by attending this wedding, they might experience a change of heart and see for themselves that two chicks can love each other and two families can support that love.
I would normally press for my daughter or her girlfriend to do what I think is right. But on this matter, I’m not sure if doing the right thing is right for my daughter-in-law. I don’t want her feelings hurt, don’t want her to be upset on her wedding day, and no one can do that better than family. Do I let it go or continue to advocate for inclusion?
The second problem and more pressing is the engagement party. I think if we were to invite her whole family to an engagement party, it might break the ice, let the cat out of the bag, and if they attend, they will begin to see how wonderful these two young women are together. They will see how this lesbian love looks in real life and how real life families accept, include, and love on. They all live about 3 hours away so attending an engagement party would be quite telling, if they attended.
A Kudos to you for being such a great and loving mom! If your future daughter-in-law (DIL) asked for my advice, my answer would be slightly different than my answer will be to you.
I would start by helping her weigh the options of what could happen if she invites her relatives. I might even suggest she write her mother a letter asking her to meet to discuss her engagement and upcoming wedding with the hopes that maybe her mother could open up her heart to the idea of her daughter being in love with a woman. If her mom allows for such a meeting, it could be indicative that she will be a gracious and supportive wedding guest. Her mother might then be a good resource for asking about whether or not other relatives, including the stepfather, should be invited—and could be counted on for behaving nicely.
However, as her future mother-in-law, my advice to you is not to play the peacemaker but to consider your role more as a protector. She’s clearly been very hurt by these unsupportive people, including her parents, who should love her no matter what. Why should she want her wedding—a personal, private and intimate celebration of the lifetime commitment of two people who love each other—be turned into a “teachable moment”?
I absolutely see your point that this is a great teachable opportunity for your DIL’s family, that if they could only see how beautiful, natural and normal it is for two woman to be in love than they will “evolve,” to use our president’s word, on their stance on same-sex marriage. But imagine how awkward the tension might be at the wedding to have these unsupportive relatives present, walking around nervously at the reception, looking away when the brides kiss. Or possibly worse, to receive declines from all the homophobic relatives or no response at all. This is a heart-wrenching feeling, to be rejected by your own family, and one that happens often in the LGBTQ community.
Consider your role in your DIL’s life beyond the wedding. You two will undoubtedly become closer, especially if her relationship with her own mother becomes more strained. If you insist that she do something she doesn’t want to do—invite these unsupportive relatives to her wedding—and something goes wrong, she might hold you accountable, or at the very least, resent you for not understanding the severity of the problem.
If you’d like to help mend fences or build bridges, perhaps you could offer to sit down with your DIL’s mother and talk to her about what you see when you look at your daughter and her daughter: love, commitment, happiness. Maybe if she just had another straight parent with a gay child to talk to, she’d start evolving faster.
But if none of those conversations are going to happen, my advice is to not invite anyone who isn’t currently devoted to celebrating the relationship and the commitment they’re preparing to make. You can always send lovely wedding announcements to the questionable would-be guests after the fact.
Kirsten Ott Palladino is the co-founder and editorial director ofEqually Wed, the world’s leading LGBTQ+ wedding and honeymoon digital resource. Follow her on Twitter. Connect with her on Facebook. Write herwith your LGBTQ+ wedding questions. If she can’t answer it, she’ll find another expert who can!