Same-Sex Weddings: Dealing with Unsupportive Family

After officiating 3,000 weddings and over 700 or more of those being LGBT, I can tell you that all weddings, regardless of gender orientation or preference, has drama. There is no way to avoid the inevitable clash of the families over the simple stuff like location, seating arrangement or who pays for what. However, those issues pale in comparison when dealing with family members of LGTB couples, who are un supportive or outright hostile. With the recent legalization of same sex marriage, this issue has been increasingly rearing its ugly head as countless couples head for the alter. So how do you deal with unsupportive family?

Understand that when you marry your best friend, not everyone is going to approve, even if you aren’t LGBT.  Families are communities, made up of members who support a common understanding of how life is to be lived and accept specific rules that members are to live by. These agreements are created without your consent because you are born into that community and you are expected to abide by them. For the most part most agreements can be broken but partner choice and the wedding ritual have a very specific place within the community and create powerful emotions and feelings.

To handle these reactions, understand that they are just that, simple human reactions. They are an unconscious and immediate flip of a switch, on or off, to the breaking of a community agreement. A reaction comes from deep within the individuals core where commonly held beliefs are held. So it’s important to understand that your loved ones may simply need some time to process your choice… or not. Either way you need to be ok with the outcome.

Rev. Lorelei Starbuck officiating the wedding of Sada and Whitney on the Real L Word, the firs televised, real, same sex wedding on TV.
Rev. Lorelei Starbuck officiating the wedding of Sada and Whitney on The Real L Word, the first televised, same sex wedding on TV.

Be emotionally prepared, visit with a therapist or the minister who will officiate your wedding. Talk with someone to give your feelings a way to express themselves before the wedding. That’s why it is important to choose a minister to officiate that has experience with LGBT weddings. Someone who can help you with this issue. I personally encourage all my couples to sit down with me to go over any possible disruptions to the smooth flow of the wedding. That way I can ward off any uncomfortable situations and even chat with that relative who may voice concerns.

Be ok with the outcome and be willing to accept the fact that some family members will never embrace your choice and ultimately that has to be ok with you. To do this you and your partner must be solidly in each other’s corner. Dedicated, supportive and nonjudgmental about the families support or lack thereof. If one of you have supportive family and the other doesn’t, you need to understand your partner will also need time to deal with negative family response. A strong unified front is a powerful statement. Remember united you stand and divided you will fall!

Do it together especially if you are expecting a negative reaction. Stay confident and committed. Don’t lie or avoid the telling them your intentions. Be straight forward and honest and acknowledge that they may have negative reactions and that it is ok if they do.

Approach the family in love and honor – this is the key to a successful result. And by successful result I don’t mean that they will show up at the wedding or be supportive. They may not but you don’t have to go down that path of darkness. Honor their feelings even if they differ from yours. Communicate your love for them and desire that they be a part of your wedding or least show up. And tell them regardless of their decision YOU will love them. Don’t give into the dark side of hate or anger… it will only hurt you.

Give them time, don’t spring it on them. Occasionally time does heal all wounds and your loved ones may turn around. During this time let them come to you or bring up the subject. Don’t force them to make a quick decision. And most important, let them know it is ok to change their minds. I know it sounds silly but sometimes people position themselves into a corner and then can’t get out because of their pride or other influences. However, make sure they understand that you stand by your love and that regardless of their acceptance or not, you are in love and marring the person of your dreams.

Invite everyone and don’t buy into the outcome. They might just surprise you and show up but they can’t if you don’t send the invite. I have been a part of many weddings where at the last minute a family member not expected to show… does and it is a wonderful surprise. So, pack your guest list with family and friends who supports your choice. In other words, create a power circle that is there to celebrate your love.

Last but not least, this is your day and the beginning to your new life as a married couple. A marriage is not easy EVER. It is a dance between two people who must learn to live together despite family, friends or situations. So make sure you that your wedding day is a powerful send off to that future. Pack it with understanding and love for those who reject you. Love yourself and each other enough to give that powerful gift.

Next time we will explore what to do when that one family member doesn’t show up and how to handle it in the ceremony and reception.

Rev. Lorelei Starbuck, Sacred Affairs

Reverend Lorelei Starbuck is wedding officiant located in Austin, Texas. Her commitment to the LGBT community began in the 1980’s and she performed her first same sex wedding in 1986. This was before it was popular to do so. As a matter of a fact it was discouraged and frowned upon. To date she has married over 700 same sex couples from Denver to Austin and many states in between.  She is booked all over the country with couples who find that ministers in their state won’t marry them. If you are looking for someone to marry you and you don’t reside in Austin, she will gladly fly to where you are.