Not long after same-sex marriage became legal in Maryland in 2013, I was working with two delightful women who had absolutely fallen in love with Chase Court, the wedding venue I own in Baltimore. They were very excited about having their wedding here, so they set a date and booked. All was well.
One of the brides’ family, all of whom lived in rural Pennsylvania, had made it clear to her that her sexual identity was unacceptable to them. They wanted nothing to do with her or her fiance, and had no intention of attending their wedding.
A few weeks after our meeting, I received a tearful phone call from one of the brides. It turned out that her family had made an about-face. They were all coming to the wedding! That meant that their guest list had nearly doubled, and they could no longer fit at Chase Court. We were all sad about that! But, the greater good had been served, and I was happy for them.
Weddings are one of the very few times in life when there is an opportunity for the familial version of parking ticket amnesty. It’s a point in the lives of families when reconciliation can take place freely and relatively easily.
The presence or absence of family at weddings has great meaning. The act of showing up, in every sense of the word, makes all the difference in the shape of relationships going forward. Here, without words, family can say, “we recognize this, and you, as part of us.” Presence matters.
These things don’t always happen spontaneously. Sometimes they call for “the talk.”
For example, divorced parents of a couple sometimes need to hear that the right thing to do is to put their differences aside and be present as loving (if separate) parents for their child’s wedding. The task of laying this out usually falls to someone who knows each of them well enough to sit them down and look them in the eye with gravitas and clarity – and an intolerance for self-absorbed behavior.
In the same way, the families of same-sex couples sometimes need to hear that this is their opportunity to show their love and support – or not – for the couple and their marriage. While their differences are not the same as those of divorced parents, the need for love to pierce the veil of hatred and fear is the same.
This is also a time when the couple can sit with their family and say, “This is who we are. That’s not going to change. We love you and want very much for you to be part of our lives. We would love to have you at our wedding.” This can be a hard and painful conversation. It can end in a “no,” with hurtful words being heard. But the opportunity for reconciliation that it creates is worth the emotional work that it takes to bring about change. It’s not easy and it often includes tears, but the end result has value beyond compare.
Sometimes the very “realness” of an impending wedding is all it takes. Families realize that this isn’t “a phase” and that it’s not going away. Quite the opposite is true! So the decision is made to embrace their child as they are. How wonderful!
The ultimate goal, of course, is for more than just one day of presence. But making it happen on that one, very important day can make all the difference in getting the wedding you want, and in what happens for the rest of your lives.
Next time: Creating a great wedding ceremony.
- David L. Egan is the proprietor and steward of Chase Court, a wedding and event venue in downtown Baltimore. Visit Chasecourt.com, and follow ChaseCourtWeddingVenue on Instagram and Facebook.