a parents guide to gay weddings

Gay Weddings: A Parent’s Guide

Gay weddings often put a twist on traditional wedding etiquette. Sometimes it can work in your favor. For example, with two sets of bride’s parents (or no bride’s parents at all), you may be relieved of the expectation that you’ll pay for the entire wedding from your own pocket. It’s amazing how little of traditional wedding etiquette makes sense when there are no longer gender-defined roles. However, as a parent, you’ll still have an important role to play.

Who Pays?

Many gay partners live together in “everything but the rings” marriages for years before officially tying the knot. This is usually due to the legal restrictions of the couple’s home state. If your son or daughter is finally making a long-term commitment legal, it’s great news for you as a parent. Unlike a parent’s role for a younger couple’s wedding, when a more established couple gets married, there is considerably less expense required. Chances are, your grown-up child is a little further along on his or her career and will need less help holding a wedding celebration. You can always offer to help, or give them a cash gift, if you desire. 

Not footing the bill can be a relief to your pocketbook, but it can also leave you adrift in a sea of wedding planning that has very little to do with your preferences. Instead of trying to sculpt the wedding, concentrate your energy on supporting your child’s choices. You’re playing the role of a trusted friend. You may be asked to accompany your daughter on trips to formal wear stores or to cake tastings. You may be the person your son calls when he needs to blow off steam. The best way to ensure that you’re a supportive presence is to ask your son or daughter how you can best be of help. Be prepared that the answer may be as simple as showing up on the day of the wedding and enjoying a place as a guest of honor. 

Is Your Offspring’s Vision Different Than Your Own?

This dilemma plagues every parent, regardless of their child’s orientation. It’s only natural to want to give your offspring the wedding you always wanted, especially if you weren’t able to have it yourself. But what happens when your vision of a perfect wedding clashes with your child’s?

If you’re paying for the bulk of the wedding you can impose your preferences, but otherwise, it’s polite to let the happy couple decide their own wedding details. If there is one specific feature you absolutely couldn’t picture a wedding without (such as a reception in a lavish banquet hall or a multi-tiered wedding cake), you may be able to convince the couple to include it by offering to foot the bill for the venue or bakery as a gift.

If the detail that sticks in your mind is a fashion choice, it’s almost always easier to let the battle go. Your son or daughter will have a much more enjoyable day if he or she is dressed comfortably–and no, that doesn’t mean jeans and sneakers. Feeling comfortable means wearing clothing that fits both body and personality. Your daughter may never wear a princess-style wedding dress. Your son may have his heart set on a seashell-pink tuxedo. Picking fashion fights won’t change their minds, but it will estrange you during a time when they need your support and love more than ever. Just take a deep breath and be happy that they will be able to smile naturally and comfortably in their wedding albums.

Wedding Ceremony Logistics

Every wedding ceremony is different, and the best way to coordinate the logistics of your child’s wedding is to sit down and have a planning discussion. One question to consider is how the couple will reach their ceremony location. Will one person walk down the aisle to meet the other, as in a traditional ceremony? Will they walk down the aisle together? Will they forgo the aisle altogether? The answer will impact your role in the ceremony. It’s likely that your son or daughter will not wish to be “given away” as in a traditional wedding, but the ceremony may still require your participation in another way. 

Some couples choose to honor their parents by acknowledging them in their vows, or by having the parents stand by the altar during the ceremony as a sign of unwavering support. If you have a suggestion of how you can best show your love and acceptance during the ceremony, let your son or daughter know. There is no strict protocol for gay weddings, and chances are that your idea will be welcomed.

When Beliefs Clash

As joyful as a wedding day should be, some parents are caught in a struggle for acceptance. If you come from a background that doesn’t endorse same-sex marriage, how do you make your peace with attending your child’s wedding day? This question does not have an easy answer, but you’ll have an easier time attending the wedding if you can isolate your political or religious beliefs from the love you feel for your child. Think of attending the marriage as showing support for your son or daughter as a beloved member of your family. No parent agrees with their offspring on every single issue, and complete agreement isn’t required for a loving relationship. Focus on the happiness in your child’s eyes as the vows are recited and celebrate the joy, not the politics.

Gay Weddings A Parents Guide
Gay Weddings A Parents Guide

If you’re struggling with understanding because the concept of a gay marriage is foreign to you, the upcoming wedding is the perfect time to have all your questions answered. As long as you ask questions with an open mind and without a judgmental tone, your desire to learn more will be appreciated by the couple and the resulting discussions will bring you closer. 

If your son or daughter is getting married, it’s a time for joy. Remember that, except in matters of gender protocol, gay weddings are identical to straight weddings. The same etiquette applies in gift-giving, dressing appropriately, and (if the couple knows what’s good for them) when to expect thank-you notes. Bring an open mind, a ready smile, and a box of tissues.