Making Parents Part of the Gay Wedding Day
My partner and I, both in our 30s, are planning to get married next year in a fairly traditional church ceremony. We have two logistical concerns. First, would it be awkward to have my mother and father walk me down the aisle if his are not doing the same for him? I’m very close to my parents, while his mother and father have only begrudgingly accepted our relationship — but we don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Our second question, do sons ask fathers to dance the first dance with them? I’m just not sure how that would sit with our family guests, most of whom are the older generation. Your thoughts?
I love both these ideas for making your parents part of this important day. And I want to point out that neither of your questions is purely logistical. Such key decisions about your wedding ceremony and the celebrations that follow are quite symbolic, both for you and for other same-sex couples looking for inspiration while retrofitting traditional wedding customs.
That image of your parents taking that walk down the aisle with you is powerful and moving, especially because there are so many others, including your partner, who still don’t have that kind of visible support and love because of the sex of the person they love.
Now to the nitty gritty: There is no requirement for parents to behave as matched sets (as much as it’s fun to take a straight tradition like walking down the aisle and make it more balanced between the partners). But you must let your in-laws-to-be know your parents will be escorting you and look for a way that they can participate in an equally prominent way. Possibilities include their hosting the rehearsal dinner (perhaps it is easier for them to express themselves by picking up the check) or making one of the first toasts at the reception (even if it is as simple as, “To a long and healthy life together").
Here are two suggestions for arranging the actual promenade. 1: Your partner can get things under way by walking in from a front or side entrance and waiting for you at the altar. Next, you would enter from the rear with your parents; walk together down the center aisle; kiss them “goodbye"; and take your partner’s hand in front of your assembled guests. 2: Your partner enters first using the center aisle escorted by his closest friend or friends, followed by you and your folks, all meeting up at the altar.
These are just my thoughts. The fact is that L.G.B.T. wedding ceremonies are a work in progress with few set traditions. I only urge that you don’t take the gay out of your ceremony or worry if some aspect is not traditional enough for everyone. Same-sex weddings still represent another stage of coming out as a couple as well as a political statement of our right to marry.
Now to your dance question: You may be surprised to know how often I get this one, but it is usually the father who is asking. These anxiety-ridden guys zero in on this aspect. I’ll tell you what I tell them: Talk it over. But with this added advice to you and all the other betrothed gay sons considering a pas de deux with their fathers: Give him an out. The ritual importance of dancing with family members is quite clear because it symbolizes the melding of families, but be respectful and be creative. If you and your father take up arms, why not have your spouse do the same with his mother? Then, if everyone is comfortable, Dad picks it up with your husband and you go to your mother. Or you both dance with your mothers and then switch.
Another idea is to ask your officiant for ideas on a group dance; some weddings feature a soft-shoe, for instance, which can be a lot of fun. Meanwhile, here’s a clip from an Elliot London video, “The Wedding Dance,” with a surprising and moving twist at the end. If you think there is anything suggestive about a father-son dance, this will change your mind.
And by the way: congratulations!
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