"Traditional" wedding rules call for the bride and her family to do certain things, and the groom and his family to do others. It's true that many couples still choose to adhere to that structure, but not every wedding involves a bride marrying a groom. When that's not the case, parents who are used to "traditional" nuptials may not know what's expected of them for the big day. If your child's getting married and is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, these tips are here to help you ace your role, whatever it may be. They're extra useful for parents who don't identify as LGBTQ+ themselves.
Drop Your Assumptions
"Parents shouldn't compare their LGBTQ+ child's wedding to other weddings," advises Jove Meyer, an inclusive wedding planner. "Your child is unique and their big day should be a reflection of them, not a copy of someone else's wedding." Really, that advice applies to any parent with a child getting married. "When it comes to the wedding, a parent should be open-minded to the rituals that the couple would like to have. Let the future spouses take the lead on crafting a wedding that feels authentic to their relationship, personalities, and priorities."
"When you don't have the presumptive heteronormative narrative to fall back on, that's an opportunity to consider what really feels right and important, and then make decisions that reinforce those feelings and priorities, rather than just what is 'expected' or 'traditional,'" adds Hannah Nielsen-Jones, a Life-Cycle Celebrant and the owner of River & Root Ceremonies, a company that helps create customized celebrations. "My experience in this context has been that there are fewer assumptions about who will do what," which frees everybody to make meaningful memories on their own terms, she explains.
Essentially, who pays for the wedding, who walks who down the aisle, who gives a speech, who dances with who, and other tasks typically assigned to couples' parents aren't set in stone—for your kid's wedding, or any wedding. If you want a special role in the event, you can let that be known, but be open to thinking outside of the box when brainstorming it together.
You can definitely take action during the planning process. Meyer recommends vetting vendors for your kid, for example, to make sure that they're equality-minded. That way, the couple doesn't have to deal with negativity themselves. "You can also run interference with well-meaning but clueless family members," says Nielsen-Jones. "If you know that Uncle Jim will come to the wedding because 'it's the right thing to do,' but is going to get really uncomfortable and maybe say something inappropriate when he sees two men dancing with each other at the reception, you can figure out a game plan for that in advance." While the burden of handling ignorance shouldn't ever be on your child's shoulders, that especially rings true for the wedding day.
…But Don't Interfere
That being said, know when to hold back. "Let children invite (and not invite) who they want. If there's a friend or family member who your child and their partner don't feel safe around, then those people shouldn't be at the wedding, period. To be clear, this applies to all couples: No one should feel pressured to invite anyone that makes them feel unsafe," notes Nielsen-Jones. She pushes parents "to recognize that they may not always understand why their child or child's partner doesn't feel safe around someone, but they need to respect that decision anyway!"
"This is also basic but bears repeating: Your child knows what they want to wear and how they want to look on this very important day in their life. Trust that they know for themselves what will make them feel their absolute best. That's not a discussion that you need to have with them, unless they explicitly ask you for your opinion," Nielsen-Jones advises, too.
Set an Example
"Guests will take their cues for how things are going and how to behave from the people getting married and from their parents. If you're exuding all the joy, happiness, peace, and excitement that you feel because your child is marrying the person that they love and they invited you to witness them take this leap together, then the guests will, too," assures Nielsen-Jones. This applies to how you treat everyone, not just the couple. "There may be guests whose outward appearance is non-gender conforming, and/or defies categorization, and that doesn't matter. Everyone, regardless of what they're wearing and how they're acting, should be treated respectfully and with warmth. They came to the wedding for the same reason that you did, which was to celebrate the love of the two people getting married, and to support them as they make this commitment."
Show Your Support
Yes, it's intuitive, but it's still important to note. "It can be a tiring—if exhilarating—experience to create something without a template or a 'tradition.' Parents can listen and encourage their child with reassurances like, 'No matter what you choose, it will be a meaningful wedding,'" Nielsen-Jones says.
In the end, "a parent's role in wedding planning is to be supportive and offer suggestions and advice as needed by their child, but mostly, their role is to uplift their child's ideas and help bring their vision to life," concludes Meyer.