• Steve Mummery

What to do if your parents won't attend your wedding

While weddings are generally thought of as happy times for multiple generations of family to come together and celebrate love, they can be a tricky time for couples who won’t have parents attending the wedding. Illness or finances may keep some parents away from weddings they’d like to attend, and still other parents refuse to attend their child’s wedding because they have strong feelings about the religion, orientation or gender of the person their child is marrying. LGBTQ people in particular are less likely to have support from family, with about 60 percent of same-sex couples reporting family or friends were supportive of their marriage. (This is up from previous years, but still trails straight couples level of family support.)

Dealing with parents who can but won’t attend the wedding of their child is not only a difficult emotional trial for the couple, but can present challenges for the wedding vendors and guests. Luckily, wedding traditions can be adapted or scrapped altogether to be sure your love isn’t overshadowed by absent parents.

Whether you or your partner is estranged from parents, here are some alternative ways to celebrate your chosen family when parents won’t attend the wedding.

Spread the word.

Resist the urge to sidestep the fact that one or both of your parents will not be in attendance as you’re planning your ceremony and reception. Your marriage celebrant, wedding planner and DJ have all likely experienced this issue and may have helpful tips for how to achieve your wedding vision without a set of parents to support. If the subject of parents is particularly raw for you or your partner, consider handing over this task to a close friend who can speak to the situation with clarity and tact, so that you have one less potentially emotional conversation to get through before your wedding.

Get out in front of finances.

Parents are often expected to shoulder a portion of the financial burden of hosting the wedding and its accoutrement — wedding shower and rehearsal dinner. Knowing that you are missing parents from your support system, don’t feel bad if you want to scale back any portion of your wedding or wedding weekend. Maybe your rehearsal dinner turns into an intimate meal at a friend’s home or your wedding shower becomes one big couples shower to save money for your wedding party. While mothers typically lend a helping hand (and wallet) to plan showers, this is an opportunity to rely on your close friends who are willing and able to fill the gap. Instead of your maid or man of honor planning a shower with your mother or your partner’s mother, perhaps you ask a group of friends to all take on hosting duties so as not to burden any one person too much.

Ask friends to step up.

When your relationship with parents is strained, friends often become your chosen family. Don’t be afraid to honor them during your ceremony and reception to fill space that might otherwise be occupied by walking parents down the aisle or parent-child dances. This could be as simple as asking close friends to read poems about friendship or platonic love; asking friends to sit in the front rows during the ceremony or even staging a best friend’s dance instead of a parent-child dance.

Rely on other close family members.

Just because your parent might not approve of your relationship, that doesn’t mean there might not be others in your family — grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or cousins — who do support your wedding. Ask your close family members if they’d be comfortable standing in for your parent or parents. For example, a favorite uncle might be a natural to escort you down the aisle if a father isn’t available while a grandparent might have a great time taking a twirl around the dance floor with you at the reception.

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