Wedding season is almost upon us. Maybe it’s already here!
Those save-the-date cards magneted to your refrigerator door have been replaced by actual invitations. Chicken, fish, or vegetarian option?
And increasingly, these invitations may include invitations to same-gender weddings. Your nephew marrying another man. Your children’s former babysitter marrying a woman.
For some, these non-traditional weddings raise anxieties, uncertainties, and fear. Pondering. Wrestling. Should I attend? What does it signal if I attend? Am I complicit? Am I condoning?
If you’re in a big hurry and can’t read this whole blog, here’s the short answer: Yes! Go!
By all means attend, whatever your feelings or convictions about nontraditional marriage.
Read on for the longer version.
If you’re inclined not to attend, my basic question is what does your non-participation signal? What are you attempting to achieve?
I have a lot of appreciation for “conscientious objectors” of all sorts — people who refuse to participate in various actions or events based on their strong convictions. I am, however, always a bit concerned when these ethical acts become too rigid, too noble, too public, too self-aggrandizing.
Being a conscientious objector to a wedding seems different. It is more personal, more directly hurtful. Less about witness and more about hostility. More about “purity” than integrity. Less about non-compliance and more about boorishness.
Do we think we’ll get bonus points from God by refusing to attend? Haven’t we all attended weddings where we hardly knew the couple? Weddings where we wouldn’t have given the marriage a 50/50 chance of surviving for more than three years? Where were our high standards and concerns then?
Three small memories that come to mind and seem somehow relevant.
More than forty years ago, my sister graduated from college and got a teaching position — at a conservative Baptist elementary school. One of the school’s requirements was that all teachers had to have been “baptized” — meaning as an adult, of course. My sister, good Reformed kid that she was, had been baptized as an infant. She quickly agreed to be rebaptized and it was scheduled for an upcoming Sunday at the church that sponsored the school. My parents accompanied her. If they had reservations or were a little bruised, they never let on. Steve, however, haughty, sophomoric, Reformed ideologue that he was, refused to be involved in this unnecessary travesty, this denigration of our infant baptisms. I did not attend. You know what? It happened, even without my presence. My sister never said anything about my absence. Maybe she was hurt. Maybe she was too busy making lesson plans to think about it.
More than thirty years ago, my sister-in-law was getting married in Europe — a sensible place for a French woman marrying an English man to get hitched. We were living in upstate New York, poor as the proverbial church mice, with a six month old child. Evidently we were so engrossed in our little lives, our little baby, our little income that Sophie, my wife, decided not to attend her sister’s nuptials across the sea. It wasn’t only the cost, there was also traveling alone with an infant for the first time. In hindsight, this is embarrassing and certainly unfortunate. We seem so small and insular. Someone would have, no doubt, helped with the costs or purchased a ticket outright if only we’d asked. Maybe even one for me. Sophie could have been there for her sister, been with her family for festivities. Our baby could have been the center of attention. But, no. There was never any open anger or recrimination from her sister. It felt, however, like for a few years there was a coolness, an aloofness, unspoken hurt. Or maybe we were all simply consumed by being thirty-somethings. It’s gone now. But our regret, our foolishness, our embarrassment lingers.
Earlier this month, Sophie and I visited Los Alamos, New Mexico — the site of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build atomic bombs during World War II. It was fascinating. It made me recall fond and equally interesting memories of visiting Little Bighorn, Hiroshima, the Lorraine Motel, the beaches of Normandy. By visiting these places am I endorsing what happened there? It’s never as simple as yes/no, good/bad. Going to these places was eye-opening, instructive, profound, and soul-shaping — as learning history often is. I’ll grant that it probably isn’t quite apples-to-apples to compare visiting a tragic or bloodstained site with attending a wedding you aren’t comfortable with. Still, I think there are some parallels. Seeing in person is always different than talking or reading about. Being somewhere doesn’t necessarily equate with approval of what happens there. (Hello to all you Walmart shoppers and Chick-fil-A patrons!)
To summarize — go to the weddings you’re invited to, no matter your feelings about the couple, about same-gender marriage.
Remember too that weddings are about much more than the couple. They are about family, friends, interconnection, loyalty, milestones on long journeys. Refusing to go only makes you look pinched and priggish. All you will accomplish is to hurt someone you care about — perhaps not the couple themselves, but their parents, your sibling, your colleague, neighbor, friend. I can almost guarantee that someday, maybe sooner than you think, you will regret your decision — even if your feelings about nontraditional marriages don’t change.