By Jan Stribling, exclusive to Long2Wed

jan ringsGay marriage is passing in state legislatures across the nation. What a wonderful thing, to be able to marry your life partner and reap the benefits to which heterosexual couples have always been entitled. Slowly, our country is advancing into acceptance. Things are finally changing for the gay and lesbian community.

Unfortunately, there will always be those who do not approve, who simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea of same-sex relationships, much less same-sex marriage. Sometimes, our very own family members cannot see the light when it comes to us being gay or lesbian. Perhaps they know, but pretend they don’t, so they never speak to you about the fact that you live with your same-sex partner or that you don’t “date” anyone. The lucky ones have families who are completely accepting, who march side by side in gay pride marches and who accept them completely. Sadly, some of us are completely ostracized by our families.

My mom was one of those who knew, but wished she didn’t. My dad was in denial completely because of his religious beliefs. My sister knew and didn’t care one way or the other.

In 2000, no one was thinking that marriage would become legal for gays and lesbians any time soon, so most couples held a commitment ceremony to show the bond and love between them. My partner and I planned our ceremony for September 23, 2000.

Jan's babyOne of my favorite memories is the two of us planning everything together. We were a traditional couple-untraditionally traditional, I guess. We worked hard, made a home for ourselves, and were like any other couple. We eventually added a little boy in 2003, completing our little family.

As we planned the ceremony, one of the hurdles I had to face was telling my mother and father and asking them to attend. My partner’s family was completely accepting and was very supportive and excited for us. Not mine. I thought I would begin with my mother, since I thought she would be the hardest one to talk with, and while I was right, I wasn’t expecting an out-and-out “no” from her. It stopped me in my tracks. I decided that I wouldn’t even bother talking to my father. The thought of having them there made me realize that there was no way I could relax and enjoy my special day if they attended.It’s sad, but I resigned myself to this, invited the few family members that did know, and moved on. We invited our friends and were happy with our guest list.

Jan Venue

Jan Venue

We scheduled a minister from the Presbyterian USA church to perform our ceremony, a photographer, and a wonderful musician.

We found a beautiful B&B in Newport, TN called Christopher Place. It’s gay-owned and operated, but its clientele were anyone and everyone who wanted to spend time in a scenic, remote place in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. We were able to reserve the entire B&B with family and close friends taking the 8 other rooms besides ours. Christopher Place would provide everything we needed. Food choices were settled on for the ceremony as well as breakfast for everyone the next day. We decided to hold the ceremony outdoors, as it was going to be in September, and we would still have nice weather.

With the venue selected, I knew that I would have my cousin, a wedding guru, help with the flowers, decorations, and cake as she had done for most of the women in my family.

Jan Ceremony Same Sex MarriageOnce the weekend arrived, I was so pleasantly surprised that my cousin’s sister came for the ceremony. She will never know how much that meant to me, and her words that she had to come show me that she loved and supported me will always ring in my heart.

Oddly, while I was a bit sad that my parents couldn’t find it in themselves to attend, I was at peace with those who weren’t there because those who were, I knew were there out of love for us. Because of all that love coming from those around us, the ceremony was lovelier 100-fold. I think that if anyone had been there who wasn’t completely accepting it would have kept us from being in the moment.

When you and your partner are planning your wedding, remember whoever decides not to come because they cannot accept who you are and forgive them. Clear your heart of any sadness and keep with you that the friends and family who are present, are there out of respect, admiration, and love for you and your partner.

jan-flowers

Jan Stribling, Author

Jan Stribling

Jan Stribling is an aspiring writer with a particular interest in relationships and marriage.  She has published her own magazine, He/She/Us, which focuses on these topics, and has written articles for All Women Stalk, an online women’s magazine.  At 50, she has returned to college for a degree in psychology.  She writes about being a mom to a 10-year-old boy on her own blog, Peonies and Popsicles.