Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and The New Gay Wedding and writes on this website every month as Hilton’s Modern Manners expert. This year he’ll be answering your questions about LGBT life, especially weddings, engagements, and anniversaries. Send him your questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A quick note before I answer your questions: Late in March North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed HB2, better known as the state’s “bathroom bill,” although it did much more than require transgender individuals to use the restroom that matches their “biological sex.” As a North Carolinian, I’m proud to see that Hilton, along with more than 160 other major corporations, signed an open letter to Gov. McCrory calling for the repeal of this discriminatory new law, HB2.
How can we include our kids in our wedding ceremony?
Q: My partner and I had a large, beautiful commitment ceremony almost 3 years ago. In the intervening period, we have adopted two children, ages 8 and 10, and lived our lives openly. We intend to “make it legal” and convert our registered domestic partnership to a marriage. Should we include our children in the wedding? From day one, we have told them we are married, and we don’t want to confuse them. They seem too young to be explaining that it wasn’t legal and now is legal. This will be just a simple, courthouse kind of thing. Thanks.
A: Mazel Tov! I know so many couples that had civil unions or commitment ceremonies, even both, before same-sex marriage became legal last year. And with the anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling soon upon us, it’s now full-fledged wedding season for gay and lesbian couples. In fact, this is really year one since no one was sure how the Supremes were going to rule in the landmark case.
Now, to your questions. Of course, you should include your kids. At their age, I don’t think they’d forgive you for leaving them out. Even though you plan to have “a simple, courthouse thing,” they can participate in a number of ways: Perhaps they could design (I mean draw) the wedding invitation. Each might be a ring bearer, even a junior “attendant” (the gender-neutral word for groomsman or bridesmaid). Perhaps you’ll walk down the aisle together as a family, or in your case to the judge or other officiant. They could also sign the marriage license (because they’re not of legal age, be sure to get the required number of adults as well). They might want to make a simple toast at a party after the event or, if you write vows, include the kids in them. No matter how many or how few details, involve your children from start to finish.
As for having told them you’ve been married all along, I get it, but now they’re older; tell them that you thought explaining a “domestic partnership” was above their school grade and that, for all intents and purposes, you considered yourself married. And why not add this: Times have changed, and now you have the opportunity to marry the love of your life in the presence of your two most important gifts: Them. Please send a photo!
Is a father-son dance “a thing” at gay weddings?”
Q: My boyfriend and I are getting hitched soon, and we have two questions. Do you think it would it be awkward to have my parents walk me down the aisle if his aren’t? I’m close to my parents, while he isn’t. Naturally, 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 guests, most of whom are the older generation.
A: Both ideas are wonderful ways to help make your parents part of this important day. Such key decisions about your wedding ceremony and the celebrations that follow are also quite symbolic, for you, your guests, and for other same-sex couples seeking ways to retrofit traditional wedding rites.
There is certainly no requirement for parents to behave as matched sets, especially when real-life circumstances get in the way. But I do recommend you tell your prospective in-laws what the plan is for the processional and see how they might participate in a way comfortable to them. Perhaps they’ll choose to host a wedding shower or the rehearsal dinner.
Now, let’s dance. Sort of. I actually get this question with some frequency—from anxious dads—worried about this twist of a rite. “Don’t worry,” I tell them, or “talk with your son about it.” Here’s what one dad e-mailed me:
“If my child is gay, I will not be dancing at her wedding. If my child is straight, I will also not be dancing at her wedding. Can’t dance, don’t ask me. (I didn’t even dance at my own wedding!) However I would really love to participate in any other way at my child’s wedding and would be thrilled to do so in any way my kid would let me (except dancing…sorry)!”
So, start that first dance with each other, then, while it is a gendered norm, most grooms will pick it up with their moms, sometimes with both parents. Remember what this is all about: Dancing with family members symbolizes the melding of families. And with that in mind, how about dancing to Sister Sledge’s We Are Family?