Will you Civil Partnership me? Yes! Shhhhhh!
March 6, 2010 2:20 PM   Subscribe

We are getting civil partnership-ed, but don't want to let people know until after we have tied the knot....... have you done this, what were your families reactions afterwards?

We have decided to get cp-ed. Neither of us really wanted to have the whole marriage ceremony thing. We have decided to do it on the quiet and tell people afterwards(mainly to avoid stress and to ensure that the day is what we want.... understated and relaxed). We are having 4 friends (who will only be told a week before so they can book time off work) and then we are planning on having a party a few weeks later for everyone who wants to celebrate.
The registrar thinks we should have a think about how our families will feel. She thinks that we should prepare ourselves for some possibly bad reactions. To be honest no one in our families are expecting us to ever get married, and we both have siblings. We have been together for 3 years, we are not religious (my partners family are Jewish, but only a small number of them are observant) , both families are fine with the whole gay thing.
So did you get married without telling family and friends? Was there any fall out? Do you have any tips on reducing possible family upset? Is there anything else we have to prepare ourselves for?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total)
I officiated a wedding of two friends who did not tell their parents before they got hitched (in their living room) and I know that while the groom's father said he did not really care, the bride's mother, father, and step-mother all expressed their distaste for the situation, and went so far as to tell me later (the mother of the bride took it upon herself to throw a no-holds-barred party/reception a few months later) that they "did not appreciate" not being included in the "big day." I know I have spoken to the bride about this a few times since and she says her mother, years later, still brings it up as a point of contention between them.
posted by banannafish at 2:30 PM on March 6, 2010

I think the non-religious thing is a red herring - that's more about which ceremonies they would consider valid and which marriages would 'count' than about how thy would feel about not being part of whatever ceremony you're doing. Religious people might mind LESS if their kind of religion would make them either discount what you're doing or not feel comfortable participating anyway.

Same for people who don't expect you to get married - that doesn't have much to do with how they'd feel about missing it.

Generalization, but:

Many religiously liberal and secular Jews
1) are supportive of the recognition, legal, religious, etc
2) still strongly value family ties and sharing important occasions
3) even to the point where I could easily imagine parents/families who do bnot generally support SSM feeling hurt and insulted to be left out from such an important occasion in their child's life (yes, this is somewhat hypocritical)

From what you write, it doesn't seem like you really have a strong handle on the cultural factors involved, at least at a general level, and I think you should consider the registrar's point.

NOT that you still can't do everything exactly as you want to, but that you should do it with awareness and sensitivity to your particular families positions and feelings.

Mazel tov!
posted by Salamandrous at 2:32 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

So did you get married without telling family and friends? Was there any fall out?

My husband and I got married without telling anyone in advance. We were 19 and 20, and he was in the Army away from our home state. We told everyone three weeks later when we came home to visit our families. Everyone, and I mean everyone was upset with us, but 22 years later I think they've gotten over it.

My advice to you is to do whatever feels most comfortable to you and let the chips fall where they may. You can't control other people's reactions to your life decisions, and you can't waste your emotional energy worrying about it. Most people, even if they're initially upset, will come around to being okay about it.

Best wishes to you and your partner!
posted by amyms at 2:37 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

So did you get married without telling family and friends? Was there any fall out? Do you have any tips on reducing possible family upset? Is there anything else we have to prepare ourselves for?

I got married without telling my family, to someone they'd never met. It was a sort of joke, hard to explain now, but made perfect sense at the time. My mother basically never got over it. Not a big deal really, one of the reasons I'd planned to never get married is because of my problematic family situation, but there were definitely hurt feelings and the fact that I hadn't told people was a sort of data point against me for every conlfict we had moving forward. My then-husband came from a more traditional family and they were a little less jerkish about it. Sort of annoyed but they moved past it.

So my feeling is if you don't want to include them in your wedding [which is 100% fine with me] you might want to have some sort of family event later [unless you hate your family] to have some sort of official "announce to the family" situation that makes them feel that you consider their feelings and care about them even if you didn't want to have the official main event be something everyone was included in.

If I had to do it again, I'd do it the same way, but yeah I think for a lot of people it IS a big deal if you don't tell your family and it's also one of those thigns that can be mitigated in ways other than having them come to your wedding and acceding to their every wish. Try to find a way to explain to them [at whatever time] why you didn't invite them in a way that is gracious and decent. Best of luck with your nuptials.
posted by jessamyn at 2:42 PM on March 6, 2010

I suspect this will really hurt your family's feelings, especially if you are in mostly regular contact with them. It sounds like you want your day to be low-key... is there any way to tell your family in advance and still keep relaxed? It seems like you are planning to have a big celebration afterwards at some point.

Some people might feel like you are having a party for presents when you couldn't bother to invite them to the actual ceremony. I'm not saying you are doing this.

But, yeah, I don't think religion has anything to do with this at all. It's more about how close you are as a family.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

We got gay-married (the first time) in the brief window when it was possible to do so, in San Francisco in 2004. We pretty much decided the night before, and agreed if it wasn't pouring rain the next day (because the line of people wanting to get married stretched out the door of city hall and down the block), we'd do it.

We spend the hours in line on our phones, calling everyone we could think of, to tell them we were getting married and they should come to the house that night, and to bring Champagne.

My folks are dead, but my partners' parents - well, if they were upset that we didn't give them enough time to get out to the West Coast, I never heard about it. The time constraints were such that I don't think anyone expected us to be able to plan ahead, though - the day we got married was the day that everyone thought the courts would shut it down.

We did it again roughly a year later, in Canada. Again, a small ceremony, with just a few local friends and some random customers (our friends run the gay bookstore in Vancouver, and we got married there, while the store was still open). We didn't get any blowback from this one either.

The next ceremony (I know, right?) was not at all legally binding, but it was the big wedding-type thing where you send out invitations and hire a caterer and stand up in front of umpteen people to say your vows and there's cake after. As much family as possible was invited to this one, and attended, and it was nerve-wracking but also fun.

AND THEN there was San Francisco: The Remarriageification 2008, when there was yet another window of time when gay marriage was legal, this time state-wide. We planned ahead a bit, but it was still just going to be a few friends (and hundreds of other marrying gay couples, and some straight ones too) watching us get hitched at city hall. We told people ahead of time, and said yeah, if you can take a long lunch, come watch us get married. Since people knew ahead of time, including gingerbeer's parents, her mom surprised us by flying out. We got married and then a bunch of us went out to lunch.

I think if we hadn't had the whole big catered/cake/send-out-invites ceremony, there would be people who would have been disappointed, or maybe even angry, but I'll never know. I think your plan sounds just dandy, but you know your families better than I do.

And congratulations!
posted by rtha at 2:59 PM on March 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

It depends on the people involved - in our case, I was pretty sure my MIL wouldn't mind. We phoned her on the way back from the ceremony and she was just happy and excited to know we'd finally made it official.

But in the end, this is YOUR occasion. If YOU feel that it is important to involve your families, then do so - have the city hall ceremony and then have reception/party in your place afterward so they can share in the day.

If YOU, again, feel that YOU want this to be a private sharing between just the two of you, then you do it that way and send cards or something after to let people know. if they're upset, say you're sorry but gently remind them that the wedding is YOUR day and that was how you chose to do it. End of.
posted by Billegible at 3:08 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not tell them a week before as well? "We're getting married, it's low-key, we're doing it on X date, and then about a month later we'll be throwing a party to celebrate it, but we want the wedding itself to be low-key."

Assuming you have a good relationship with your parents, they may just want to BE there because it's an important milestone in your life. Even if they would prefer a super-giant weddingstravaganza, I bet they would prefer MORE being able to be there with you (or having the option to be there with you) and witness this milestone in their children's lives. (I would frankly be CRUSHED if one of my siblings ran off to Vegas to get married and didn't tell me in advance and give me the option to come. Not because I have any deep need for them to have a traditional or big or any particular sort of wedding, but because they're my FAMILY, man, and family is there for each other. I would take it as a very personal rejection to be excluded from such a big event, even if it were a small event, if you take my meaning. Now, families are different and that may not be the case in your family, but in my family, it would hurt, and it would hurt for a long time.)

Is it that you don't want your family there, or that you want it low key? I think you can do low-key while still giving your family the option to be there. If it's that you don't want your family there, that's a different issue, and you'll have to take your lumps if you do it and they don't like it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:11 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

It will sting a lot less if it's an equal-opportunity exclusion. Make sure there's little chance of anyone feeling slighted. Hopefully the four friends you're inviting are accepted by most others to be your best friends somewhat apart from others. Also, you probably want to make it well known that you both equally agree with this decision, so in-laws don't have any chance to think it was mostly the manipulative kid-in-law's decision and precious baby was just along for the ride.

If it were me, I would tell everyone in a very nice mass mailing that explains in a straightforward way that, while you love them all, you wanted this ceremony to be just between the two of you. Word it in a positive, impersonal way that emphasizes "why we chose to do this on our own" instead of being personal about it--e.g. "why we didn't invite you." Also, emphasize that they're invited to the celebration you'll be holding. A letter will give you a chance to get all your words right with no pressure coming from the other end. If it were me, I'd time the letter to be delivered on or soon after the wedding day, hopefully allowing for a couple days of free time (maybe not while you're trying to enjoy yourselves on a honeymoon) to accept all the phone calls you'll receive.

FWIW--I'm a heterosexual male. Got married in a small ceremony. Even that was more stress and compromise-for-the-sake-of-everyone-else than I would have liked to have. On hindsight, both Wifey and I would have enjoyed eloping.

Best of luck!

posted by The Potate at 3:22 PM on March 6, 2010

Our friends got straight-married at the courthouse right before the New Year - they invited ONE person, who was the bride's close family-friend, and my husband was asked to come take pictures. I tagged along for fun. As far as I've ever heard, no one's parents or anyone else was upset, but then again, these guys were pretty well known for going it their own way, so as with all other responses above, YMMV.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:51 PM on March 6, 2010

I joked to my mother that I would elope one day and let her know afterwards (while cleaning up after my sisters fairly large wedding) and she had a very serious conversation with me establishing that she doesn't care if my wedding consists of a quick kiss and signature of civil documents while having coffee, she expects to be there. I am officially allowed to invite her to lunch one day and announce on the spot that I'm actually getting married right then, she just has to be present.

So, depends on the family.
posted by jacalata at 4:01 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Of the three couples I know that did something similar, all three resulted in pretty hurt feelings from the family. It was definitely felt by the family as a statement excluding the family on purpose with the added bonus of making the parents feel humiliated in front of their family and social group by such a public snubbing. (The circumstances of the three "we'll tell you later" weddings were: one to avoid deportation, one for medical benefits and one to avoid a drama queen mother ruining the ceremony).
posted by saucysault at 4:02 PM on March 6, 2010

Oh, and the three I am talking about are over a decade old and the exclusions are STILL referenced in conversations. It depends on your family though.
posted by saucysault at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2010

We got married at city hall one Thursday afternoon with one witness each and told our families that weekend at a Easter dinner. I was 42, my husband had been married before, we had a young baby. Everyone was thrilled for us. Around the time we were trying to get pregnant I said to my mother, "Would you be upset if one day we just showed up married?" My mom replied, "Oh honey, you're a grown up now. Do whatever you want to do." Neither one of us could imagine having a bigger wedding than what we had - which is to say, no wedding at all - just a marriage ceremony.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:06 PM on March 6, 2010

If I was one of your parents, and then you told me after the fact, “Oh btw we got cp-ed/married/had a ceremony to mark our lifelong commitment to each other; come to the party if you want” I’d feel kind of hurt and insulted. I’d also wonder why I was not allowed to be part of this ceremony – that’s why you didn’t tell me, right? And I would think, what have I done to deserve not being invited to my own child’s ceremony?

So if you went through with this, I think you’d have a lot of explaining to do, and an explanation of “we wanted to avoid stress and have an understated and relaxed day” is not going to fly. Because most likely you’re going to end up dealing with stress and drama after you get cp-ed without telling anyone anyway!

So what if no one expected you to get married – wouldn’t this be even more of a cause for celebration? If you don’t want something big, then don’t do that. But I don’t think not telling your parents is the way to accomplish that. In fact, here’s an idea for you.
posted by foxjacket at 4:29 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

My sister did this. I was there, along with my other sibling, her best friend from elementary school, and her husband's best friend from elementary school. She emailed all of her friends and family about two days before to let them know that she was engaged and having a small civil ceremony in the near future, but didn't give anyone else the details of when or where.

My father went ballistic. Their relationship has never been good, and he considered this to be the ultimate betrayal. My sister and my father are no longer on speaking terms now, and although the wedding isn't the reason, it's a symptom. I wouldn't consider doing this unless you don't have any qualms about really hurting your parents.
posted by decathecting at 4:56 PM on March 6, 2010

The husband and I were planning on an elopement originally. I was really psyched about it because it would mean less familial stress, until he mentioned how he was afraid of hurting his parents. Talking to all of the parents involved after our wonderful, small backyard wedding, it seems we made the right choice; we were told specifically, by several family members, how glad they were to just be able to be a part of it.

Though there was some stress that day, it was a much more awesome experience than I would have anticipated--and that awesomeness was only heightened by the fact that our closest friends and family stood up and pledged their support to our union. It made me realize that we had many people who loved us not only as individuals, but as a couple. I don't think you can put a price on that sort of community inclusiveness.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:14 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sister did something like this too. My family is pretty anything goes, but it still was a bit like, you did what?!

And then after we got over the surprise, we all felt a bit weird. We then realized that the fact that our sister didn't want to share that kind of thing with us made us feel like she didn't respect us enough to tell us about these sorts of decisions and include us in big moments in her life.
posted by miles1972 at 5:18 PM on March 6, 2010

We eloped and didn't tell anyone for a few days. We were the only ones at the ceremony. Our family took it really well, and my mom and MIL planned a big party for family about a month later.

Definitely make sure someone takes pictures. Having a few pictures to show everyone later may make things a bit easier.
posted by jenne at 5:33 PM on March 6, 2010

I want to add to my comment upthread. I said that I asked my mom if she'd be upset if we just showed up married one day. I could never, ever have done it that way unless I had cleared that with her. If she had given any indication that she'd have been upset about not being there, she would have been there at city hall with us.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 5:53 PM on March 6, 2010

I didn't tell them about our domestic partnership ("marriage") until afterwards. My folks were okay with it. Neither seemed too interested, either way. Either it was just their way of coping, or we've been together so long (5 years) that getting "hitched" wasn't a surprise to them.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:24 PM on March 6, 2010

IMHO weddings are just as much for the families as they are for the betrothed.
posted by gnutron at 6:41 PM on March 6, 2010

I think it also depends on what kind of people you are and if this is in line with something you'd do. My husband and I are both low-key (read:shy), socially awkward and kinda misanthropic. We also have the same type of family dysfunction (both of us have Dads with Problems). We eloped and told our familes and friends afterward. Most of my family was cool, but my grandma was a little upset. I told her if we invited her, we'd have to invite my dad, and that ended that conversation.

So, if this is the type of thing you would do anyway, and your family loves you despite you not being into the whole big celebration thing, then go for it. But don't invite anyone. Asking your 4 friends to witness this instead of family sends the message of who is more important in your life. And while those 4 friends may actually be more important in your life than your family, I know if I were your sister, I would feel hurt and slighted.
posted by dogmom at 6:52 PM on March 6, 2010

1. Are your parents forgiving? Will they bitch about anything that pissed them off for the next five, ten, fifteen years? Eternity?
2. Are you close?
3. Are you willing to deal with hurt feelings for the rest of your lives?

Honestly, if your immediate families/parents aren't heinous and they love you, it's probably not worth the drama to not invite them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 PM on March 6, 2010

It depends so much on your family and your partner's. You know them better than any of us do. That said, you're not cp-ing for their benefit! This is about you and your partner looking into each other's forever.

My aunt and uncle eloped - had a tiny ceremony with their closet friends. 25 years later it is STILL a sore subject in my teeny family, none of whom were invited. To me, who was, um, maybe 7? at the time, I've grown up admiring them for it. They got married the way they wanted to - just like they chose each other, just like they decided what their lives would look like.

Getting married, cp-ed is such a personal decision. I would hope you both have families that will be super-excited when they hear the news, but if you have a deep feeling that you might cause some future-changing rumbling, I might think about a casual-enough party down the line for everyone. But whatever it is, it has to be comfortable enough for both of you.

Best wishes! Congrats!!
posted by missmary6 at 11:13 PM on March 6, 2010

We eloped, everyone seemed to take it pretty well...I suspect some of that had to do with our respective families not expecting either of us to ever get married.
posted by maxwelton at 11:28 PM on March 6, 2010

My partner and I did a ceremony without any family. We were in Germany, doing Lebenspartnershaft (life partnership, not exactly 'marriage'). His family were nearby in Belgium. Mine in the States. We did provide information so they could watch over the webcam thoughtfully provided by the city. We downplayed the whole thing as a formality for immigration, which, at that point, required it. No problems at all. We'd been together a few years already. I can't recall how long, I don't recall when exactly this took place. We don't ascribe a heap of importance on it ourselves, honestly. (but we have pictures, both captured webcam shots as well as a few taken by the local friends that were there). It's kind of funny, but we don't even have a solid idea of what anniversary to celebrate, and don't really bother.

We met. A few weeks later I gave him the first gift from me. 6 months later, we moved in together, and a year after that, we moved to Germany. His parents only found out about us when he finished his master's program, and his mother came to see commencement. (I left town to give them space, something for which she was grateful). This was a combination of both informing them he was gay, as well as that he was partnered.

So, the partnership ceremony itself wasn't, by that time, much of a big deal. Such things were still quite new back then, anyway. Neither of us care for parties or big gatherings. For myself, I'll admit, it either had to be the Whole Banana of a traditional marriage, or it had to be totally low-key. I never expected my family to participate, so why bother? But also, my attitude was shaped by the fact it wasn't my first LTR (having been widowed the first time around).
posted by Goofyy at 12:14 AM on March 7, 2010

We did this a few years ago. We got married in our condo with an officiant and the required 2 witnesses (Canada). We would have done it with just the officiant if that was legal.

The next day, we started phoning people.

Friend reactions were uniformly excited for us and not surprised that introverts like us would do it this way. My birthday was a few weeks later, and one of my friends brought a three tiered cake that she had made so we would be forced to at least do the "cutting of the cake" with friends around. So yay! More cake for us. :)

My parents were okay with it. My dad was disappointed at first and very much wanted to be there, but he got over it within a few days. My mom was totally fine. I think the fact that we had previously talked about "what if we never get married, what will you think" and "what if we eloped one day" made my mom's reaction much smoother. She was ready; she was half-expecting it, and she was happy for us.

One of my sisters was super-excited and squealed that it was "just like [me], so perfect!!!"

My partner's mother was, as always, pretty nonchalant about the whole thing but happy for us. We went to his family reunion that summer and got some ribbing about leaving them out, but the thing that I got more flak for was that I didn't take his name.

People have also been fairly uniformly jealous that our wedding budget maxed out at $300. :)
posted by heatherann at 5:53 AM on March 7, 2010

This is basically what I want to do -- have a ceremony that's private, just for us, with him and me and the legally-required number of witnesses and the judge. And then have a party for our friends and family.

I'm told that I am unspeakably cruel for denying my parents the opportunity to watch me get married. Friends that I never thought would feel so strongly have actually given me a whole lot of grief and even gotten angry at me over this. I'm utterly puzzled by the vehemence, but there ya go.
posted by desuetude at 2:42 PM on March 7, 2010

We did this, but called our folks a week or so before it happened to tell them. The parents who really wanted to be there showed up. It was probably not the best thing to do (short notice) but those who wanted to be there made it. I'd say invite them but let them know it's going to be a super small deal because that's what you want. Looking back on it, the day would not have been as awesome without them.
posted by jopreacher at 6:11 PM on March 7, 2010

Some friends of mine did this (sort of): a hetero couple, got married at the register office with just two friends as witnesses, but they told their families in advance. In their case, it was a no-brainer to do it this way, as her family lives halfway round the world and his parents haven't spoken to each other in 20 years and have each remarried. Their families didn't mind, as far as I know.

I think it's probably part of the registrar's training to get you to think about these things. It sounds as though you have thought about it, so in that case why not go ahead with your plan? The one thing I would suggest is that if you throw the big party, you make it explicit that this is in celebration of your CP.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:35 AM on March 8, 2010

We went to Las Vegas for a three-day weekend and got married there; it was just us, the lady at the courthouse, and her clerk as a witness. We told our parents about our plans beforehand, but didn't invite them or let them know when/where.

My folks were fine with it, but it probably helps that they got married all by themselves at the Reno courthouse 30 years earlier, so I could say that at least I one-upped them by going to a slightly classier city.

Mr. Missy's divorced parents were cool with it. The only people who seemed to have a problem were (1) Mr's mom's best friend, who I'd never met, and who stormed mom's house when we visted months later with a grainy, crappy cake and insisted we feed each other a piece; and (2) Mr's stepmother, who is never happy about anything anyway (she's also the only one who had a problem with us not having kids).

Afterward, we sent notices to all of the aunts, uncles, siblings and cousins to let them know that the wedding happened. They all seemed cool with it, but they probably always expected something like that from freaky beatniks like us.
posted by themissy at 12:42 PM on March 10, 2010

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