n case you don’t know, a “chosen family” is a term that is used to describe families not related by blood; a family you quite literally chose. It’s a term that became especially popular in queer communities when people were forcibly distanced from their blood relatives due to their relative’s prejudices and were left to create a new family that didn’t rely on legal status or blood. However, while the term still has strong queer roots, it isn’t limited to just the LGBTQ+ community and can apply to many people.
A chosen family consists of people we find to fulfill the roles of support, teaching, comfort, and kinship. This can look like almost anything and in most cases is defined to be purposefully broad and encompassing. Chosen families are meant to pull people together, not shut them out through ridged definitions. Chosen families can be specific, such as having a mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, etc. based on age, personalities, or relationships. All these people may even share a residence. Or they can be vaguer; you can have a chosen family without spelling out every person’s role and relationship to that family. As with all things queer, words matter. The point of a chosen family is not to stifle individual members through literal biological ties, comparisons to a nuclear biological family, or labels. The point is to foster belonging and fill one’s voids: sometimes labels such as “mother” help with this, and sometimes they don’t; individuals get to decide.
Your Wedding, Your Choices (Including Family)
Family can be complicated, and we won’t even bother trying to list out all of the reasons why. That’s why, especially for a day that is as special and formative as your wedding day, you may choose to highlight your choices—the people who you surround yourself with to feel loved and cared for.
As we touched on in our estranged family article, it can be challenging to navigate weddings because so many of the traditions are family-based. So here are our thoughts on how to include your family on your special day as they do what any family should do and support you in your happiness.
How to Highlight Your Chosen Family
Now, these won’t really be in the forms of a typical how-to because a lot of this is up to you. The first “step,” if we had to give one, would be to sit with yourself or your partner and think about what you want your wedding to look like.
What traditions are important to you to include and what is something new that you feel compelled to start? Think about the ways that blood relatives are usually highlighted in weddings (father walking someone down the aisle, a mother and son dance) and consider whether you feel comfortable substituting someone in or whether you’d rather just take that piece out altogether.
For those places where you really want someone to do it, even if it’s not the person that society or “tradition” might tell you to expect, think about a fun way to ask a member of your chosen family to participate. While parents or blood relatives may expect to be given roles in your wedding ceremony, chosen family members may not, and so you have an opportunity to do something fun and special to honor their place in your life and (assuming they say yes) in your wedding day as well.
Traditions Aren’t for Everyone
However, don’t push yourself to replicate a “traditional” wedding ceremony and/or reception if you don’t want to. The blessing of a wedding day with your chosen family is that they have already proven that they love you for you, and they will love any wedding that you feel happy with.
High-stress and high-emotion events like weddings can be incredibly challenging with your biological family, even if you are on good terms with them, so by surrounding yourself with people who you know to support you no matter what, you can feel free to make the choices that you feel best to represent what you want for your day.
Once you have thought about what you want your actual wedding day to look like, make sure to take some time to think about everything besides the day itself. Family and friends can be ingrained in many different steps of the wedding planning process, from helping with design elements to the (sometimes dreaded) bridal shop appointment to pick out a wedding dress. Again, a chosen family represents support, so allow them to support you through this entire process, not just on the day where you feel like you need to fill up half of an aisle of seats.
Your Chosen Family Wants to Help You!
It can feel challenging to admit that you need help with these difficulties. Because of the “traditional” expectations and structure of weddings, they can feel incredibly overwhelming to those of us who are separated, whether by choice or not, from blood relatives. Many aspects of the wedding planning process may feel like a painful reminder that you will not need to purchase a mother-of-the-bride dress or plan a father-daughter dance.
It’s important to allow yourself to feel these emotions, but it’s equally (if not more) important to allow your chosen family to be there for you throughout this process. Create an environment where you can talk about these feelings and process them in a healthy manner without sacrificing the fun and excitement of planning your big day.
Despite the challenges, a wedding really is the perfect time and place to highlight your chosen family. After all, all of the commitments and dedication you have proven to give and received from people who you originally had no legal or genetic connection to have just been a test run for marriage.
These are the people who have supported you because they care, not because their title obligates them to. These are the people who have witnessed your pain and helped you grow and who have endless, abundant love for you. A wedding is a time for family; however, what that family looks like and who it is comprised of is entirely up to you.