Estrangement, absence, and grief on a wedding day

A graphic on estrangement, absence, and grief on a wedding day.

Something that often goes overlooked is managing the heavy grief that comes with estrangement and absence on a wedding day.

On queer marriers and estrangement

According to a 2023 study from Just Like Us, almost half of LGBTQ+ young adults (46%) are estranged from at least one family member. As a wedding photographer whose clients often include queer marriers, it’s unfortunately not uncommon to see that statistic play out in real life into adulthood.

I find my own grief around queer estrangement creeping when I least expect it. Something as simple as seeing the affection between pairs of siblings as they compete on The Amazing Race can knock the wind out of me and make me question if I’m broken.

Society will have us believing that the people we grow up around are supposed to continue to nourish and shape us as we age, but that’s simply not true for everyone. For many of us, we’ll co-create our own communities who celebrate our complexities and remind us of our worth.

There are many reasons absence appears on a wedding day–whether due to loss, friendship breakups, or estrangement. It can be gut-wrenching, especially when vendors have questionnaires that presume the norm is true for all.

A grid of three photos of siblings silhouetted at a window overlooking the Philadelphia skyline at a wedding.

On wedding vendors presuming norms

Examples of this can include assumptions that…

  • There will be parent dances
  • A marrier will be walking down the aisle with a parent
  • “Immediate family” group photos should be centered vs. having curiosity about chosen family.

Processing feelings around estrangement or going no-contact while wedding planning can be a lot. And there are even more nuances in a world where you have to juggle COVID-19 logistics and manage guests who won’t get vaccinated. People naturally insert themselves by offering well-intentioned, unsolicited advice. You might be feeling pressured to invite someone you know you want to but can’t. Which makes it even more heartbreaking.

On the day of, the grief can hit even harder and become overwhelming. Something that goes unmentioned on my list of qualifications is being able to read people (an Autistic stereotype I’m happy to break) and knowing when you need space.

Whether it’s due to an overbearing guest who makes you anxious or because it finally hit you that your family won’t be there on what’s advertised as “the most important day your life,” (which I call bullshit on, by the way)–I’m here to support you in whatever way that looks.

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