Love Looks Like This: My Sister Grew to Accept My Same-sex Wedding, With My Fiancée's Help

Love Looks Like This

 Cristina Cianci

Brides is committed to guiding ALL couples through not only their wedding planning journey, but through relationship milestones and ups and downs. Every love story is beautiful, has its own distinct history, and its own trials—there's no relationship that looks the same. To celebrate that uniqueness, we're asking couples to open up about their love story, for our latest column, "Love Looks Like This." Below, Kelli Trapnell tells her story. 

My fiancée and I met for the first time over drinks in an East Village speakeasy, almost five and a half years ago. We had been chatting on the beta version of a dating app specifically designed for women who wanted to date other women, which we jokingly called “girl Pinterest.” We set up a date having seen each other’s pictures, but not really knowing much else about each other. 

As a bisexual woman, finding someone to date who actually respected me—and didn’t fetishize me or treat me like a psych patient—had been tough. My fiancée is a lesbian, and never once has she acted like my identity was a phase.

We talked about 90s country music, about being artists in the big city. We had moved from Texas and New Mexico, respectively, with the express goal of furthering ourselves as writers and performers. We covered moving to New York, talked about how hard it was to be away from our families. For each of us, family is important—we both have families that are loud and fun, big huggers. Families that are close, even when it’s not the holidays. We talked for hours, neither of us wanting to go home. We fell in love. 

As a bisexual woman, finding someone to date who actually respected me—and didn’t fetishize me or treat me like a psych patient—had been tough. My fiancée is a lesbian, and never once has she acted like my identity was a phase or something that could change as easily as hair color or a favorite outfit. Respect, in every sense, was the basis for our relationship, the foundation we built on. I had been out to my family for a few years, Sarah had been out since early college. Over the next few years, we did amazing things together—we ran in Pride, we each tackled personal and professional goals and celebrated with late nights of karaoke and summer trips to Fire Island. We moved in together, and things got serious. I hatched a plan to propose to her, and organized a big surprise party with our families and out of town friends. She said yes, and we started planning.

We always wanted a long engagement—why not enjoy every part of our lives together, including being engaged? But a big part of the choice to wait two more years before actually getting hitched was my family. I worried that my largely conservative, Texas-based family would need some time to adjust to the idea that my queerness would be so visible, forever. But I worried for no reason. Nearly everyone in my family was elated at the news, as excited and ready to celebrate with us as Sarah’s family had been. With one exception: my younger sister. 

My sister and I have always been close. Our parents divorced when we were four and seven, respectively, and we always had each other’s backs. We were never the kind of siblings who fought, even about stupid things, and when she decided to work for an evangelical church for less money and less prestige than the other jobs she had been offered out of college, I defended her choice to our parents, who were concerned. I knew that she and I had somewhat different beliefs. I am a Christian, though I don’t love church. She believed that church was central to the religious experience. She had never really had an issue with my queerness before—she was the first person I had come out to in my family. After the engagement, she started calling me with serious concerns about how I was going to "go to hell" for marrying another woman. 

At first I thought maybe she had an issue with Sarah, and didn’t feel comfortable saying so to my face. But that didn’t track with all of the fun outings the three of us had had together and the way they had always gotten along at Christmas. Sarah is not an unlikeable person, or an acquired taste; she is open, kind, and considerate of others at all times, extroverted, fun and inviting. Plus, Sarah is also Christian, as is her family. At one point in time, she had considered going to seminary. How could religious differences be holding us back when there were essentially no real religious differences between us? Confused and hurt, I asked my sister flat out whether there was something wrong, and she said, “There’s no doubt you two are good for each other. I love Sarah, I just wish you could be friends.”

I didn’t know what to do. So many articles online were telling me that it was okay to cut out toxic family members from my life. But I didn’t want to lose my sister.

The fights dragged on, getting uglier and uglier, on the phone and in person, for nearly the full two years of our engagement. So many nights after an hour long screaming match on the phone, I went to bed crying about how unfair it was, particularly to Sarah, how hurt I felt, and how I couldn’t believe that my sister, who in many ways was one of my closest companions, would decide to hurt me like this. I had planned to ask her to be my maid of honor. I had heard her arguments—that she was just looking out for me, that all this was was a difference of opinion. I knew that she believed she had the right stance. But I also knew that she couldn’t equate the validity of my existence to her opinion about whether that existence was “right.” Especially when we had dozens of other Christian family members who wholeheartedly condoned our union.

So many articles online told me that it was okay to cut out toxic family members from my life (something I had already done with some former friends who couldn’t get over their homophobia). But I didn’t want to lose my sister. I didn’t want to lose all the good parts of our relationship just because she couldn’t admit she was wrong. 

Sarah suggested that maybe I try to let go of my grievances first. Not that I give up, just that if we tried a truce of sorts, that maybe things would get better. So last summer, I called my sister and told her that I didn’t want to have this conversation anymore, and that she would need to just let me know if she would be attending my wedding. I had two conditions for her attendance: 1) she would need to be happy for us, however she needed to make that happen, and 2) she couldn’t make a scene at our wedding. For a while she waffled on these conditions, but eventually she agreed. 

And then something happened—because we had stopped fighting so much, our relationship started to mend, ever so slightly. Since last fall, we’ve had actually civil conversations, at first about anything but the wedding, but now we even talk about everything from decorations to plans for the ceremony. She called me the other day, all excited, to tell me she had gotten her airfare for the wedding in September. Every day, I’m glad that we decided to work through the pain.

Every day, I’m grateful to Sarah for helping bring my sister and I back together. And every day, it gets better.

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