I'm certainly not alone in my predicament. For one reason or another, plenty of individuals find themselves in the temple, realizing a very important person is missing and there's nothing they can do about it. One particularly hard day, especially for young converts, is the wedding day when mom and dad can't come.
I've navigated this day, however, with measurable success-- so to all you young converts and concerned family members, here's how to avoid catastrophe on your big day in three simple steps.
1. Make the Temple an expectation, not a surprise
Telling important people in your life that they won't be able to come to your wedding is scary. It's like having to give "the talk" to an 11-year-old: awkward, tense, and riddled with an unshakeable feeling that you'll never be able to say it quite right. The idea is a little daunting, but I promise, it's manageable.
I had the advantage of my family already knowing the drill with Mormon weddings-- only Mormons can go and the rest have to wait outside. That presented it's own challenges, too, though. I idea of not being "worthy" enough to go to your own kid's wedding left a very sour taste in my family members' mouths and I had to make up a lot of groundwork before they were settled with the idea. In order for you to enjoy the spirit of the temple at it's fullest capacity, you need to make sure your family is on the same page.
This doesn't mean you need to need to smear your declaration of faith on the wall in pigs blood while lighting the couch on fire. Instead, go do baptisms for the dead every week and tell your family about it. And start sharing these experiences well before you're intending on getting married. It's never too soon to start testifying of the importance of a temple marriage. They may not appreciate the spiritual stories as much as you'd like, but they'll sure enjoy your story about the temple matron stealing your towel while you were in the shower. More importantly, as you communicate your continuous dedication to serving in the temple, they'll start to understand that the temple is a special place to you. Don't be afraid to be excited and to share that with them-- after all, they are your family and they do want you to be happy.
2. Keep your family busy while they're waiting
Family isn't always going to understand why the temple is so important. They may respect your wishes and they may be good sports about it, but they still may not get it. My mom's humor is even more bone dry than mine, and before the wedding she'd joke how embarrassing it was going to be to have to hang out with all the "second string" wedding guests that didn't make the "Temple cut." Although I knew she was joking, I also knew there was a little bit of truth behind what she was saying-- she was the mother of the bride and had to wait outside like she was a "close family friend" instead of my mother. With that in mind, I knew she and my brother would need something to do.
So I put them in charge of water bottles.
I know this sounds silly, but hear me out. We got married in the middle of July and I knew it was going to be hotter than Hades while we were taking pictures. So I asked my mom and my brother to be in charge of discreetly bringing a cooler of water bottles to the temple for our guests to drink. It made them feel much more included and gave them something to do (i.e. hiding it from the grounds workers) while they waited.
Additionally, our sealer-- an incredible man-- made a point of finding my mom and my brother directly after we had been sealed to explain to them a little about what had just happened and to answer any questions they had. Although they were pretty well versed at that point, they really appreciated the gesture and ended up talking to him for some time after the wedding. Make a point of asking your sealer to do the same and I promise your family will be grateful for the consideration.
3. Take a minute to miss your family
Sometimes we make the mistake that once we enter the temple, all our negative feelings are supposed to go away immediately and if they don't you're doing something wrong. I myself fell into the trap of thinking that feelings of grief, anxiety, and frustration were not allowed beyond the reception desk. There was a moment when I was receiving my endowment, however, amidst all the joy and fascination, that it hit me that on this very important, very special day, my mom wasn't there. And my mom wouldn't be there at my sealing either. Suddenly, I felt very, very empty inside, like I was deflating. Normally I would have felt guilty for thinking of such a "selfish" thing when I was supposed to be focussed, but in that moment, I was very, very unhappy and I wanted to stay that way for a little while. As my heart was breaking, though, I finally created an opening for the Spirit to heal and comfort me. I was literally filled with the Holy Ghost that confirmed to me that I had every right to feel that way, and that through Jesus Christ I could be made whole again.
Did I cry? Like a baby. Did I feel better? DEFINITELY. So take a minute to actively miss your family. It's okay to get weepy at random times during the endowment session and for people to stare. It's okay to be a little jealous that the especially-perky girl sitting next to you has filled half the room with her especially-perky family members. And it's okay to take a minute in the bathroom after your mother-in-law tries to fix your hair, but she doesn't do it the way your mom does. It's okay. The temple is a place for imperfect people to feel imperfect and to be filled with the healing balm of the Holy Ghost.
BUT AFTER THAT, TAKE THINGS INTO PERSPECTIVE.
You're family may not be sealed for time and all eternity, but remember: you're not sealed for time and all eternity, yet. You don't have to feel weird sining "Families Can Be Together Forever" because one day, one way or another, you WILL be together forever! One day, the most important people in your life will come to know the joy and the blessings that come with a life filled with the light of Jesus Christ-- and what a day that will be. Your wedding day is just one more day to navigate, but I promise-- if you emphasize the importance of the temple and rely on the guidance and love of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, you'll be partying with your weird dad and your too-cool brother and your darling mother in the Kingdom of God in no time.