Being a part of someone’s wedding is such a splendid thing: it causes yours and another’s lives to become intertwined by sharing in this rhapsodic and romantic life event.You get to wear fancy costumes, learn special lines and choreography, carry props, get recorded and photographed (is it just me, or does this sound a lot like theater?) Plus there are gorgeous flowers, gorgeous music, gorgeous guests and delicious food and drink, to boot.
A little over three years ago I was delighted to be, for the very first time, Mother of the Groom. It would be Son II’s wedding. Then just two months later, I got to reprise this role in Son III’s wedding — how cool is that? And then, about a year and a half ago, I performed my third swirling pirouette as MOTG. What a wonderful role to play! Fewer expectations and so much less stress than the bride’s mother, yet all the fun of being at the 50 yard line for one of your offspring’s nuptials. Each of these three weddings was as unique and memorable as the individual couples who planned them, yet are equally sublime occasions in my life as a parent. (I know, I know — my fourth being a daughter, that whole high-expectation-high-stress MOTB experience awaits…)
Before any these lovely affairs, though, I was thrice a bridesmaid. The first time was when I stood up with a college friend whose groom was my husband’s very best friend. The next time, I stood beside my older brother’s bride — oh, how incredibly happy I was for them! And then a few years later, it would be my little sister at the altar. I admit that I couldn’t quite get through that one without tearing up… no one had given me a heads up on how that would hit me.
Of course, I was once the Bride, as well, and that day was a most singular experience. I was primed to be the center of attention for a day, relishing the flow of joyous felicitations from family, friends and guests, allowing their joining with us in celebration to launch us over the threshold and into our desired and chosen future. It wasn’t that our wedding was more elegant or stately or chic or distinctive than any of the countless other weddings that took place in the world on that June weekend in 1972 — it was just that it was ours.
But none of these wedding experiences was actually my first. No, my career as a Member of the Wedding Party commenced much, much earlier than any of these fine and fabulous occasions. I, in fact, debuted as a MOTWP when I was five. That’s right — I got to be a Flower Girl.
Words might fail to express the rapture I felt when my aunt asked me to do the honors. Actually, delirium would come close. This would surely be the zenith of my young life and I was determined to make everyone sooooo proud of me, especially my aunt and her fiance. My soon-to-be uncle’s young neice had also been asked to share the role, so I had the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t have to stride solo down the carpeted aisle.
My mom performed seamstress duties for both the bridesmaids and flower girls dresses, so people came and went at various intervals for fittings. I loved watching the garments come together — gorgeous pink shantung princess style dresses with matching boleros. And our flower girl garb was to-die-for: dresses that echoed the styling of the bridesmaids, the shoes and anklets, the gloves, the hair accessories — we would be the toast of the town.
The big weekend finally arrived and Flower Girl II and I found ourselves on tap at the wedding rehearsal. We were duly instructed as to how to carry out our unique responsibilities, which didn’t seem all that complicated to me: wait until the Matron of honor reaches the altar, then take a little step, pause, take another step, pause, strew the carpet with fragrant pink rose petals, smile, take another little step, pause, strew, smile, ad infinitum — I mean, how hard could this be?
Before I knew it, it was Show Time and I was standing in the foyer, fully garbed, ready to execute the plan. Oh my, no one told me about the butterflies. I pretended they weren’t anything to be concerned about. FG II seemed to be holding up okay, and since my aunt had entrusted me with this weighty responsibility, I just needed to buck up and fulfill my commitment. The pianist played, the church pews filled with guests, and suddenly someone signaled for the attendants to begin their procession. And that’s when things began to unravel.
I watched as the bridesmaid glided down the aisle. Elegantly. Beautifully. The matron of honor followed suit. As she neared the altar, the reality of what I had originally thought to be such a grand idea hit me like a Mack truck. What was I thinking? Why did I ever say yes? If I run out that door behind me could I ever show my face again? Why does every stinkin’ person in this church have their eyes locked on us? Am I going to barf?
The jumble of thoughts and feelings inside my head made me a little dizzy, but when the maid of honor got to the altar and turned to face me and FG II, somehow — and I can’t exactly explain how — I overcame the inertia and my feet began to move. One and then the other. Wait, was it step, pause, petals, smile? Or step, pause, smile, petals? And why hadn’t I thought to ask before now how long our strides should be? And just how many petals we should strew at a time?
The confusion grew worse until the little hard drive in my brain froze up, at which point some kind of autopilot kicked in and I watched myself lurch robot-like down that pristine white runner in an out-of-body-like experience. The aisle must have been at least a mile long and I feared collapse before reaching the end. About half way to our destination, I glanced to my left and realized that my partner in this little drama had frozen face syndrome, too. Guests could just forget right then and there thinking they’d see as much as a hint of a smile from either one of us. I saw her shaky little hand reach into her basket and grab a big old gob of petals and release the clump right next to the basket, so they landed on her poufy dress, and not onto the carpet, to prepare the way for the bride. Oh great, they gave us ONE thing to do and here we are screwing it up! I concluded that our mechanical and somber performance was a fiasco that everyone would be disappointed. I dreaded the comments that would no doubt follow the ceremony.
Well, knock me over with a feather! — the wedding guests had nary a negative thing to say. In fact, they gushed stuff about us being charming or cute or adorable — whatever. I thought these people were a either a little daft, hadn’t had a good view of the center aisle, or just wanted to make two little girls forget a spectacularly miserable performance. But I didn’t fret about it very long, since this was turning into an unexpected reprieve, and I would very likely be able to show my face again. Exhale. Where’s the cake?
By the end of the day, I had made a couple of observations: just because you want something so bad you can taste it doesn’t necessarily mean it will turn out to be quite as wonderful in real life as it is in your fantasies. And also, when you wipe out, there will be people who will cut you slack, allow you be human, and accept you anyway.
And you will love them for it.