Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
Last Saturday, wearing a pink tie, exhausted from an early morning flight from LA, I entered an uncomfortable church to serve as bridesmaid to a girl that I had only met twice. For weeks I had been joking about the color of my dress, how I would do my hair and the ever cliche "are you going to catch the bouquet." As a travel writer, I found myself constantly searching for an "angle" on the story. This means finding the drama, and what that means is spotting what can go wrong.
The wedding was a unique merging of two people from very different worlds. The groom, my cousin, came from a family who valued fancy things like fancy shirts, expensive shoes and share the overall belief that a vacation isn't a vacation unless 1000 thread count sheets, butlers and caviar are involved. The bride, whom I was chosen to represent came from a family whose passions didn't necessarily align with those of my own family. Simply stated, where as my father enjoyed looking at birds, her family enjoyed killing them.
While one part of me identified with the importance of the day for my cousin and his fiance, another part of me needed the drama. As I considered differences in social status and religious background, I salivated at the idea that somehow things HAD to go askew. Somehow, like most things in my life, something would pop up that I could really sink my teeth into and I'd leave with an unrivaled slice of life piece on a wedding day gone hilariously array.
I arrived and things were going perfectly according to plan. One of the bridesmaids, also a male, and the 21 year old best friend and father-in-law of the bride was driving in from New Orleans, Louisiana where he had been working and as the clock raced towards the 3:30 wedding time, he was nowhere to be seen. Upon his arrival into town, my cousin the groom vanished as well to buy him a shirt. Speculation about the shirt ran amok. What would he be wearing? He had been awake for 35 hours.
I entered the Oklahoma church and went down to the recreation room. On the wall, hanging just above a pool table in a room full of games, was a massive poster covered in colorful child-sized hand prints and just under proclaiming that "everyday 29,000 people die." I rolled my eyes at the absurd poster, certain that no God that I would ever believe in would make that phrase the joyful focal point of a church. I certainly wouldn't want to be married in a house with such a morbidly misrepresented proclamation. The preacher was an unsmiling man of 50 or so with piercing eyes and a cold handshake. Right in line with the type of person who would allow such absurd posters to hang on the wall.
I heard whisperings of arguments throughout my family. The absence of the mother of the groom was also topic of speculation. Having recently divorced herself, she was resistant to come to the wedding which was the cause of much discussion. My phone dinged with texts of people checking in to see how beautiful i looked in my bridesmaid dress. The best friend/brother-in-law screamed in just under the wire in a ball cap, shorts and a tee shirt, which contrasted profoundly against the otherwise immaculately dressed guests and groomsmen. The table was set for insanity.
With no music, her mother on one arm and her father-in-law, now in a suit, on the other, the bride walked down the aisle. Everyone watched. The reached the alter. The priest had them decree their love for one another. He read scripture and they said their vows and as they spoke them her mother cried. After the kiss, my cousin held her for an almost uncomfortably long period of time, savoring the moment that they had just magically shared in front of everyone who loved them. The preacher then erroneously pronounced them husband and wife but of the wrong last name and they walked out the aisle.
At the reception the mother and father-in-law of the bride told me the unique back story in how two people with such an age variance met and fell in love. He told me how his wife had talked to him on the phone for most of the last 15 hours to keep him awake to share this moment with her daughter. To think that at one point so many people were concerned about what he would be wearing instead of the sacrifice he made to be there.
Lots of people with great anticipation, asked me what my take on the wedding would be for a story. As I tried to answer I became awash with guilt. So trained was I in finding the conflict that even as a bridesmaid, couldn't just sit back and see the good in it. So wrapped up was I in what I didn't grasp about the church that I judged a place where people went when they were afraid, alive or in love.
So wrapped up was I in what makes us different people that I didn't see how we were all being unified, then there with my pink tie on, in his father's living room, I watched how happy Morgan and Angel his wife were as they danced to a song played on a single guitar. There in my pink tie realized why I was there and what the story was about. Them and that beautiful, pure moment where two lives come together, temporarily free from fear and judgment, even if only in one another's arms, surrounded by the love unique only to them. Congrats, guys.