Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bridal brigade

I have been thinking a lot about bridesmaids.

When Jacob and I first began planning this wedding, I was adamant: No bridesmaids! No flowergirls! Keep it simple!

Jacob is a beautiful man because he had no problem with this. You see, in those opening stages of wedding planning, all I could picture in my head was Jacob and I underneath a chuppah, promising very scary,very thrilling and very resonant things.

Really, that was it. It was like that scene in West Side Story when they meet at the party and everyone is fuzzed out except for Tony and Maria. You know the one? Well, tragic ending aside, that was me. I was Maria and this vision of a couple standing by themselves was Tony.

I was dominated by this sense that community was nice and all but it doesn't keep your marriage together. Family doesn't keep your marriage together. Friends don't keep your marriage together. And isn't that what a bridal party symbolizes? People who will support your marriage?

But only Jacob and I have the power to keep our marriage together.

The phrasing of that should be noticed. I was thinking within the fear that this marriage will turn out like my last marriage. I was viewing the institution of marriage as a medium that would affect the message of my life. As if it were marriage itself that hurt me and not the man I married. The last time I was married, none of those people could help me when my ex-husband was done putting effort into building a life with me. So, if they couldn't help me then (not for lack of trying), why pretend in this ceremony that they will be able to help me this time around? And since weddings are the common denominator of the two marriages, I felt like this wedding should be totally different from the last wedding.

But lately, I have been thinking a lot about bridesmaids.

I have been wanting to be celebrated.

I am a bridesmaid in one of my closest friend's wedding this summer. I have been to meetings with the other bridesmaids. I have been to two showers. I will go to a family dinner at the Melting Pot the evening after I graduate and before I leave the next morning to attend my cousin's wedding. I have bought one shower gift and made another. I am making a personalized wedding lap quilt for their present. I bought a watermelon-colored polyester bubble-skirt dress. I will be there the day before the wedding all day and the day of the wedding all day.

I mock the frenzy of it sometimes but I have not had one moment of resentment in my heart over any of it. There are easy things to incorporate into the rhythms of my week. I want to contribute to the happiness of Erika's marriage and this is the way she has asked me to do so.

Erika deserves to be celebrated. This is a wonderful thing that she and Brian are about to do. I don't ever want her to doubt it.

So, we shower her with gifts and lunch and manicures and Diet Doctor Pepper. We reassure her that her family is not that crazy. On that weekend, we won't let her out of our sight so that if her courage falters, we will be there to prop her up.

On Sunday, I went and represented my church it a Mission Fair at a suburban church. On the car ride out, it turns out that my partner's husband was secular Buddhist when they got married. The pastor representing a ministry at the table next to us is married to a Sikh. As we talked about interfaith marriages, I admitted that I feel a little bit of doubt every day and I hate it that I'm not rolling into this marriage with utterly committed enthusiasm and optimism. I worry because this isn't as emotionally easy as it seems to be for my other friends who have been brides. Both women assured me that this was totally normal. That as long as I feel joy every day and that Jacob makes me laugh every day and that I dream a little bit about our life together every day, it will be just fine.

I need more of that propping up in my life. Jacob is great but he has a slight bias that makes him untrustworthy (only in this area).

So, I have been thinking about bridesmaids.

Because would I do all that I am doing for Erika if I didn't have the title? Probably not. I wouldn't make room in my life for all of it if I didn't feel like I was super-special to Erika. Does that make me small and petty? Maybe just a little.

I guess my fear is that if I don't make my girlfriends wear matching dresses, they won't make room in their lives for all the little celebrations that bolster a bride and groom and remind them that this is a good decision that they're making. I want to see that all these women love me so maybe it's won't feel like such a crazy thing to believe that this man loves me.

I recently read about a bridal brigade (via Meg at A Practical Wedding, of course). The version that she wrote about was along the line of most "offbeat" brides that I've been reading about who gather up all of their friends and put them to work to pull off a wedding that is a "perfect reflection of us." I'm not too keen on being the project manager for this spiritual event, although I know that really works for some people and I totally respect their use of community. Mostly, it's because I don't want to think about any logistics at all during my wedding weekend and every one of these brides say, "We worked SO hard."

However, I think the basic concept could work for me. By asking my friends to be part of a formal group, with a name, I might make them feel special and included, which is an act that has inherent value. As I ask each one I can be honest and vulnerable about my fears of not being celebrated and having to be strong all by myself. I can give them each others' phone numbers and email addresses and set them loose. In fact, as I have been having preliminary conversations with some of them, two have already pre-empted me and asked if they could host a shower. This just might work.

In the beginning stages of this wedding planning process, I saw bridesmaids as symbolic of the community effort it takes to keep a marriage together. It's possible that I am guilty of a little wrong thinking. My marriage to Jacob is an entirely different creature than my marriage to Dennis. It's like the difference between homo sapiens and orangutans. Both use tools. Only one doesn't throw its own shit.

Likewise, both marriages start with a wedding but only one will nurture me, support me and allow me to be more fully myself than I ever would have been alone. Alone I was successful but together I get the opportunity to reciprocate that nurturing and support with someone who lets me in to the most vulnerable parts of his life.

If it takes a few (or 15) women to get me to that place, Jacob and I won't need anyone else to keep our marriage together.

I have been thinking about bridesmaids.

But I should have been thinking about bridal brigades.


Rachel said...

If I go into the wilds again, I'm going to remember this:

"It's like the difference between homo sapiens and orangutans. Both use tools. Only one doesn't throw its own shit."

Anonymous said...

Okay - so I didn't laugh out loud this time, but I did cry a little. I am honored to be part of the bridal brigade that celebrates you and your marriage to Jacob

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. I think there is a middle ground here. I hate the artificiality of bridesmaids, but I want to be propped up too. My nearest and dearest have been amazing at finding the middle ground--letting me be fussed over and helping each other out without the awkward formality of "bridesmaid"ness. It all feels right. We don't need the formula. You can pull this off too!