Second Time Bridesmaid: The Fiercest Kind of Love


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Second Time Bridesmaid: The Fiercest Kind of Love | A Practical Wedding

I was a bridesmaid this weekend. I always joke that our friends are not the (traditional, bridesmaid having) marrying type, and by and large they are not. That comes from a deeply bizarre mix of growing up around poverty and having slightly bohemian friends. But I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, both times for my friend Lacey. The first time was ten years ago when we were 20, and the second was this weekend when we were 31. The fact that the wedding party was a group of girls that have known each other for twenty years tells you much of what you need to know about our hometown and the kind of intense loyalty growing up in a very difficult place engenders. For me, the wedding was about the story of the last ten years, the growing up we’ve all done, loss, and the profound hope of love.

I get a lot of emails about second weddings. I hear a lot about ladies who are terrified how their community might judge them—ladies who are worried whether they deserve a party the second time around. Here is what I learned this weekend: chances are, this fear could not be farther from reality.

As bridesmaids, this was not our first time at the rodeo. We knew a thing or two about getting the bride dressed, making sure the groomsman behaved (at least till after the ceremony—shots!), and setting up centerpieces. Ten years ago, we’d done what on paper looked like the same tasks, and we’d worked hard trying to get it right. But none of that compared to the ferocity of love present at a second wedding with a crowd of women who have walked through the fire together and who know what love and loss look like. Ten years ago, I worked hard to make Lacey happy on her wedding day. This weekend, I would have walked on water to make her happy, and all the other girls felt the same way. When someone you love has walked a hard path with grace and found someone who really makes them happy and adores them just the way they are? That is the kind of love you fight for, curl hair for, set up centerpieces for, wrangle tuxes for, line up groomsmen for, wipe tears for, and throw confetti for.

Going into the weekend, I had a sense of just how hard everyone was loving Lacey and Ric. But I thought, on some level, that we’d pretend the last ten years didn’t exist. That to make room for love, we’d let everything else go. What I hadn’t realized was the way that weddings allow you to hold many conflicting things in your heart at once. They allow your heart to enlarge; they let you access the rooms whose doors you’d locked.

On Saturday, all of the last ten years were in the room at once. I watched Lacey read her vows (off her phone!) thought about how wonderful it was that she finally had found someone who deserved her. I watched her dance with her eleven-year-old son, and teared up thinking about how I used to spoon baby food into his mouth while gossiping with Lacey about my over-wrought collegiate dating life. I watched Lacey’s tiny niece, a flower girl, spin around the dance floor, thought of her as a baby, and hoped for the future.

Second Time Bridesmaid: The Fiercest Kind of Love | A Practical Wedding

And then there was the loss. Two years ago, we lost Niki, one of the bridesmaids in the last wedding, to H1N1 (horrible and senseless). She died suddenly and young, and she left behind two small boys. I thought, somehow, that we’d make it through this weekend by not thinking too much about it. That we couldn’t wish the best for Lacey and Ric while mourning the loss of Niki. I was wrong. Niki’s mom came to the wedding, and sought each of us girls out, hugged us, and talked to us. She told us it was important for her to be there. She told us about the end, but she also told us that she wanted the best for each of us in the future. And then, after we all group hugged her crying, she whispered, “Stay together girls.” And so, we will.

This weekend we helped usher a new marriage into the world, and we watched explosive joy share the stage with loss and hope. We felt our hearts expand. And what we’re left with is nothing but the fiercest best wishes for Lacey and for Ric, the newest member of our tribe.

That is what weddings are for. Remembering. Love. Hope for the future. And allowing your community to lift you up. Especially after you’ve walked through the fire. Most especially then.

Pictures: Rory Gordon Photo (APW Sponsor). Hint: I’m the one in the slightly brighter purple. More on that amazing dress to come…

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://www.safarimama.blog.com Manya

    Oh Meg. I didn’t make it past this:

    “When someone you love has walked a hard path with grace and found someone who really makes them happy and adores them just the way they are? That is the kind of love you fight for…”

    Yeah. You basically had me (weeping) at hello.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.com Amanda

      Yeah. yes to this Manya. I had this exact same phrase “copied” and ready to cite for emphasis.

      “When someone you love has walked a hard path with grace and found someone who really makes them happy and adores them just the way they are? That is the kind of love you fight for, curl hair for, set up centerpieces for, wrangle tuxes for, line up groomsmen for, wipe tears for, and throw confetti for.”

      As always, Meg nailing it. Thanks for this. We are preparing my little sister’s wedding, and this just came perfect. I am sorry for the loss of Niki. But she will always be a part of you girls, of everyone that loves her.

      • Cass

        “That is the kind of love you fight for, curl hair for, set up centerpieces for, wrangle tuxes for, line up groomsmen for, wipe tears for, and throw confetti for.”
        I think this sums up exactly why we all attend a wedding.

  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com/ my honest answer

    Oh this made me tear up! So sorry for the loss of your friend. It sounds like you have all dealt with a lot with grace and dignity these past few years, especially her mom. Best of luck to Lacey and Ric, they sound like a great couple.

  • Carbon Girl

    Meg, what a beautiful story and piece of writing. Your writing just keeps getting better and better! I love when we get posts from you.

  • Msimon

    I’m a long-time (looong, long time) reader but rarely, if ever, comment but…WOW. Tears are streaming down my face after reading this. So beautiful and so true. Thanks for sharing.

  • Emily

    Aw man, I like to check APW over breakfast, and this was one of those first thing in the morning cry posts. I am so sorry that you lost Niki, and so glad you are there to support each other in sadness and in joy (and her mom too, oh my goodness I read this half an hour ago and I’m crying AGAIN). Wow.

  • http://Www.laughterinthelou.com Emma

    “And so, we will.”

    Very well written.

  • G

    Yes. As I get older I find I take more from the weddings I go to, second or first. They’re for friends who (in the bad times) I have seen struggle, fight, lose jobs, get sick and recover from bad decisions. My happiness and appreciation for them is beyond what I felt for my friends who married young, because we hadn’t been through as much yet (although I was very happy for them too). Second, and older, weddings also renew my faith that despite hard times, there can be happiness at the end.

    • Class of 1980

      That is what life is like for me in my early fifties. EVERYTHING has more layers. Everything is becoming richer! I can’t look at a young person as just who they are at this moment. I see their life stages and challenges looming ahead more clearly. And I see current events from a position of a wider context. Gosh, what must it feel like to be 100?

      • Emily

        That’s so inspiring to hear. I hope to see the world and people with increasing complexity as life goes on!

  • http://carmarblogs.blogspot.com CarMar

    Such a beautiful post, Meg. What you said about weddings allowing you to hold many conflicting things in your heart at once is so true.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    This feels like a duh thing to say, since you clearly ended the post on this because it’s so true and so deep… but this still got me right in the gut as the why of weddings:

    “That is what weddings are for. Remembering. Love. Hope for the future. And allowing your community to lift you up. Especially after you’ve walked through the fire. Most especially then.”

    Most especially then, indeed.

  • Harriet

    Beautiful post, Meg–it’s an honor to read it. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Stephanie

    This was so beautiful to read. Makes me really love and appreciate my girlfriends.

  • Granola

    I know that I’m missing the point of this incredibly touching post, but my first thought when I saw the photo was “I wonder where they got those dresses…” so I am really looking forward to the follow-up post on it.

    Congrats to your friend and you. Such a meaningful ceremony is a gift for everyone involved.

    • meg

      I got mine from Shop Joielle (APW Sponsor, full details to come). All the other dresses were David’s Bridal. So both sources are totally easy!

      • Granola

        Thanks!

  • http://www.allisonandres.com AllisonAndres

    This was really beautiful, Meg.

    I’ve been a bridesmaid once and really, I was the Matron of Honor and the only one standing up for the Bride. All of the fierce emotional force of being a member of a wedding party fell on me alone. It was a wonderful experience.
    To add to this, the parents of the groom were going through a divorce and it was tearing the poor girl apart. The only thing I could do was hold my head high, lace up her corset, and keep her smiling. I truly wanted my love for her to lift her up to her new husband so they could start their new life off on the right foot.

    I know it’s been quoted by another commenter but this is how I can reflect on that day:
    “That is what weddings are for. Remembering. Love. Hope for the future. And allowing your community to lift you up. Especially after you’ve walked through the fire. Most especially then.”

  • Moz

    Weddings rule so very hard.

  • http://webecomeus.wordpress.com Caitlin

    “That is the kind of love you fight for, curl hair for, set up centerpieces for, wrangle tuxes for, line up groomsmen for, wipe tears for, and throw confetti for.” — those are the weddings at which I LOVE being a bridesmaid. When you love that incredible couple so much that you work your butt off trying to make their day as perfect as possible.

    This is incredible, Meg. Such powerful words to describe an amazing day.

  • Sharon

    Thank you for this post. At a time where I’m struggling with my feelings about my own recent wedding, and attending beautiful weddings of our friends, your post reminds me what is truly powerful about them. That it’s not about the details or the speeches gone wrong. That despite one or two negative family members, there were still a lot more people there loving, supporting, and cheering us on that day.

    It’s about love. And community. And friendship.

    Thanks, Meg.

  • barb

    This. So much. Weddings and loss are very much entangled. Our hearts are huge. Awesome (in the classic sense).

  • Class of 1980

    “On Saturday, all of the last ten years were in the room at once.”

    Life is holistic. You can’t edit any part of it out, or else what’s left doesn’t have any context.

  • Kelley

    “Fiercely” is the best possible word choice. It really sums everything up perfectly, both for well-wishers and the couple themselves. Not “hoping,” not “best wishing” not “fingers crossing.” Loving fiercely…beautiful.

  • http://www.moodeous.com Kristy

    God. I keep thinking I need to call my BFF, but this is the nail in the coffin. Time moves too quickly. Thanks Meg. <3

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com meghan

    And do I spy your silver wedding shoes?

    • meg

      You doooooo! Of course.

      • Class of 1980

        Don’t those shoes have an official name yet? Something like “Meg’s Lucky Silver Slippers”?

  • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

    “And then, after we all group hugged her crying, she whispered, “Stay together girls.” And so, we will.”

    I love that, even as your friend was making vows to her husband, you girls were making vows to each other. I think that’s exactly the kind of community work a wedding does and should do. *hugs*

  • http://www.rorygordonphoto.com rorygordon

    This is so eloquent Meg! I was really hoping editing those teary shots was going to be the last time I got sniffly over this wedding but that’s out the window now. I feel so honored to have a played a tiny part in this celebration…

  • http://www.jayleephotography.net Josh

    What an incredible post, Meg. My lovely wife didn’t exactly have the most supportive and awesome bridesmaids when we got hitched in June, so it’s refreshing and inspiring to know that this kind of love and selflessness still does exist amongst friends. Thank you for sharing such an intimate story, and for getting me all misty at this unfortunately busy Starbucks I’m sitting in.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    It’s not “no matter what happened before”, it’s because of what happened before, what will happen, what we can’t dream of happening, that we celebrate a marriage and all the potential it holds and all that it took to get there.

  • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com/ ka

    Beautiful.

    I think the loss can’t help but magnify the joy. Or at least make it that much more precious. I lost an incredible childhood friends at 19, and almost 10 years later at my wedding last month her two best friends and I huddled together talking and remembering and crying. I too didn’t expect that to happen, but I was so so glad that it did. For a moment it was like she was with us in that circle and that was a monumental gift.

  • http://bettencourtchase.blogspot.com Helen

    Yep. Totally teary-eyed. Meg, I love it when you post/write for APW in a form longer than just the opening/closing comments on another post. :)

    Thanks for sharing.

    • meg

      I write once a week, long form silly! Don’t you guys notice?? :)

  • Meg

    Beautiful post, Meg. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.asafemooring.blogspot.com Kirsty {a safe mooring}

    Sounds like a wonderful, joyful wedding. I wish Lacey and Ric and their family every happiness in the whole wide world.

  • http://www.agirlherblog.com/ agirl

    Beautiful post. Also? Beautiful pins. ;)

  • http://thebestofintentions.tumblr.com/ Sarah

    I also spent this past weekend with some of my best friends celebrating the wedding of a lovely couple and remembering someone we lost. Three years ago, just two months after we graduated from college, one of our very close guy friends passed away due to injuries from a four-wheeler accident.

    We huddled together and sang along as the DJ played a few of our favorite songs. I held back tears and cherished the smiles of girls whose faces I don’t get to see nearly enough. In those moments I repeated the promise I make to myself every time they are within arms length: That no matter the time or distance between us, I will always do everything to make sure they know just how much I love them.

    Dylan was wonderful and I miss him so much. His smile was absolutely contagious and his sense of humor came with spot on timing. I am grateful for every moment we shared, every song we sang, every beer we drank.

    But the thing I am maybe most grateful for, is the way in which his passing has solidified our friendship. In missing him, we are brought back to each other. And I don’t want to know what my life would be like without those girls.

  • Rebecca

    tears…everywhere. great post.

  • http://halfpintwords.wordpress.com Christen

    Oh, love. So much love. And the best kinds of love. My heart is tingly.

  • http://teaandcookiesblog.com Tea

    Oh Meg, damn. Tears at my desk. So real, so true.

  • Jessica

    This is probably the first thing I’ve ever read/heard that’s made me think that having bridesmaids could be something nicer than a pain in the ass for everyone involved. Meg, you always make me think/tear up.

  • http://onwardfulltilt.blogspot.com Caitlin

    Incredible piece of writing, so moving, so much goodness in one piece. Love and loss and friendship and moving forward and finding love again. Beautiful.

  • http://www.cassieboorn.com Cassie Boorn

    This post gave me chills. So good!