Kelsey: Bridesmaiding

Lessons learned in the trenches

This summer, in addition to getting married myself, I also get to be a bridesmaid; once at the end of the summer and once this week. I’m thrilled—I’ve never actually been asked to be a bridesmaid before. I’ve done a lot of day-of coordinating. I’ve been a florist. We’ve baked a wedding cake. Once, some friends and I self-appointed ourselves “bridal attendants” at a spur-of-the-moment “welding” ceremony in Oakland, but this is my first time serving in the official matching dress brigade. So far? I’ve learned that there’s much more to it than developing bustling skills and getting to go to an increased number of champagne happy hours. Just like so many other things wedding-related, bridesmaiding involves much more than the plans and expectations of two people getting married; or in this case the plans and expectations of two friends.

One of my friends, E, asked me if I’d be a bridesmaid months before she was actually engaged, while feeling sentimental during one of our wine-fueled game nights. She had it all planned out: her two childhood friends (plus me) would stand by her side after suitable amounts of pre-wedding debauchery. But when the time came and E got engaged, other people started to weigh in with opinions about this wedding she had lovingly created in her mind. One of those people was the groom. He had strong feelings pertaining to having equal numbers on each side of the bridal party. (He had also had his groomsmen identified long before he was engaged—all five of them.) E realized this was a great opportunity to add to an experience she was already gleefully anticipating, selected another two gals for her side of the aisle, and never looked back.

My other friend, K, is one of my oldest friends. We grew up together, and we remain close friends with the other three girls in our childhood group. As the members of our clan have gotten married off one by one, we have had numerous discussions about being, or not being, each other’s bridesmaids. Quantity has always been the limiting factor here—since there are five of us, and no one wants to leave anyone out, if you want to include this group of friends, plus any family members, and, perhaps, any other friends you’ve made in the last twenty years, you have the potential for quite a bevy of bridesmaids. When K got engaged, she wanted an all-friend bridal brigade. When she announced this intention, she was immediately pressured by various family members to cut her numbers. Such a large group of bridesmaids would be… tacky. So, she gave in, because she wanted everyone to be happy, and because someone else always knows how things are supposed to be, and because everyone knows we must avoid tacky at all costs when planning a wedding. But she couldn’t quite get past the feeling that what was right for her was to have all of her closest friends by her side. Then she remembered that before she was a bride, she was first a badass, and she didn’t really care about what it’s supposed to look like. K reclaimed her original ideal wedding party, and asked a second round of friends to be her attendants.

One of the things making my inaugural bridesmaid experience so interesting is that both of these weddings are so different from my own. E is getting married in Boulder at a country club, K’s wedding will be at swanky beachfront venue in California. I helped to plan E’s local bachelorette party, complete with coordinating outfits, bachelorette scavenger hunt, and hot pink Hummer limo. Those particular traditions don’t work for our wedding, or for me as a bride—but I love participating in them for E’s sake. Sadly, I’ll miss K’s Las Vegas-based bachelorette extravaganza, just like I’ll miss her shower. I feel terrible about missing out on her events, and even mentioned this to her when she asked me to be a bridesmaid. I told her I just didn’t think I’d be a very good one. “All I want is for you to be standing next to me when I get married,” she said. “That’s all that matters to me.”

It’s been a tough season for some of the people we love. Tough enough that planning a wedding and handling the logistics that are a necessary part of the event can sometimes seem trivial. We’ve also started to get back RSVP’s and our first smattering of “celebrating from afar” responses. Jules and I have started to have the tiny, insistent thought in the backs of our minds that maybe our wedding is indeed an imposition—taking people’s time and money, causing inconvenience. I am grateful for the opportunity to do some bridesmaiding for K and E this summer, because I’m very clear on how I feel about both of those weddings. I did buy two dresses, and the shoes. Participating in these weddings will cost me time as well, which is not particularly convenient for me at the moment. But getting to be a bridesmaid is much much better than convenience. It’s a joy to celebrate, an honor to have been included, a delight for me to give my time and resources to these friends in this way. And a relief that rather than asking others to give their time to me, I get to give mine instead.

I stood very still in a woman’s crowded living room one afternoon last week, admiring her collection of Jesus themed decorative wall plates as she folded and pinned the bust on first one royal blue dress, and then another in a slightly different shade. “It’s a good color on you,” she said.  I agreed. “You’re lucky!” she said, pinning me with glee, while I cringed and thanked God that I’m not better endowed. “I am very lucky.” I replied.

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