Reflections of a Bridesmaid
There are moments in life that seem to stop temporarily, allowing you can take it all in. The birth of a child, for instance, or in this case, the wedding of a close friend. These are the moments that provide joy, warmth, and an overall sense of well-being. All of the other worries in the world disappear for awhile because what matters most is already there sharing the moment with you. When these moments are over, you know that every sacrifice made, every challenge overcame, everything beyond your control that you had to let go of was all worth it just to share that experience with those you love.
The Bride and Bridesmaids
I have known Cheryl half of my life, about 16 years now. We were roommates in college, first on campus and then off campus. I should have known two of the other bridesmaids from my college days, but I only knew one of them. I have known Paige for about as long as I have known Cheryl. Paige even lived with Cheryl and me for a year. Somehow, though I knew of Diana's existence, I never met her in college, probably because I turned down Cheryl's invitations to go dancing with them. (In my defense, if you ever see me trip over my own feet trying to line dance, you will understand why I do not go dancing. It might look cool in my mind, but in reality, I probably look more like a fish standing on her fins flailing around in the air. I would be the laughing stock of YouTube since people do not let others make a fool of themselves in peace anymore.) I guess it was my overall loss, however, because Diana is a very nice person and she did a fantastic job as maid of honor. The other two ladies are beautiful people as well. One of them was her brother's wife, and the other one was her husband's sister. Cheryl can now call both of those lovely ladies sister-in-laws. Some sisters by chance and some sisters by choice, but all of us family to Cheryl and each of us unique in our personalities.
Unlike many brides, perhaps, Cheryl allowed us all to remain individual while at the same time maintaining the uniform style of her wedding. It is no surprise, though, that Cheryl was not a demanding bridezilla. She is just not that kind of person. Cheryl is the supportive, selfless type. When I decided to get married, she was there to help, offering excitement and encouragement. Unfortunately, all of our wedding plans fell through when the pastor canceled, so I never had a wedding, though I did get married. Nonetheless, I still remember Cheryl's enthusiastic support.
In fact, Cheryl has always been there when others were not. She stuck around through the most difficult challenges of my life, never once making me feel judged or not good enough to be her friend. Like family members who may lose contact with one another for awhile, if that happens it is always temporary. We find each other again and pick up where we left off. It is comfortable and easy that way, but thankfully, those times are rare. I love her deeply and have a strong sense of loyalty to those I love, which is one of the many reasons I can easily laugh now about things that once annoyed me. Like the time Cheryl borrowed my air mattress without permission to use as a flotation device in a lake.
The funny thing is that Diana mentioned that incident in her maid of honor speech, completely unaware it was my mattress that they used. Diana's story was very sweet, another example of Cheryl's encouraging nature. Apparently, she used the bed to help Diana learn to relax in the water. After having surgery on her eardrum, Diana was always tense around water. Until the giant floaty came to the rescue.
After the speech, we laughed about it. Cheryl told her I had been pretty upset about it when I found out. But at least now, I know the fishy smell that never went away was for a good cause. Besides, I have no doubt let Cheryl down, upset her, annoyed her, and not always been the best friend I can be, yet here she is all these years later. And here I am, so humbled that she wanted me to share her wedding day with her.
The challenges getting to that point were many, and they began almost immediately after agreeing to be a bridesmaid. But I was determined to be there. It was, after all, Cheryl's lifetime memory in progress. The day and the journey to get there was about honoring her. But weddings are expensive, especially when you live paycheck to paycheck. Whenever we manage to save, something happens, and then we have to spend it. I am okay with that most of the time. I am used to it. When you have experienced some of the worst, you learn to be thankful for what you have, no matter how little.
Still, I struggled with feeling as if I was not doing my part. It was not about pride. . .okay, maybe a little. . .but more about not wanting to disappoint the amazing, selfless woman who remained that way even when dealing with the stresses of planning a wedding. She did not want anyone's feelings to be hurt. She did not want anyone feeling pressured to be there. Even while planning the day women tend to dream about since childhood, she was willing to set aside some of her deepest desires to accommodate her friends. Her willingness to this meant the world to me and only made me want to be there more. No way did I want to let her down. No way did I want to become a burden.
But after I had thought all of the challenges were over, two major things happened. About a month before the big day, I lost my job, but the powers in charge denied my unemployment. Thank God I still had the money aside to get the dress alterations done and the shoes already ordered. However, there was still a matter of getting to a wedding taking place several hours away from me. My truck needs a new water pump and is out of commission. My husband's brakes went out, and the shocks, too. And if that were not enough, the tags and insurance both expired days before. There went the only paycheck we had. Considering the bride had already paid for the hotel reservations after finding out I lost my job, I did not want to ask her for anything else even though I never asked her to do that much.
I cashed in my IRA, but they quickly informed me it would not arrive in time for the trip. I pawned my laptop, which by the way, means writing articles from my phone. Anyone who has ever suffered through my autocorrect nightmares knows how difficult it is for me to text. There is no way to know what I will say. You crack the code and let me know. Besides, it does not matter when I still needed the money to get the tags for the truck and the gas. Knowing I was out of options, I had no choice but to explain to Cheryl what was going on. She handled it all with a calmness and sureness I do not feel I deserved. I mean, I honestly felt so inadequate, but it was important to her that I be there. That all of us be there.
The wedding was stunning, but I cannot say that I remember many of the minute details. My feet were killing me in those three-inch heels I was not used to wearing. And it was rather warm outside, so I worried about sweating because we all know that is just gross, especially when you are all dressed up and taking pictures. Because of that, I deliberately did not drink much throughout the day. Horrible decision. One of the stupidest I have ever made, considering I also took blood pressure medicine that morning with a diuretic in it.
I got down the aisle and watched the beautiful bride make her way down the walkway only to feel my head suddenly begin to spin and my breathing become harder. I started to yawn. Yes, I know, how embarrassing! I was yawning instead of smiling. Because I needed the oxygen and short quick breaths were not helping, so I tried to take longer deeper breaths that turned into yawns. Hopefully, no one will mistake my yawning for boredom or a horrified expression signaling a silent plea for the couple not to go through with it. My scalp was tingling, and my feet were aching. I was yawning. What a combination! Was it dehydration or a panic attack? I have no idea. But somehow I made it through the ceremony without collapsing. I kept hoping that if I had to faint, it would at least be after the ceremony. Really, who wants to steal a wedding show that way? Not me! Needless to say, as soon as I could, I sat down, and I drank a bottle of water, probably in two seconds flat. We did have some more professional photos to take, after all, now that the groom had already seen the bride and the entire wedding party could now be photographed together.
When all is said and done, I realize what an honor it truly is to know Cheryl. Her friendship is a blessing. Paige's too. When you know people that well, they become family. These ladies are part of my family of friends, sisters. I cannot imagine having never met them. And spending the day with all of the other lovely ladies was a pure pleasure as well. I look forward to hopefully getting to know the other women as well.
The pictures from this day are something to treasure. They are proof of what love brings: laughter and joy. Hold on to these things even through the trials, and then the difficulties suddenly seem so small by comparison. I am so thankful for friends who allow me to be myself and who bring out the fun-loving side of myself more often than not. Life is for the living. Might as well enjoy the ride. And it is a thousand times better when you ride along with those who make you smile, who love you through the darkness, and who ultimately accept you just as you are.