Never A Bridesmaid

My streak of playing every wedding role except the most infamous one comes to an end

Here is what I have done at weddings:

  • Been a bride at my own, whatever.
  • Signed a marriage contract as a witness.
  • Helped entertain the bride and groom as part of ritual pre-ceremony distractions.
  • Co-officiated and translated, since the ceremony was being conducted (tipsily) in a language that the groom and his family didn’t speak.
  • Supervised and assisted with flower girls.
  • Recited poetry.
  • Given lots and lots of speeches.
  • Danced, sung, helped hold up the chairs.
  • Helped brides pick out their dresses (and written about it).
  • Helped mothers-of-the-groom pick out their dresses.
  • Cut the cake on behalf of the happy couple because everyone forgot about it and then the caterers, around 11:30, figured they ought to at least leave it hanging out on a table rather than in the kitchen. The bride and groom were nowhere to be found and the rowdy guests demanded dessert. The groom’s brother brandished the knife, intending to do the honors; when he proved too drunk, I stepped in.

I’ve enjoyed it all thoroughly. Though weddings are not my thing — I was in a terrible mental state the entire year leading up to my own — I love getting to participate in the giddiness of, and celebrate, other people. AND YET, though I am blessed with an abundance of close friends, some of whom have even embraced matrimony, and though I have attained the great age of 33 years old, I have never been a bridesmaid.

Let that sink in for a minute. I’ve never had to navigate my way around yards of pastel tulle, or planned a shower, or made eyes at my designated groomsman. I’ve never had to figure out how to shoehorn a last-minute, just-us-girls trip to Vegas or New Orleans into my budget. All these seminal, quintessential American experiences! All these memories I could have had: of fighting, of crying, of shopping for ugly, expensive dresses, of carting around first-aid kits and emergency toiletries and needles-and-thread just in case, of feeling vital in some retro, second-fiddle, yet still high-femme kind of way.

Oh, there have been some close calls. One friend tried to plan several different traditional ceremonies before giving into the groom’s insistence to have something small and just-family with no attendants instead. My now sister-in-law asked me to be one for her when she got married to my older brother in 2012, but then it turned out I would be super pregnant with Babygirl at the time and she didn’t want me to be uncomfortable standing for an hour or so in the sun.

It seemed like the gates were closing, too. How many people are going to ask a soon-to-be mom of two to join the wedding party? Besides, my good friends who haven’t yet gotten hitched are much like my good friends who have, most of whom eschewed wedding parties altogether. Past performance may be no guarantee of future results, but the pattern seemed pretty clear: I would have to be satisfied with outfitting Babygirl as a flower girl over and over — she’s already played the role twice — while I myself would probably reach menopause without ever having to shell out $350 for a peach taffeta monstrosity that I would smile fondly at in my closet for years to come.

And then. AND THEN. My little brother proposed to his girlfriend, and hosannah, hallelujah, she proposed to me: she asked if I would do her the honor of being one of her six bridesmaids from around the world. This wedding is going to be a doozy. Getting to be part of it might not be enough to make up for 33 years of abstention all at once, but it also might come close.

The bride came here from Liberia via Nigeria and she wants to have two ceremonies: one later this year that will feature West African dress and traditions, and one next year, in the backyard of her and my brother’s new suburban Maryland house, that will include American-Jewish rituals. She’s coming to the city this weekend to start shopping for dresses for Wedding Part 2, and, having supplied her with a list of NYC’s more relatively affordable options, I will be right there with her, nearly weeping with joy. For her, of course, at reaching this milestone. And also for me.

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