September 7, 2009

Maybe It's Me: My Best Friend's Wedding, or, Life Lessons from the Backseat Driver

Weddings are funny organisms, aren’t they?

A wedding is a beautiful expression of two people’s love, tailor made to celebrate the individuals marrying as together they choose certain flowers, special songs, and the appropriate people to partake, all of which are chosen for very important reasons specific to that couple.

And yet, while no two weddings are alike, the more weddings I attend the more I realize that, at the heart of it, every wedding is the same: it’s the union of two lives.

Between the minute detail of seating arrangements and the major detail of the life-long commitment to another human soul are life lessons, though.

That, for now, have been worthy of learning a thing or two from.

On The DJ
“Now, I want everyone to notice the bride and groom cutting the cake. See how his hand delicately covers hers? Do you know why they do that? It’s not for the photographer. Nosireebob, it’s actually so that the groom can know what it’s like to have the upper hand one last time in his life.”

Enter the sound of crickets.

I’m not sure why wedding DJ’s feel like they need to be mean-spirited, limelight seeking, leeches, I mean, comedians. Most weddings I’ve been to have had some insufferable DJ wax on about himself and make derogatory anti-marriage cracks throughout the reception aloof of the lack of laughter or general discontent of the party.

At one point, at the most recent wedding I attended, one of the other bridesmaids and I went up to the DJ and requested a newer pop song we knew the bride would dance to. So far throughout the evening, the obnoxious DJ had played a lot of music no one was interested in so we thought it might be nice, since the majority of the people in attendance were twenty-something’s, to hear some loud, bass-driven pop. He played us a song and we all danced our hearts out, and then punished us with the next three songs he played which were all slow songs from the nineteen-sixties.

Again, some of the bridesmaids and now some of the brides’ friends went up and asked him if he had any other fun pop music made within our lifetimes. He snapped at us and said, “I’ll see if I have it, but I’m playing SPEFICIALLY WHAT THE BRIDE AND GROOM ASKED FOR!” And I responded, “Right, we know that. We appreciate the job you’re doing. But, we also know the bride and groom, and know that more people, including them, would dance if you played these songs.” He looked at me and said, “Listen here, princess, I’ve been doing this for twenty-one years, I THINK I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING,” before storming off. The next few songs he played were, again, slower songs from an era in which we were not born yet. And we, being a generation of people who don’t suffer fools lightly, boycotted dancing.

Note to self: DJ’s are worthless.

Long live the self-made playlist.

On Wedding Diets
“I think, in total, I’ve consumed like ten and a half calories this week,” my friend said. “Just a few more days for the wedding, and I can eat again!”

Girls are certifiably nuts and I can say this because I am a girl (my dad once told me that “there are two truths in life, Stephanie: 1. All boys are assholes. Even if they’re not, a girl will somehow make him out to be at some point. Which brings us to number 2: All girls are crazy. Little girls are crazy in their own adorable right, teenage girls are a whole world of crazy, and adult woman are crazy because they know more than men, despite what men think.” This might’ve been the best lesson any kindergartner could receive).

Girls are perhaps their craziest, though, when it comes to dieting for a wedding.

I don’t know why, but the majority of our gender is under the impression that they need to be a “buff bride.” That it is absolutely imperative to squeeze into a dress that’s smaller than our normal bodies could fit into all for the big wedding day. Specifically: for the pictures from the big day.

At the rehearsal dinner for this last wedding I was involved in one of the bridesmaids asked how the bride and my diet’s were going (I didn’t want to look swollen for the wedding, so I too was on the “celery and water; running ‘til I puke” diet in preparation for the big day, that is until my parents, independently of each other, told me that I was acting crazier than normal and should try eating some carbohydrates). I told her how happy I was to be eating again, as I leaned across the table and took a giant forkful of some groomsman’s dessert.

The bridesmaid then went on to say, “I’m not gonna work out compulsively or prevent myself from eating what makes me happy before my wedding day.” Her fiancé, sitting next to her chimed in, “And I don’t want you to. You’re already the best thing I’ve ever seen, and that’s not gonna change a few plus or minus a few inches. And besides, the wedding is only one day – what’s one day in comparison to our whole lives?”

And, that, right there is perhaps the greatest lesson any twenty-something could receive.

When we find the right one, right enough that we’re marrying them, we should love ourselves enough at that point and be inspired by their abundant love for us that we shouldn’t feel pressured by family, or by magazines, or by some inherent crazy gene in our gender that demands us to be something we’re not for our wedding day.

Which is one day in comparison to our whole lives.

Besides, my hips and ribcage can’t get any smaller, so I might as well accept this now and save myself the heartache of trying to change my bone structure in years to come.

On Seeing the Ex
Prior to attending this last wedding, my soon-to-be-wed friends informed me that one of the boys I had gone a date with during my “Year of 1,000 First Dates” was going to be attending the wedding. He and I had met in a bar while I was working as a beer model, we went on a first date, and when he called for the second date I didn’t bother answering. I later saw him out on Halloween acting like a drunken douche bag and thanked my lucky starts that I hadn’t invested any further time in him.

At the reception, I saw him sitting across the room, looking more gorgeous than I had remembered. The white button up, red tie, and killer summer tan had done him justice. We caught each other’s eye, and I waved at him. He smiled, waved back, and that was that.

For the next few hours, though, when we happened to pass by each other I’d make some joke about his awful dancing and he’d laugh. We tried to slow dance once together but his friend interrupted, so, having him indebted to me, I hauled him up to do the “Cha Cha Slide” which neither one of us were very impressive at.

Towards the end of the night, I was standing by myself looking out at everyone dancing and talking. He came up from behind me, took his place next to me, and said, “So beyond the shallow flirting, how are you really? I mean, it’s been a year since I’ve seen you.”

“I know – I finally published my book,” I looked up at him and smiled.

He smiled kindly back, “So, I heard. Congratulations.”

“And you?” I prodded.

“Still working a lot. Took myself on vacation to Seattle and the Alps, though. Needed it, I think.”

“Wow, the Alps? Nice,” I responded. “Hey, by the way, thanks for that second date,” I joked, elbowing him gently in the side.

“I called. You didn’t answer.”

I shrugged. “Whatever, I saw you at Halloween, you know?”

“I was a drunken douche bag on Halloween. I’m sorry about that.”

“Thanks for that,” I felt myself soften towards him. “Anyway, I didn’t answer your call after the first date, because I didn’t really get the vibe that you were even interested.”

He looked away and took a swig of his beer. “I wasn’t. I was dealing with ex-issues.”

“Me, too. I went on hundreds of first dates looking for an answer. So are you fixed from your issues?”

He laughed heartily. “God, I hope so.” He paused. “So, the last time I saw you, a year ago, you were all excited you had just purchased a king sized bed. Are you still sleeping like starfish?”

I blushed. It will never cease to amaze me how some boys just remember the smallest details about you, and regardless of how insignificant a detail, when brought up, it reminds you why you were taken with them in the first place. “I am still sleeping like a starfish, but I definitely still have areas of the mattress I’ve yet to sleep on.”

“I just figured out how to sleep on my queen sized bed without staying in one area! It’s certainly a difficult task to take up an entire bed when there’s just one of you, isn’t it? Anyway, I try to stay busy so I don’t have to worry about my big boy bed,” he quickly said, looking away.

And then, in a quiet moment we both realized that we had a deeper connection than either one of us realized: good people, done wrong, trying to stay as active as we could, so that we weren’t reminded our overwhelming sense of loneliness which was only made worst at social functions where good people were getting married with the promise of never being done wrong again.

I took my glass, clinked his and said, “Well, then, here’s to us: consuming ourselves with trivial busy work to avoid our empty beds.”

And that was that.

On Groomsmen
Every wedding I’ve ever been a part of the groomsmen have always started off the same: too cool to associate with anyone but themselves. When the majority of the wedding party meets for that first time at the wedding rehearsal, they play off their own insecurities and emotions regarding their friend marrying like they themselves are super macho and too good for anybody, especially desperate bridesmaids. While they pathetically feed off each other’s wannabe bravado, they never quite know how to respond when bridesmaids roll their eyes at the groomsmen’s first grader ways.

Every wedding I’ve ever been a part of, the groomsmen have always ended up the same: too cool for you to walk away from. At some point during the rehearsal dinner to the reception, they soften and become their normal selves and they realize just how much fun they’re actually having with the bridesmaids. Great conversations are had, spectacular friendships are formed for forty-eight hours, and you realize that for a brief moment in your mutual friends’ histories, you’re a part of something bigger than yourselves. So, they put aside their egos, give you high-gives when they walk, and dance foolishly with and for you.

And at the end of the night, when the reception has come to its end and the groomsmen aren’t quite ready to call it a night they invite you to go out and live it up for a few more hours frozen in wedding time. There was a brief moment when I was the kind of bridesmaid leading the way, dragging along the rest of the estrogen for a few more drinks and a few more laughs. And hell, why not? After all, these were boys’ I’d never see again, so why not live it up?

But if you’re smart, like I am now, you smile and pass on the offer. A few more drinks and a few more laughs with boys you’ll never see again is meaningless in the long wrong when there are PJ’s waiting for you at home to replace the too-tight bridesmaid dress you have on from eating carbohydrates recommended by your parents, and some quiet time for you finally sit down and reflect on the fact that someone close to you just married the love of her life, and you’re still searching.

On Being the Maid Of Honor
“No one here will ever know how much work you put into this wedding. You were the blood, sweat, and tears behind this whole thing, so thanks,” an attendant said as she hugged me. While I certainly didn’t need the validation of all the hard work I really did exude in helping and managing the bride-to-be create her perfect wedding, it was nice to hear.

A Maid of Honor, an effective one, really does have the worst job of everyone involved in the marrying of two people. Not only are there a slew of jobs she’s already in charge of planning, creating, and hosting effortlessly; she’s also in charge of micromanaging her emotionally charged friend, her emotionally charged family, and as the day gets closer, the emotionally charged (sometimes attention deprived) bridesmaids. All the while, the Maid of Honor puts herself second while trying to maintain everyone’s sanity.

While being asked to be someone’s Maid of Honor is a huge, well, honor, it’s also a huge dose of humility as well. You put aside everything in your world to make sure your best friend gets her dream wedding, and when the day comes, you are recognized and appreciated by everyone in the room except the one person that matters: the bride. Because: It’s. Her. Day. It’s all about her now. You were the person who held her hand to this point and now she doesn’t need you anymore. It’s a very humbling moment, when, at the end of the reception, your friend, the one you’d been slaving for, and her now-husband jump in the limo and take off for their honeymoon without so much as a goodbye wave. You think, “Man, after all the work I just did for you two, a hug woulda been nice.”

And then, somewhere in the back of your heart you’re reminded that: it’s not about you. And it never was. You did what you needed to do – you planned, created, hosted, and micromanaged all on her behalf – all to get her to the point she could jump in the limo with her husband so they could start their lives as a couple.

So you shrug it off, and take a swig of whiskey from a particularly kind-hearted groomsman’s flask that has noticed your eyes soften with infant-like-fatigue.

On the Bride and Groom
Perhaps I’m speaking out of turn here, but I imagine it must be a really difficult transition for the bride and groom to go from “engaged couple planning their wedding” to “newly wed couple who just had their wedding.” Engaged couples, from my experience, spend more than 75% of their time doing “wedding stuff.” I know for a fact that they had lives prior to getting engaged, but it seem once he gets down on that knee their whole focus shifts to their impending wedding.

I’ve always wondered about this. What happens when the newly wed couple gets back from their honeymoon? What do they talk about? Do they remember when it was like to be a couple prior to having their lives consumed with wedding stuff? Or, do they, like so many couples I’ve seen, suffer the falling-out of post-wedding planning. Because, if they’re not planning their wedding, or involved in someone else’s wedding, what’s there to talk about?

For me, as the Maid of Honor, I know how much of my time and of myself I put into my friend’s wedding. Most of our conversations, the errands we ran, the working out, the eating out, and our day to day routines in the past few months were wedding related in some way or another. It’s a funny feeling, as I was there from the beginning of their relationship, their courtship, their engagement, and their wedding.

Truth be told, I already feel useless. I did everything a friend could do for another friend’s love life, and part of me is saddened at the thought that I’m not a necessary component to them anymore. Part of me also feels liberated. Without sounding like a depressing sod, for the first time in a long time, I have nothing specific to look forward to.

Just life.

My life.

And maybe it’s me, but after an emotionally and physically draining event like a wedding there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a playlist, carbohydrates, memories of friends I had for one weekend, PJ’s, an apartment to myself, a rabbit, a king sized bed, and no specific life events to occupy my time with.
For now, anyway.