Last weekend I was honored to stand next to my oldest friend in the world as Co-Maid of Honor at her wedding. She was a beautiful bride, and happiness was radiating off of her in waves because she had found the man with whom she wanted to start a family. I had been asked to stand with her as she took her vows before family and God, and it will always be a memory that I treasure. However, as happy as I was for her to be marrying the love of her life, I initially wasn’t terribly excited about attending the ceremony. It wasn’t personal against her or her fiancé, but over the years I had somehow convinced myself that I did not like weddings. Marriages? All about them. But a wedding? The ceremony itself? Nah. Hard pass dude. Public displays of affection and emotion make me very uncomfortable, and I thought that they were just a giant waste of money – the ultimate scam that played off of people’s sentiments and conned them into paying for crap they didn’t need to impress people who didn’t matter. Not only did I not want to attend other people’s weddings, I was 100% sure that I never wanted one for myself if the opportunity ever presented itself. The fuss over the dress, the flowers, the venue, the guest list, the wedding party?!? It all seemed to be a waste of energy and money, and a surefire way to start your new life together in debt and exhausted. Plus, the way my anxiety is set up I can promise that at some point I would have had a complete breakdown and contemplated calling the wedding off or just eloping. I had convinced myself that I wanted no part of this ridiculous tradition, and because of my own feelings I was finding it hard to get excited to attend and participate in the happiest day of my friend’s life.
Well it turns out that I was lying to myself and did not know it until I was standing up at the alter during the wedding rehearsal. Watching my best friend and her then-fiance in front of the priest together, seeing the intimate smiles and glances they shared with each other, the excitement from both families about the union and path forward as an extended family, I felt a tugging deep down inside of myself that I thought was dead and buried a long time ago. That tugging sensation worked its way up from the pit of my stomach, came crawling up my chest and into the back of my throat, and almost came tumbling out of the corners of my eyes before I was able to snap out of my trance. I didn’t know what had come over me until I watched my friend and her dad take their first rehearsal steps down the aisle together. Then the realization hit me like a ton of bricks and almost knocked me clean off of my feet. I don’t dislike weddings at all. I had simply convinced myself that I didn’t want any of these things back when my father died twelve years ago. The truth of the matter was that ever since I was a child I had always wanted an intimate, quiet, romantic wedding surrounded by only my closest friends and family. I wanted to get married in a beautiful champagne-colored dress bathed in candlelight and the warmth of a setting sun. I wanted to walk down the aisle to an Etta James song or to Claire De Lune by Debussy. I wanted to jump an actual broom as an homage to my ancestors, and walk through a shower of cream-colored flower petals or bubbles leaving the church. I wanted to share a laugh with my new husband in the car on the way to the reception as we opened the waiting bottle of champagne and toasted each other for becoming the other person’s everything for the rest of this life and the next. But I could not picture any part of this happening without my father by my side.
Finding a man who will love me forever – a man who will love me like my dad loved my mom – is almost too much to wish for. To find a man this special and not be able to share that singular moment of saying ‘I Do’ with my father was too much to even fathom. No daddy to walk me down the aisle and give me away? No father-daughter dance? Do I acknowledge him during the ceremony or act life there’s nothing out of the ordinary about him not being there? What is a fitting tribute on my Big Day to the man who isn’t there to participate? How could I possibly enjoy my wedding knowing that on the happiest day of my life I would still feel pain and loss and grief? How does one celebrate the moment when two hearts become one when a part of my heart died the day that I lost my father? What if the part of my heart that died was the part I needed to build a meaningful and lasting marriage with a good man? Is that why my relationships fail? Is that why I have tried to convince myself to not want a wedding because I also convinced myself that I don’t want to get married to protect myself from any additional pain? All of these questions caused me to shut down and close that part of my heart off. In relationships, I would play it cool when the subject came up and say how I’m not into conventional weddings, don’t like diamond rings, and how I would be cool with a courthouse wedding and the money could go towards something more logical. Lies. All lies. But convincing lies when confronted with the fact that any wedding I have will be unconventional because my father won’t be there. These revelations I had while I was supposed to be paying attention in church almost brought me to my knees.
So now that I know the truth and can acknowledge that I actually do want a wedding one day, what does that all mean? Does that mean that my heart is beginning to heal and make itself ready to receive a man with whom I can build a life? Does this internalized moment of honesty mean I will start to attract the kind of man who doesn’t mind a little bit of conventionalism in his life, and who will also understand that the part of my heart that was my father’s will always be something I keep for myself? Will he love me enough to help me mourn and grieve during this transitional part of my life and hold me so tight that the parts of myself which were broken are made whole again through patience and prayer? Will he help me have a truly new beginning and not feel guilty about giving up my last name without my father’s blessing? Will he be someone who builds me up and doesn’t tear me down? Who won’t hurt me because that means he would be hurting himself? I think for the first time in more than ten years I am opening myself up to the possibility of this kind of commitment. And in doing so, have opened myself up to the idea of celebrating this kind of union in front of family and friends and not a judge in a courtroom with a random person serving as a witness. I’m doing the work now to make sure that I can be all of the things to my future husband that I pray he will be for me, so with God’s guidance, some real conversations with myself, and breaking down the guards I had installed on my heart against being hurt again maybe the right person will make himself known. He will love my scars, protect my heart, pray for our future, honor my father, and love me so deeply that for one perfect day we can live our fairytale beginning and vow in front of family and friends to work tirelessly towards our Happily Ever After.
A good love story is inspiring, even when the middle parts have some sadness and struggles. I will never get over losing my father, but if I can fix my heart to allow someone else to come in and make the rest of my heart feel so full of love that the part that died doesn’t take up as much space as before, I think that in and of itself will be a reason to throw one amazing celebration.