weddings

"I stood beside my sister as she said her vows. Then I changed my mind about weddings.”

If the good people of Hollywood ever wanted to make a mundane rom-com about a professional wedding guest, I could definitely supply them with some thoughtful notes and colourful montage suggestions.

By the end of my 20s I had sat on slightly uncomfortable chairs and watched women in white dresses drift down aisles close to 30 times. It was safe to say I had the art of attending public declarations of love followed by chewy chicken dinners and renditions of the Nutbush down pat.

My indoctrination into the intense world of weddings began at a young age when my many older cousins began tying the knot. But even as a child on the very outskirts of these matrimonial activities, a few hard and fast rules began to emerge with increasing strength and prevalence.

The first one is that sugared almonds wrapped in tulle are still the very best bonbonnieres you can bequeath to your guests. That’s just a fact. Seriously, I know they may seem a little retro in this day and age, a time when people hand out real life butterflies trapped in hand-carved boxes to their guests, but they are primed for a comeback.

A few years ago, I event went to a wedding where after the vows were done and dusted, the couple sent us all home with an immense marble paperweight complete with their smiling faces plastered over every inch of it. And, I have to tell you, that’s just not as nice to bite into the next morning…

The second rule is that a woman’s standing in her family and circle of friends is immediately elevated to a much higher level in the lead up to and after her wedding. To put it in terms we’ll all understand, they pretty much go from being a Khloe to a Kim with one quick flash of a diamond ring.

This shift in success can be incredibility slight and completely unintended, and can even take pace in in families that have evolved past the tradition of marrying daughters off for land rights and waving those pesky dowries. Even as a kid, I began to see weddings as more of a winner’s parade than a ceremony of love and solemn vows.

Then, as I grew up and started attending weddings of people my own age, I began to see that it wasn’t only the guests who were stressed about moving through the motions of this social ritual… it was the brides as well.

I have been to weddings with beyond beautiful moments, watching one of my radiant cousins kiss my grandmother’s cheek moments after saying “I do”, dancing in a throng of my high school friends in a sweaty mess of tangled arms and long-held memories.

But apart from these tiny moments, weddings still felt like public parades sponsored by stress and social pressure.

It made me wonder, why was everyone still insisting on holding events where they were duty-bound to invite family members who would really grind their gears while simultaneously parting with the majority of their life savings?

And my mind didn’t stray that far away from this train of thought when my own sister Kate began planning her wedding. The news was exciting and lovely of course, and the wedding weekend and pr-eluding events of celebration planned with meticulous care and consideration.

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Kate and her husband Will on their wedding day. Image: Supplied.

Yet, it also didn't feel like the culmination of a life's work or the defining moment of humanity, as so many movies had also made it out to be. In fact, the person who was the least fussed about the wedding circus was the bride-to-be herself.

It was over a coffee break on the day we dashed around the city to different stores so she could try on a sea of lacy white dresses, that she said of her big day, "I'm looking forward to it, but it's not the biggest thing I'll ever achieve in my life. It's not even the biggest thing I'll achieve this year!"

And I tended to agree with her.

It now seemed even more ludicrous than ever before that a woman's entire significance was wrapped up in a pantomime our society seemed utterly unable to ever let go of. But then, a funny thing happened on a slightly overcast day in April.

In a beautiful gazebo on the edge of a lake, my sister and her soon-to-be-husband began to say their wedding vows, and without warning an intense blaze of emotion begin to simmer quietly in my chest.

Then, to my great and utter surprise, tears began to well up in my eyes and pour down my cheeks like free-flowing streams of champagne from a bottle freshly shaken and popped.

Now I'm sure that crying tears at a wedding seems just as groundbreaking as suggesting florals for spring, but I am not a person who has ever equated intense happiness with eye moisture. But as the marriage vows were spoken I couldn't help but soak in the monumental beauty of this moment down to my very toes.

It was then that I finally understood why we live in a world that will never let go of weddings.

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"Walking beside my sister on her wedding day changed my mind about weddings." Image: Supplied.

I cried because I looked over at my sister's fiancee and saw the tears of happiness that were pouring from his own eyes, because there's truly nothing in this world lovelier than knowing someone loves one of the most important people in your life as much as you do.

I cried because I looked over at my mother who was sitting in the front row, holding my brother's hand, with a look on her face I had never seen before.

After raising four children on her own in a world where there had never really been enough money or time or security to allow her the luxury to stop and marvel at the family she had held together,  I knew she was taking that moment now.

And I cried because of where I stood.

Because the edge of my bouquet, the bouquet my mother had lovingly crafted the night before, was touching my sister's back as I stood beside her during a moment in her life where she was truly happy.

On my other side, I could feel my younger sister's arm gently pressed against mine. It cemented the idea that no matter what happens in this world, in moments of both tragedy and true love, my place will always be firmly sandwiched in between those two, standing shoulder to shoulder.

There is the particular brand of magic you only find at weddings, because they can be a day that's not about somebody winning or going through an expensive public ritual for appearance sake. There can also be moments of love that are entirely inclusive.

And that is a bit of pomp and circumstance I can really get behind.

For more stories like this, you can follow writer Laura Brodnik on Facebook. 

How do you feel about attending weddings? Let us know in the comments. 

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