bridesmaid-ing through the years

closet space in this city is a precious commodity. and yet, i’ve chosen to hold onto the bridesmaids dresses i’ve donned over the years. along with framed pictures of the festivities, they are reminders of having stood beside some of my favorite people as they exchanged vows.

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the summer of ’03. i had just graduated from stanford undergrad, and was about to embark on yet another journey – stanford law school. and my dear friend theresa was about to become someone’s wife. we were only 22. i was thrilled to be her maid of honor, but also a little wistful — a little sad that she was about to embark on a journey that i had a feeling would remain uncharted territory for me for awhile yet (little did i know it would be a SUPER LONG WHILE for me). it didn’t seem too long ago that we had bonded in high school over our love of the same books (“i can’t believe you’ve also read ‘girl of the limberlost’ – i LOVE that book”). in the days leading up to her wedding, she threw us a bridesmaids’ tea party at a cozy little tea parlor in wheaton — tea served in chubby teapots, a tiered cake stand of scones and cookies, and little trinkets hidden amongst the scones with flowy ribbons attached for each of us. she wanted each of us, her bridesmaids, to pluck a flowy ribbon from the bunch. attached to each flowy ribbon was a mystery trinket and message scrawled in theresa’s handwriting. attached to the ribbon i plucked was a charm in the shape of a sailboat and a note that read: “you’ll be sailing away on great adventures that await you.” it couldn’t have been more right. i couldn’t have fathomed all the changes and adventures that would unfold in the years ahead — the people who would become fixtures in my life, the different landscapes i’d inhabit …

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the year: 2008. i was two years into living in new york city and working as an attorney at a large firm. nyc was still novel to me –the first two winters had been deceptively mild, the bags of trash adorning its streets had yet to grate my nerves, and i was still starry eyed about all the city held and offered. and my dear friend sarah was about to marry sam. and i was thrilled to stand beside her as her maid of honor. she wasn’t one to make choices lightly or impulsively, and i was happy knowing that this choice of hers would be a lasting one.

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the year: 2013. mb, as i had dubbed her at some point early on in law school, was about to drop the “b” in her name and become mrs. R. in mb fashion, she had asked us to choose each of our bridesmaid dresses. not surprisingly, i chose one for myself in a shade very much like the one i’ve chosen for my own bridesmaids to wear in a few months time. as for me, i had, by this time, hurtled through three dramatic years in the courtrooms of brooklyn as a prosecutor, becoming enmeshed in lives i’d otherwise not have encountered. mb looked radiant as she walked down the aisle in her mom’s wedding gown. as for bee, she’ll always be “mb” to me.

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the year: 2014. my dear college friend sheenie, surrounded by sparkles, antique china, accents of her navajo culture, and rosewater PINK, is a stunning bride. having known since college that we’d be in each other’s weddings, it was all the more memorable to stand beside her as she became mrs. cooper. here’s more on this wedding.

bridesmaids are unique to american culture (they don’t have them in korea) and though some may have horror stories when it comes to bridesmaid-ing, i have loved standing beside my dearest friends on their biggest of days.

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bridesmaid-ing (in queensland rosewater)

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one of my favorite people in the world got married this past weekend. every detail down to the senorita teapot and the pink sequined tablecloth for the ginormous (and fabulous) five (or six?) layer cake screamed sheenie. the cake was my height.

i love how weddings resemble their brides (the grooms too, but mostly the brides). the flower girl, little kiki (pictured above), looked like she’d jumped out of a storybook, full of spunk and charm. her antics during the group photos (hair pulling, face contorting, and peals of laughter) were textbook adorable.

i’ve always loved sheenie’s open sentimentality – uninhibited, free-spirited, and thoughtful. it made me smile to see that reflected in little details throughout – from mentions of her childhood in her speech to the choice of the father-daughter dance song.

this was the fourth bridesmaid dress i’d donned. it was queensland rosewater (that’s the color), long, and flowy. it’s almost expected that people complain about bridesmaids dresses, but i’ve loved all the ones i’ve worn. there was the long, satiny powder blue one for theresa’s, the pale pink, knee-length one for sarah’s, and the flouncy blue one for bee’s (well, that one was of my choosing, but still). i’ve loved them because they reminded me of the respective brides. if you put them all in a closet and asked me to guess which brides had chosen them, i’d bet that i’d get em right (assuming this is all happening before i wore them).

sari (noun): the most vibrant color

okay, so that’s not correct according to merriam webster, but it’s true when you attend a traditional indian wedding.

so i wore a sari for the first time. no, i didn’t get the date wrong for halloween. and no, i didn’t slide into an indian restaurant in a sari.

i have to admit though, when one of my old officemates, R, was draping her sari over me (thanks, R!) in preparation for attending another old officemate’s wedding, i did have an “I dream of Jeannie” moment. i resisted breaking out the Jeannie moves [mostly out of respect for R, who was standing right in front of me and partly because it was hard to move in the sari], though i’m sure she would’ve laughed, as she does at most of my actions.

R’s sari, which R was expertly draping round and round my No. 2 pencil frame, was quite gorgeous. a mustardy yellow, it was embroidered with delicate and sparkly beading. moments later, R had transformed the sari into a mermaid-like shape with her expert draping.

now for the tough part – hailing a cab during rush hour in a sari. now, catching a cab in this crazy city is a tricky affair even in flats and jeans. now try being tightly wrapped in beaded silk and being restricted to teensy steps in the middle of manhattan.

pedicab after pedicab rolls by – “where do you need to go, lady?” “do you need a ride?” “where can i take you.”

“brooklyn! you can’t go to brooklyn!” i yelled, trying to hail a real cab that wasn’t being pedaled by a topless dude.

“that’s right – i can’t go to brooklyn” yells back one pedicab driver as he wheels past.

i finally manage to sneak into a real cab sandwiched in traffic. the driver looks startled and disappointed. he pretends to not know where the brooklyn botanical garden is. i tell him that i won’t be leaving. he says, “ok. brooklyn botanical garden.”

we roll across the brooklyn bridge and arrive at the botanical gardens.

as i take teensy sari steps into the garden, i hear drums and happy voices – that must be the Barat [the groom’s party]. i can hear the drums coming closer. the happy voices are getting closer too.

soon i see a flurry of bright and sparkly colors. in the middle of it all is my old officemate, M, decked out in full wedding attire and looking like the prince of a foreign country. it’s impossible not to smile seeing all that.

i finally get a chance to greet the groom. a woman with a microphone plugged onto her head descends out of nowhere. “are you the groom? we’re going to need you to wear a microphone during the ceremony.” apparently it’s not enough for this microphone lady that she gets to wear a mic. the groom looks amused. “what? you want me to wear a microphone? you want to tape what i’m saying?” i try hard not to crack up. the microphone lady looks bewildered [why wouldn’t everyone jump at the chance to tape a mic to their heads, she thinks].

the traditional sikh ceremony was simply beautiful, and that’s an understatement. [the groom went sans microphone, for those who are curious]. the sheer energy of the dancing and the speeches was compounded by the vibrant colors. weddings mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but if you rooted for the two during their courtship, it becomes all the more meaningful.

the monstrosity

J: did you send the monstrosity back? [the monstrosity is a bridesmaid dress that failed to look as promised]

me: YES. i did. it’s on its way back to that lady.

J: thank god. you would’ve looked like cyndi lauper in that dress.

me: it was disgusting. it was the pleats on that thing. it would’ve looked fine without the pleats. but i mean, it’s kind of a vintagey wedding.

J: vintage doesn’t mean 80s. btw, i would hire dexys midnight runners for my wedding. that would be my dream wedding. everyone would hear “come on eileen,” and then dexys midnight runners would come out. it’d be perfect cuz no one knows what they look like.

thing is, he isn’t kidding.

let’s hope this dress comes back looking as promised, sans crazy pleats.