One of our very own here at Red Tent Living is getting married next month. Weddings are a well known celebration to me. By the time I had my own, at the ripe age of twenty-eight, I already had a closet full of bridesmaid dresses although it was nowhere near twenty-seven! I had friends from each stage and circle of life and it just made sense that we would be in each others weddings. Time and distance however changed some of those plans and I remember the first time I wasn’t asked to stand as a bridesmaid in a wedding but to be in the house party. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “house party”, southernweddings.com describes a house party in the following way: “Similar to the standard ‘attendent’ title, members of a house party are often assigned wedding day tasks like manning the guest book, handing out programs, serving cake, reading during the ceremony, or just assisting the bride on her big day. Some house party members aren’t assigned any duties at all but simply included because the bride wants to honor her relationships.” By the time my own wedding planning days were before me, I definitely had a lifetime of significant relationships. I had matured and changed from the girl who felt like she was “less than” when given the title of house party and began to appreciate that I had been given that role because I mattered and my dear friend wanted to honor who I had been as well as who I continued to be to her.
One of the special friends who I asked to be a part of my house party was not someone who I had always known would be in my wedding. She was an untraditional pick to many outside observers. (Isn’t that the way it always is with weddings and friendships as they grow and evolve over time?) Have you ever found yourself attending a wedding and wondering who the women are who are standing with her? Curious to know how they came to be the ones supporting and selflessly loving the bride on her special day.
Katy was sixteen when I got married. Her mom and dad ministered to young adults at the church that I had grown up attending. When I finished grad school, I returned home a lonely, broken, mess. Ashamed and hiding, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. After a period of deception and masking myself, I realized that the level of vulnerability that “these people” offered was quite refreshing and I slowly began to open up more authentically. Nights sitting on the fireplace changed from dreaded occurrences to desired moments of conversations, laughter, and tears. Yes, even moments with tears were desired. In the process of discovering more of who I was again, unique relationships began to develop for me within their family. Katy was one of those. She was thirteen when I first remember noticing her. Over the years, our relationship grew to be a special friendship that eventually turned into a fully reciprocal friendship. I’m not really sure when that happened, but one day I realized that in the same way that her mom had felt like an older sister to me, Katy had taken a place in my heart that a younger sister might have filled.
Just as time and distance changes childhood and high school relationships it also changes those that are developed as adults. All relationships transition from what was to what is and so often we are afraid to fully engage for fear that it will end. I cannot even begin to imagine how different my life would be if I had blocked that young teenage girl from touching my heart because of fear of potential loss or being misunderstood. My life is rich and I know that I have been changed for the better just by knowing and loving her.
Next month, I will stand with honor as I hold the role of bridesmaid in her dearly anticipated wedding. An honor that I treasure although I didn’t expect. That’s another beautiful thing about time and how it changes us. Over time, I have come to realize that I don’t have to have a title to know that I matter AND I am honored to hold this one. As the celebrations continue and the day approaches when she leaves and cleaves to be joined as one with her love I will be holding closely all of what it means to be standing there with her. I have known her through pain and fear, disappointment and loss, dreaming and desiring, as she beautifully pursued her deepest passions.
So, when you see me on the dance floor shaking it like a crazy, middle-aged bridesmaid know that I am celebrating. I am celebrating all of the goodness that was. I am celebrating all of the beauty that is. I am celebrating all of the hope of what is to come. I have my dancing shoes, do you?
Bethany Cabell is a Texas transplant, residing in Michigan with her husband and their two young boys. A lover of beauty, she lives life chasing after wide-open spaces: sharing her heart with others, in relationship with Jesus, and through music and photography. She tells her story here.