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.
I saw the picture for this post and hoped it would be you; what a great shoe pick. My eyes were very tearful as I read this, sort of stunned at the story that’s unfolded across years and states and heartbreaks and deep love. I am so glad to have you there, holding the pieces and honoring the narrative none of us could have predicted. You are such a sweet gift to me. I’ve never had an older sister before 😉 3 more weeks.
Oh friend, I love that you hoped it would be my writing and yes they are so very good and picked to be worn especially for your day to join in the fun! My eyes were teary too as I wrote and felt all the stories that filled this one with you. I love you dearly and always will.
Dear Bethany! I hope you have so much fun dancing and being an older bridesmaid. What an honor and that says so much about your young heart. Thank you again for offering memories and thoughts to days gone by for all of us!
Thank you Becky! I know I will have a blast and my knees will hate me the next morning 🙂 Thank you for your sweet connection with my post…we all carry similar moments, don’t we.
Thank you Bethany…..I see the shoes as a symbol of your heart….something wild, vibrant, colorful. exciting, comfortable and yet distinct form. I love your words – “I am ready to celebrate…the beauty that is ……and is to come” ! Your words define the richness of your friendship.
Great words Elaine…yes, I love each of those! Richness indeed.
So much life we have shared….so grateful for who are in Katy’s life and in our family.
It feels like it’s more life than just 13 years…thank you for the invitation to be different. Love you.
Love this, Bethany. So enjoyed your take on where you have supported brides in the past. The transition now for Katy is beautiful. Only someone who has this kind of history can relate such a wonderfilled entry. Thank you…and we will dance!
Thank you MaryJane! Your words about my entry are a sweet gift. Looking forward to dancing with you. I have always loved your dance…so uniquely beautiful.
Well I learned something new today…never heard of a “house party” before! I love the way you write about the transitions in relationships, and the risk it requires to allow change and welcome something different and good as you each grow. I look forward to seeing you dancing in your beautiful shoes very soon!
Love it! I’m teaching you all kinds of southern wedding terms 😉 Thank you for your response. Looking forward to that night and I’ll be looking for you on the dance floor friend!