Later this month, I'll be a bridesmaid for the ninth time.
I guess you could say standing up in weddings has become an extra-curricular activity of mine by default. I'm a bridesmaid about as often as people change their clocks for Daylight Saving and Standard Time—about twice a year.
My closet is filled with more long black dresses than Morticia Addams'; I've witnessed more ketubah signings than some rabbis; I've sauntered down more aisles than a Pam Am flight attendant. I've had my photo snapped by wedding photographers more times than Larry King; I've linked hands, dancing in circles with more people than a kindergarten teacher; and I've toasted brides and grooms with more bad jokes than a comedian on a cruise ship.
You would think I'd grow tired of the task, but actually I find it an honor each time I'm asked to stand up for a friend/sister. It's a testament to my friendships with each of these wonderful women who have asked me to celebrate their love and upcoming life's journey with them.
What I love about standing up in these particular weddings is how low-key my bride friends have been. In contrast to the wedding-obsessed culture we live in where four million people tuned in for Kim Kardashian's over-the-top nuptials—my friends shared a grounded sense of perspective at their own haymish weddings.
They saw the triviality of details like what color linens adorned the tables or whether quinoa will be paired with the tilapia option. Instead, they recognized the important stuff like that the wedding is really the launching pad for building wonderful homes with their beshert. They understand that it's all the days after the wedding—the marriage—that really count.
This isn't always the case. I've heard urban legends about—ahem—more "challenging" brides. One friend told me that a bride insisted all her bridesmaids wear the same brand of nylons at her wedding. Note to that bride: If a guest is close enough to a bridesmaid's legs to know the difference, they've got much bigger problems to deal with. Another bride insisted her maid of honor choose a less pretty dress to wear because the bride worried her friend would outshine her. These brides were drunk with power no person should have. Assuming the role of bride shouldn't transform you into ruthless dictator.
My older sister couldn't have approached her nuptials more differently than these bridezillas. Hers was the first wedding I ever stood up in—I was her maid of honor. When I gave the toast at her wedding, as soon as I reached the mike, I started sobbing—so emotional was I to watch my best friend/sister marry a wonderful mensch. The wedding guests obliged me for a full minute before I collected myself enough to deliver my speech. (I've since destroyed the videotape of the toast.)
And before my sister's reception, I recall taking pictures with the other wedding party attendants on a beautiful July 4th weekend in the Twin Cities. The photographer wanted to film us in a garden outside the Minnesota State Capitol. We trekked through dirt to get to the garden, dressed in tuxedos and long ball gown skirts. My job was to hold up my sister's train away from the soil, but there was so much dirt that the bottom of her pristine white dress got soiled no matter how hard I tried to keep it clean.
Other brides would have freaked out. But my sister just shrugged. She was marrying the kind, decent man she loved. All the rest was commentary.
A decade later, the dirt-covered dress is just a funny wedding story, and all that matters is she and her husband have a happy marriage that has produced three beautiful sons.
Ninth wedding? Bring it on. It's a mitzvah to dance at a wedding. In fact, Jewish tradition tells us that you should dance at as many weddings as possible. After all, there are unfortunately way too many sad occasions in this world (why else would we break a glass during a wedding ceremony?). So when we can, we should embrace the joys in life wherever we find them.