“Your daughter will NOT ruin my wedding!”
It happened years ago, at a wedding I’ve mostly forgotten, at a church I never stepped foot in again. The bride had whipped her beautiful veiled head around to whisper-shout at the flower girl’s mother – the flower girl who was whimpering; the flower girl who didn’t want to walk down the aisle alone; the flower girl who was only three years old.
I don’t remember what happened next. I was relegated to the balcony to take pictures, and the wedding proceeded, with or without the offending flower girl, as all weddings do.
Fast forward nearly a decade to a fifty-guest wedding on a mile-wide island in the Gulf of Mexico. The guests wore sandals and hats. They ate barbecue. They danced under an open sky and toasted the newlyweds around a beach bonfire. The bride’s petticoat was a rainbow of brightly colored tulle.
It was Wild and Wonderful.
As the wedding party processed in, no one knew for certain whether the flower girl and ring bearer would play their parts. They were sleepy and a bit grumbly and their crisp white outfits had been tugged so repeatedly by their little hands that they were no longer quite so crisp, but appeared rather napped-in, despite all efforts to the contrary.
But on their mark, they went. All the way from the low beach-front cottage to the high edge of the shore where the groom waited and the bride would arrive.
I did what I always do: I looked and listened, focused and anticipated, trying to see it all, trying to photograph every odd thing.
In a moment of quiet, I looked up to notice that the flower girl and ring bearer were no longer standing by the chuppah with the bride and groom. They weren’t sitting in chairs with the other guests. They weren’t even playing in the sand off to the side.
Instead, the littlest wedding party members were at the very back of the gathering, windblown and half-asleep, bundled into the arms of their father.
No one took notice.
The bride and groom sniffled and smiled and exchanged rings. Their parents cried and their siblings cheered. Their friends hooted and hollered. Then the couple kissed, threw their hands into the air, and with happy tears and boisterous laughter rushed back up the aisle toward the two rumpled children held high above the sand like only a daddy can do.
Their wedding was not ruined. Their wedding was unruinable.
Without the wandering, wavering instabilities of real life, a wedding is merely a performance, a picture-perfect showcase of how carefully you planned, how extravagantly you spent, how deliberately you curated your social circle.
But welcome the real and the raw, and the day’s possibilities grow correspondingly more joyful. Naptime may collide with Now, and the sun may withdraw behind rainclouds, but truly: what is a wedding if not an invitation to every Wild and Wonderful thing life will certainly bring our way?
Every tragedy and trauma: we have gathered to withstand it. Every grand adventure and life changing experience: we are binding ourselves to the mast. For better or worse, a wedding day is a day to believe the best, to hope for happiness, to reject our least lovable selves and determinedly celebrate all we can be.
Tucked away in an old archive somewhere, I’m sure I have a photograph of a tense, tiny flower girl standing uncomfortably at the front of a very fine, very formal, church sanctuary. I’m sure her dress is immaculate. I’m sure her flower crown sits exquisitely atop her delicate head. And I’m sure the bride, to this day, gossips tirelessly to her friends about the destructive irreverence of a three-year-old child who nearly ruined her wedding.
What that bride does not understand is the magnitude of all that she missed. She is ignorant to the photographs I could have made. She is oblivious to the moments she could have embraced. She is tragically unaware of the memories she could have savored.
But my island bride knows. She chose the messy magic of a seaside celebration, and freed her two youngest friends to be their own darling, nap-deprived selves, elf-like in white cotton, haloed by tousled hair, and content to watch the proceedings from the security of their father’s embrace.
Fill your lungs and savor it all: the dry cake and the dreamy light; the impractical shoes and the impassioned speeches; the friends who will drink too much and the friend who is your best and favorite. Because before you know it, you’ll have breathed an entire day away, then an entire year, then an entire life.
Soak it all in, like sunshine into skin, like saltwater in the hem of your dress: Wild, Wonderful, and utterly unruinable.
See more from Caity & Mannfred’s wedding HERE.