I am not a fan of open letters. I oppose them at every turn. But, with the 29th anniversary of my marriage to H quickly approaching, I realized, with shocking gravity, the great necessity of writing this letter to you, my dear, brave, kind friends. In spite of the unfortunate turn of events leading up to and on the day of my wedding, you have remained some of the dearest people in my life. This letter, it would seem, is long overdue.
With the approach of our wedding anniversary, I have become nostalgic and found myself flipping through photos of that day. I peer at the images and run my fingers across the photos and, with great distress, I find my gaze resting on the pictures of each of you, draped (that’s probably not the right word), at my request, in a sad arrangement of peach and cream satin and organza.
At the risk of triggering unfortunate memories, let me recap the series of incidents that led up to the need for this letter.
First, H proposed to me, I accepted, and, as any responsible bride would do, I trotted off to the nearest newsstand to purchase a stack of bridal magazines. Let the planning begin! I thumbed, dreamily, through page after page of wedding gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses, splayed across slick magazine spreads in seductive or gleeful or elegant poses. Early on, I decided the colors would be peach and cream. And the groomsmen would wear grey. And one day, I found the perfect dress for you.
Thrilled with my choice, I brought that particular magazine to church with me one Sunday, so I could show my pick to my Matron of Honor. “Where can we find that dress?” she asked when I showed her the page in the magazine as the offering plate was being passed down our row. With confidence, I declared, “We’ll have them made! Custom!”
I know. I’m sorry.
So, I looked in the Yellow Pages for a seamstress, took my magazine page to her, where I laid it out on her table and said, “This is the one!”
“I can do that,” she replied.
We chose the fabric and you offered up your dollars and submitted to measurements and the purchasing of shoes and bedazzled combs for your hair (again, my apologies), and I kept in touch with the seamstress, making sure things were progressing at the right rate.
Here, I should stop and point out that the dress in the magazine really was beautiful. Tea length, they called it, cap-sleeved, and constructed of satin with a lacy overlay. Something like this…
Perfect for an afternoon wedding and garden reception, right?
Strangely, the closer we got to the wedding, the less I was hearing from the seamstress. With just a couple of weeks to go, she stopped returning my calls. So, one night, a couple of you rode with me, down to the seamstress’ shop in Royal Oak. We parked in the alley behind the shop and saw her inside, sitting in a circle of light, and then she suddenly jumped up and scampered out of view. We knocked. We called out her name. We knocked some more. All to no avail.
Home we went, with me in tears at the thought of those dresses being held hostage.
My dad, however, wasn’t having it. I don’t know what happened, but the unfinished dresses soon showed up at my house and my mom hopped on the phone to call a friend—the sweet grandmother of people who went to my parents’ church—and that fabulous Abuela went to town, snipping and cutting and measuring and stitching.
She did her best. She really did. And she worked from the goodness of her heart, refusing to accept any payment for her work. But, the dresses we eventually handed over to you just days before the wedding, were not the same as the dress I’d seen in that magazine.
And you? Faithful girlfriends that you are? You wore those dresses. You each zipped yourselves into one of those dresses. You each put the comb in your hair. You wore the gloves and the pantyhose. You marched down that aisle and let the moment be recorded for posterity by the photographer of the day. You smiled. You held my hand; and my heart (and my dress when I had to squeeze into the bathroom stall). You wore those dresses all day long.
And you posed for pictures like this one…
It was unfortunate. You were brave that day. Undaunted. Loyal. Fierce (before fierce was even a thing). I, of course, was oblivious to your plight. Until now.
So today, with the world as my witness (well, maybe not the world, but at least the people who read this) I want to tell you, I owe you one. At least one.
In the end, of course, it all worked out. The marriage took. The wedding was beautiful. And, I’m sure you got out of those dresses as soon as H and I headed for the airport. If you’ve got bridesmaids’ dresses hanging in your closet, I’m not the least bit surprised if this one isn’t hanging among them.
Twenty-nine years ago, you rose to the challenge. You bit the bullet. You took one for the team. I am grateful for you. I am honored that you stood by me—in the alley that night at the seamstress’ shop, in the bathroom stall just before the wedding, on the platform as H and I spoke our vows, and in all the days that have followed. You stand in the tradition of many who came before you, and many who have taken up the torch after you.
You are girlfriends. It’s a sorority of its own and those who are fortunate to know something about it are blessed beyond measure.
Of course, there was no alcohol at that wedding (and for that I offer yet another apology), but today I’m raising a glass to you and to all of the bridesmaids and girlfriends out there. Here’s to the fierce ones! We’d be lost without you!
Much love, D.