My first wedding dress, in 1982, had a high neck and long, sheer sleeves that gathered at the wrists with lace detailing. The full skirt swept the floor and was accented with bands of more lace over tulle, and underneath was a petticoat custom made for this dress and made especially for me. With a two-inch waist and easy snaps along the back of the bodice, it was a perfect fit and saw regular use....which was exactly what my grandmother and her sister had intended when they constructed this wedding ensemble as the showpiece of the Barbie wardrobe I received for Christmas that year.
Before my sister and I had a Ken doll, Barbie simply had to marry one of our brother's Masters of the Universe figures, and regardless of many cultural and fashion differences between them, the bride always came down the aisle with a beautiful smile for her groom. Skeletor often officiated the ceremonies, which lent an additional air of solemnity to the occasions. Lantana blossoms were the flower of choice, strewn along a bath tissue aisle, and friends were stiffly posed in various seating arrangements to the degree their respective vinyl and plastic joints would allow, often in pairs that predicted a future Mattel love story in the making. My sister and I married Barbie off again and again, as we punctuated the events with the dreaming of little girls about "when I get married".
Flash forward almost twenty years. The gathered full skirt of my dress, with delicate floral lace accenting over tulle, swept the floor with each step, and three little princess scattered ivory rose petals ahead of me. The day had been a one in which each task checked off brought me one step closer to the moment I took my father's arm and walked toward the future and the man I'd hoped for since those days of carefully planning Barbie's many weddings. Every part of the day leading to that moment was a shared experience with the people I love most, as we hustled and bustled to put the finishing touches on a dream. And in the foyer of the church, on a table with a framed explanation, lay a Barbie dress made by one of the ladies I missed most on that day.
Underneath all the tasks that go into planning and pulling together a wedding, there is love. Love that is the foundation between two people, surrounded and supported by the love of their family and friends. And it often takes the shape of simple objects and actions that are a reminder that this love is all about what we give to and share with and hope for one another. A Barbie dress on a table, a loaned dress for the rehearsal dinner because somehow I forgot to look for one until that day, music created by dear family and friends who contributed their harmony and a huge chunk of time, and so many more examples.
That love takes the form of a mother putting in countless hours and miles to create a certain look or find that perfect piece for the reception. It's a daddy who runs a million errands outside his comfort zone to places like craft stores and who becomes adept at identifying a certain shade of pink or blue or ivory almost without assistance. Friends who show up and laugh and cry and pray and give knowing glances and hugs in the stressful moments and carry thousands of boxes and wear whatever they are told, with heels. And love is a groom who, because he loves the girl, wisely discerns when to look interested in and actually listen to the details swirling around him and when to sit back and let the little girl inside his bride live her dream without his interference.
Show thankfulness to each person who weaves a thread of kindness or talent or patience or muscle into this day because they are giving a piece of their own. Make a place for objects that are reminders of those who are dearly missed. Soak up the joy in the process because it is abundant.
Focus on the blessings in the chaos because they are a gift. Remember that the mistakes and foibles of the day will just be memories, often laughed over.
The love itself is represented by each piece of the day, moments of imperfect perfection stitched together by the hands and hearts of friends and family and bound by two gold bands.
And in a box in a closet in my parents' home, three granddaughters have discovered their first wedding dress....that full skirt that sweeps the floor, lace detailing over tulle, with a perfect two-inch wedding dress....that full skirt that sweeps the floor, lace, and easy snaps along the back.