The overloaded Lepidoptera flying machine had been a terrible struggle to land. Our entrance was equally matched by the racing of my heart, as we nearly ditched her in the still waters to the side of the beach, before only barely recovering .
Fortunately, the six of us – four bridesmaids, one bride, and me – managed to pile out the wet ship; dry, and as elegantly as possible given our near brush with nautical disaster.
Our perfectly coiffed hair tussled in the breeze as the setting sun held its still and calming gaze over us all, warming the gasping crowds as we turned to face them. As the bridesmaids took their places just as we’d rehearsed, I turned my back on the crowd of guests to face the bride.
An emotionless expression was all I could see on Gwen’s face as I saw her colour drain right in front of my eyes.
“Becky, I feel so odd”, she said, as I hastily remembered to gather up the short train of her white satin dress.
“You ok?” I probed, brushing the sand off the hem with the back of my hand.
“Just a bit nervous. :s”
I had noticed the change in her as we first climbed into the flying machine only five minutes before. She was even more visibly anxious now. The fact had seemed to dawn on her, finally. This was no rehearsal. There was no turning back.
I held her hand.
“Thank you… ❤ … Look at all those people! What happens now? :* I don’t even know.”
I smiled at her, as I recalled how calm she had been only a few hours before at the rehearsal. Considerably calmer than I imagined she would be, she walked through the rehearsal as if it had been any other day at the beach.
“Rory will go forward first. Then Mel… then Chelsea.”
I looked her squarely in the eyes to meet her middle-distance gaze. “Just follow me. Ok? Do what I do.”
“Okay Becky”, she whispered. “Thank you.”
“You are totally fine.” I squeezed her hand more tightly hoping to interrupt her descent into unconsciousness.
“Thank you. Just, so nerve-racking.”
“Ok my love… just wait until you hear the music,” I said to her as I reluctantly left her standing there next to Tox, who would be giving her away in only a few minutes.
“Then, start walking.”
I pretty much lost all form of contact with her from the moment she reached the altar.
It seemed aptly symbolic in a way, as it is this rite beyond all others, that marks that pivotal moment when a woman no longer put her friends first, but stands instead side by side with her man.
Minutes before the rings were exchanged, she looked at me over her shoulder with what appeared to be a relieved smile.
“Ok. Good girl.” I nodded and whispered. “Roll with it.”
“Becky, this is so different” she mouthed silently.
I smiled back at her.
Later, she said to me “I love it. Oh this is just, so amazing. I don’t know what I was so nervous about… Maybe because I was facing the front!”
And then she laughed for the first time since we landed.
The rest of the ceremony flew by. We assembled on the beach for one last photo before heading back into the Reception for the toasts.
Despite the tough part being all but over, I was actually more nervous that I expected to be at this point. First came Aeriq, then Rea (the Mother of the Bride), followed by Harvey the Best Man. If I’m honest, I don’t think I heard a word any of them said.
Then it was my turn. Moving my chair back as smoothly as I could, I stood to face the smiling faces.
How truly unique. To be present amongst these people, impossibly here and simultaneously all over the world, all of them unified in their joyous support of Gwen and Aeriq. How often does this happen in such a place as this?
Harvey’s toast had clearly roused the audience as they raised their glasses and cheered on the happy couple.
I said “Good evening”, but they seemed to go on.
Stiffening, I then raised my voice above the din: “Ok, quiet now. I’m talking”. This was not part of my toast!
Amazingly, the room stilled as I noticed nearly everyone in the crowd responding to my command, not quite sure, whether to laugh or be scared. I could hear Gwen chuckle to my right which lent me all the confidence I needed.
I repeated my opening line…
Good evening. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Becky and I’m Gwen’s Maid of Honour. First, I want to thank you all for coming to support Gwen and Aeriq on their special day… and especially to the wedding party who hasn’t yet run away in fear from my bossing them around. And, I’d also like to thank Gwen and Aeriq, for inviting me to help make this day as memorable and joyous as it can possibly be.
Turning to face Gwen, I continued.
Every now and then in life, I’ve encountered a very special person that will act as a life jacket for me when I inevitably fall overboard, and Gwenny, you have been one of these people for me.
Since that very first chat we shared on New Year’s Day, I’ve known you were someone I could rely on. Someone I could trust.
I have never told you this, but it was your buoyant enthusiasm and active support, that helped to encourage me to open up and run the place we call “work”.
It takes time to form a friendship, and you’ve always been so generous with yours.
When I think about the times we’ve shared, I can’t help but notice that so many of them are water-based! From the long chats we’ve shared while watching fish dance in giant Aquariums, to sunbathing on a Cruise Ship pool deck alongside a giant Manatee, to desperately hanging on to a speeding powerboat on the Blake Sea, to hours spent diving with our underwater friends of all shapes and description…
You have been my swimming armbands, helping to keep me afloat.
Through the sad and quiet moments, through the shared and furry frustrations, and through the infectious laughter we have shared…
You have opened your lifeboat to me, and when I’ve been in need, you have helped me climb in.
Everyone, should have a friend like you, Gwenny. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know you over almost one-third of your Second Life…
Raising my glass, I went on…
And here is to many more happy memories with you and the man you’ve chosen to become the Captain of your ship.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your glass in celebration, to Gwen and Aeriq!
And with the clink of champagne-filled glasses, my job was done. My mission, accomplished.
I breathed more fully than I had that whole day. What a ride, I thought.
As I felt the love in that room, I sat down and looked at the familiar faces of my friends in the crowd and at the table I sat at.
Slowly I turned to face the beaming eyes of the beautiful woman to my right. The smile on her face was relaxed and happy. Her nervousness and apprehension, now all but a distant memory.
How lucky I was, I thought. How beautiful life can be.
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