My hippy sister was planning the weirdest wedding ever. That was all I knew. There was something about a mandala; there was something about a giant cocoon; there was something about walking in a circle with some kind of ceremonial ropes. It was to be outdoors in a sandy patch of the desert land she and her fiancé owned, and my first problem was: I had no idea what shoes to wear. I’m a custom tailor, so of course I made myself a special dress out of a fabulous orange silk I had been saving for a special occasion. I did it instinctively and to my personal tastes, without considering the fact that most people were probably going to wear jeans and hiking boots to this type of affair. I didn’t realize that until later, of course.
It’s the kind of dress you want to wear with high heels. I mean it was a slinky, sexy, unique, romantic, hotter-than-hot, shiny, flowy, gossamer dress of wonder. After, of course only after, making it, I realized I was going to have to do this thing at the start of the ceremony: walk in a circle while tied to four other women with ceremonial ropes. It was Margaret’s answer to “bridesmaids.” All the women she wanted to honor in some way would be part of a train tied together with the velvet rope, and we would walk the perimeter of the sacred wedding space. Only trouble was, the sacred space was a little unpredictable. Specifically: we were to start in the sandy arroyo, climb a slight incline along a dirt path, sidle between a cactus and a scrub tree, and slog through some tall grass. My dress was made of Chinese silk brocade so delicate that it already had visible snags just from brushing against the calluses on my fingers. It would never survive the hazards of an eco-friendly wedding march.
But I had made the thing, it was gorgeous, and I had absolutely no place else I could wear something so fancy. I was going to wear that darn gown, and no mistake! As I mentioned, there was also the problem of shoes. The dress wanted Donald Pliner stilletos. The desert wanted Rocky Mountain utility boots. The gown begged me for Forzierri slingbacks. The terrain demanded closed-toe Birkenstocks at the very least. I couldn’t see a compromise. I ended up buying a pair of mules in a matching orange suede, which were the worst possible choice. They kept falling off and delaying the procession. The other girls would be walking along, looking reasonably stately and profound in their pantsuits and rubber-soled leather sandals, and there was me, lodged in the middle, holding up the line as I reached back to pinch the escaped shoe with my toe and worm my foot back into it.
Eventually, my dress and I both somehow survived the processional, although the shoes were utterly trashed. I felt like I had just about ruined the whole thing. But everyone forgot about it as the Bhuddist invocation followed, the speaking circle commenced, the vows were spoken in the center of a life-sized driftwood mandala, and the couple was wrapped in a long red fabric symbolic of the cocoon of their new life together. Meanwhile, I kept shifting uncomfortably on the prickly haybales where we were sitting, realizing that if the walk through the desert hadn’t done in my gorgeous liquid silk garment, the thousand pieces of straw sticking in my rear were sure to bring its demise.
Then, finally, came the moment I’d been waiting for. My sister threw her bouquet. All of the ladies gathered ‘round, looked to the heavens, stretched out their hands, and waited patiently for fate to decide its lucky winner. I wanted that thing as bad as I had wanted to wear my fabulous gown, so when I saw it coming I leaped. I reached out and nabbed it from over the other women’s heads like Michael Jordan going for a lay-up.
The wedding picture that everyone has to have for their album is not the loving couple’s shy moment of giving their respective vows. Its not the proud mother of the bride beaming as the minister pronounced them husband and wife. It’s a shot of this huge orange blur whirling through the air, dominating the neutral background tones, overwhelming the demure assembly, and fluttering out in every direction like a fireball. My hair is flying every which way; my face is obscured. The only thing in focus is my arm, my hand, and that bouquet landing solidly in it. That dress didn’t last the day, but it sure went out in a blaze of glory.