"So, how was the wedding last weekend?" my workmate asked. It was my sixth wedding in four months, the last I was invited to for this season.
"Was really good," I shared. "Just a beautiful wedding, such perfect weather, and I actually got teary at this one for once," I laughed.
"What made you cry at this one?"
I had been asking myself that all weekend because, honestly, I never thought I'd be one of those crying wedding guests. It's not really me. The six different weddings I had attended involved various degrees of friends I grew up with and family friends I had known for years. Yet, I didn't shed a tear until the sixth wedding. What made this different?
It was an early wake-up flying from Auckland to Dunedin, then getting a rental car to drive an hour up north, travelling by my lonesome into the serious countryside. Normally I enjoy driving by myself with the radio blaring - but while it was a picturesque drive, I wished I had company.
By the time I got to my destination, it wasn't even midday, yet I almost felt I had been travelling for days. I happened to bump into my friends/the bridesmaids who had also flown into this small town, and in turn, I got to see the bride at the salon they were all getting ready in.
While I hadn't seen my friend (The Bride) in a good 4-5 years, we caught up as if life were just the same (except for the whole "getting married that afternoon" thing). We had lunch, we had some good chats, then I left them to get ready for the wedding. For me, I was in a new town, a new half of the country, surrounded by different people, but yet it all felt comfortable. It was odd.
It was only as I stood in at the wedding location, in a field alone surrounded by strangers (my partner was still in Auckland) that I finally felt like "this is a wedding".
I hope my friend, the bride who say she reads my blogs (this will be the test!) doesn't mind me sharing these details. But within the half hour or so that was her wedding ceremony, my feelings were caught up with so many emotions, it was an unexpected surprised that I couldn't rationalise at the time.
I sat alone at this wedding, picking the third row closest to the aisle. Watching the only friends I knew in this small town walk down the aisle as the pretty bridesmaids, I try not to grin too much like an idiot. When you're a bridesmaid, everyone is staring at you, but no one definitely cares about you because you're not the bride. I've been there, I get that.
The sky is cloudless as the late sun warms against the cool fresh breeze, circling around this flat grassy field. Everyone's turned to look down the aisle for the bride to make her entrance. Traditionally, the father of the bride walks her down the aisle, but since he wasn't at the wedding, her mum took her hand and walked her down.
They look at each other before they take their first steps, smiling at each other as they semi-dance/walk hand-in-hand together on the aisle. Suddenly, a flood of emotions takes me by surprise and catches my eye.
It's the moment they exchanging gazes, their silent messages worth a thousand words that only they could translate. I saw the love of a mother and daughter taking the next big steps - that the bride was to start a new family with a new name, and that her mum was leading her there. As a teenager, seeing them together was familiar, but watching them today take these steps made the realities of a white dress and growing up hit home.
As I stood alone as a spectator and a guest, with all my attention on them - I had to keep wiping away the tears. And just when I thought all the emotion was over, and the couple shared their first kiss, the tears started again the moment I congratulated the bride's mum. In some ways, I felt ridiculous, since no one in this town knew my name and yet I was the teary Auckland girl in the third row with mascara and eyeliner smudging over my face.
The rest of the wedding went by as relatively normal as you could expect. However, what I realised reflecting back on it, it wasn't necessarily a nostalgic, or melancholic reaction to cry at a wedding. But it was defined in a simple moment, that summed up a lifetime of growing up and moving forward. Here's not to say that it didn't happen at the other five weddings I attended, but I don't think I noticed it as strongly as I did in that one look between a bride and her mother. It was beautiful, and in those few seconds did I finally get the emotion of a wedding ceremony.