Today’s gonna rawk cuz I’m a bridesmaid in my girlfriend’s wedding. That might be the most polyamorous sentence I’ve ever written. Which is saying something, given what I do for a living, I wrote yesterday morning, before setting out to get my hair and makeup done.
I’m hungover as I type this. My feet are aching. I still have the remnants of eye makeup, despite washing my face three times. Water, makeup wipes, water. And yet, my eyes still have a whisper of liner.
There are 40 bobby pins sitting on my tray from the updo I wore. There will likely be product in my hair for a few more days, persisting through washing.
And yes, I’m really hungover. Basically have no voice left — I destroyed it belting out Time Warp and Bohemian Rhapsody while some of my nearest and dearest shredded it on the dance floor at the reception.
But I’m smiling.
A Subtly Polyamorous Wedding
It’s an interesting experience being the bride’s secret girlfriend in what otherwise would appear to be a somewhat traditional straight wedding. And by traditional straight wedding, I mean one that has a bride and groom. A white dress. Pinterest-worthy flower centerpieces. Wedding colors (in this case, layered elegant shades of purple).
I mean, to be fair, neither the bride nor the groom were actually straight. And other than a few siblings tucked away into the groomsmen, basically everyone in the wedding party was either kinky or polyamorous (and most of them both), including a few current or past partners. I was dating the bride. The bridesmaid next to me was also dating the groom (and had dated a few other bridesmaids in the past). The bridesmaid next to her also dated the groom in past (they amicably broke up a little while ago).
But bisexuality is invisible when people have heterosexuality to look at, to distract them. And polyamory can be rather invisible itself a lot of the time, especially when you’re celebrating a wedding, what a lot of folks consider basically a Superbowl of Monogamy.
However, if you listened to the ceremony closely, all the signs were there. There was no mention of forsaking all others. No talk of “you and only you, for as long as we both shall live.”
The ceremony instead talked about the importance of being in things for the long haul — but also emphasized each spouse’s autonomy, and the importance of acting separately and letting their partner have their freedom. That successful unions are about love, respect, and commitment — not keeping your lover on a short leash.
The emphasis was subtle but very important. And definitely something I and others heard.
It’s Not the Presence or Absence of Conflict, But How You Handle That Conflict
They’d opted for handfasting, and I of all people was tasked with tying them together, I believe because of my place in procession order (although one of my friends/fellow maids joked, “no way, it’s totally traditional to have the bride’s girlfriend tie the couple together, duh”). My makeup was already in trouble from the second wedding reading (a passage from The Princess Bride), but I struggled to maintain my composure as I wrapped the bonds around my girlfriend and metamour while the officiant asked them vital questions.
I only remember one of those questions, because I was so focused on the timing of tying and not crying. But the one question I do remember was beautiful: The officiant asked them if they would use their occasional anger for one another towards a productive purpose.
This struck me as an important question. So many times, people have this idyllic vision of long-term love as being something with no conflict. A bond that never experiences negative emotions — sadness, frustration, or even anger.
But romantic movies and reality can be quite different in this respect. Spend enough time with someone, and odds are good that you’ll run into some emotional conflict eventually.
And I’ve always found that it’s not whether or not you have conflict with a partner that matters so much as how well you effectively resolve it.
Even anger can have a place.
Can you take anger, an emotion that can be quite destructive if left to rage unchecked and feeding itself with furious self-righteousness, and use it towards something constructive?
Can you take anger as a wake-up call and not justification to burn everything to the ground? Use it as a way to understand what’s important to you, instead of a call to emotional or physical violence?
If you can, you’ll probably make it a lot further than most.
I thought about that, as I tied their wrists. Sneaking glances at both of their faces but almost immediately averting my gaze since their own eyes were moist.
No no no, I’m not crying off these cocaine eyes, I told myself, my pet name for the professional makeup I’d received that morning that made me look way more awake than I really was. Eyes that a professional had drawn on me that looked less like I was slogging through a marathon (albeit a lovely, romantic marathon) and more like I’d just snorted a line of sunshine and rainbows.
I guess I didn’t have much to worry about in terms of crying, since there’s still a little bit of that makeup left this morning, in spite of my best efforts to remove it. But no way was I risking ruining her photos.
The Secret, Beautiful Richness of a Community
After the ceremony was over and the barrage of photo ops (a staple of weddings), it was back to the reception where we feasted, danced, sang, and all caught up with each other.
The wedding guests were an interesting mix – about half family and half friends. I didn’t really know most of the family (other than those who’d been involved in the rehearsals). But the friends? I knew the vast majority of them. Some were kinksters, some polyamorous folk, some both. I chatted with folks I hadn’t seen in ages. And I danced with a very popular stuffed raccoon…because what can I say? I do love me a trash panda.
I told so many people that I loved them, that I was happy to see them. And each time it was sincere and genuine but seemed to mean a very unique thing, depending on our individual history with one another and what exactly we held in common.
And through the entire process (rehearsal the night before, morning preparation, ceremony, and reception), more hidden connections kept emerging, ones I had been previously unaware of. Even as a consummate social busybody and professionally nosy person, I was struck with the reality that there was even more richness to the connections among us all than even I’d known going in. People I didn’t even know knew one another turned out to be close friends. Others I assumed were platonic were actually dating or at least play partners. It occurred to me that the lot of us were a rather dynamic crew. That the community was a social organism with a life of its own. One that’s not always for me to understand, at least not in its entirety, because the whole thing is forever in motion. Moving, changing… and sometimes, dancing and singing.
The wedding was a powerful reminder especially from my perspective (i.e., a secret girlfriend for the day) that things are not always as they appear. On the surface they can be quite beautiful, and sometimes, underneath all of that, there’s not a seamy underbelly or ugliness but another layer that’s just as beautiful but not as evident on first glance.
Even if that beauty is not something that everyone would find to be so elegant, depending on their own values system (for example, if they thought consensual non-monogamy were an irredeemable sin).
But yeah. What a night. I still feel it today.
I’m so happy for them both — they’re wonderful people. And I’m so glad that they’re in one another’s lives. That two good people found each other.
Life can be rough sometimes, so if you find a good thing, hang on to it.
And if you see something beautiful happening near you to other good people, savor the experience. Let yourself vicariously revel in someone else’s well deserved joy.
My girlfriend and metamour got married yesterday. It was beautiful.
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