It wasn’t until I found myself dancing on an oceanside dock while wearing a pink feather boa that it really hit me: my big sister is getting married.
The distance between my older sister and me is not only geographical (she’s on the east coast, I’m in the midwest), but also generational. My young self was born while she was conquering elementary school. This woman has always been a step ahead in life, and now here I am priming myself for the day she steps down the aisle.
When the planning, bachelorette weekend and wedding day are all about your sibling, how do you find purpose? This has been the biggest battle (second to endless consultations with the tailor) for me ever since I knew I’d be a bridesmaid. A sibling getting married has an inherent quality that’s much heavier than any other person: you have shared parents, childhood, school and dogs with this person.
Despite knowing her my entire life, I feel an overwhelming need to convince the audience at my sister’s wedding that I do in fact, know her very well. In the age when our family FaceTimes on the weekends and pets our dog remotely, it’s difficult to say she and I have shared a lot of memories as adults. The people attending this wedding will know my sister as an adult, whereas my perspective is rooted in American Girl Dolls, popcorn and ballet classes after school.
I’m imagining a membrane, and on one side are the guests who attend weddings to be pleased, expecting there to be no rain and the open bar to never close. On the other side are the guests who provide meaning to the event. This side is where a wedding can be a growth experience. Guests reevaluate themselves through their relationships, other guests and the couple. This space is my destination.
Getting to that point of sensitivity has not been easy, but here are a few ways to celebrate your sibling:
- Have a guestbook printed for the couple, featuring photos of them and creative writing prompts for attendees to answer during the event. For example, “In 25 years, (insert names) will be…”
- Allow your sibling to describe their ideal wedding day to you. This way you clearly understand their expectations.
- Curate a getting ready playlist for your sibling. This extra effort will make them feel appreciated and excited.
- Do what you know. Use the talents you already have to make the couple feel special. For example, if you can sing, then do so at the rehearsal dinner or if you really like fashion, give them a special gift.
- Toasts can feel daunting and vulnerable, but it’s important to show rather than tell why you care about the couple. Don’t take up time apologizing for your bad speech, which is a common habit. Rather, share an anecdote with your sibling and their spouse, funny or sad, that reflects your relationship with them.
I’m becoming increasingly aware of how steps like these can provide success and happiness of another person. I have a lot of energy that is propelling me toward that special space on the other side of the membrane.
This membrane is permeable. Toasting and holding bouquets is easier to make meaningful when it’s also fun. For all siblings of brides and grooms, younger and older, the wedding day can be your moment too. If you make your sibling shine, so will you. Abandoning self-consciousness, be thankful for the day and perhaps wear a boa.