We were at a wedding this weekend, me and Mr Monkey. And what a wedding it was.
Our friends, let's call them Mr and Mrs Monkey Two, have been dating for about 11 years and finally got us all together to witness them making it official. Sigh. Sunset, on the beach, wining and dining and dancing the night away, it was even better than it sounds. And the best part? I got to stand beside them.
I've never been a bridesmaid before this, and come to think of it, I don't think I've been to a wedding of my friends before. Sure, I've been to other weddings - family mostly, and a couple of acquaintances - you know the ones where you're not sure whether they really want you there or if they just feel obliged to invite you because you move in overlapping social circles... can you spell a. w. k. w. a. r. d.? But I digress. It is a magic thing, being so close to the bride and groom on their day. Being such an obvious witness to such a beautiful moment. An honour I have nothing to compare with, a validation of how much we all mean to each other as friends. It's huge. Well, it is to me.
I myself initially struggled with the idea of walking down the aisle, mostly because it was never part of my 'life plans'. But I also couldn't fathom a reason besides legal convenience that we should really move on from what seemed to be a good situation for us both. I wanted to spend my life with Mr Monkey, he wanted to spend his life with me, what did it matter if names weren't changed? I suppose we did go about things in a bit of a backwards manner - we fell in love before we really got to know each other, we bought a house before we travelled the world. So when I decided I wanted kids I didn't think there would be any arguing from Mr Monkey, and certainly not moral outrage at the thought of bringing children into the world without the bonds of wedlock. Hmmm, apparently I was very very wrong. So we decided to get married. And if that sounds unromantic, it wasn't meant to, it really was a beautiful start to what I hope will be the best and most interesting journey I'll take in life. But I digress again.
The point I'm trying to get to was that I was given some very good advice by a woman who waited 17 years to marry the father of one of her three illegitimate children. She said to me one day, while I was griping about how I really didn't think I needed the whole world (by which I mean our 150-odd family members and friends) to watch me tell my better half that I loved him and how it was a private moment and they didn't need to be part of it, 'You're looking at this the wrong way. Yes, it's a private moment and no, you don't need everyone there. But by inviting witnesses to your vows you're also endowing them with the responsibility of ensuring you don't forget them (the vows). You're asking them to remember how much love there is between the two of you on that day, and to remind you of it when you forget. When life gets hard and you think the way to fix it is to walk away from your spouse, your witnesses are the ones who should come forward and help you remember that you pledged yourselves, for better and for worse, whatever comes.'
Wow. I hope I have the guts to be that active witness one day if it's needed. And I hope someone will stand up and be that witness for me if I need it. Because marriages are meant to be forever, not just until the season changes. They say you can't choose your family, but they're wrong. You choose your family when you choose your spouse, and once they become your family you have them for life. And you have to love them, even if you don't always like them :)
To all the Monkeys in my life, thank you, and I love you all.