If you happen to come across the official program for the October 29, 2011 “Andrew Chen + Hanna Kim” wedding at Casa Del Mar, Santa Monica Beach, you might notice an interesting little detail. Under the Bridal Party portion of the program, you’ll see the name Chris Paek printed under the heading of “Bridesmaid”.
No, you’re not seeing a typo. That’s me. Christopher Paek, formerly of Anaheim, California, currently of Queens, New York…Proud Bridesmaid.
Whenever I go to weddings, I harbor the faintest tinge of envy for the chosen friends and family who get to stand on the side of the Bride and Groom. What an honor, that of all the loved ones assembled in that great banquet, that these were the chosen, the selected few who were trusted enough by the couple to share in the emotional burdens of the day. I guess I’ve never really shared this with anyone, but yes, I’ll admit it to you now. I’ve always wanted to be a Groomsman. And I hope it’ll happen for me someday.
Because I’m still waiting.
How classic of me. What better way to cement my legendary status as the Friend Zone Champion of the World, than to stand Bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding? To know me is to not be surprised at all.
I took it all in stride, of course, even relishing in the new lines of attack I lob at myself so often. If self-deprecation is an art form, then I’m a natural Rembrandt. It’s my own twisted way of humbling myself, plucking away at the weeds of ego.
Thank you, by the way, to all the friends who’ve helped me in this regard, those who couldn’t resist making a “Made of Honor” reference, or asking me what color dress I would wear. And a special thanks to all those who assured me of my heterosexuality, as if this was in some sort of need of assurance. I just want to let you know that Jesus has taught me to forgive each and every one of you.
Anyways, there are lots of little things about being a male bridesmaid that people might overlook…understandable, given how rare it is. For example, the official name, to all of you who might be curious is BridesMAN. And you say it sort of like this:
Other little quandaries might include: Do you attend the bachelorette party or the bachelor’s party? Do I walk in carrying a bouquet? What am I wearing on the day of? How do I not look like a loser?
And what exactly are my Bridesmaid duties? The answer to this one should be none at all, and Hanna was prescient enough to shield me from them. In this whole process, I discovered that there’s a very simple reason why Bridesmaids are given so many more responsibilities than Groomsmen. Simply put, guys suck at this kind of thing. Their thumbs are too big to properly ruche this or quaffle that. They may pretend to care about the flower arrangements, but really, they’re secretly updating scores to the UCLA-CAL game. Men are meant to be ushers and movers of heavy boxes. That is the extent to which you can trust them to handle wedding duties. Well played, Hanna. Well played indeed.
Luckily, many of these nuances were accounted for. But there was one tiny and unexpected perk that I didn’t anticipate. In most wedding ceremonies, if you’ll notice, everyone is looking at the Bride, and the Groomsmen have the best seats in the house. As a Bridesman, I was one of the rare exceptions who, as a guy, got to see this whole thing play out on the Groom’s face. And as a guy, I learned an important thing or two.
Like the expression on a man’s face when he gives his vows, “To love and support”. To love and support means vastly different things for a man than it does for a woman, not any more or less important. For a man, this means a higher order of responsibility. It means that he’s got another life in his hands. It means that this woman in front of him has chosen him above all others, placing her whole basketful of trust into his skillful caretaking. In short, it means that it’s time to step your goddamn game up. There are many ways to become a man. This is one of them.
So what a rare honor it was for me, and a teachable moment, to stand in witness of a man becoming a man. I couldn’t help but feel, standing where I was, that I had to have her back on this. That this fierce army of Bridesmaids was locked, loaded and ready to hold him at his word. We ain’t messin’ around Mr. Andrew.
When he delivered his vows, though, I noticed that his face didn’t flinch, not in the least bit. That was when I knew he would keep his promise; it was all I needed to see, really. And I found it comically ironic that I was in a position to see it.
We were all chosen that day, us the selected few. But he was chosen for her, and her for him, and what’s more, he made it known. It was a touching scene to say the least, and I’m sure all the Bridesmaids had a tear in their eyes.
Except for the one, of course, who held it down like a man.
Cuz’ that’s how we do dammit. That’s how Bridesmen roll.