My Grandma Was My Maid of Honor, and It Set the Tone For My Whole Wedding

Choosing my 87-year-old grandmother to be my maid of honor was easy. With two happy marriages behind her and an obligation to give me unconditional love, she was a treasure trove of wisdom, advice, and perspective. While my mom and I navigated the treacherous waters of seating, floral, and lodging arrangements together, I discussed feelings, etiquette, and makeup concepts with the matriarch of our family. Having her there with us when we chose my wedding dress, and in the room with all the women as we had our hair and makeup done, added an extra level of rite of passage to these wedding milestones. Plus, I benefited vastly from her brand of deep honesty that only comes from years and years of chipping away at caring what people think of you and your opinions.

It was something special that only she and I got to share and something that we'll never get to have again.

Appointing her to the post took the pressure off my bridesmaids, who were now free to be a democracy. No one's feelings get hurt when the bride chooses her grandmother as her right-hand woman. It set the tone for the wedding and the wedding party: this would be a sentimental event, free from politics and hierarchies. It bled into my planning, and I eventually asked them to walk down the aisle together in a single-file, female-empowered line.

On the day of my wedding, my dashing younger cousin suited up to escort my grandmother down the aisle slowly, carefully, and with intention. I couldn't see them, but I heard the waves of appreciation and reverence ripple through the rows of guests. She wore an ivory dress and cascading strings of pearls like the ones I played with as a kid when we would empty her jewelry boxes and comb through the treasures. All the men abandoned their wives to dance with her at the reception. She was breathtaking and called herself "the oldest living matron of honor" in her wedding speech, which she gave barefoot while holding a glass of Champagne.

It was the beginning of a series of late-in-life events she never dreamed she'd live to see: the births of her great-grandchildren, a multigenerational cruise to celebrate her 90th birthday, a grandson's medical school graduation, a granddaughter's first purchased home, and a daughter-in-law's retirement. I am proud to have been able to give her some of these experiences as payback for years and years of her undying love and support.

As a person enters old age, it can sometimes feel like the ways to celebrate them are numbered, but I found the opposite to be true. I honored her on my wedding, and I make a conscious effort to continue to honor her every day.

Ariel Rivera