Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Why my sister was the best maid of honour

By Kayla Smith

When my sister Christy was born, I had a lot of plans and dreams that grew to fill the empty spaces in my life. I think this happens when little-girl wishes come true. Most of my aspirations were pretty typical. She would be my best friend, my late-night confidante, the student in my classroom, and the mannequin in my hair-salon. My partner in crime. My taste-tester. My maid of honour. 

Fast-forward 10 years, and my sister had been diagnosed with autism and a significant intellectual disability, among other things. Given her exceptionalities, I had to let go of many of these dreams.

I gave up trying to make her sit through my hair experiments and classroom lessons. Sometimes I would talk to her late at night, but it's hard to talk to someone who can't respond. She was pretty selective with her food (for a few years, her meals consisted of bananas and strawberry yogurt), and she didn't know how to keep secrets. Despite all of these things, there is one dream I never gave up on: my sister would be my maid of honour.

So, when Ryan proposed to me, my “proposing” to Christy was the first thing I checked off my list. I didn't think twice about it. I had known my whole life that my sister would be the one to stand next to me on the best day of my life, and, as someone who is usually packed full of worries, I can honestly say there wasn't a doubt in my mind that it was the right (and best) decision. This was all confirmed when Christy began to introduce herself to every person she met as “Kayla's maid of honour” and refer to her navy-blue dress (that was identical to the other bridesmaid dresses) as the “special maid of honour dress.”

Then the questions started coming. The questions I never could have imagined.

“So... who's going to, you know, do the actual maid of honour stuff?”

Since Christy has a hard time with planning, it made sense that this was a concern for some people.

“My mom is the queen of organization,” I told them. “My other bridesmaids will support my sister, and naturally, I will be super-involved with every detail.”

“Well, that's good... but will she be able to make it through the day? Like, what if she can't?”

“Okay, so maybe she won't, or maybe she will.”

To be honest, this didn't matter to me. I wanted my sister there with me. Whether she cried, laughed, sat, stood, took two pictures with me or 20, it wasn't important. I wanted to experience the day with her there, and I knew that's all she wanted too.

“Okay, but seriously, who is going to be your actual maid of honour?”

This is where things started to head south for me, and I was afraid steam might come out my ears.

Fact Number One: I am extremely protective of my sister. I'm usually a very gentle and quiet person. That's just me. But I do remember times in elementary school when I would storm over (as intimidating as a 70-pound Grade 6 kid could be) to anyone who might be bothering Christy and give them a piece of my big-sister mind. Christy is beautiful, hilarious, kind, and a lover of all things neon. She is perfect to me, and anyone who saw otherwise was not welcome around her (or so my 12-year-old self thought).

Needless to say, when people suggested that Christy might not be good enough as my maid of honour, it didn't sit well with me.

Despite my confidence in my decision and happy hopes, making Christy my right-hand girl caused a lot of conflict in the nine months leading up to my wedding. My mom and I tried hard to remain organized and lightly delegate the support Christy might need, but a lot of people were really unsure about her capabilities and the role that she should have.

It came to a climax on the day I overheard a conversation that wasn't meant for my ears: “All the stress and problems Kayla is having are because she doesn't have a real maid of honour.”

I cried for almost an entire afternoon. What did they mean she wasn't real?! And how was she in any way responsible for my wedding stress? All wedding plans become stressful at one point or another, and if anyone was responsible for the stress it was me. After all, it was my choice to involve her, right?

I learned a lot of valuable lessons that day. I learned that the ability to forgive is a matter of the heart, and that it’s often hardest to forgive a person for hurting someone close to you. I learned that not everyone will understand my sister like I do, and that is something I am going to have to be okay with. I was also reminded of something that I so often forget: my sister is my personal cheerleader.

That day when my heart broke for the hurtful words directed at Christy, she was the one beside me offering comfort. She gave me multiple hugs, put her arm around me, and confidently told me that I was going to be beautiful on my wedding day. Isn't that what all us girls want to hear in our lowest moments? She also assured me (not for the first time, or last) that she was very excited “to have a brother in the family.” I'd say that's exactly what a bride needs to hear from her maid of honour.

Christy knows me better than almost anyone. Despite her struggles in many areas, she is one of the most intuitive and empathetic people I know, and I am crazy-blessed that I get to walk with her through the adventure of life.

I'm extra grateful that she stood by my side through my entire wedding day. She held my flowers, she saved my twin flower girl and ring bearer, aged 3, when they got lost walking down the aisle, she danced her heart out all night long, and she wrote the most beautiful speech. If I had to do it all over again, I would choose her in a heartbeat.

Christy is my lifelong biggest fan, and she is the best one I could ever ask for.


Kayla, thank you for sharing this incredible story.

You are two perfect sisters! What a beautiful tribute to your perfect maid-of- honour. A day never to be forgotten.your choices were the very best! God bless you and Ryan .

Wonderful sibling love for one another

Thanks for sharing your story. But more important, thanks for sharing what it means to be a sister.

Thank you so much for sharing your story. You really show just how important it is to always presume competence
God bless you and Ryan