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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Weddings come around once for most, much like their funerals

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By Keiko Ohnuma
Advertiser Staff Writer

I hadn't said a word. I wasn't wearing a ring. But that very day, a co-worker cleared her throat meaningfully as I settled at my desk.

"Any announcements?" she said.

"Announcements like what?"

She had seen it in a dream. I'm not kidding: My co-workers knew before I did.

Just like that, bridal magazines started appearing on my desk. People offered hints on gown styles or table treatments — checking to see if I might be "the marrying type" after all.

I got married, but I may not be the "type." My nuptial notions were about as fun-loving as those of the drunk Britney Spears: a drive-through chapel in Vegas, waving a glass of champagne from a rented convertible. But the performance was nixed by my hapless co-star.

It's funny: You grow up dreaming of the white dress and the big day, unaware until you actually open one of those bridal rags that this culminates a to-do list that stretches 12 to 18 months long.

Apparently, you need this expanse of time to wade through a plethora of decisions about minutiae ranging from the off-white shade of the invitations to whether you should make or buy the satin pillow where the rings sleep during the ceremony.

You can't just go to the mall and buy a white cocktail dress, for example. In the world of Island formal wear, the new black is ... black. Only brides wear white.

So I ended up in a bridal salon, on a circular stage surrounded by mirrors, where the mama-san had my big head floating dreamily over the satin cathedrals of my girlhood dreams — until she conjured two foam clamshells and stuffed them into my bodice.

"You need something," she winked.

What I needed, I decided, was a costume.

And sure enough, at a boutique for pageant queens, I located a white dress for the evening gown competition in 23 minutes flat.

No American holiday is free of commercialized cuteness these days, but is there another life event in which the passage itself is a performance of preciousness?

Think births. Graduations. Funerals.

In fact, the modern American wedding most closely resembles the funeral. There's the mantra of "your special day," when everything should be as fantastic as humanly possible — because you'll probably never have another one. You should strive to look otherworldly and angelic, just to prove that it was once possible.

I'm not quite ready to plan the last, best party we'll ever throw. Or to sit for the mannikin photo that shows how we will never look again — the one the newspaper runs after you've been kidnapped or killed.

"Moose and Mouse, in happier times."

But maybe it serves a purpose to send little Bridezilla into a perfectly scripted fuss for months on end, indulging her conceit that every detail of this day can be the unique expression of her ultimate life wish.

She'll lie awake turning over pupu selections and centerpiece themes, not heeding the intuition that she is describing the end of her journey more than the start of theirs.

Weddings, like funerals, focus on a fantasy of she is (or was), in the unspoken wish that it might last weeks and months and years — or hours, in the case of Britney — after the curtain falls.

Keiko Ohnuma had her last, best wedding Feb. 29 in Volcanoes National Park. Write her at kohnuma@honoluluadvertiser.com