Welcome to our Parade.com essay series in partnership with Friends & Fiction, an online community hosted by bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harvey and Patti Callahan Henry. Once a month, you’ll receive a new Life Lessons essay from one of the authors, as well as the opportunity to discuss the themes later that evening on Facebook Live! Today, author Kristy Woodson Harvey reflects on the special meaning of her wedding veil.
When I was little, my mother’s wedding dress was stored in a sealed box under the bed in her nursery. Since we lived less than a mile from my grandparents, I was at their house several times a week, and I loved sneaking into that room, pulling out the wedding box that was almost as big as me, and opening the lid. I ran my hands over the clear plastic film that covered the lace bodice, which was supposed to keep it from yellowing with age, and imagined that one day I would wear the dress my mother and her three sisters had once worn. .
Fast forward a few decades, and I had just gotten engaged. I already knew that I couldn’t wear my mother’s wedding dress since I was a few inches taller than her, and I was a little sad not to carry on the family tradition.
But right after my engagement to her brother, my future sister-in-law gave me her own family treasure. It wasn’t just a bridal veil; it was a gorgeous handmade mantilla with the most beautiful lace i have ever seen, guaranteed to turn any ordinary woman into one the bride.
Sailing in tow, I went to my first wedding dress date with my mom, best friend, and sister-in-law, who were all ready for weeks of shopping, hemming, and hawing. My mother had made appointments at many stores in many cities. But when we entered the first store, I immediately saw the dress of my dreams. With a lace bodice, silk skirt and heavy satin bow around the waist, this was my perfect dress. Almost. I asked if we could add thick shoulder straps – I was getting married in December, after all – if the train could be longer and if we could add an extra layer of crinoline under the skirt. It was the one and only time I was going to wear a wedding dress. The bigger the better. More was more. As I stood on a platform in front of a wall of mirrors, my sister-in-law handed me the veil. The lace was the perfect match. That sealed the deal. It was supposed to be love at first sight, just like it had been with the man I was soon to marry.
Related: Do You Have The Courage To Face Life’s Potholes? Author Kristin Harmel explains how she found her inner resilience
When I wore it on my wedding day, it was more than just a veil. My “borrowed something”, the mantilla was a representation of the family I would marry, the new surname I would bear. The lace of the veil and the lace of my great-grandmother’s monogrammed handkerchief that I wore around my bouquet, my old something, became a representation of the fusion of my past and my future, of my family current and my new. The person I was before taking these vows and the person I will become afterwards.
A few years later, sharing the veil with the women we loved had become a tradition, and with each best friend or family member who wore it, its significance grew. When my cousin Sidney got engaged, and the first thing I told her was that she could wear the wedding veil if she wanted to. She agreed right away because, well, she had seen this.
I was her matron of honor, just as my sister-in-law was mine, and it was my special duty to place the veil that had meant so much to me on her head moments before she walked down the aisle. . There was something about that moment, in the quiet of a bridal chamber overlooking the most majestic mountain peaks, that really made me realize something: it was more than lace and tulle. It was a symbol of love and unity not only between a couple but also between all the women who had worn it. In a mystical and magical way, it connected us, past, present and future.
(scroll down to continue reading)
Related: Sometimes You Have To Jump Before You Look, Says Bestselling Author Kristin Harmel
It wasn’t necessarily luck or a guarantee of happiness in some unknown future. What if it could be, at least in theory? Or at least in a story? I knew then that I had my next book idea. The wedding veil would be a novel about a piece of family history and the women it connects. Little did I know then that I would be writing about a real-life veil—the missing veil that had once belonged to Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt—or that inspiration from my own life would lead me to write about a lost national treasure.
But that’s how it is with stories, I think. The best parts are the ones that we can’t plan, that we can’t see yet. And I have to think maybe that’s how it is with lives too. When we dive in headfirst, we cannot know what the future holds or how our next chapters will unfold. But maybe it’s okay.
Related: How can you sign out? Author Mary Alice Monroe dares you to hang up the phone, here’s why
I still have the wedding veil that my sister-in-law so graciously shared with me. I know I should have it sealed and saved for another generation, so someone else can slide the box under the bed and dream of wearing the beautiful lace inside. But hey, sometimes I take the veil off when I’m having a bad day. It really looks great with jeans. Yoga pants too. But, more than a beautiful appearance, it is a reminder of family, of happiness, of women who have come before and of those who will come.
Some people call it woo woo. Some call it ancestral memory. I call that a beautiful thought. Perhaps, through our legacies, pieces of our stories – and pieces of ourselves – were never really gone. Perhaps through the precious objects that we pass on to the people we love, in a way, we live.
Find all the Friends & Fiction essays here!
Friends and Fiction is an online community, weekly live webcast and podcast founded and hosted by bestselling authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristine Harmel, Kristy Woodson Harveyand Patti Callahan Henry, who have written more than 70 novels between them and are published in more than 30 languages. Catch them and their amazing guest authors live every Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on the Friends & Fiction Facebook group page or their Youtube channel. Follow them on instagram and, for weekly updates, subscribe to their newsletter.
Kristy Woodson Harvey is the USA TODAY bestselling author of nine novels, including The Wedding Veil (out today!), Christmas in Peachtree Bluff, Feels Like Falling, The Peachtree Bluff series, and Under the Southern Sky. Her writing has appeared in numerous online and print publications, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, USA TODAY, and Domino. Winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing and finalist for the Southern Book Prize, Kristy is co-creator and co-host of the weekly web show and podcast Friends & Fiction and blogs daily with her mother Beth Woodson on Design Chic.