In college, I was often told that I’m a guy’s kind of girl.  But I’m pretty sure that was just code speak for “she’ll skip class to go fishing/go to the game/go hiking/go to Son’s/go skeet shooting/go porch sitting and drink cold beer.”  And I do have several close male friends that I treasure.  I have no sisters, and only one female cousin.  I have four uncles.  I have never owned a female dog or horse.  I have two quasi-godfathers.  It is generally true that I am comfortable around males of several species.

But as much as I like boys, I like cold beer better, so I think my college friends were mistaken about me being a guy’s kind of gal.   Especially since I like my girlfriends even more than I like cold beer.  I like my girlfriends so much that when I became engaged, my biggest headache wasn’t the cocktail napkins for the wedding (which we did not have), but how to honor all the women in my life who have held my hand, held my hair back, and helped me hold onto my sense of self in the best of times, and the worst, on my wedding day.

Luckily, I was not the only affianced Southern woman who ever had the lovely problem of having so many close girlfriends that to ask them all to be bridesmaids would make a mockery of the wedding.  Being Southern, I knew I had the option of having The House Party.  What is The House Party, you ask?  Just that wonderful group of women who mean the absolute world to the Bride, so much so that she would not dream of asking them to purchase a chartreuse bridesmaid gown and dyed-to-match shoes.  The Bride will leave those horrid tasks to her actual attendants, whom she is certain love her so much that she will be forgiven.  Rather, the House Party serves as a cadre of honorary bridesmaids, although the Bride may still have formal attendants, as I did.  People make fun of House Parties, but I say if you’re lucky enough to have girlfriends this good, why in the world wouldn’t you want them with you on your wedding day?  I think the naysayers are just jealous.  And they should be – how fabulous was my House Party?

Here a few of ’em, preparing for the wedding – Becky, a founding member of the Hot Buns and my favorite co-worker at the Depot in Missoula, Montana, is to the far left, followed by Kestergill, Layla Jane, Miss Bets, and Michy.  Becky has roots in East Glacier, and our shared love for Glacier brings us back together, no matter where we may be in our lives.

I met Layla Jane, center, in 2000.  She is also a founding member of the Hot Buns.  She is Southern, so we have a love of grits and greens and heat in common, but over the years, our friendship has grown far beyond our shared drawl and become something that I cannot imagine my life without.  Layla Jane has the kind of clarity that living well brings you – she is not shy to tell it like it is, even when what it is breaks your heart.  And she never shies away from seizing joy, either.  I admire her in many ways, and there is no one I’d rather hike with.

Here is the House Party gathering together for their walk down the aisle.

Dr. Deer and Miss Bets made a pretty pair.

Dr. Deer and I became close friends in the summer of 2002, when she began dating my good friend Jeff and bartending at Charlie’s in Babb.  We lived together up at Chief Mountain junction that fall, and my future husband drove past our A-frame each day as he traveled to Cardston, Canada, for his senior year of high school, though of course I did not know that at the time.  That same fall, Dr. Deer began filling out her medical school applications, and she and I talked of dreams beyond $200 tip nights.  She is a treasure in my life, though we see each other very infrequently.

I met Miss Bets at a party in Whitefish in the winter of 2002-2003, when I was a ski bum at the Big Mountain.  She was my first friend in Missoula, a town I found intimidating when I first moved there.  Miss Bets introduced me to the wonders of a river, and that love affair changed me forever.  I am no longer allowed to go to Trout Unlimited banquets with Miss Bets!

The House Party did not stand with me, as House Parties don’t do that.  Here, Kestergill, Michy, and LA, are seated just behind my family.

Kestergill is a founding member of the Hot Buns – I have known her since the summer of 2000, when she worked at Rising Sun, in Glacier National Park, and I worked at St. Mary.  Kestergill has the longest resume of anyone I know and I would never have learned to ski without her insistent, though gentle, encouragement.  She also throws the best potlucks in Missoula, Montana, and is the kind of friend who is calm in an emergency and a live wire at a dance party.  She just rocks.

LA and JC, two of my Atlanta Belles, exiting the ceremony.  Love JC’s feather headband!

JC is an artist that I originally met through Clowerpower, and kindness radiates from her.  I have never once had an even borderline mediocre time with JC – she knows how to dance with cacti, how to travel with a casserole, and how to blow out hair, which came in handy on my wedding day!  LA was the first friend I made at Tri Delta, my college sorority, and our friendship grows deeper with every long distance phone conversation – and they are frequent.   LA caught the bouquet at my reception, and I take full credit for her resulting marriage to the darling Bo Cheek.

Miss Bets, Kestergill, and Michy.  The year I fell in love with cross country skiing, I also fell in love with Michy.  She is always game for a day on the skinny skis, and she wouldn’t dream of ending such a day without a fabulous dinner party, often involving her famous champagne risotto.  Michy is a school teacher, a Hot Bun, and a riot.

Clowerpower, Becky, Dhall, and the Q – I love the look on Dhall’s face!   I went to law school with Dhall and the Q, and I would not have survived my brother’s death without their love and support.  We are The Livers, and no three girls have ever had more fun together in Nashville, Tennessee, than we did one weekend in 2007, in matching strapless madras dresses.  You had to be there!

Clowerpower and Becky.  I’ve written about Clowerpower before on this blog – her parents and my mother went to high school together, and encouraged Clowerpower and I to be freshman roommates at the University of Georgia.  Athens has never been the same, nor has my definition of true friendship, especially not after we traveled to Glacier together in 2000.

I asked my House Party to wear brown dresses and cowboy boots, preferably that they already owned or could borrow.  Other than that, I left their attire up to them, and I loved how their personalities shown through the dresses they chose, and how each one of them seemed so comfortable.  Don’t they all look darling?

From left to right: Becky, Dr. Deer, Kestergill, Layla Jane, Michy, LA, me, JC, Clowerpower, Dhall, the Q, and Miss Bets.  Not pictured is my precious cousin, Brooke, who was unable to attend the weddin’ – we missed you, honey.

I don’t believe a Bride ever loved her House Party more than I did.  Ladies, thank you for making my wedding day so very special.  Love y’all.

If you’re a Bride agonizing over the mental image of 12 of your best friends standing next to the altar in lime green, consider a House Party – I don’t think you could ever regret including those you love, who’ve been important to you at all different stages in your life, in your wedding.  After all, they helped to make you the person your husband fell in love with, did they not?  Cheers to the House Party!

2010.  Glacier County Honey Co.  Again, some photo credits to our wonderful wedding photographer, Tom Whisenand.  All Rights Reserved.