In the world of frequent fliers, there are the road warriors, crisscrossing the country with briefcases tucked under the seat, light overnight bags in the overhead bin and a magazine in their laps.
And then, these days, there's me, arriving early at the airport to beg for carry-on space for my plastic-wrapped pale blue strapless, skintight black or floor-length burgundy dress. And once my seat belt's on, I'm like a leashed pit bull, ready to attack those who dare put their bag on top of my salmon silk shantung.
All in the name of nuptials.
I've flown to Boston twice and Chicago four times, once each to New Orleans and Phoenix. I've been to Hackettstown, Basking Ridge and River Edge, N.J.; trained it to Chelsea, Central Park and the Bronx in New York City; and driven to Amenia in Upstate New York. Last month it was the silk shantung for a backyard ceremony in Woodbury, Conn.
I've had a bachelorette party, shower or wedding seemingly every other weekend for the past two years -- make that every weekend for two months last spring. I've picked up on a few things: Early-morning return flights and off-peak trains are perfect for capitalizing on both post-celebration hangout time and cheap tickets. Budget airlines cutting in-flight snacks? No worries: Edible wedding favors such as white chocolate-covered almonds are the perfect pretzel replacement. And in the packing department, rehearsal-dinner wear makes a good straight-to-work outfit Monday morning.
I'm certainly not alone in this if-it's-the-weekend-there-must-be-a-wedding business. According to Amy Shey Jacobs, spokeswoman for the wedding planning Web site TheKnot.com, there are approximately 1.8 million weddings in the United States each year; 10 percent of those are destination weddings, where everyone -- including the couple -- gets to travel.
Of course, unless the couple's getting married in the town where you live, every wedding's a destination. I've gone to a grand total of one in Washington. The day after I moved here.
I'm the sort who normally hoards vacation days in favor of a long overseas trip. Now that I'm at that age -- according to Shey Jacobs, the average bride these days is 27, the groom two years older -- days accrued go right to the wedding bank. But it's hardly all woe-is-me: I've witnessed the I do's, downed the champagne . . . and always had a little vacation coup of my own.
Would I have booked a trip to New Orleans specifically for the French Quarter Festival? Probably not. But then Courtney's invitation arrived, and really, what better way for a Big Easy neophyte to fill the downtime between ceremony and reception than walking along Bourbon Street to multiple saxophone serenades? In between last-chance drinks at the Columns and a rehearsal dinner at Restaurant August, I took a bag of beignets on the St. Charles streetcar through the Garden District, explored Lafayette Cemetery and swooned over vine-draped, double-gallery houses.
Would I have flown to Arizona just to go to the Association of Volleyball Professionals Tempe Open, an Olympics qualifier? As much as I love volleyball . . . most definitely not. But it just so happened that friends were getting hitched in nearby Phoenix that same weekend, and while others lazed by the pool, I nipped away for a few intense courtside hours with the big names of beach volleyball. That evening, freshly sunburned, I headed out to the stunning Desert Botanical Garden and, after a touching ceremony, samba'd amid the saguaros.
I'm not really a pigskin gal; visiting the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., wouldn't have even made my Top 200 list. But I popped more than a few threads of my uber-sophisticated, ruched taffeta bridesmaid dress throwing a spiral at my cousin's reception there, and I wasn't the only one having a blast: I've never seen boys in tuxes happier than those groomsmen.
Weddings have even made heading to my home town special. Thanks to my friend Scott's choice of venue, I've now danced through the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx dressed to the nines. Juliet, whom I've known since kindergarten, chose the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers for a ceremony and reception overlooking the Hudson River. The threat of rain spoiled Chisun and Matt's hopes for a rooftop wedding, but the old-fashioned wallpaper and sweeping staircase of Central Park's Arsenal Building made for an atmospheric second choice.
Last fall the TheKnot.com declared October the new June; according to Shey Jacobs, 20 percent of weddings are in May and June, with the same percentage scheduled for September through October. How right they were. The month began at Troutbeck, a glorious country-style inn in New York's Hudson Valley region, for the wedding of two old friends. They exchanged vows next to a swelling brook; I got in a weekend of apple picking and caught some true fall foliage, something I've missed in the years since moving south.
Halloween weekend, I double-dipped on a flight to Chicago Midway. I celebrated my cousin's bachelorette party at various divey downtown locales and a friend's formal wedding at the Art Insitute. Bless you, versatile J. Crew jersey dress, for helping with that packing job.
There are times when I'm tempted to celebrate me by staying home and poring over maps to figure out my own itinerary. But I realize that many of the ceremonies I've taken part in have taken me to places I might never have seen otherwise, and while I may be toting a garment bag instead of a backpack, there's still something adventurous about that.
Months ago, I got a call from a dear college friend. "I figured if anyone already had plans, it'd be you," she said, as she ran an August date by me. What could be a more perfect summer vacation, I replied, than a long wedding weekend in Yarmouth, Maine?
Anne McDonough will be online to discuss this story Monday at 2 p.m. during the Travel section's regular weekly chat on www.washingtonpost.com.