Welcome to Wedding Guest Wednesday, an occasional feature in which Solo-ish explores the joys and woes of attending other people’s weddings. Because it’s not all about the happy couple — it’s a big day for guests as well.
Last year, I went to seven weddings from May and October. I didn’t take a date to any of them. I’m 29. Most people at those weddings were between the ages of 26 and 35 — a sea of potential matches doing the Electric Slide.
At each of these seven weddings, I danced. I talked to weird uncles and made friends with toddlers. I gave one toast, seven presents and ate more than seven pieces of cake. I did not, however, accidentally bump into a man with a crooked grin and dreamy eyes in the buffet line who turned out to be the love of my life.
At one wedding, an app developer I’d been flirting with asked me to hold his watch while half the wedding party stripped down and dove into a nearby lake at 1 a.m. Does that count?
According to Hollywood, I’m definitely not living in a rom-com. My life might be an indie flick, or maybe a tragedy.
From “Wedding Crashers” to that episode of “New Girl” where all five roommates make a pact to find a love interest — movies, TV shows and our mothers tell us that weddings are ripe for plucking.
“Sometimes you feel like the sole reason you were invited was to partake in the couple’s very own social science experiment,” says Gabe Cohen, a 35-year-old who works in public health and development in Washington, D.C. “What happens when we put multiple attractive 20-somethings in a lavish setting, give them unlimited food and drinks, and play nostalgic ’80s and ’90s music till 2 in the morning?”
If there’s love in the air, that should rub off on the guests, right? “Newlyweds are giddy with marrying their soul mate and want their friends and family to be able to experience the same excitement,” Holly Patton, the lead wedding planner at Seattle’s Perfectly Posh Events, says of couples who are obsessed with playing matchmaker at their own weddings. “It can lead to really awkward situations,” Patton says. Rather than try to set people up, she recommends sitting guests with friends they already know.
Patton says that, in her experience, people do meet at weddings but not as frequently as television and movies make it out to be. Then again, Patton met her fiancé Kristian at a friend’s wedding four years ago. (It wasn’t a setup.)
Your chances of meeting someone vary based on who you are and who you’re looking for, of course. “I have no expectation of meeting a guy at any place where there are more straight people than gay people,” says Dennis Norris II, a writer and teacher in Brooklyn. “If I’m going to meet someone, it’s going to be in a ‘gay’ space.”
Could the legalizing of same-sex marriage change that? Corinne Manning, a writer who often explores queer identity in her fiction, thinks so. “I don’t know if queers feel the same sense of expectations at weddings — yet — because they haven’t had to,” Manning says. “In a way, I hope they don’t. Being free of those expectations is part of the fun.”
Ah, expectations. If you go to a wedding hoping to have a good time, and open to what that means, you’ll probably find it. If you’re hoping for love, you’ll probably rip your dress.
When Cohen was in his 20s, for example, he says he did “connect” with a few women at friends’ weddings. “Never anything serious, but if you’re single, it’s always fun to flirt it up,” Cohen says. “Plus, having a rap partner when ‘Baby Got Back’ comes on: priceless.” Cohen says his wedding-going priorities have changed now that he’s in a relationship and in his mid-30s: He spends his time at weddings reconnecting with old friends.
That’s the thing about weddings: You’re hopped up on booze and optimism. “You’re willing to let your guard down a little bit more than you might on a normal Friday night,” says Maddie Eisenhart, digital director and style editor of A Practical Wedding. “Maybe it’s less of a cultural thing than an individual ‘tonight I’m going to be that person’ courage.”
When the app developer came out of the water, he reclaimed his watch and my attention for about two minutes. I was so ready to be that person. Then he walked down the block and vomited into the bushes.
I’m so stubborn, I was willing to give him a comeback chance at brunch the next day.
He didn’t show.