Welcome to Wedding Guest Wednesday, a 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.
I have been to a lot of weddings, 32 by my count. I’ve attended in just about every way possible, short of being a bride. I’ve gone post-breakup; I’ve gone with long-term boyfriends and short-term ones. I’ve attended happily alone, and headed home that way, too; and I’ve gone alone and found love, or temporary lust, with another wedding guest. I’m now at that point in my 30s when the weddings have slowed to a trickle, from what was once a steady stream. I’m also at that point in my 30s when, thank goodness, marrying couples generously offer me a plus-one, whether or not I’m in a serious relationship.
However, I, for the record, will not be bringing one.
It goes against convention, yes. After all, the purpose of this wedding thing, and for some, this life thing, is coupling. But just as you shouldn’t couple up simply because everyone else is, it’s not always better to bring a date to a wedding. There are times when going alone — even if you do have a lovely potential date waiting in the wings — is the best thing you could do. Here are a few reasons why:
At a wedding, it’s much easier to meet people than, say, on your commute, at the drugstore, or while in line at Whole Foods. People are friendly at weddings! Everyone knows each other by association; there are built-in conversation topics. (How do you know the bride? Do you prefer white wine or the signature cocktail? What is the signature cocktail? Did you hear about what the groom’s Uncle Fergus did at the rehearsal dinner? I think lunges were involved.) As we get older, we often stop meeting, or trying to meet, new people. But if you go up to someone at a wedding, there’s very little chance they’re going to reject you — you may come away with new friends, business contacts, or both, as I did at the last wedding I attended. It’s the one place where you can chat with octogenarians, toddlers and everyone in between.
Love is in the air, so there’s romantic (or hookup) potential. A wedding weekend offers the excitement of a first and second date — you’re all dressed up with no place but a wedding to go! — and you don’t even have to fight over who’s paying the tab. I remember a wedding I attended alone on the Jersey Shore. Along with giving me plenty of valuable walking-on-the-beach reflection time (I’d just been through a breakup), it also gave me the opportunity to pair up with any of available bachelors there, one of whom became my wedding-weekend boyfriend. Later we attempted to move our relationship into real life, which didn’t work. But we always had the Jersey Shore. Well, until he married somebody else.
Taking care of your date can prevent you from having the amazing time you deserve. The thing is, once you do bring a date, you have to be a good hostess: you have to take care of them, especially if they don’t know anyone else there; and you’ve also got to make sure you’re being a good friend to the bride or groom. Yet you’re up against the realities of a party: Don’t you want to cut loose and see where the night takes you? Don’t you want to dance, instead of sitting patiently next to this guy who hates dancing, or who wants to leave early so he can catch the end of the game? I learned this the hard way at a wedding in Nashville, where my very nice boyfriend at the time only wanted to go back to the hotel; while he was very nice to me, he hated socializing and parties. When tons of your friends will be in attendance, think hard about whether you’d prefer to bring someone new into that equation — or whether you’d rather go and enjoy it, and them, on your own.
Navigating the world as a solo person is more efficient. I think of myself speeding through an airport, carry-on tucked neatly under my arm, while the crowds of families and twosomes stop and bicker, drop things and don’t even know to take off their shoes at security. Then I think of the wedding version of that — weaving my way through crowds, heading to the bar without having to ask someone what they’d like to drink, leaving when I feel like it. Even if you’re part of a well-established couple, it can be incredibly freeing to do things alone. Plus, if you feel lonely, you can always text your erstwhile plus-one.
You can go with a non-date. Ah, all the joy of a twosome and none of the pressure! I attended one wedding in Philadelphia with a female friend; we split the hotel, went to the event together and came back separately. We did what we wanted to on our own but avoided the awkwardness of finding a seat in the midst of a sea of strangers, or beginning to mingle alone. It was, in some ways, a perfect wedding.
Weddings are a good time to think about whom we really want to be with — and the states of love and togetherness that matter most to us. It’s hard to do that when you’ve brought someone with you. You see the bride and groom promising love and commitment? Then you look at your date, whom you already had some doubts about, which are now cemented by the fact that he wore black jeans to the wedding. (It happened to me, friends.) That’s a valuable epiphany, sure, but it might as well be done at a dive bar that you can leave quickly thereafter, and where there are no professional photographers to capture the moment.