I put my fork back down in my cheesecake and assumed my usual position. I’m not a hopeless romantic; I’m just really good at following directions. I knew if I wasn’t on that dance floor, pronto, someone would grab the microphone and shriek: Where’s Jen? She’s always single! We can’t start this without her.
Some women hate the bouquet toss and refuse to include the tradition. But I’ve been at plenty of weddings where it’s taken as seriously as a semi-annual clearance sale at Victoria Secret. I’ve been bitten, knocked in the face, tripped and even bribed to get the heck out of the way.
But this time something felt different. There was nobody else on the dance floor. I was the only single woman at this wedding.
I grabbed the bundle of peonies straight from the bride’s hands and walked back to table No. 17, where I sat next to the bride’s second cousins, uncle twice removed and her work friends from two jobs ago.
People were whispering: “How is she the only single one in this place?” “I feel so bad for her.” Or: “I have a grandson who would love to take her for a spin around the block.”
By my mid-20s, weddings stopped being post-college reunions with sorority sisters and started to feel like opportunities for everyone to ask why I was single and then ask if I would date someone they knew. As more save the dates flew into my mailbox, I realized I had one choice: I had to save my own wedding experience; it could no longer feel like a trip to a matchmaker’s office.
Here’s how I learned to enjoy being the only single guest at a wedding:
Without a date by your side, no one will notice when you go grab a second piece of raspberry chocolate wedding cake or another piece of filet mignon.
2. Take over the dance floor.
Bust out your favorite moves and stay on the dance floor until your polyester dress is soaked in sweat. Pretend you’re back in Zumba class. Pretend you’re at the club. Pretend you’re anywhere but a wedding. And when a slow song comes on, that’s your cue to hit the open bar.
Come up with a reason — any reason! — for when people ask why you’re still single. Giggle over the “still” part, as if there’s some kind of deadline you need to meet. Tell them you are “still” single because you are “still” trying to figure out how to marry Jake Gyllenhaal.
4. Shake hands with everyone there.
Even if there are no eligible bachelors walking the halls of the reception, making new friends will improve your wedding experience. Introduce yourself to everyone. Start an impromptu conga line. Or play a quick game of charades while waiting for your turn at the open bar.
5. Realize that going to a wedding alone, as the single one, has perks.
So when the bride whispers that she has someone dashing for you to meet, smile, shake their hand, and know that half the people there, nursing their drunk-by-9 p.m. husbands, are envying you, your choices, your freedom, your life, just a little bit.
If you find yourself alone on the dance floor, with the bouquet being tossed at you at full speed, stick your arms out and grab it, as if there’s a floor full of people wanting it. Just because you can.