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.
I love going to weddings. Stunning venues, mouthwatering amuse-bouches, lively music, hilarious wedding guests, luscious bouquets. Oh! And getting paid thousands of dollars to show up. That’s right: I’m a wedding photographer. A wedding isn’t all peonies and champagne, though. Even though I’m there to work, I’m not immune to the advances of single (and not-so-single) men.
Weddings are full of love, laughter, pressure and awkward moments. As a wedding photographer, I have the distinct privilege of watching everyone make fools of themselves. And a guarantee that it will be caught on camera. Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned how to graciously reject these desirous pursuits.
Option 1: Appear unavailable. This tactic works best at the beginning of the festivities, when we are all relative strangers. I have the initial deterrent of having a wedding ring on. I’m able to ignore an “accidental” brush against my backside. The only reason that appearing to be unavailable often works is because copious amounts of alcohol haven’t been introduced yet, so the men are usually a little more responsive to don’t-touch-me body language.
Option 2: Use the tools available to you. I don’t have the advantage of using an outright death glare because I’m paid to be accommodating and peppy. But I can avoid eye contact. I can flirt with the offender’s friend. Two can play this game.
Option 3: Discuss seating and schedules ahead of time. Where did my seating tag go? Oh, it’s over by the dude who’s been flirting with me all evening. I come prepared, so I can say: “I’m supposed to sit here, but thanks.”
Option 4: Develop a strategy. You know how you can move all around the room at a party, and no matter what, that one guy just keeps showing up right next to you? Often, it’s creepy Uncle Ned with his whiskey in one hand, a half-untucked shirt, and a slurred “Hey, darlin’.” Creating a game plan of “escape routes” is essential to avoid Mr. Grabby from touching your shoulders or offering to carry your camera equipment (“No thank you, drunkard! This is $5,000 worth of gear!”).
Option 5: Stay close to the bride. After all, this day is really is all about her, right? And no one dare do anything to mess up her meticulously planned day. If you shadow the bride, you are less likely to run into someone who seems to have lost his inhibitions and respect for women.
Option 6: Take a shot and get on with it. Drinking on the job is semi-acceptable when everyone else is already smashed. Taking the edge off the professionalism can allow you to get on with the work that needs to be done. A relaxed wedding photographer leads to a comfortable experience for everyone in front of the camera.
Option 7: Cover your bases. Sometimes that comfort goes too far and you end up with a hot, inebriated groomsman “dancing for the camera” in an attempt to impress. It’s okay, though. You’ll have all the blackmail you need on that memory card.
Option 8: Take advantage of their willingness. When a guy follows you around like a puppy, it’s best to send them on some errands. Free labor! “I need you to take this list and round up the 400 relatives on it so I can take their picture. Buh-bye!”
Option 9: Assess intentions. Most guys I’ve encountered at weddings are there to have fun, as they should be. If they are just flirting but respecting my space, I feel free to flirt back. More than likely, I will never see them again. No harm, no foul, no awkwardness. It’s only when they do something more overt — slip a piece of paper in my hand with their phone number on it or ask me to meet them when the wedding is over — that I have to speak up and gently reject their advances.
Option 10: Offer sarcasm and a smile. Sarcasm or a fakeout is a valid response to someone not picking up what you’re putting down. “Oh, is that your wife coming over?” The panic on their face will be satisfying.
Option 11: Smash the patriarchy. One quick way to get your message across — or at least have the guy running in the opposite direction — is to politely rant about male privilege. “God, don’t you just hate how our society is drowning in rape culture? Men just think they can take what they want without permission. I’ve had so many guys put their hands on me tonight like I’m an object to be possessed. You would never do that, would you? Would you?!” Problem solved.