True confessions of an awkward wedding attendee

“You go to a lot of weddings,” a friend of mine commented on Friday night, after I announced that my Saturday would be taken up with attending a wedding about an hour and a half away.

I was glad to hear someone else say it–I feel like I go to a lot of weddings, but I have always assumed it was in my head. Isn’t it normal to go to at least five weddings in a summer? At least at this age? It really depends on the year, of course, but as I head into the latter part of my twenties, I do find the weddings have begun to pick up. And it’s a beautiful thing. I love seeing my friends settle into their vocations, love seeing the look of restful joy that comes over them when they finally take that step, love hearing the brides’ voices waver as they say their vows. I particularly love wedding ceremonies. There’s nothing quite like a nuptial Mass to make you ponder the goodness of God and the mystery of human love.

But I’m going to admit out loud that aside from the Mass, weddings aren’t my favorite things.

I’m really, really bad at them.

First of all, I never have a gift. I am the worst gift-giver in the world, because I really want the gifts I give to mean something, and until I find the “perfect” thing, I just won’t give anything at all. More than anything, I hate compulsory gift-buying and I loathe wedding registries. What this means is I show up to every wedding empty handed, and about a year and a half later I send along something that doubles as a wedding gift and a “congratulations on your first kid turning 6 months old” gift. I don’t see myself pulling out of this bad habit any time soon, but I still feel awkward about it. I’m always convinced in my deepest soul that even if the bride doesn’t notice, her mother will…

I also always struggle with what to wear. “Wedding attire” has become such a fluid concept these days. Long dress? Church dress? Slightly nicer-than-Sunday-Mass church dress? Shoes? Don’t wear white, you detract from the bride, but don’t wear black, it’s bad luck…make sure you don’t match the bridesmaids…Whatever I put on, it’s a gamble. Men, you probably don’t get this, but ladies, back me up: figuring out what the heck to wear to a wedding is some stressful business!

And after yesterday’s wedding, I discovered another reason why I always feel a bit off-kilter at weddings (especially wedding receptions). You see, I’ve never been much of a “group” person, and especially in college, I tended to befriend random individuals from all sorts of groups and backgrounds. This makes for some amazing and very diverse friendships, but it also means I end up getting invited to weddings alone, and I spend the whole time basically alone, because the only person I’m close to is…the bride. The bride, the focal point of the day, who has to be available for pictures and conversations with distant relatives and old family friends, and beyond all that is incredibly distracted by the fact that she’s just gotten married. I always struggle with figuring out the best way to show her I love her by being present, without being that awkward person who sits alone in the corner for hours and hours. My modus operandi for the past several years has been this: show up at the reception site, find my seat, make stilted conversation with the people on either side of me, as soon as toasts are finished make a beeline for the bride, give her a big hug, then grab my purse, sign the guest book, and leave. I’m usually out before the cake.

But yesterday I didn’t even do that. I attended the Mass and then…I ran away.

Is that bad? In my defense, the reception site moved and apparently the time got pushed back, and by the time I got out of church the bridal party had entirely disappeared (I guess they picked an off-site location for pictures). So I decided I’d just head home and send along a loving letter of congratulations later. But I admit I’m still worried by a nagging doubt, that perhaps I was rude, that I might have hurt the bride’s feelings, that it was, quite simply, poor form.

I don’t know, my fellow single wedding-going friends. How do you handle weddings, especially when you have to go alone? What’s proper protocol when you’re really not close to a single person there, when you feel out of your depth? I only have one more wedding this year, and fortunately I’ll be going with several good friends. But other weddings like yesterday’s are bound to come up in the future, and I want to be ready for them.




4 thoughts on “True confessions of an awkward wedding attendee

  1. In my opinion . . . leaving when you did is not rude, or at least isn’t something to worry about. I think it’s pretty normal for a few expected guests not to show up at all (I know this happened at our wedding). Also, wedding etiquette dictates that you have one year to send a gift, and (I think) technically you’re supposed to mail a gift (or bring it to the bride’s house) rather than bring it with you to the wedding.

    I have to admit that I feel sort of responsible for your lonely state at this particular wedding. I’m sorry 😦

  2. I send a few gifts that they want; i.e., from their registry! Then I stay home.

    The couple is too distracted to notice you. To prove the point; I didn’t go to a small wedding a couple of years ago, and was able to convince the couple recently that I had been there, but really I was several states away. And if you’re one who generally avoids pictures, they cannot point to your absence in the wedding photos as evidence. Well, I was able to convince the groom–the bride was not convinced for long, because, she’s been holding it against me. 😛

    Ought’n’t the wedding gifts to be the things that they want and need, setting off in their new married life? You have a lifetime to give them trinkets and mementos or something you made, to make it special, but isn’t that inserting too much “me-ism” into your daily actions when you don’t get them something they essentially told everyone they’d like you to get for them, just because you want the gift to be about you?

    Maybe I’m failing at this, but I try to combine the two by picking something nifty or very nice off their registry, (leave the small mundane stuff to the cheapskates who inevitably attend) then having it specially gift-wrapped and leaving a memorable note on it that’ll put a smile on their face–if you get them something useful, like the kitchen mixer, etc., or fancy, like the crystal Christmas punch-bowl, from their registry, they’ll think of you whenever they use it. As a single person, since I’m not spending money on a significant other or children, I think I really have no justification to skimp on gifts at weddings.

    You can always send something special to them at any time–you don’t need an excuse–if you are looking for something meaningful and personal that you came up with. But at the time of the wedding…I say, be a pal, and help them attain the things they need for their new life!

    P.S. So, when you get married, are you going to have a registry?

  3. A thought on wedding registries.

    I should specify, if the couple is very young and clearly hasn’t had time to build a household, of course I’ll buy them something useful off their registry. But more often than not, especially now, my friends have been living on their own for several years, and they have all the necessary household items they need. I’ve watched wedding registries get made: it turns into, “Well, I’m doing this because it’s expected. So sure, I’ll add this punch bowl, that towel, this doormat because I guess I’d be okay with owning those things.”

    But I’ve had more friends tell me they’d rather not make registries; it’s just that some guests expect it and appreciate the “guide” in gift-buying. Which makes a lot of sense, and I don’t hold it against anyone. I’m just stating my personal take: which is that registries don’t really work for me. (Again, if there’s a clear need, I get over the meism. I’ve done it before and will do it again.)

    I don’t give a whole lot of thought to my potential wedding, but I guess no–I won’t have a registry. I’ve had enough time at this point to buy for myself anything I might need.

    And besides, I’m going to marry a millionaire.

    • I see. Well that makes sense.

      But that makes all my friends seem poor! Despite being single and on their own for a few years, none of my friends now married had near all the household items to equip a settled home for man and wife, so, much was left to their registries to help remedy that! Thus yours has not been my experience…nor would I have thought to have a conversation about their registries with them before their marriage…but I’m just a guy. Even now, when I downsize my worldly possessions to give to charity, some of my married friends are eager to volunteer taking on that which I discard (cookware, furniture, electronics), because they are things they were never able to afford on their own.

      Well, Miss Blogger, maybe we are just in different castes. 😛

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