I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest at seven weddings so far in 2014 – and I have two more to go to this year. This is coming on the heels of 2013, during which time I attended five weddings; 2012, during which I attended another two weddings; 2011, during which I attended another five weddings; and 2010, during which I attended two other weddings. (What can I say? I have a lot of friends who really like commitment.)
Through all of this – and since my sister and my best friend have both gotten engaged – I’ve seen a lot of different understandings of and reflections on weddings and marriage and love. I can’t say I’m an expert on any of these things, but – as a guest at a whopping 21 weddings in my lifetime, and quite a few more to go – I can say that I have some ideas on how to be the best guest possible at a wedding.
1) Be at the ceremony – not just at the party. In my experience, while the party is fun, the ceremony is where you go not only to support people you care about who are taking a major step in their lives together but also to be reminded of the power of that connection between two people. It’s a beautiful thing – and it certainly doesn’t get old.
2) While you are a guest at the wedding, the bride and the groom are not the hosts. So if you have an issue, take it elsewhere – like to a day-of-wedding coordinator, staff at the venue, or even members of the bridal party. But when (if) you get an opportunity to speak with the bride and groom, do yourself and them a favor and take those few minutes to wish them the best and extend your congratulations.
3) Take pictures! I’ve been at a few weddings where I have been the plus one of a guest and have known very few people other than my date – and the best contribution I’ve made at these events is being an unofficial photographer. I’ve posted lots of photos to social media using wedding hashtags and invariably have been thanked for that by brides, grooms, and guests who have been too busy enjoying the moment to stop and take photos.
4) Assume you’ll have a good time. There are a lot of events associated with weddings nowadays, from engagement parties to showers to bachelor/ette parties, and I’m pretty sure that “wedding fatigue” could be classified as an honest-to-goodness condition. The cure to that condition? To remember why you’re at these events – the people at the center of them – and to assume you’ll enjoy yourself, given the celebratory nature of all of these parties.
5) Take time to appreciate the little details. This is a party unlike any other, since the two people at the center of it have likely spent the past year (or more) planning it. Chances are good that they’ve taken some great pains to make this wedding their own, and it’s not just good manners to stop and try to appreciate those details – it’s also really fun to see how people choose to express themselves and their relationship to their loved ones.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: It’s not about us (though brides and grooms and families go to a lot of lengths to make sure we feel welcome and have fun). It’s not even about the bride (though she’s kind of a big deal). It’s about the commitment that two people (ostensibly your loved ones) are making to one another and the privilege you’ve been given to bear witness to that. Remember that, and you’re sure to have a great time at the next wedding you go to!