Whether we’re talking about a 1950s chrome General Electric humming in a Bushwick loft or a white Kenmore double decker in Bayhorse, Idaho, chances are it’s the same story for everyone: an array of folded invitations pinned with magnets to the fridge, and looking through, you can pick out which ones are going to be good. Rager. Snoozefest. Open bar but terrible DJ.
For most of us, at least a couple Saturdays this summer will be blocked out for a friend or relative's wedding. The question always comes, usually too late to make a difference, how to make each one as fun as possible. Well, lucky for you, we’ve done our research. And, yeah, that goes beyond watching Wedding Crashers three weekends in a row, though we might have done that too.
It’s worth saying first that really, there are three kinds of weddings. Those we love, those we hate, and those we love to hate. The sooner you mentally move all of them to the first category, the better.
At the risk of being preachy before you even get to the church, someone cares about you enough to invite you to the most important day of their life. It’s a free party, it cost them a ton, and you’re really there to make them feel great. So, if the DJ’s nickname is NASCAR Sunrise, or the word “mocktail” is the key feature on the drink menu, suck it up and make the best of it with these tips.
Make It Rain
Chances are the bride and groom shelled out a good amount of cash for your meal on their big day. Multiply that by the 198 other guests who are chowing down and you're in a pretty deep hole. Then think about booze, space rental, the dress, the suit, the photographer, the favor you’re definitely throwing out as soon as you get home, and we're talking about a huge amount of cash. And no, they weren’t happy to do it, but they kind of had to.
So, unless you really – and I mean really – know that they want that “Live, Laugh, Love,” wall hanging, give them cash.
Somewhere along the line, someone’s grandmother spread the horrible, filthy rumor that cash is a tacky gift. Not true. Cash is an amazing gift. And in their matrimonial afterglow, speaking from experience, they’ll even forget they just dropped the cost of a new car in one day and think your $100 is a huge win. The warm personal sentiments of a physical gift are great, but that’s why money comes in a card.
Don’t Upstage the Bride. Or the Groom. Or Anyone
Once again, this is not your day. The word for your attire should be “tight.” Not showy, not bright.
This is not the time for wanton suspenders, ironic sunglasses or, if it even has to be said, shiny sharkskin. A trim suit in a subdued color is all you need. Use your shirt, tie, pocket square, or shoelaces for a pop of color, but don't go all out. You want to look good, but you want the groom to look better.
Oh, and this is a wedding. Your Chuck Taylors are no longer hilarious to wear with formal attire. You spent that nickel at your high school prom.
Mind the Gap
Most weddings have at least a couple hours between the ceremony and the reception (Also, quick note: Don’t be the jerk who skips the ceremony and goes only to the reception without a legitimate non-alcohol-related reason for doing so). This is your opportunity to have fun.
Do some Internet detective work before getting to the church for a watering hole near the reception venue. If you’re not rolling with a crew, use the ceremony to identify the fun guests. Spoiler: It’s not the idiots with the laser pointer. When you get to the bar, pace yourself. Don’t show up to the reception a) drunk or b) full. You may want to pass on the pulled pork nachos since you’re about to eat an entire meal, and you’re wearing tight pants.
Chances are you know the person who invited you to this wedding. Think about them. Do they like to drink? More importantly, does their family like to drink? If so, you just hopped aboard the good ship Open Bar enroute to Good Times Island. If not, you'll want to bring that little silver lifeboat, the flask.
There are two kinds of people at dry weddings. One kind is the swaggering, often sweaty person who swills from their flask with misplaced showmanship. This person is a blossoming alcoholic. The others discreetly add the contents of their flask to fizzy non-alcoholic drinks. Be one of these people. Whiskey goes with ginger ale, gin goes with club soda and lime, vodka goes with lemonade.
Dance Like You Mean It
Vince Vaughn notwithstanding, going to a wedding with the primary intent of picking up a girl is greasy. That being said, if you’re one of those people who says, “No, I don’t dance,” you're all but guaranteed to not have fun, then slink back to your hotel solo at the end of the night.
First off, at a wedding, nobody knows how to dance. So don't worry, you're in good company. Sure, you have that one couple who minored in ballroom dancing, but as soon as “Get Low” comes on, that’s pretty much useless. What you perceive as dancing skill in everyone else is likely a mixture of boozy confidence and moves they picked up at other weddings. Once you graduate college, there is a sharp decline in acceptable dancing circumstances. Wedding receptions are the time to dance, and you've got to swallow your pride and lean into it.
Plus, a strange, very human thing happens when a few brave souls take the dance floor. More and more people get swept up – old and young – until everyone is hammering those floorboards and having a legitimately good time. One of my life’s defining moments was seeing my mother, raised in a conservative Baptist home, wildly cut the rug to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.”
Early in the evening, make friends with the DJ. Tell him what a great job he’s doing, that the dinner interlude complemented the prime rib and steamed vegetables perfectly. He will remember you when, two hours later, you push a damp cocktail napkin with the words “YOU ROCK! HOUSE OF PAIN – JUMP AROUND?” into his hand.
With these tips, you’ll get through this summer of love. At their core, weddings are just parties. And like all parties, some are better than others. But remember: you call the shots until you get there. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of rice, or whatever they say.
Oh, and it’s worth saying as a PS: If you’re at an out-of-town wedding, and you think your room is booked but you’re tempted to just go drink at the reception instead of checking in, think again. Otherwise you’ll wind up in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot at 3 a.m. eating a dehydrated apple fritter, your drunk friend flinging powdered sugar around your car while you wonder where your life went wrong. (Hint: It was when you didn’t check in, idiot.)
That’s just a random example not from personal experience or anything.
Above photo by Justin Michau