Two thousand seventeen is shaping up to be the summer of wearing lots of pink taffeta and elastic waistbands.
I’ve begun to hone in on many skills I once thought weren’t actually skills but after numerous years of reception participation, I realized I’ve picked up not only subtle party etiquette, but I would argue, a single person’s life-survival tool kit.
I’ve learned how to strategically distinguish between delectable finger foods and Costco closeout items, why it’s not a great idea to eat the last Ahi tuna hors d’oeuvre that’s been sitting helplessly for hours on the waiter’s tray. I’ve learned how to quickly asses if a stranger is going to be a happy drunk or an, eat-all-the-Jordan Almonds-at-your-table, boozer. I’ve learned which dances go best with a white-wine reception buzz versus what moves will assuredly make me look like the ‘crazy cat lady’ friend of the bride. Hint: it usually involves me flailing arms. Both mine and those in close proximity.
I’ve cried at vows and life promises, and priests and shaman’s words of gratitude, inspiration and spousal devotion. I’ve watched in-laws glare and estranged spouses reconnect over Louis Armstrong ballads and baked Alaska. I’ve learned to befriend the extended cousins of the wedding party who are happy for the new union, but less emotionally invested, which means they are ready to kick off shoes and tell me about the time the groom shat himself during soccer practice. Or the widowed aunties who will compliment me so much I feel like an anorexic supermodel. Or the lesser ranking bridal party members who disclose to me the bride was drunk by breakfast.
Then there are the “dad” dancers who dance with reckless abandon similar to that of their 4-year-old child, who are still too young to realize their fathers have joyously given up on looking both cool and socially relevant for the sake of making their child happy. These rambunctious dads groove to the beat of their own bongo drum. While the fanny pack may be missing from the suit, I can see from across the dance floor they are tapping into some old school nostalgia. Wedding dads rock the ‘Tush Push’ like it’s the Bar Mitzva of ‘87 and ain’t nobody gonna break their stride or keep them from Electric Sliding to “White Lines”. Kids be damned, this is dad’s one night out. It’s his solitary hiatus from watching Thomas The Engine reruns, and he is going to make the most of this floor space that doesn’t double as a rec room. Step aside horny singles. Watch in awe as this insouciant dad pounds down all the cocktail wieners and free chardonnay he can stomach.
Similarly, I find it equally compelling to spy on the DJ’s. Watching him or her bounce around like a Muppet, double fisting the pudding cup desserts, I often wonder if this is a gig she loves or loathes. But then I think to myself, free pudding and a night full of boogying, busty bride’s maids and getting paid a grand? Sounds like a win to me.
Weddings are not places to maintain a diet, a sense of romantic optimism, romantic cynicism, or irritable bowel syndrome. They are places to go with the flow and celebrate those you may or may not know all that well. And ideally, complement the wait staff more than usual because those folks are dealing with drunken guests in tightly fitting panty hose and cumberbuns, all of whom by the evening’s apex will have swollen ankles. Those kinds of restrictions can only lead to grouchy endings. So I try to be a touch nicer to servers having to field a lot of, “Don’t you have any of these left!?” or “I wasn’t done with that!” as they lick the edges of their frosting coated paper plates. (Ok, maybe I’ve secretly fantasized of licking my plate but I’ve never actually done this in public. Yet.)
As I witness union after union and mop up my tears with any absorbable item I can find in my purse- match book cover, gum wrapper, plastic spoon, tampon etc., I ask myself, “Nina, can you picture yourself in this place? Walking down an aisle that isn’t connected to an airplane terminal or a Walgreen’s, surrounded by loved ones and ones who you invited merely out of spite because they never thought you’d get hitched or were too gunshy to pull the trigger themselves.” Can I envision committing myself to another for the rest of my days, with laughter and understanding and matching hand towels? Do I have the salt to be the other half of a Mr. & Mrs. or Mrs. & Mrs. or Sir & Madam? (Let’s bring the old school S & M back! Oh wait, that came out wrong.) Even if I do someday find my soulmate/foosball buddy, I don’t know if I have the ability or patience to plan a party involving so many name tags and light streamers.
If nothing else, I can modestly brag about my wedding guest skills. I like to think I’ve graduated to the status of semi-pro at making small talk with strangers, joking in bathroom lines, telling valets I crashed my viper at James Franco’s house, so my apologies for the messy silver toaster I’m currently driving they now have to wedge into a tiny corner slot. And extra apologies for all the protein bar wrappings littering my front seat, but if they need a tube of lipstick, I have seven shades in the glove box.
I’ve learned how to engage even the snootiest of table mates who for the love of all things poofy and bowed, refuse to crack a smile even when I’ve busted out my classic MC Hammer dance for them. You kind sirs and madams (ah see, that’s what I meant) have the proverbial “wedding stick up your butts” and even after you expressed your bemusement at my joke about wanting to smoosh my face into the cake, I know how to hang in there and sock it to you with kindness.
Me: “Your earrings are super sparkly and pretty.”
Stone Faced Seatmate: “Thanks.”
Me: “Gosh, it’s good to see you after all this time. You look happy!”
Stone Faced Seatmate: “Meh.”
Me : “I think it’s time for me to Hammer dance.”
(Sashays to dance floor hollering, “Uh oh! Oh oh! Uh oh!”)
Stone Faced Seatmate will stare back at me with dead shark eyes. But here I will let it roll off my back. Whereas had I met her at say, Starbucks, I’d most likely be hurt by her smelly fish-like personality. But in the Wedding Universe, I not only have on comfortable underwear, but also a protective bubble which keeps me from feeling sorry for myself, getting my feelings hurt, or worrying if I’ve accidentally eaten nineteen thousand calories. Weddings are like the Las Vegas of social events. Sometimes we have to go and witness garish things, but we will never be asked to testify in court as to what we saw.
Oddly enough I have yet to partake in a wedding where the bouquet is thrown. Maybe it’s happening when I’m taking a bathroom break or I’ve just left before the event has taken place. It would be a super convenient explanation as to why I haven’t gotten hitched yet. I find it’s a hard question to answer, and I seem to get asked it more often at actual ceremonies. Maybe it’s a case of Keeping up with the Jones’, but I’m never really sure how honest to be in my response.
Relative Number 1: “Why haven’t you gotten married yet?”
Me: “I keep dropping the bouquet.”
Relative Number 2: “Nina dear, why aren’t you married to some nice guy?”
Me: “I keep having to poo during the bouquet toss.”
This surely would end awkward conversation without further investigation.
In the end, I can leave a wedding and chalk it up to another life experience that is different, yet in small, magical ways similar to actually being married: I’m taking the time to commit to something six months in the future, keeping a smile on my face when I’ve got to share close quarters with something that has angered me earlier in the evening (aka, obscenely tight corset, drool stain on blouse, nagging migraine), made peace with judgy relatives who aren’t mine, and agreed to witness and support another person’s happiness here and forever more.
If I could get a certificate for that, I’d have a pretty decent story to toast to. And then proceed to smoosh my face into the cake.