Eat, drink and be merry!
Ah, if only all weddings were that easy. But inevitably, wedding guests are bound to find themselves smack dab in the middle of an uncomfortable situation from time to time. From running into an ex to a tipple too many, we present you with all of the possible awkward wedding moments that you may find yourself tangled in, and how to survive them.
1) My ex is here… Yikes! Is it OK to ignore him?
The rules of etiquette dictate that you smile politely, say hello and walk away like the mature adult that you are. Of course, real life doesn’t always go so smoothly, especially when an open bar is involved, so make sure you have a plan B. Steer clear entirely if that’s what it takes, or enlist a friend to keep you in check if you have even the slightest urge to engage.
2) My frenemy is here – and she’s seated at my table. Can I switch places with a pal?
The rule of exes applies here as well – simply say a polite hello, then keep your distance. The newlyweds have worked long and hard on their seating plan, so rather than shaking it up, try to snag a seat on the other side of the table, far from your former friend. Only if the situation is truly unbearable should you discreetly ask a close pal to switch tables.
3) I’ve been dating someone – for a week. Can I bring him as my guest?
You checked “+1,” but with the wedding just around the corner, you find yourself frantically right swiping in a mad dash to find a date. Miracle of miracles, you find a guy who seems fun and harmless enough. Should you bring him along? Short answer: HECK NO. He could be perfectly harmless, or he could be a foul-mouthed monster after a few rounds from the open bar. At that point in the relationship, you just don’t know, so bring a pal or go stag.
4) I don’t approve of the relationship. Can I voice my concerns to the bride and groom?
Whatever your objections, keep them buried beneath that smile. It’s the wedding day and they’re getting hitched whether you like it or not, so politely congratulate the happy couple and enjoy your chicken. If staying mum just doesn’t seem possible, then politely decline the invite altogether. The couple wants guests who love and support them, so they would prefer their wedding without a side of your side eye.
5) Do I have to participate in the rituals of a religion that’s different from my own?
As a born and raised Jew, I wouldn’t know how to take Communion if my life depended on it. Thankfully, it’s completely acceptable to eschew these rituals at a religious ceremony. As a general rule of thumb, you should follow the lead of the family members in the front row, standing and sitting when they do, but anything else you can feel free to skip.
6) As a self-professed lightweight, what’s the best way to prevent a tipsy disaster?
Just remember 1:1 – one glass of water for every cocktail. As tempting as it is to skip dinner for more time on the dance floor, remember to keep a bit of food in your stomach as well. If you do happen to have one too many, politely excuse yourself or enlist a friend to escort you out; the most important thing is to not mar the couple’s memories of the big day by making a drunken scene.
7) My gal pal is a bit of a party monster. How can I help prevent the beast from rearing its drunken head – and potentially ruining our bestie’s wedding?
Controlling yourself is one thing; trying to control your friend is a whole other animal. First, beeline to the bartenders upon your arrival and discreetly ask them to keep an eye on her. Second, encourage her to kick up her heels with you, keeping her on the dance floor and away from the booze. In the worst-case scenario, take one for the team and offer to end the night with her (or enlist another pal), quietly escorting her out.
8) My little one is having a meltdown right in the middle of the ceremony. Can I ride it out, or should I step away?
Leave, and do it quickly. Seriously, like so fast, you leave skid marks. But don’t just step outside the doors while junior continues to scream; make sure you’re far enough away so that you’re out of earshot. Later, make it a point to seek out the bride and groom for a quick apology, then offer up a congratulatory toast.
Okay, but how adorable is this little one?!
9) Nearly everyone is dancing, but I have two left feet. Is it awkward to sit and watch?
It’s not awkward, per se, but it’s no picnic, either, since you’ll be missing out on all the fun. You know the expression “dance like no one is watching?” Do it. Everyone will be so wrapped up in their own enjoyment that they’re probably not watching, and they’re definitely not judging. Get out there and shake it!
10) I found the perfect dress, but the fit is a little tricky. How do I avoid a wardrobe malfunction of Janet Jackson proportions?
In my experience, you can do almost anything with a bit of double-sided fashion tape, from securing a deep V in place to hiking up a too-long hemline. Slap a couple of those babies on before you go, and throw a few more in your purse for those “just in case” moments. If you need a quick fix after the wedding has begun, hunt down the nearest wedding planner or concierge, scavenge the ladies room or hit the nearest drugstore for a sewing kit or some good ol’ Scotch tape.
11) I’m sitting at a table with a bunch of strangers. What do I do?
Smile and say hello! The couple has taken care to seat you with people they thought you’d enjoy getting to know, so go ahead and do just that. Share your connection to the couple, ask them to do the same, and go from there. You might just end up with a couple of fun new pals!
12) I’m so not into the bouquet toss. Can I just watch from the sidelines?
For those who think the tossing of the bridal bouquet is an antiquated tradition, it’s your prerogative to not participate. But to the bride, the tradition is important enough that she’s included it in her wedding festivities, so be respectful. Watching the action in clear view is an obvious sign of your disapproval, so instead, politely excuse yourself and take a moment at the bar or the powder room.
13) Woops! I forgot to get a gift. Can I send one after the wedding?
You’re in luck – you have up to a year after the wedding to send one, so the rules of etiquette go. That said, you should aim to send one within a couple of months. Any longer, and the couple may think you’ve forgotten, or worse, you run the risk of forgetting to send one altogether. Better late than never… But not too late!
14) To avoid shipping costs, I picked up a gift at the store. Can I bring it to the wedding?
No. Just… no. At best, you’re guaranteed to inconvenience the bride and groom, who will have to lug it home (and presumably a few others). At worst, you run the risk of your gift getting lost in the shuffle. Unless your gift is easily portable (read: a check), suck it up and pay to it shipped. Alternately, you can deliver it directly – after the wedding day. If you see one or both of the newlyweds regularly, bring it to your next one-on-one outing.
15) Do I have to talk to the bride and groom’s parents?
If you have the opportunity, you should congratulate the parents, since it’s a huge day for them as well. Before you depart, it’s also common courtesy to seek out a member of the bride’s immediate family to say goodbye and thank them for letting you share their special day. The rest is up to you. If you’re particularly close with any of the moms and dads, feel free to party the night away with them! Just steer clear of any stories involving your pal’s drunken antics on spring break ’03, and you’ll be fine.
As wedding season kicks into high gear, heed our advice to help get yourself out of any weird wedding jam that you might find yourself in. And remember, it’s celebratory day, so don’t forget to have fun!