There’s an evolution of wedding invitations for the twenty-something invitee.
Outlying friends who marry in the year or two after college graduation often don’t mention the possibility of a +1. They’re broke, and safely assume that the continental drift between school friends is a ways off, that the average young guest won’t be stuck sullenly drinking alone in a darkened corner of the reception hall. Then come the “you and a guest…” invitations that torpedo the spirits of single people left to anxiously scramble for company and boost the egos of the coupled attendees-to-be with ready-made arm candy.
After nervously fumbling stag through several weddings where I barely knew a soul and was shunted to a table halfway in the kitchen with only the groom’s “quirky” and well-lubricated Aunt Josephine as dinner company, I’ve begun to somewhat smugly rely on my boyfriend as a dependable wedding companion whose charm, dancing skills and threshold for small talk with the bride and groom’s far-flung relatives far exceeds my own.
A November wedding in South Carolina to which guests and their significant others were invited bolstered my spirits but also induced some low-grade anxiety. After a number of weddings attended with your boyfriend or girlfriend over a number of months, the occasions prompt some soul searching that shifts your gaze away from the couple of the hour and toward your navel.
You begin to wonder when the next wedding spent with your better half will be your own.
I’m not one of those people who interprets each of his friends’ weddings as a commentary on my own progression toward marital bliss. And I won’t embellish and say I watched the ceremony and cake-cutting in Charleston with a thousand yard stare as I fantasized about my own nuptials. (Finding a decent gift I could afford off the registry denuded thanks to my incorrigible procrastination was a bigger concern.)
But as you get older and more romantically entwined you inevitably have some fleeting thoughts as the string section plays—or doesn’t!—Canon in D. Some are small thoughts, like “Will we play Canon in D?” Others are more substantial: D.J. or band; black tie, black tie optional or one among the endless list of dress code directives even more confounding and vague than black tie optional.
You’ll ask your significant other how he or she feels about the ubiquitous craze for long holiday weekend and exotic destination weddings. Are they convenient? Obnoxious? Are you insufferable for letting this debate play out in your own head as the bride emerges in a dress on which you render immediate judgment? (For the record, the Charleston wedding was on a regular weekend, at a sensible destination, and the bride—and her dress—were stunning.)
There’s also the slightly more profound issue of whether the person next to you on the pew or in the neighboring folding chair is the one you will or should be putting a ring on. It doesn’t take a wedding to bring up this question—during certain relationship ruts your divergent tastes in pizza toppings might be enough to have you mulling a breakup. But weddings do, for better or worse, inspire you and your S.O. to put your best appearances forward in front of a crowd that might be wondering whose wedding bliss is coming next on their way home from the main event.
In South Carolina I saw the young guests split into cliques. The already married guys whose wives couldn’t make it on account of pregnancies or work obligations toasted their rare liberated weekend with a stop at the local strip club. The singles reuniting with old friends who they didn’t have to introduce to significant others had the best time.
Fun was had by all, really, but my boyfriend and I grappled with a reality check: if and when we want to get married, will our venue choices be limited to a handful of states in which gay marriage is legal? If we wanted a religious ceremony, which churches would do it? Should we tone down our affections for each other south of the Mason Dixon Line? On that note, is it unseemly and a confirmation of old stereotypes for us to blatantly flirt with the gay bartender?
We were more concerned with polishing off the out-of-this-world cake and making a serious dent in the bourbon supply. But while assessing our prospects for marriage and theoretical wedding logistics, we at least emulated the typical married couple, gay or straight, by peppering love with bickering.
There was no bouquet toss in Charleston. But in a crowd heaving with nearly 30-year-olds, I’m not sure how many guests would have thrown elbows to catch it.