It started at the bachelorette party. My best friend from high school was getting married and the five lucky ladies she’d chosen for her bridal party were chatting away at the hotel while a summer playlist eked out of one of our smart phones. That’s when the maid of honor laughed and mentioned that her husband had already texted her that he missed her. It was cute, I’ll admit. But then each of the other ladies added their own anecdotes about their live-in boyfriends or fiancés and suddenly, it was my turn. As they looked at me, I giggled like a woman who’d just walked into the men’s bathroom by accident and looked down at my phone to find a distracting song. Maybe some Spice Girls? But it didn’t work, so I was forced to participate. “Yeah, my mom gave me a pretty cute lecture about taking some B12 to avoid a hangover tonight,” I squeaked. It was painfully obvious: I was officially the only single bridesmaid.
In the time between the bachelorette party and the actual wedding, I met a guy or two, but no one I could bring from New York to California as a date. Then came the RSVP: I resolutely wrote in a “1” in the party box and succumbed to my fate. I was a “1” and not a “2” and that’s all there was to it.
“You’re totally going to meet someone! People always meet people at weddings!” my friends said. I’m not arguing with that well-known fact, but I’d leave New York for California for three measly days. The only opportunity waiting at this resort wedding was a terrible decision driven by champagne and a lack of space between cabins in a canyon without cell service. I decided early on that I’d go ahead and save myself the walk of shame through tall, dewy grass on a Sunday morning.
So I went into the October wedding weekend with three goals: spending quality pre-wedding hours with the bride and my fellow bridesmaids, dancing like a maniac to “Wannabe,” and crying during the father-daughter dance (which, for me, is more of an inevitability than a goal).
After a beautiful, moving ceremony (and one and a half pre-ceremony mimosas in the bridal cabin), most of my duties – aside from pretending to dive headfirst to catch the bouquet and get the bride champagne as needed – were done and I was released to the general public in a corseted dress and a pair of brand new vice grips that Kohl’s had the audacity to call “Nude Wedges.” But, I grabbed a glass of bubbly and made my rounds. I said hello to my family members who’d also been invited, hey to my former dance team coach and her husband, and “Oh my God, hiiiiiiii” in an obnoxiously high-pitched wail to the three friends from high school who weren’t in the bridal party.
With nothing further to do, I skulked back to the bridal cabin unnecessarily and pretended to look for something I didn’t need from my suitcase. A junior bridesmaid sat on the couch, oblivious to my presence, playing Candy Crush and hiding from her mother. I wished for a split second that I could do the same.
Peeking through the blinds, I could see the other bridesmaids arm-in-arm with their dates. Was I really going back out there to either stare into space (literally – did you know you can see stars in the sky when you leave New York?) or just start inserting myself into conversation like some drunk uncle. I am terrible at both of those things. While the Candy Crush option was appealing, I realized my friend, the bride, hadn’t asked me here to highlight my own lack of romantic entanglement. You might say, “Duh,” but perpetual singlehood is a hell of a drug surpassed in potency only by Candy Crush in a dark room. I was here to celebrate her and her truly wonderful new husband: two of the best people I know.
This pity party I’d been throwing myself was busted. I downed a mason jar of hard cider (don’t judge me or the mason jar), and marched back to my table which was full of couples and one single guy who asked me my name and looked me up and down like a man auditioning for the role of “Mime Joey Tribiani” while licking his lips. He would not be getting a callback and I was definitely not meeting anyone that night.
To avoid eye contact with Mime Joey, I looked past him to another table where I hadn’t realized a guy I had something of a hopeless crush on in high school was sitting with his wife. In my weakened state, I felt that same losery feeling of being the only friend standing against the wall during a slow dance at the prom. I thought I was immune to this kind of childish nonsense and maybe I am in other circumstances. But that corset was starting to cut off my breathing at this point and probably affecting the amount of alcohol going to my brain.
Finally, after the speeches and dinner, I realized all of my mental anguish leading up to this incredible wedding (it actually looked like a Mumford and Sons video had a baby with a Disney movie) was about as useless as my vow to avoid the mac and cheese bar at the dinner buffet. The rest of the night consisted of dancing in my tight dress and heels while shaking out the curly hair-do I’d learned from Christina Hendricks’ hairstylist on YouTube. I shamelessly flirted with the incredibly cute bartender whose name I chose not to remember, throwing out the “bridesmaid” excuse every time he gave me a jokingly judgmental smirk for coming back for another drink. With the bride busy with family, I was free to attend to absolutely no one, other than my empty drink-holding hand and my insatiable need to dance it out. I’d done my unspoken job as a bridesmaid: I helped make the wedding the party she said she wanted.
And as I gathered stragglers for the karaoke after-party in the clubhouse, I realized my fear of being the only single bridesmaid was as ridiculous as the bridal party’s decision to drink our weight in wine the night before the wedding. Supporting a wonderful friend of mine as she married her absolute match was one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of. And like many of the best parts of my life, I didn’t need a man on my arm to do it.