The smell of wet calligraphy ink on place cards can only mean one thing: it's wedding season in San Francisco. Roughly May through November, wedding season seems to get longer every year as peers pair off like passengers on Noah's Ark. In spite of statements comparing my friends' unions to survivors of a biblical flood, I really do enjoy weddings. In our overly casual society, weddings are one of the few occasions where we get to dress up, observe a schedule for the evening and try to present ourselves as slightly more sophisticated versions of the messy people we are.
That said, as a single, I know that weddings can be festivals of awkward. Sometimes you're the ninth person at a table of ten, other times an enterprising host or hostess will try and pair you off with a potential love match. And (I'll say it) sometimes, amid all the over-the-top displays of eternal affection, you can just find the bride and groom insufferable. But worry not; just remember the following tips when adventures in the table-chartlandia of wedding receptions seem to be going amiss.
1) First, you must Find The Widow Table. You know the one I'm talking about: there's one at every family event. It's the table with all the blue hairs that survived their husbands and are happily spending the inherited pensions on bingo cruises. Make friends with these ladies: not only are they usually the most fun members of any family but they have pills and that makes them talk very freely about the other people at the wedding. After cha-cha-ing a few Aunt Trudis and Cousin Dots, you'll have learned that the bride's third cousin Irving isn't actually under the weather; he and his wife Sheila haven't spoken to this side of the family in years. Marcia isn't a dental hygienist; she makes "internet movies," but no one talks about it. And so on. If family gossip isn't your thing, they usually have hard candy.
2) Open bars are nice, but nothing makes a bad wedding worse for a single than ODing on shots without a buddy there to keep you vertical. Sure, I'll have a couple drinks at a wedding, but what I really love about an open bar is that it's an opportunity to Have As Many Shirley Temples As You Want. Think about it: how often do you get to order a Shirley Temple as an adult? As my twenties get on, drinking carbonated sugar now holds the forbidden allure of...well come on, carbonated sugar is pretty forbidden in its own right. One part ginger ale, a splash of grenadine and a whisk of happy. Extra maraschino cherries, please. If I'm feeling really naughty, I'll have half a Roy Rogers.
3) If you want to feel like you're helping, tell the couple you're officially Live Instagramming their reception and then take nothing but detail photos of everything from the buffet service to the napkin folds. That's only part of the fun. Be sure to include popular but completely unrelated hashtags like #ratchedstyle #mustbemonday and #superbowl2014. After the wedding, print out the photos and bind them for the happy couple with a note saying how many likes and comments each photo got. I'm sure they'll be thrilled their centerpieces marked #prettyflyforawhiteguy got 12 likes!
4) As soon as you can, make a bee line for the gift table then Start Guessing What The Gifts Are by comparing package size to registry. There's really no way to win this game since you won't be opening the packages, but, if you're pretty sure Sarah and Tammy got that ice cream maker on their registry, it's totally fine to start making a mental list of things you want to borrow from them for your next party.
5) If the pills from the widow table mix with the Shirley Temples just right, I get in the mood to pretend I'm an explorer discovering a strange new civilization. As such, it's completely appropriate for me to Bag and Tag a selection of the passed hors d'oeuvres like some rare butterfly for scientific cataloging. When you get home, free, dry, then dip them in formaldehyde and tack them in a shadow box once they're preserved. On the couple's one year anniversary, send them the shadow box anonymously and see if they ever bring it up.
6) Now that you've spent some time at the widow table, hit the bar and Find the Drunk Uncles. The drunk uncle isn't just a terrible SNL character, he's also a real guy at every family wedding who wants to share his wayward political beliefs, feelings on modern society and have "just one more if I hafta to sit truuu annuder ones of deeeese speechessssss." Once his entertainment value has worn off, you can spend the rest of the wedding commiserating with other guests: "Did you see Uncle What's His Name? Man, when is he going to learn he can't hold his liquor. Remember Greek Easter last year?"
7) Although no one should EVER be forced to Chicken Dance against their will, you'll want to be sure to Enjoy All The Theme Dances the DJ plays. YMCA, Mexican Hat Dance, Macarena, Bunny Hop, Mash Potato, Hokey Pokey, ALL OF THEM! Like drinking a Shirley Temple, how often do you get to put your right foot in, put your right foot out?
8) The obvious deal breaker in the above clause is of course, when they play that one song by Beyonce. Stay seated when the DJ asks "all my single ladies" to come to the dance floor. It's just humiliating. Mrs. Z, is this what you had in mind when you released this song; brides and DJs punishing maiden friends with a ritual dance of the fool? This doesn't apply if the Liza Minnelli version of the song is played. But then again, if that happens, you're likely at a gay wedding and everyone goes to the dance floor at that point no matter their marital status.
9) Catch the garter/bouquet. Then, yell "hike!" tuck it under your arm and run towards an imaginary goal post.
10) Well, it's almost over, you might as well Have a Piece of Cake. Have two, you're single, you don't answer to anyone and besides, you already had like, six Shirley Temples. I guess you did make up for it on the dance floor. If you've followed my tips, you'll be a happy guest and, as you savor the fondant, you'll say "wedding cake tastes better because it's made with love" and then go home and sleep off your sugar headache. If, in spite of my excellent advice, you still didn't enjoy yourself, you can stuff your face and grumble "wedding cake tastes better because it's made with two individual's freedom." Then go home and sleep off your post nuptial resentment.
Oh, you know what guys, I forgot to mention you can always just Try and Hookup with Another Guest. It's a wedding, people drink, alcohol makes people think about sex... You should probably just go ahead and do that.