When Jared and I first started dating, it was in the spring. Summer was right around the corner, which meant wedding season was right around the corner, which meant I spent a lot of our first few months dating worrying about having to be his date to a bunch of weddings. Because I’m selfish. But I’d never done it before, been someone’s date to a wedding. And the idea of it made me want to buy a one-way ticket to the Bermuda Triangle and become this decade’s Amelia Earheart story (but where did she go!?)
Now, years later, Jared and I are wrapping up this year’s wedding season and are attending our eighth wedding. I’m currently sitting in a sunny backyard in central California, waiting to get dressed up for my cousin’s wedding. When I asked J what I should write about for my blog today, he said “talk about when you went to Catherine’s wedding as my date” and I was like OH RIGHT THE TIME I GOT DIARRHEA aka almost EVERY date we had when we first started dating.
I’m being facetious of course. I didn’t get diarrhea every time we went on a date. But it happened a lot. And I’m living proof, standing here today, to tell you it’s okay. If you get explosive diarrhea while trying to date someone and trying to be a classy date to a wedding, it is okay.
If you find yourself invited to a wedding and are going to know no one there and are nervous and hate the idea of small-talk, here are my tips for survival.
The “Being Someone’s Wedding Date for the First Time” Survival Guide!!!!!
1) Establish expectations beforehand
If you’re hoping that your date stays by your side the entire night, make sure you communicate this beforehand. Chances are, if your date is bringing you to a wedding, they will know more people there than you. It can be easy to frolic off “just for a minute!” to catch up with friends, leaving you hovering like a poltergeist near the appetizers. Instead of resenting the person or pouting about being left after the fact, take pre-emptive action and communicate your needs before. Your date should want you to feel comfortable throughout the evening and will want to know how they can help.
2) Establish an exit time/strategy beforehand
The anxiety you might experience at a wedding will fatigue you faster than others. The socializing, small-talking, and meeting-new-people’ing, will definitely drain you. Make sure you establish what time you might want to leave to avoid the stress of the unknown. I know I never want to be the lame duck who forces someone to stop having fun (and it’s awkward to walk in the middle of a dance floor and drag someone away) so try and find a compromise time you both will be happy with. This will help you keep your eyes on the prize (aka your pajamas and a silent room at the end of the night).
3) Remember to be grateful
People will probably be excited to meet you. If this is the first time your date is bringing you around the friends or family, you will have a lot of grinning faces coming at you really fast. They’ll be asking a lot of personal questions and making a lot of uncomfortable jokes like “har har when are you two kids getting hitched!?” and you’ll just smile until your face feels like it’s made of burnt plastic. Try to remind yourself that they are probably someone who loves your date, is happy to see them happy, and wants you to feel welcomed. Be grateful they want to know you.
4) Use the bathroom
I don’t mean it in the literal way. I mean it in the sit-and-eat-your-lunch-by-yourself-on-the-toilet kind of way. If you need to step outside for a second to catch your breath, and they don’t have a terrace or outside area, go to the damn bathroom and sit in the stall for a while. Take some deep breaths. Press the heels of your hands into your eyes and absorb the darkness. If you are starting you feel overwhelmed or drained, it’s okay to step away for a moment. If you worry people will notice you’ve been gone for a while, don’t worry, they haven’t. Remind yourself of the spotlight effect and give yourself permission to leave for a while.
5) Stand your ground
If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. Don’t worry about “hurting someone’s feelings” or “making someone mad.” If you don’t feel like drinking any alcohol, don’t do it. If you don’t want to carpool home with 15 drunk college friends, don’t do it. Social situations can often spiral into moments where you don’t feel comfortable so remember that you are worthy of having opinions. If your date is considerate, they will respect your wishes. Stand up for yourself goddammit and make sure situations are comfortable and safe for yourself.
I have no idea if any of this advice is helpful (I feel like I could say this about my entire blog in general) but if you come away with nothing else know that you’re not alone in thinking weddings are anxiety-inducing. They contain a lot of people, a lot of noise, a lot of socializing, a lot of customs that may or may not be unfamiliar, and a lot of intimate implications. I give you total permission to freak the fuck out and almost poop your pants. But I also give you permission to do it even if it scares you and try to have a little fun. Smell those fresh flowers like you’re that damn skunk in a Disney movie just falling in love with nature.