Welcome toÂ Wedding Guest Wednesday, a feature in which Solo-ish explores the joys and woes of attending other peopleâ€™s weddings.Â Because itâ€™s not all about the happy couple â€” itâ€™s a big day for guests as well.Â
It was a beautiful summer day. I was surrounded by friends, new and old, celebrating our dear friendâ€™s pending nuptials, and I was bored out of my mind.
Not the whole time. Just in those moments when the partnered people were venting about wedding planning or their mothers-in-law, and I had nothing to contribute. I didnâ€™t want to give advice that was divorced from experience, and so, after politely nodding myÂ way through the conversation,Â I ducked out to find the other single womanÂ there, so we couldÂ bond over the experienceÂ of not having in-lawsÂ dote on usÂ or DJs to hire.
Most of the time, bachelorette parties are a blast. When friends, sisters, cousins and others convene to celebrateÂ a big moment in the life of someone theyâ€™re close to, the love in the room multiplies.Â New friendships form, older ones can reach new depths, and, yes, youÂ often goÂ home with outrageous stories about whatever happened at 2 a.m.
ButÂ the joyÂ can be tinged with discomfort, too.Â Celebrating one personâ€™s lifecycle event has a way of bringing out the insecurities in everyone else. Even though someone elseâ€™s wedding is not about you, â€śit makes you think about you,â€ť says Charreah K. Jackson, author of â€śBoss Bride: The Powerful Womanâ€™s Playbook for Love and Success.â€ť â€śYouâ€™re reconciling where you are based on where you thought you might be . . . as youâ€™re watching [a friendâ€™s] life goals happen.â€ť
And atÂ any givenÂ bachelorette party, everyoneÂ there is probably struggling with something:Â It could be a relationship thatâ€™s falling apart, money or career problems, health issues, etc. If you feelÂ like the odd woman out at one of these gatherings, I hear you. Here areÂ someÂ tips that could make the experience a tad easier.
If youâ€™re feeling uncomfortable, thatâ€™s normal.
â€śWe assume that everything that will happenÂ at lifestage events is as pretty as an Instagram post . . . and itâ€™s often not like that,â€ť Jackson says. â€śGive yourself permission to feel however youâ€™re feeling.â€ť
The weird thing about any bachelorette party discomfort Iâ€™ve felt in my 30s is that it usually comes out of nowhere. In my daily life in Washington, being a 30-something single woman is pretty normal. Iâ€™m rarely theÂ sole single personÂ in a room. Unless Iâ€™m at a bachelorette party and everyone is talking about partnered life.
Caroline Moss, co-author of â€śHey Ladies! The Story of 8 Best Friends, 1 Year and Way, Way Too Many Emails,â€ť says this fish-out-of-water feeling is normal. â€śBachelorette parties and everything in the wedding industry is designed to put a lot of pressure on whatever your relationship status is,â€ť Moss says. â€śIt feels very close to skin. At other functions that are wedding-related, no one seems to careâ€ť whether youâ€™re single or not, she adds.Â But at bachelorette parties, the singleÂ friends are often singled out to do the things that married or partnered friendsÂ donâ€™t have the freedom to do,Â which brings us to our next point.
If thereâ€™s a potential for you to be uncomfortable, over-communicate.
If you have a hunch a bachelorette weekend might surpass what your bank account or emotions can handle, Jackson suggests telling the planners what youâ€™ve budgeted for the weekend â€” or that you might need a break at some point. â€śIf you are at a bachelorette party, these are people you actually care about. So donâ€™t feel like you need to hide your reality or carry shame around your circumstances,â€ť Jackson says, whether those circumstances are frail finances or raw emotions.
She remembers attending a bachelorette party right after a five-year relationship ended. â€śIt was soothing in some ways,â€ť Jackson recalls. The celebration was both â€śa reminder that love is all around and it was also very sobering. It was a catalyst for me to let go of a lot and keep moving forward.â€ť
Come up with an exit strategy.
This is a good rule of thumbÂ for everyone. Moss remembers oneÂ bachelorette party in particular where she felt a bit out of her league (the other women were big partiers). So when she noticed there were four sets of keys to their Airbnb, she snagged one. That way she could bail if the night got too crazy.
Itâ€™s about knowing your limits. â€śAssess the situation youâ€™re in and come up with a way where, if you start get anxious, you have a way out,â€ť Moss adds.
When Jackson was still smarting from that big breakup and she didnâ€™t feel like socializing at her friendâ€™s wedding, after the ceremony she skipped the reception to sit in Central Park and journal about what she wanted for her next relationship.Â â€śYouâ€™reÂ going to a space with heightened emotions, so you have to tend to your own emotional needs urgently,â€ť she says.
Donâ€™t automatically opt out of conversations, assuming you donâ€™t have anything to contribute.Â
I left that mother-in-law conversation because I was bored. But I could have stayed. â€śThereâ€™s aÂ misconception that single women have nothing to contribute to conversations about marriage,â€ť Moss says,Â but thatâ€™s not true. Thereâ€™s a lot single and married friends can learn from one another.
And of course, â€śbeing single doesnâ€™t mean you donâ€™t know how to navigate interpersonal relationships,â€ť Moss adds. By now, several years into my friendsâ€™ marriages, I enjoy hearing about their in-laws. And they still love hearing about my dating life.
Your married friends will want to live vicariously through you.Â Take it as a compliment.
When Moss was single, she remembers her married friends saying a version of: Iâ€™m married; Iâ€™m no fun anymore. You do the idiotic thing. Or at least entertain us with stories from your wild-and-crazy dating life!
SometimesÂ the single friendÂ does want to tell these stories, or go kiss that cuteÂ stranger by the bar. But sometimes,Â she does not. And thatâ€™s okay, too.Â â€śDonâ€™t over-promise to be the life of the party and then under-deliver,â€ť Moss says. â€śKeep peopleâ€™s expectations for you pretty low.â€ť
Take advantage of the best part of being single at a bacheloretteÂ party . . .
. . . which is the best part of being single in real life.Â â€śThereâ€™s the potential for something exciting to happen. You can flirt, and it can lead to something,â€ť says Michelle Markowitz, who wrote â€śHey Ladies!â€ť with Moss. Thereâ€™s no need to take time out from the festivities to check in with a boyfriend or husband. Plus, Moss notes, â€śSome of [my married friends] would make marriage sound really great, and sometimes they made marriage sound awful.â€ť
Celebrate what makes you different.
â€śIf you feel like being single is sad, everyone will treat it that way,â€ť Jackson notes. So if youâ€™re the one person whoâ€™s different, you should celebrate that fact, Jackson says, because â€śwhat you feel about your circumstances is contagious.â€ť
At one bachelorette party I attended, the bride made a toast to everyone in the group, singling out each personâ€™s recent accomplishments: a new job or grad degree, or foray into stand-up comedy. It was a nice way to acknowledge that marriage isnâ€™t the only achievement in a womanâ€™s life worth celebrating. Iâ€™ll toast to that any day.