By John Ortved
Illustrations by Jordan Kay
I have never crashed a wedding. I don’t think any of us have. But I’ve crushed a wedding. Many, in fact. At my high point, I crushed seven in a single summer (but really it was five — see tip #4). I say “crush” but I could just as easily say “won.” And notice I don’t use words like “dominate,” “destroy” or “kill” — because that’s not what we’re after here. The point is to be a good guest — courteous, ebullient, participatory, appreciative — while still having enough fun. After all, weddings should remain bright spots on your summer calendar, and not cast a pall over the 12 or so weekends you get to splash around in the sun.
As we descend into prime beef-or-fish season (Vegan? Really? I’ll see if they have anything back there), we present 10 ways to help turn a wedding into a win.
Not to sound like your Jewish (or Italian, or Chinese, or pick any ethnicity, really) grandma, but you look peckish — let me fix you a sandwich. In reality, I can’t make you food, but make sure you eat something before you head towards the nuptials. There are never snacks before the reception, and the ceremony could be interminable. You don’t want to be distracted during your friends’ big moment, nor do you want to hit the bar afterwards on an empty stomach. But the real trick here is avoiding any squabbles with a date or significant other for reasons of hangry.
2. Casual suits are great, but shorts are not.
Save the shorts for the ballgame, or the couch, or your laundry run — really anywhere but a wedding. You can pull it off, I’m sure. You’re a fun, dapper guy. But it’s not worth the effort and your outfit will be a conversation piece — that's a privilege reserved for the happy couple. Casual suits — cotton numbers, seersucker, wools both light in color and fabric — are the the perfect costume.
3. Put your phone away.
Yes, you want to have a cool video (that you will never look at again), but please keep in mind: your hosts have hired professionals to do this; you are probably obstructing someone’s view; somebody likely spent ungodly amounts of money and time planning this day — maybe pay attention and enjoy it as opposed to trampling flower girls so that you can get a better angle. And for the love of god, keep your texting to a minimum — and maybe even to the bathroom. Your hosts didn’t invite you to a $500/plate dinner so you could chat to your fantasy football friends.
4. Know which weddings to say no to
The schedule can get a little full — it’s important to know when, and how, to send regrets. Maybe it’s a distant cousin. Maybe you won’t know anyone. Maybe it’s a destination wedding that is out of your price range. Realize that you are doing no one a favor attending a wedding you’re not excited about. Exceptions for weddings your significant other is dragging you to, but that’s a different list.
5. Do your homework
Some recon can save an entire campaign, never mind a single battle (especially if you are single). Don’t bother the bride or groom too much about who else is coming, but politely ask around well before the big day. More than anything, it’s a good way to figure out if you should beg for a plus one.
6. Know the difference between a fun tie and a dumb tie
A wonderful way to liven up a summer suit (many of which don’t need livening — the look of a cotton suit with an open collar is a strong one) is with a tie. You can play with bright stripes, or fun patterns: florals, paisleys or knit statements. Just draw the line at anything silly. Let a mix of colors or a toile scene be your levity; leave your Ninja Turtle tie at home. Or better yet, give it to your nephew.
7. The dance floor is for everyone
We love your worm. We really do. We can’t get enough of it. But it’s 8:00 pm and the bride and her dad just finished a teary first dance, can you please save it for later, when the adults have split and no one will be put out? Weddings are, ultimately, about bringing people together; something to keep in mind before you try and start a breakdance battle.
8. DBs are amazing, but be temperature sensitive
People will argue that a double-breasted suit is old-fashioned, but they’re wrong. Its popularity indeed ebbs and flows, but it’s a classic, and there are some great advantages. It’s eye-catching without being overly showy; it pays homage to the formality of the event; it hides a gut nicely. One drawback: unlike a single-breasted jacket, you can’t wear it open. So if it’s a scorcher, you may be setting yourself up for a very swampy time.
9. Trust the dry cleaner
Do you have a good dry cleaner? If not, get one (do some googling or ask your finance friends where they take their good suits), so you can trust them. Spills happen at parties. It’s a “when” not an “if” situation. So when the wine ends up on your blazer, don’t have a panic attack and interrupt the best man during his speech with your screams for soda. Maybe dilute it a little with some water, but for the most part, just leave it alone and bring it to the dry cleaner on Monday.
10. Shots: a terrible idea
Recently, I learned something fascinating about drinking from a neurologist: blackouts are less the result of drinking a great deal than spikes in the amount of alcohol entering your bloodstream. In other words, taking a bunch of shots really messes you up. How wasted do you want to get at an event that is really about your hosts and their family? Almost as importantly, it’s not a great look—you’re not at your college bar. Finally, weddings are wonderful; you’re going to want to remember them.
John Ortved is a New York City-based writer who watches altogether too much TV. His articles and essays have appeared in the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, the New York Times and Vogue. You can twitter him @jortved.