This is but one installment of 37 Things a Man's Gotta Do This Summer, our annual compendium of everything worth seeing, doing, eating, drinking and generally making time for in your neck of the woods between now and September. Stay tuned all month for more.
It’s wedding season, and once again the focus is on the happy couple.
But what about you, the gracious guest?
While they’re busy realizing true love, you’ve got outfits to assemble, small talk to make, gifts to buy and singles to woo on the dancefloor.
To solve these quandaries and more, we dialed up Emily Schumann, undisputed wedding champion of the world, with an astonishing 30 bridesmaid appearances to her name.
From switching seats to courting bridesmaids without getting roasted in a group text the next day, you should probably bookmark this.
Preparation and RSVPs
Do I have to physically send in the RSVP? Can't I just, like, call them? Yes, you have to send it. A lot of couples (or their wedding planner, if they have one) will use the RSVP card for future planning, such as seating. It’s also, like, 50 cents! You’re an adult.
If my partner and I break up after I RSVP, can I bring a different guest? No, but maybe if your friends are nice they’ll offer.
Can I text questions about the wedding to the groom/bride? No. Try and find the answer from anyone else first.
Can I wear anything besides a black tux to a black-tie wedding? I think it depends on the couple and the rest of the wedding. I have been to a black-tie wedding in Austin, for example, that was mostly outdoors and a nice, dark suit was fine. I have also been to a black-tie wedding in Beverly Hills that was more formal and a proper tux was more appropriate. If you are at all unsure, I’d go the safer route to avoid feeling underdressed.
If I'm single, can I request to be seated next to an eligible bachelorette at dinner? Sure!
Can I crash a wedding? No.
Can I get a gift that's not on the registry? Yes, if it’s something meaningful and thoughtful and you know they’ll love it. I called the florist and paid for the bouquet of my best childhood friend because it felt too impersonal to get her pots and pans. It never hurts to ask if it’s OK to go off registry, if you think you have a great idea.
Can I just give them a card full of cash in lieu of a gift? Yes.
Can I really give a gift up to a year after the fact? Yes.
At the Wedding
Is it OK to treat this as a networking opportunity? No. If you truly connect with someone, there’s nothing wrong with staying in touch after the wedding … but don’t pitch them that night. It’s awkward!
If a story kills with one group, should I repeat it as I work the room? Yes!
Can I talk about the bachelor party? NO.
Can my date and I trade seats with a couple at a different table? I’m torn on this, but my gut tells me it’s probably a no. Definitely not if you’re at the head table. Almost all of my bride friends said seating was the most tedious part of the planning, so you should trust that they sat you where they wanted you and use it as an opportunity to make new friends. The dinner is probably the only time you’ll be sitting anyway. That said, I don’t know that they’d notice. I did switch seats (solo) with someone once because we were seated with each other’s crews and there were other factors involved (including Champagne).
I RSVP'd steak, but now I'm here, and the fish looks better. Can I lie to my server and say I ordered fish? No. They’ve already paid for you and you’d likely throw off the numbers in the kitchen. Plus, don’t look a gift horse (cow?) in the mouth. If you’re that hung up on it, you could try and sit next to a friend who ordered the fish and casually convince them to let you go halfsies.
Can I give an impromptu speech if i'm not on the bill? No. If they wanted you to speak, they’d ask you to.
There’s no tip jar at this open bar. Should I still tip? No, unless the bartender was particularly good or did you a favor (made you something elaborate off-menu, secretly poured you shots even though they were forbidden, etc). Some couples are uncomfortable at the idea of their guests shelling out any cash, so they’ll explicitly request not to have a tip jar.
If it's not an open bar, can I bring a flask? I say yes. It’s totally tacky, but you probably won’t be the only one with the same idea. I bring a flask to most family events.
If it's not an open bar, do I have to go? Yes, just bring a flask. See above.
Should I tap my glass to make the bride and groom kiss? Ugh, no. Leave that to the grandparents.
Can I make requests to the DJ? Yes.
Can I dance with the bride? Yes. Just don’t hog her.
Can I sit out the cha-cha slide without seeming like a wet blanket? If you have to ask this, you are a wet blanket! Just kidding. Go to the bar or the restroom.
Can I start a horah if neither party is Jewish? Probably not, although I insist on having one whether I have a Jewish wedding or not.
If I get rejected by one bridesmaid, is it kosher to go after another one? Sure, as long as you’re fine with getting roasted on a group text tomorrow.
Can I take home someone from the waitstaff? Yes, as long as he/she is back at work tomorrow morning in time to make mimosas for post-wedding brunch.
After how many drinks am I allowed to …
- Undo my tie knot: After dinner (however many drinks that may be for you).
- Break out questionable stories about the bride/groom: Never.
- Take my date upstairs for some hanky panky: This depends more on how many drinks your date has had, because it’ll have to be a mutual decision. Be a gentleman. I got a second opinion from a bride friend, and she says wait at least until after the cake cutting. Plus, you don’t want to miss the cha-cha slide, do you?
- Jump in the pool: As soon as the bride and groom do it.
- Leave: I think this comes down to how long you’ve been drinking and what you’re drinking. I stay until I’m genuinely not having fun anymore and/or when I find myself having irrational drunk arguments with either one of my sisters (love you!). I learned that my personal limit is no more than two drinks an hour, with food, and no mixing alcohol, so that I can last gracefully until the party dies down. If not, I know when to send myself home (and you should, too).
The Dos and Don’ts of Picking Up a Bridesmaid
I don’t typically like bringing dates to weddings, so it’s a bit like having a bullseye on my bridesmaid dress to be the token single one. I speak for other bridesmaids when I say people assume we want to meet any and every single man in attendance; in reality, some of us just want to enjoy having our friends and family in the same room. But speaking from experience ...
DO make sure you both feel the connection.
DO call a spade a spade. Are you looking for a hookup or a girlfriend?
DON’T show up on a conquest for a hot wedding one-night-stand. Some male wedding guests are a little too inspired by Wedding Crashers. Chances are you’re a lot less smooth than Owen Wilson and trying that hard is a turn-off to most women. You might luck out if you find one who is into that sort of thing, but you might also get a stage-five clinger.
Instead, DO ask to hang out again after the wedding and see if there’s still chemistry. If you’re too nervous, you can ask a mutual friend to make the connection afterward. Alcohol + flowers + sappy wedding speeches + Bruno Mars = a very romantic night. I have seen such “true love” many times at a wedding, and sometimes it works out well. But other times it doesn’t go beyond another date. If you really found your soulmate, another 24 hours won’t tip the scales. The true test will be if you still like us tomorrow without professional hair and makeup.
On that note, DO be polite. I met someone at a wedding who was fun and respectful all night and we started a platonic relationship but eventually dated for nearly two years. We ended up fighting like Sid and Nancy, but we had a good run.
DON’T hit on me (or anyone, for that matter) if you brought another date who is at the wedding or, even worse, you have a wife and kids at home. True stories.
DON’T be a creep, in general. We will be at birthday parties for these people’s kids together one day. Don’t be the guy who warrants the “FYI so-and-so will be there” warning text. Also true story!