In 2007, two of my very good friends met at a party I was hosting, and within days became a couple. Fast forward six years, and I'm staring their wedding invitation in the face. Upon further investigation of this invitation, I realized two very important things. First, that because it was going to be a very intimate gathering and I wasn't currently in a relationship, I wasn't going to get a plus one. Second, that the groom would be inviting my college boyfriend, whom I dated for three years and who just got married himself, to said intimate gathering. Where I would have to share a table with my ex and his wife. Awkward? It sure could be. And, since I'm sure many of us will be at a wedding where we are flying solo, and at which someone we once cared about is in attendance, here's the unofficial playbook I used in avoiding what could have been one of the most uncomfortable situations of all time.
1. Do your hair.
If there were ever a day in the history of your life when you ought to splurge and get your hair done, this is it. Can't afford a trip to the salon? Ask your very talented friend to make your locks fancy. Pack dry shampoo and a comb in your bag. You will feel like a million bucks, because you'll look like a million bucks.
2. Initiate the communication. Upon first sighting, go hug him. So what if he's talking to someone else? You need to seize the moment and start out in control of the situation. Simply place your hand on his shoulder and greet with the most genuine and pleasant "It's so good to see you!" you can muster. Hug his wife, too. It's the friendly, bigger-person thing to do.
3. After the ceremony, grab your place card (and your seat) at the reception early. This way, when your ex and/or his wife pick out their seats on the opposite end of the table, you're not the one who comes off as totally flustered.
4. Dance with the guy named Ralph. You will not regret it. He's unafraid to test out the dorkiest (read: best) dance moves, and he will make you laugh. Besides, the bride's grandfather said he was 'too tired' to dance with me. I remain suspicious, but alas, you work with what you've got.
5. Offer to take pictures of the couples around you. You know one or more of them will ask you anyway. You may as well get it out of the way, take ownership of the situation, and remain confident in your solo status.
6. Tell the waitress/bartender your story. Make sure they know the exact details of what you're up against. This will result in drinks served in pint glasses. Tip him/her. Because this is a person who is most likely on your side (now that they know your story).
7. Don't offer information about yourself to his wife. Because she's definitely not asking, and even if he were marginally interested in what you're up to nowadays, it's not totally appropriate for him to ask. Just talk to the other people at the table about your really cool life loudly enough so he can hear.
8. Photobomb them at least once. And I don't mean the bride and groom. If Jennifer Lawrence taught me anything, it's that any event you attend (alone or not) can be made historic with an appropriate photo bomb. Even if you and the photographer (Ralph) are the only ones who can ever enjoy that photo, it's totally worth it.
9. Remind yourself that nobody is defined by just their relationship status.
At weddings especially, it's way to easy to feel like you need to measure your success based on whether or not you're coupled up. 360-some days of the year, you know that's not true, so walk in reminding yourself of that fact today. Sure, it's easier said than done, but it's worth saying — to yourself, over and over.
10. Do something indulgent for yourself the next day. Despite all of that aforementioned positive thinking, it's not out of the question that the ex encounter coupled with post-wedding season withdrawal (the buddies! the dancing! the Champagne! where did they all go?) might leave you feeling a little glum. And like there's nothing left to look forward to. So, book a spa appointment, tickets to a play, or something else awesome that's going to make you happy in the very near future. It helps. Promise.