At the welcome reception of a wedding abroad last summer, I, a recently single lady finally in a healthy and happy relationship with myself, ended up in a circle of five or six couples. They were friends from university (including a distant ex) and their respective plus ones, many of whom I hadn’t seen in years – as you can imagine, we had a lot to catch up on. Careers? Family? Living situation? Pets? Politics? The weather? With so many topics to cover, I almost choked on my bellini when my friend’s fiancée turned the group conversation to me and asked: "So, how’s the love life? Any horror stories?" I quickly tried to change the subject but she wouldn’t let me. Instead, she pointed out the "only single guy at the wedding" before hastening to add that the waiters were hot, if I "felt lonely later".
Now, I have nothing against waiters. In fact, many a waiter have I snogged in my time, along with taxi drivers, bankers, massage therapists, hypnotherapists, comedians, doctors, firemen…you get the idea. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
And I take no issue with well-meaning people enquiring about my romantic situation, but insinuating that the main purpose of my attendance at the wedding was to reverse my single status was pretty ridiculous and, frankly, rude. Like everyone else, my primary goal at a wedding is usually to take advantage of the free bar and pretend I’m still at whatever stage of life I was when I met the person getting married. To catch up with people I know and enjoy celebrating with the happy couple, while throwing shapes on the dance floor and behaving in a way that I will probably regret the next day. Whether that’s in the arms of the best man or face-down, dribbling on a lumpy single bed really makes no difference; any suggestion to the contrary isn’t just patronising, it’s insulting.
You see, having recently left an abusive relationship, and all the complex and painful disentanglement that such a break-up involves, I arrived at that wedding painfully aware of my single status. The fact that I would be seeing an ex for the first time in seven years, with his long-term girlfriend, was percolating through my mind on the plane, as I got ready, in the taxi on the way there and as I stepped through the front doors of the venue. Living in a society in which telling people you’re single after 30 is generally met with a sympathetic look – and being aware of that pity – makes an event like a wedding feel like you’re wearing your innermost emotions as a fascinator. Throw in copious glasses of warm prosecco and some canapés, and it can be a recipe for disaster for your self-esteem.
Now of course I don’t speak for single women everywhere. But I’m fairly confident, having heard of similar experiences from my pals, that the anxiety of being The Single Woman at an event usually attended in pairs is fairly common, and for the most part ignored by the general (coupled-up) public. But fear not, help is here! I’ve put together some tips, gathered from my own experiences and those of my friends, for how not to make single people feel like dicks during wedding season. Here's hoping they don't all go out the window after dropping that sixth Jägerbomb...
Don’t say "the waiters are hot if you feel lonely later"
Quite a specific one there to get us started, but trust me, don’t say this.
Don’t assume that all single people want to be set up…
People's love lives are complicated, and tend to be a fairly emotive subject. As someone who spent years assuming my worth as a human being depended on whether or not I "belonged" to another human being, getting to a place where you’re happily single can be hard work. So the implication that a single person should be desperately trying to "solve" their relationship status is boring, lads, and hurtful.
…or that they want to share the details of their dating life with the group
I mean, I’m a pretty open book. I have a tendency to find myself in hilarious situations after a few café Patróns and to approach life in a "Fuck it, at least it’ll make a good anecdote" fashion. So I don’t mind sharing stories but only if the amusement of others is in a well-meaning, "What are you like?" rather than a pitying, "God I’m so glad I’m not single" kinda way. And some people straight up don’t wanna share. It’s a line; pay attention.
Don’t say, "Can I have a go on your Tinder?"
…or for that matter, "internet dating apps are so fun". Yes, Susan, sometimes they’re fun and sometimes an unsolicited dick pic pops up on your screen in the middle of a work meeting (remember to switch off your message previews, chaps). I get it, you’ve forgotten that a relationship should be part of your life and not its sole purpose. That’s cool. But please don’t bring me along on whatever wistful fantasy is playing out in your head. Most single people I know think dating apps are the worst because guess what? They are the worst if you actually want to meet someone. Step away from the phone and go back to your conversation about school catchment areas.
Be conscious of the cost implications of flying solo at a wedding
Sure, you’ve always wanted to get married on a beach, wearing a coconut bra. That’s cool pal, you do you. But remember other people have different things they might need or want to spend their money on. Now this is a common complaint among many wedding-goers, be they a two or a one, but it is multiplied if you’re single. Think about it: single occupancy in a hotel room, no one to share the transport costs and the cost of the wedding (or engagement) gift with, no one to buy you drinks – it all adds up. I once heard of a single pal who went to a wedding abroad where they asked people coming alone if they’d like to be paired with other guests on their own to share a room and transport etc, which seems like a decent thing to do. Just don’t pair me up with Martin from your fiancé's accounts department who gets a bit "handsy" after a whisky.
Don’t assume that because someone is single, they want to shag your partner
At that wedding last year, I ended up chatting to my ex for about 20 minutes. Y’know, the usual: "How’s your mum? Dad still into erotic fiction?" This would have been fine if his girlfriend’s mates hadn’t started circling like a pack of sharks, pulling him away from me and later telling me in the toilets how "inappropriate" I’d been. I am 150% sure that had I turned up with a plus one, they wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. But as a single person, you’re immediately vulnerable to being demonised and categorised as a "threat" when speaking to a coupled person. For the record, this is such a lazy assumption – if I wanted to shag your boyfriend babe, I probably wouldn’t have dumped him seven years ago.
Don’t assume a single person complaining about how annoying other people's weddings are is "jealous"
Come on lads, you know better than this. Other people's weddings are annoying whether you have a ring on your finger or not. It’s just the way it is.
Don’t assume they’re having a shit time
If there’s one thing I know to be true, it’s that single people have more fun when drinking. No really. It’s that fuck-it-let's-make-stupid-decisions-cos-there-are-no-consequences mindset that no coupled person can get away with. Plus, at the majority of weddings I’ve been to, come 10.30pm, most of the couples have pissed each other off, ‘cos do you know what is the primary catalyst for arguing with bae? Smashing a load of booze and not paying each other much attention.
Don’t ever describe anything as a "couples' thing"
This one is a bit more general but I recently didn’t get invited to a friend’s 30th, and this was given as the excuse. The only dignified response in this situation is to tell them to fuck off, FYI.
And one more for the road…
Above all, remember that some (not all) single people may be painfully aware of and sensitive about their situation, so do them a favour and don’t go out of your way to draw attention to it. Basically guys, just don’t be a dick – and maybe buy your single pal a drink when you see them at the bar.
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