The wedding was at one of those resort venues where you have to charge everything to your room. "Now, where do these go?" the waitress said, holding up three black vinyl check covers. "Us two are together," said my friend, indicating herself and her husband. "And us two," said my other friend, indicating himself and his partner. "And just me," I said, perhaps unnecessarily. The waitress broke into song: "All...by...myself," she sang, also, perhaps, unnecessarily. "Yep, yep, okay," I grabbed my check. I shook my head, bemused, as I signed for my $29.95 lunch. “Wow,” I said, and then I started to laugh. Once they saw I was okay, my friends joined me. Between the ages of 17 and 27, I always had a boyfriend, but for the last eight years — statistically the years during which most people pair off and get married — I’ve been single. This means I have literally never had a date to a wedding. Not to one, and I’ve been invited to a dozen and counting. Does all this sound awful? It’s not, I promise. The lunchtime serenade was in April, just a few weeks ago, at Liz and Shannon’s wedding in Arizona, the 10th wedding I’ve attended and the 10th time I didn’t bring a plus-one. If someone had sang “All by Myself” to me at weddings three, four, or five, I might have been hurt, maybe even cried, but in April 2016, it was just funny. I’m sure it is really nice to have a special hand to hold during the emotional moments of a ceremony, to gaze at your partner as the couple shares their “first” kiss and fondly remember your own. Or maybe it’s not! Statistics on the success and longevity of an average marriage are in dispute, but most measurements place them somewhere between 35 and 50%. What I am sure of: I’ve gone to 10 weddings alone, and I’ve had a pretty good time at 100% of them.
I’ve gone to 10 weddings alone, and I’ve had a pretty good time at 100% of them.
Wedding #1, Midwestern and homey; Wedding #2, a rowdy, wild, and lavish post-college bash, back when the phrase “open bar” could still spark joy. Wedding #4 was my first big New York affair, over 12 hours of ceremony and celebration on a blustery Tribeca rooftop. Wedding #6, my youngest brother’s, was halfway between our hometown and his wife’s, which placed us in Dubuque, IA — a long way from anywhere. It was Memorial Day weekend and nothing was open when I arrived in downtown Dubuque from New York, and nothing was open the next morning, either, when I awoke extremely hungry and hungover after the rehearsal dinner the night before. Oh thank god, I thought. I have that string cheese and those nuts I saved from the flight. But when I opened the in-room refrigerator, they were gone. I was sure I had put them there. Right? “Mary, have you seen my cheese?” I asked my sister. We were sharing an “executive” suite with our other brother Matt. She groaned and buried her head under a pillow in response. Matt was doing something on his laptop. “Who ate my cheese?” I asked him. He looked at me. “I saw you eat it,” he said, without inflection. “Last night, when you got back.” There was no one to blame but myself. Wedding #7 was my best friend’s. She surprised me when she showed up at the after-party in a dingy bar still in full bridal regalia. “What are you doing here?” I asked. “Don’t hook up with [mutual friend],” she said, hugged me, and left. As if I would, when I was sharing an Airbnb that night with the newlyweds. (Also, I challenge anyone to have a better third-wheel story than sharing a house with the bride and groom on their wedding night. Unless you’ve tagged along on a couple’s actual honeymoon, I win.) Contemporary weddings are logistical challenges of the first order, especially destination weddings, where you might have to manage a cocktail party and/or rehearsal dinner, the actual ceremony, the reception, a morning-after brunch, and several other “optional” events (team bride/team groom softball, horseback riding, hiking, karaoke, you name it). Include a round-trip flight and transportation to and from the airport, and I’d almost rather prepare for a marathon. But I would definitely rather prepare for a wedding solo than in tandem with a date, who might really want to play softball, or go horseback riding, or at least have a different work schedule to accommodate. Without a date, you can slip away unnoticed at any moment, whether to cry or to berate Travelocity. You can stay at karaoke until the bitter end, and book a punishing but cheap red-eye itinerary guilt-free. Far more people have told me I look great than have asked when it will be “my turn”; I haven’t let anyone down or cheated on anyone (though I’ve been asked to be a party to such behavior); and any dark thoughts I’ve entertained about my own maybe-lonely future have been outweighed by the stories I’ve collected along the way. Another destination wedding (this was #5), another reception, another bus back to town. Just like a school bus, two to a seat, everyone was paired off with their partners except me and Tim, the other single person at the wedding. We were making small talk and swiping through Tinder. Tim had been hitting on me all night, in the low-energy way some men who are accustomed to living in cities with favorable male-to-female demographics hit on women, mostly by indicating they are receptive to being seduced so long as the woman takes 100% of the initiative/responsibility. Oh my god, I thought, the ramifications of our proximity dawning on me. If I don't stop swiping right now, we are going to get matched.
I put down my phone and returned to my hotel room, alone and content.