How Did Wedding Hookups Become A Thing?

Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Life is rarely as beautiful and dramatic as it is in a good romantic comedy, but plenty of rom-com elements do exist IRL. People do fall in love, on and off dating apps. Many of us do have snarky best friends. And some have maybe even run through an airport — probably to catch a plane rather than confess their love. But, there's one rom-com trope I just can't wrap my head around: The wedding hookup.
While so many movies involve two hot people finding each other at a reception or exchanging eyes over the vows, any wedding I've ever been to has been full of second and third cousins or people I've known since high school (and definitely wouldn't want to take back to my room after the vows). So how did weddings, which are often a family-and-friends affair, become an event where singles can expect to find a one-night-stand or, if they're lucky, the love of their life? And do wedding hookups actually happen outside the cinematic universe?
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While there doesn't seem to be any record of the moment when wedding hookups became a thing, professional bridesmaid (yes, that's a real thing) Jen Glantz theorizes that wedding hookup culture came with the rise of wedding extravaganzas. While weddings used to be small affairs with close friends and family, people are now having weddings with 150, 200, 250 or even more guests. "God knows who you've got at your wedding anymore," Glantz says. When you're attending weddings like that, it's easy to find someone (or maybe even a few dozen people) you've never met before. That definitely fosters the possibility of a wedding night hookup.
For example, Glantz once worked a wedding that had 400 guests. A crowd that big is almost like small town filled with people who are mostly your age, she says. Take that setting into account and add the lovey-dovey (and slightly tipsy) atmosphere of most weddings, and it's not that hard to imagine how someone could end up waking up next to a fellow wedding guest.
"At weddings, people are dressed elegantly and often look sexy, there’s free-flowing alcohol, music, and a celebratory spirit. The newlyweds are in the throes of romance and, in the minds of the attendees, eager to get out of there and have some hot sex," says Bella DePaulo, PhD, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.
So yes, wedding hookups really do happen outside of rom-coms. Glantz has seen them in motion. But, not only do guests hookup with other guests, they hook up with vendors. Jove Meyer, a wedding planner in New York City says some guests have even tried to solicit him for post-reception sex (although he kindly rejected the invitation).
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Though some brides and grooms might be upset at the thought of their guests trolling for a wedding night hookup, many actually encourage it, Meyer says. In fact, it was a bride who tried to set him up with the man he turned down. "I told her, 'You're so sweet, but it's not your job to play matchmaker at your wedding," he says. But that didn't discourage the bride, who wanted to help her single friend and her single wedding planner connect. She brought them both over the the bar and took a shot with them, then not-so-sneakily left them alone.
Other couples might be a little more subtle about trying to help their guests meet each other. And, that's part of the reason single's tables have become so common, Meyer says. "The benefit of table like that is really clear," he says. "It's the couple's way of telling their guests that if you're interested, these are the other people who are available, either for the night or for something further."
Many couples will also tell their guests that they'll be seated near someone who could be a good match, Glantz says. So don't be surprised if you find yourself at a wedding that seems tailored to help you connect with another guest. "[Most couples] know that being single at a wedding can be uncomfortable, especially if their wedding is number 16 that you've been to this year. So it gives them solace to know that they can make [the experience] a little bit easier for you," she says.
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So feel free to go for a wedding hookup if it falls into place. There's a good chance the couple wanted it to happen, and who knows, you might just end up with a rom-com moment of your own.
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