Marriage, of course, is the terminus of any successful courtship. The committed and monogamous end state between two happy adults has proven more than an accident of social history or some unfortunate heteronormative primeval relic (cf. left-handed buttons, “he” as the gender neutral pronoun and child birth). It is the natural romantic outpost, even for modern lovers. The wedding sacrament that announces the start of a more recognizable union, then, remains particularly important. There are two approaches to capitalizing on the opportunity afforded by an invitation to celebrate another’s nuptials, each dependent on your present dating status.
Here, the challenge is to ensure the celebration and mirth from the predicate romance does not overwhelm your own. Criticize the choices for bridesmaid dresses and table settings acutely (e.g., “I am so over halter tops and so, apparently, is Aunt Jenny’s chest.” or “Coral? More like ‘bore’-al.”). Regardless of the seriousness of your relationship, contemplate how your wedding would mirror (evening ceremony, ducks in bow-ties loosed around the surrounding yard during cocktail hour and a live band covering Sam Cooke) and depart from (no children, a truly open bar and no Chicken Dance) the present gathering.
In this and similar situations it is often difficult to rein in the expectations of your partner; he or she will likely be convinced that sharing these thoughts implies some future intent to actually plan and share a wedding. Because of this risk, the best practice is to let their mind wander and imagine things that may never be. In so doing you will be able to explore your own thoughts with a captive and representative audience so that they are well-formed when the date must actually be saved. Moreover, your partner will be pleased with this possible outcome and thus receptive to more adventurous romantic overtures: shared judgment is a powerful aphrodisiac.
In the latter case, a balance must be struck between apparent frustration and unvarnished optimism. The most successful single in attendance will be the one willing to admit some anxiousness to their table but proclaim with conviction an unerring certainty that love is both all you need and the only thing worth having.
Be careful to speak to any hopeful consorts early in the proceedings; this will grant you the time necessary to remove yourself and have them note your absence. When you cross paths again, make certain to steer the conversation back toward today’s happy couple in particular and true love in general. End the dialogue abruptly but offer a hope that you’ll have more time to speak later; make no promises, however, as life is a mystery and – just like a prayer – no choice their voice can take you there. Close on your third pass. This colloquy begins with “It’s funny that I always feel closest to people I’ve just met…”, moves on to “The love described in St. Paul’s first letter is really that between strangers…”, bridges the gap with “I’ve tried to be open about this before but no one ever seems to understand…” and delivers the new couple to their night’s frolic through “Let’s freshen our drinks and head to another place where we can meet someone new together.” Throughout this impromptu courtship, keep the discussion on love rather than marriage: it is a first date.
EXCEPTION: If there are no “hopeful consorts” resign yourself to dressing up and drinking with friends to blackout; the wedding photographer can fill in any gaps.