My sister was getting married.
She was entering a new season of life as a married woman, while I’d continue a single. As much as I wanted to also be getting married, my heart was in a good place because I just assumed wedding bells would be coming my way within the next year or two.
But that didn’t happen.
Contrary to all I had expected, I remained single for over the next seven years. During these years, most of my friends around my age got married, had babies and moved forward with their futures — leaving me behind. I attended dozens of weddings, purchased countless bridesmaid dresses and hosted bridal showers and baby showers. I even caught over six bouquets during the bride’s bouquet toss, all while being single.
Attending some of these weddings was painful for me. Their special day meant I had to come face to face with my unmet romantic expectations.
Every time wedding season approached, invitations flooded my mailboxes. Excited, smiling couples wanted me to save the date. Fancy lettering, beautiful ribbon and romantic photos took over my fridge. Many times I painfully drudged through the summer, feeling hopelessly single.
Over the years, God did a tremendous amount of work in my heart. One of the things that really helped me was a piece of advice I picked up from the book “Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.” It said that we all have two choices to make in life: We can either whine or we can worship — but we can’t do both at the same time.
We can dread the wedding season and whine the entire way through it, or we can learn to worship God and praise Him for what He is doing in other people’s lives.
Taking Nancy’s advice to heart has changed the way I approach wedding season. It’s changed the way I view my best friend’s engagement announcement. It’s changed the way I act during a wedding reception.
By saying no to whining, I’m able to celebrate and rejoice with my friends. By focusing on Christ, I’m able to enter into the joy of others and rejoice in the work God is doing.
By God’s transforming grace, my heart was changed.
Yet even with a content heart, various aspects of engagement announcements, bachelorette parties and wedding receptions often feel awkward for the single and can still inflict pain and discouragement. So, I want to walk step by step through a few practical tips to help you, as a single, not only survive but even come to enjoy the wedding season.
When They Announce “We’re Engaged!”
When a friend shares the big news, try your hardest to avoid comparison. It’s often your worst enemy during the season of engagement announcements. Don’t compare your stage of life with your engaged friend, which will often lead to feelings of bitterness and envy. Just don’t do it.
Instead, try to find a few positive things you can get excited about. Try to put yourself in your friend’s shoes. If you were her, what would you want to hear? Maybe express excitement about the engagement, the wedding date or the ring. Try to find some aspect about which you can genuinely be enthusiastic.
If this is a super difficult season of singleness for you, I encourage you to take a break from social media. You don’t need the daily dose of engagements announcements streaming through your phone. Give yourself the freedom to take a break for a month or two.
When You’re at the Bachelorette Party
Bachelorette parties can be a ton of fun — with the right mindset. Don’t view it as a “wedding event.” Instead, look forward to it as a fun girls’ night out.
Do your best to enjoy the evening and have a great time. Get into the activities, enjoy time with your best girlfriends, get to know those you don’t know well, enjoy the good food, soak up the atmosphere, and just have a blast. If you’re supposed to bring a gift, bring something that will make people smile or laugh. Getting into the party and intentionally trying to have a fun time will make the entire evening so much more enjoyable.
When You’re at the Bridal Shower
Every bride comes with a shower (and sometimes many). And often a bridal shower means mingling with married ladies who keep telling you, “Oh, your turn will come soon.”
Personally, I enjoy bridal showers and the time with other women — regardless of marital status. But if bridal showers are particularly painful for you, know that it’s often OK to politely send your regrets and spend your time another way. Write your friend a really sweet card and drop it in the mail. Send her a sweet text encouraging her and wishing her all the best. Think of creative ways to let her know you love her, even if you’re not attending.
If you’re a close friend and you do need to be at the shower, focus on having a fun time. If you’re helping host, bake a new recipe you’ve been wanting to try. Hop on Pinterest and try out a new do-it-yourself project. Then, get into the little games at the shower. Go out of your way to chat with the other single ladies. Find ways that work for you to make it enjoyable.
When She Asks You to Be a Bridesmaid
A friend of mine used to approach being a bridesmaid with some disinterest, and she’d participate half-heartedly. But after a few years of being a bridesmaid, she changed her outlook. She almost made it into a game to try to be the very best bridesmaid she could be. She thought of little ways to encourage the bride. She helped plan and host the bridal shower. She put forth some extra effort to get to know the other bridesmaids. She did whatever she could to show her support. To her surprise, she began to enjoy the pre-wedding activities and parties. Despite her own singleness, she was having fun!
I put her idea into practice, and found it worked. I was so immersed in making the wedding a great time for my friend that I didn’t feel jealous or sad about my own life. So next time you’re asked to be a bridesmaid, focus on being the best friend and bridesmaid possible. Make it your personal goal to create an epic wedding experience for your friend.
When They Say “I do”
Even though you’re just sitting and watching, the actual wedding ceremony can still sometimes be awkward for singles. Can you bring a plus one? Should you go with a group of girlfriends? Should you hang with your married friends? Or do you go alone?
Here’s my best advice: Don’t go alone. Find a good friend to go with you. If you can’t bring a plus one, figure out what mutual friends are also attending, and go with them. Then make the trip to the wedding venue fun. Listen to good music, stop for coffee and have a great conversation. As a bonus, you’ll already have someone to sit by during the ceremony, so you won’t be alone.
When You’re at the Reception
The reception is typically when things get most awkward and uncomfortable for singles. So here’s my first piece of advice: If you’re not part of the bridal party, you have no obligation to attend the reception. And even if you do decide to attend, you’re free to leave at any point — you don’t have to wait through the cake-cutting and dancing, watching the happy couple kiss every time someone rings the little bell until the send-off. You have freedom to leave whenever — and not feel guilty.
But if you do decide to stay through the reception, here’s a few tips:
If you find yourself at a table without friends, take the opportunity to get to know the strangers at your table. Maybe you ended up at a table with eligible singles, or perhaps you ended up at a table with an odd combination of elderly and other people who didn’t have an “obvious” place. Either way, start asking questions to get the conversation rolling, even if they aren’t the people you would typically seek out. Ask them whether they know the bride or the groom. Ask them if they’re local or if they traveled a far distance. Ask them about their jobs. Enjoy your conversation and genuinely try to get to know them.
It took me years of participating, and even catching several bouquets, before I realized something huge: it’s optional! If you’re in the mood for the toss and feel like doing it, then go for it. But if you’re not in the mood, give yourself the freedom to skip the bouquet toss. Just hang with your friends, or take a quick walk outside while it’s happening. Go grab a drink or take a bathroom break. Don’t feel pressured to participate.
This part doesn’t have to be awkward! Join in during the group dances and have some fun. Loosen up a little and just enjoy those moments. Don’t allow your single status to keep you from having a good time. Then, when the music slows down and the lights dim, look around to find the other people who also aren’t dancing. There are some couples on the dance floor, but there are often still a ton sitting. Seek out a few people who aren’t dancing and strike up a conversation with them.
The wedding reception might seem to highlight your single status, but it’s also an opportunity to have a fun time with other wedding guests. Hang with your friends, or if you don’t know anyone there, make new ones! Try to see beyond the awkward moments so you can enjoy the party.
Applying these practical tips in my own life when I was single helped me thrive during the wedding season, and I hope they do the same for you. As you receive Save the Dates, I encourage you to come up with a personal game plan for each wedding. With a little bit of intentional planning, you might even find it is possible to enjoy some of those moments you used to dread.
Copyright Bethany Baird 2018. All rights reserved.