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Wedding planners love to tell you, “Weddings are like snowflakes—they are all unique.” More recently I have found that weddings are like snowflakes because while experiencing one is exciting, but as they pile up, they become a major pain in the ass.

Welcome to wedding season 2019.

At this age, weddings often invade your summer schedule like mosquito bites, drawing life out of you and speckling your calendar with little red dots. It’s easy for weddings to feel like a formulaic weekend timesuck, like Law & Order marathons with hopefully fewer Act One cadavers. But I am here to solve your marital malaise.

Here are the five wedding must-dos for us 20 and 30-something wedding guests, to maximize your wedding attending experience.

1.  During the ceremony, pay attention.

terry crews wedding

If you are someone who gets uncomfortable with such public demonstrations of love, it is easy to retreat into “Wedding Crashers” mode with easy jokes and cynicism, but fight that reflex.

That means turning off both your phone and your snark for a short while. You’ve come from far away for an epic party, but this is the wedding, so make sure you don’t just hear, but also listen to what is being offered. These words have been carefully curated and are important to the bride, groom, and the officiant. And since your dapper ass is stuck in that awful white folding chair (unless your bourgeois friend sprung for the Chiavaris), you might as well tune in.

Plus, the bar will be very open very soon; you can persevere for a few more minutes.

(PRO TIP: If the ceremony is outside during the summer, pay attention to where the shadows are leaning so you can grab a shady seat and saving the sweating for the dance floor. You’re welcome.)

2.  Eat during the cocktail hour like you won’t be eating the rest of the night (and then don’t eat much the rest of the night).

crab cakes

They say heaven is a room full of lambchops, mini chicken and waffles, and teeny-tiny tuna tacos, and I have seen it. If this is your first wedding, trust me on this, the hors d’oeuvres are as good as it gets. No matter how nice the venue or the caterer, dinner is never going to match the offerings about to be delivered on silver platters.

Think of it as “Let’s Make a Deal.” In front of you is all of the goodness that lies behind Door Number One. Don’t pass on this bounty for what is sitting under a heat lamp in Chafing Dish Number Two. When the haricot vert (French for “wilted, boring green beans”) come out later you can pass because you smashed 12 pigs-in-blankets and nom-nom-nommed seven crab cakes earlier.

Since alcohol will come in many different forms, strengths, and intervals you need to get some food in you early. The cocktail hour is your first line of defense from falling apart late. You control your own destiny. The night is long. Get off to the right start.

(PRO TIP: If you plan on staking out the door where the passed apps originate, make sure you do so in the first 10 minutes. You will get a lay of the land, know what you want to save room for later, and can sherpa others to the good stuff. Plus, you can sneak away as others catch on because after that first push, the servers will have penetrated deeper into the room. You sly fox, you.)

3.  Compliment the bride (and the groom, by complimenting the bride again).

Odds are you will get your first chance to see the newlyweds during your cocktail hour hunger quest. This should be the only time you take your eyes off the prize.

Tell the bride how beautiful she looks. Make it real and be convincing. Point out something specific about her hair or her dress so she knows you mean it. Or, here’s a fun game! Listen to what another guest says and throw that compliment into an online thesaurus. If you are really straining for something positive, (a) you might be an asshole and (b) just tell her she looks happy and radiant.

lisa simpson

(PRO-TIP: Double-down on the first compliment by telling the groom how lucky he is. A go-to for me is reinforcing the groom with how fantastically he is overachieving. Consider this the wedding compliment equivalent of when you have Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski on your fantasy team and you double-dip for every TD hookup.)


DJ versus band is an age old debate, but there’s the undeniable truth is this: Any wedding worth its weight in Windsor knots is going to have a dance floor waiting to be conquered. After the ceremony, most of the night’s memories will be made here, so gentlemen, loosen those ties (and maybe tie it around your forehead like a real bro) and ladies, kick off your heels. It’s time to throw down.

hitch wedding dance

At any wedding, you can dance like no one is watching because, for real, no one is. That’s the big secret about dance floors—no one cares how you dance. This is not high school; you are just one guest and no one will notice your lack of rhythm or elbow-centric moves. The party firejam of 2015 was called “Shut Up and Dance.” You think that’s just a coincidence?

If I haven’t convinced you yet, here is an easy guide to keeping things manageable no matter your skillset or sobriety. Remember, outside of an occasional pulled muscle from a weekend warrior, no one regrets dancing too much.

By the time “Don’t Stop Believin’” comes on, the bride and groom will hopefully have set up shop on the dance floor and it is your duty to surround them with all the energy you have left.

(PRO-TIP: There are going to be five, max 10 people at the event who will dance well enough to leave an impression, so keep a little distance from them if you are still self-conscious. Stay in your lane!)

5) Thank the parents of the bride and groom.

And congratulate them!

It’s the end of the night. You ate, drank, and danced like a champion. You’ve mastered this list and maybe even caught an eye or two (hopefully he or she has two eyes) from an admirer across the ballroom. Now if you want to really go down as a wedding MVP, go find the people who made this party happen and show your gratitude. In this modern era you won’t likely know who paid for what so just go ahead and thank everyone for their generosity.

If you know the parents, they will not forget that you took a few minutes to come talk to them. Oh, that Josh Bard is such a nice young man! And if this is your first time meeting the parents, your first impression will be as an appreciative, thoughtful guest. Have you met that Josh Bard? He is really something!

di caprio cheers

Much like complimenting the bride and groom, going out of your way to express gratitude goes a long way in making the day better for parental VIPs, who I promise, have put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.

(PRO-TIP: If the bride is Sicilian, this is your one chance to have ANY favor granted!)

Remember, the guy with the selfie-stick or or the girl who knows all of the Whip/Nae-Nae are one-trick ponies. Knocking out these five targets puts you in the upper wedding echelon, and besides celebrating eternal love, isn’t that the most important thing?

The header image was provided by Smart Photo Courses. For more tips on winning wedding season, take a look at their guide on how to take better wedding photos.

Josh Bard

Josh Bard is a guy. A sports guy, an ideas guy, a wise guy, a funny guy, a Boston guy, and sometimes THAT guy. Never been a Guy Fieri guy, though.

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