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How to Survive Attending a Wedding Without a Plus-One

If you’re braving wedding season alone, here’s a survival guide for attending a wedding without a plus-one.

guests taking selfie

guests taking selfie

Photo: Michael Stephens Photography

Attending a wedding alone is rarely anyone’s first choice, especially if you don’t know many people at the wedding. It doesn’t matter whether your date bailed, you weren’t given a plus-one, you just went through a rough break up, or something else. It will probably require a slight attitude shift to make the best of this situation. But not all hope is lost; weddings are beautiful celebrations of love and can definitely be fun for all guests—regardless of whether they have a buddy with them or not.

Before the wedding:

Don’t take it personally if they didn’t give you a plus-one.

If the reason you are going alone is because the couple didn’t invite you with a plus-one, it’s normal to feel upset, especially if you were expecting one. But keep in mind that weddings are really expensive. The couple may simply have not been able to afford to give you a plus-one. If you don’t know the reason already, you probably never will know for sure. What we do know for certain is that it’s still very important to them that you’re there. So rather than feeling walked all over, feel honored they want you to attend their wedding so badly.

If you think there’s been some mistake (like if you’re recently engaged) and you’re pretty close with one or both parts in the couple, you can ask them what’s up. Be firm but gentle. “I noticed you didn’t offer me a plus-one. I don’t want to make things awkward, but Simon and I have been dating for eight years. Is there any way he can come too?”

If you’re single and were hoping to bring your best friend, or you just started dating your girlfriend three weeks ago, cut your losses and accept you’re going to this wedding alone. It won’t be bad. Truly.

See if there is anybody else you know attending the wedding.

If you know the couple well enough to score an invite, it’s likely you’ll know at least one other person at the wedding. Reach out to them beforehand and see what their plans are. You shouldn’t plan to hang out with them all night, but it will be nice to know of at least one friendly face at the wedding. Even better? Reach out to other singles and commiserate with them.

Do what you need to do to feel your most confident

Whether you need to plan a special manicure the morning of the wedding or make time for a yoga class, make sure you get it in. It’s not your special day, but in order to make the most of the scenario, you definitely want to do what you can to feel your best. (Maybe avoid getting a haircut the day before—too much room for error.)

guests on dance floor

Photo: Milton Photography

During the ceremony:

Arrive early.

And mingle! People expect to mingle during the reception, but the time before the ceremony is just as promising when it comes to making new friends. People are friendly at weddings. Everybody is in a good mood because everybody is happy to witness a loved one get hitched. The point of weddings (besides celebrating two people’s love for one another,) is to merge two families together. You can certainly capitalize on this general good mood and maybe snag yourself a dance partner for later.

Offer to help

If the idea of mingling makes you cringe, ask if you can make yourself useful. Especially if you arrive (slightly) early, there will definitely be odd jobs you can help out with. Bonus: you’ll meet new people without even realizing you’re mingling. Best of both worlds.

Sit near someone new

The ceremony is an easy place to make your friends for the night. There’s no pressure to talk much, and you’ll bond over the shared experience of watching the couple tie the knot. Challenge yourself to stay out of your comfort zone by sitting next to someone you don’t know and you’ll thank yourself later when there’s another friendly face at the reception.

During the reception:

Make the best of your table

Unless you’re at a singles table, it might feel a little uncomfortable to be the lone single person amongst a table of couples, but it definitely doesn’t have to be bad. The best part about making friends at a wedding is that you already have at least one thing in common
  • the couple! Because of this small detail, you’re not cold opening with a conversation starter. “How do you know Jane and Steve?” will certainly suffice.

  • Identify family members you haven’t talked to in a while

    If you are at a family wedding, that is. Relatives, especially those we like to call “holiday family,” (the ones you see twice a year on major holidays,) will be ecstatic to catch up. Not all familial relationships are created equal, of course. One of the reasons family gatherings can be so stressful is that you have to navigate relationship landmines with people you haven’t talked to in ages. So be strategic. Make a beeline for the aunt you used to have sleepovers with as a kid and maybe stay away from the uncle you vehemently disagree with on everything.

    Find your slow dance partner.

    If you’re comfortable dancing alone on the dance floor for the more romantic songs, more power to you. Similarly, if you’re most comfortable chilling at your table during these moments, that’s totally fine. But if you actually want to dance, see if you can’t find someone to slow dance with. If there’s someone you’ve had your eye on all night, these songs are your opportunity to make your move. But you definitely do not to be even remotely romantically interested in your dance partner. See if anyone wants a break from dancing, and give their partner that break. Or see if any kids want a turn dancing on your feet.

    Have an escape plan.

    Not a legitimate one, of course. But if the small talk is becoming insufferable or you just need a minute to yourself, it’s okay and encouraged to take a few minutes to recompose yourself. Take a walk, meditate, do whatever you need to do to come back and finish out the night.

    Remember: This isn't a big deal.

    Truly. It’s even a little liberating to realize that nobody cares that you’re there alone. The day is about the happy couple, and you should let it stay that way. Similarly, nobody is going to go out of their way to entertain you, so you have to accept responsibility for your own happiness. Adjust your attitude, take deep breaths or long walks when needed, and you’ll make it through these few hours with no problem. Have fun!