The ‘I dos’ and ‘I don’ts’ No plus-one? No problem! How to go to a wedding solo

With warm breezes, flowers blooming and the sun shining, summertime is home to a season within itself: wedding season. As brides, grooms, families and friends find themselves in a frenzy dealing with the final touches in preparation for the big day, guests also have some decisions to make — are they going to attend?

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/09/2019 (1370 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

With warm breezes, flowers blooming and the sun shining, summertime is home to a season within itself: wedding season. As brides, grooms, families and friends find themselves in a frenzy dealing with the final touches in preparation for the big day, guests also have some decisions to make — are they going to attend?

Myron and Brittney Mosquin, whose wedding inspired this story. (Michelle Elizabeth photo)

Save-the-date or wedding invitations can either be a cause for excitement or absolute dread. In considering the relationship to the bride or groom, the expense of being a guest or even the location of the reception, one glaring question remains: does the invitation allow for a plus-one? If the ceremony is long, or the food is subpar, having a buddy to exchange a glance with during the reception speeches makes celebrating with a room full of strangers a little easier to bear.

However, as the cost of living is on the rise and weddings get more expensive, plans for the special day are leaving some newlyweds with a tight budget and a strict guest list, resulting in more and more invitations sent out to guests without a line for a plus-one.

Note from a bride: All these points are accurate, but I would also add it’s just undesirable to have a bunch of strangers at your wedding. Think about it: Say 30 of your friends are single and would bring a plus-one you don’t know at a 150-person wedding, that’s 20 per cent strangers, with whom you are celebrating a very important event and whose food and drink you are paying for. Hard pass on that one.


Whether you are single, your go-to wedding date cancelled, or the RSVP on the invitation is only for you, bring a signed card and these five suggestions with you (as well as some extra info from the perspective of a current bride-to-be on the Free Press staff, such as the note above) to any ceremony you may be heading to alone this season.


1. Ceremony sniffles

Blame it on the pollen or the fact that weekend reruns of Hollywood rom-coms such as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, 27 Dresses and 13 Going on 30 didn’t compare to the grandeur of a real wedding ceremony; prepare for flowing tears. The worst part is that tears can come at the most unpredictable moments. They may start to flow as a five-piece band begins its rendition of Richard Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, or when guests see the beauty of a long lace veil sailing down the aisle, or even while watching the groom’s (or bride’s) reaction to their new partner for life.

Two women wipes their tears watching Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchange vows on a video screen in Windsor, England, last year. (Peter Dejong / Associated Press files)

When choked up with emotion, it is always better to be prepared than to end up with a crusty tissue from the bottom of someone else’s purse (they’ll always claim it’s clean, but that seem unlikely). A handkerchief is a classic solution to blot tears away and is an eco-friendly option. But if the nose knows three-ply tissues will provide the most soothing comfort, consider a convenient pocket-sized travel pouch.

For makeup wearers, pack a touch-up tote filled with extra glue for false lashes, a compact of powder and a popping colour of lipstick. Waterproof makeup may also stop your mascara from running, but keep a reliable makeup remover on standby for when the night is over.

Note from a bride: I was once told the best way to deal with tears and to avoid messing up your makeup is by using a cotton swab and dabbing right on your tear ducts rather than rubbing your whole eye. This only works if you shed dainty and sporadic tears, not so much if you’re sobbing (trust me on this one).

2. Small talk can make big impact

When you reach the assigned table, exchange pleasantries and introductions with the other guests. (Fotolia / TNS files)

While the wedding ceremony provides an opportunity to recognize familiar faces later at the reception, names on the seating chart may be unknown or mysterious. Upon arrival at the reception, take time to float around the space — sign the guest book, place your card or wedding gift in the area provided, admire the wedding cake, and grab a beverage at the bar. When you reach the assigned table, exchange pleasantries and introductions with the other guests.

Even if it may feel like a first date with seven strangers, try and find a conversation starter before the meal is served. Table-topic prompts act as a strong way to break the ice with dinner guests and can be as simple as asking people about their relationship to the couple. Depending on the evening’s schedule, some receptions may feature games, such as quizzing tables about how well they know the bride or groom, allowing for camaraderie among guests.

During an event as celebratory as a wedding, it’s typically best to avoid contentious conversation topics regarding the environment, politics, religion or finances in an effort to keep things light.

Note from a bride: The reception seating chart takes a lot of time to plan and is often one of the most difficult details to wade through during the planning process. Even if you’re at a table with strangers, I can almost guarantee that was taken into account by the couple and that there will be other singles or couples who don’t know many people sitting with you — an even playing field, if you will. A lot of thought and care goes into choosing table groups, so trust that the married couple knows you and knows who you will and won’t get along with.  


3. Bouquet toss etiquette

The tossing of the wedding bouquet is a tradition at many weddings. (Ariel Schalit / Associated Press files)

The origins of the bouquet toss are believed to be rooted in capturing some of the bride’s good luck, and are now interpreted as a moment to predict which single woman will get married next. Whether participants believe the folklore or not, the bouquet toss is a classic wedding event designed to get arms up, elbows out and hearts beating fast.

If you find yourself yearning for a ring, take some time to scope out the competition and assess your own strengths and weaknesses. Short legs? Consider your vertical from high school volleyball. Strong arms? Find a spot in the crowd where you can put them to use. Sharp nails? Remember it’s just a game! If you are enjoying life as a bachelorette but somehow found your way into the group of women, try a finding spot off to the side, away from the commotion or the likelihood of snagging the flowers.

Although the big toss is all over in a short moment, it’s a good time to gather other single gal pals in the crowd. Congratulate the lucky lady, but take note of the others who may not have a dancing partner when a slow song echoes through the venue.

Note from a bride: At our wedding, we’ve decided not do the garter-toss tradition, so we’re opening up the bouquet toss to any single person who wants to get in on the action. As noted above, it’s a good opportunity to see who isn’t already paired up if you are single and ready to mingle, or to just have a laugh fighting off a groomsman for a bunch of baby’s breath.

4. Head to the bar

The bar acts as a natural place to socialize with other guests. (Tiffany Cooper / Associated Press files)

Bars, whether at a wedding or not, are considered places to meet new people. If celebrating with a drink suits the moment, remember breathalyzers don’t make exemptions for special days.

In Manitoba, blood alcohol levels of 0.05 or higher result in an immediate licence suspension. Life isn’t always greener on the other side, with penalties for drug-impaired driving punishable with five nanograms of THC. Even though the bar acts as a natural place to socialize with other guests standing in line, plan accordingly. Practise mindful sipping during speeches and toasts (the bar is often closed during dinner, by the way), arrange a designated driver or cab for when the night ends, or ask the bartender for a low or zero alcohol by volume cocktail.

If you prefer an electronic reminder, various smartphones now offer apps to track your boozy buzz based on weight, gender and the duration of consumption by inputting the types of beverages ingested.

Note from a bride: While an open bar is great, and of course the couple wants you to enjoy yourself, keep in mind this isn’t your birthday or another night out with your friends. If you drink too much and cause a scene, or worse, throw up all over the place, it’s not going to be appreciated, I’ll tell you that for free. A wedding is a celebration, and free alcohol just adds fuel to that fire, but be aware of how much you’ve had and maybe start adding a glass of water between drinks as the night progresses. Also, that alcohol isn’t really free, the newlyweds and/or their families are paying for it, so be mindful of that as well. Have as much as you want, but don’t feel you need to drink the bar dry.

5. Dance the night (and nerves) away

When the DJ or band begins to play music, toes start tapping and guests often lose themselves in the groove. (Dreamstime / TNS files)

When the DJ or band begins to play music, toes start tapping and guests often lose themselves in the groove. If you want to join the party, approach it like a middle school dance and find a circle of guests in a “dance-off,” showing off their moves in the middle of the crowd. Alternately, you can fist pump with tablemates or seek an experienced dancer for a fast-paced polka.

High-heeled shoes aren’t the most forgiving on the dance floor and even two-inch block heels left my toes feeling pinched (post-polka). Pack an extra pair of footwear such as foldable ballet slipper shoes to change into for ultimate comfort. If you find yourself caught in the moment, kick off your shoes, but keep an eye out for hosiery holes in stockings and socks. Didn’t have a chance to break in a new pair of dress shoes before the wedding? Consider purchasing insoles for additional support and cushion.

If two left feet keep you on the sidelines, either strike up a conversation with a fellow non-dancer or join a table with other guests for a round of stories and small talk, but be prepared to chat with someone’s distant relatives.

Note from a bride: If there’s a song you really want to hear, make a request with the DJ! Some people feel weird about that for some reason, but if it’ll entice you and your crew to dance, why not? On our RSVP cards, we included the question, “What song will get you on the dance floor?” to make sure everyone gets to hear a track they love throughout the night (though I will admit, there are a few songs on my “Do not ever play this list,” regardless of whether its requested. Sorry, Boot Scootin’ Boogie.)



As the night wraps up, say goodbye to tablemates, dance-floor friends, and of course, the happy couple. Remember that even if the night wasn’t spent with a plus-one, the couple got to share their night with everyone dear to them. When the next invitation arrives in the mail, don a veil of confidence, toss your fears away and have a toast to a wedding season well spent.

with files from Erin Lebar


Updated on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 7:42 AM CDT: Corrects typo

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