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How to Attend a Wedding in Your 20s

Here's a rundown of everything you'll experience at a modern wedding when you're just old enough to believe you're way too young for this stuff.

Someone's perfectly nice, lovely wedding. Photo by Flickr user John Hope

The dumbest thing you spend money on as an adult is weddings. For most of us it starts right out of college and continues for an entire decade: a nonstop parade of save-the-date magnets and mandatory bridal showers, engagement parties, and actual nuptials that punctuate each summer, dictate your travel plans, and give you a reason (or obligation) to own nice clothes.

Whether you're for marriage or against it, weddings are an integral part of adult social life. Some will be big, some will be small. Some will be bad ideas, some will be nauseatingly inspiring. All of them will be proof, for better or worse, that you and your friends are simultaneously failing at both adulthood and youth.


The first time I remember wanting to stay young, I was 15. It was lunchtime and my best guy friend (who I would, in hindsight, realize I'd had a huge crush on) and I were using Wite-Out to draw on each other's Chuck Taylors.

"Isn't it cool how we always win?" I asked.

"You mean, like, against the adults?"

I nodded. At that moment, the principal of our school walked through the quad, as another friend of ours trailed some ten feet behind him, with a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

"Oh, yeah. Always," he agreed.

Long after I became a legal adult, I remained a mental adolescent—ripping up the ticket they gave me for smoking in a subway station; racking up debt they would never see a dime of.

Then my friends—my partners in crime—started getting married. The people with whom I'd shoplifted and smoked pot from apples decided to become other peoples' spouses, and gradually the rug of reckless ignorance was pulled out from under me. Even if I refused to retire, I realized, we were no longer in our primes.

Want to panic some more about adulthood? Think about your student debt.

The bride and groom aren't the only people who face an uncomfortable transformation head-on when they decide to get married. Weddings are an emotional roller coaster for guests, too. There is no pre-wedding guest counseling to prepare you for the thoughts you have from the time you get the first "I'm engaged!" call to the moment you leave yet another Hilton a broken woman after watching yet another couple celebrate their vows.


To rectify that, here's a rundown of everything you'll experience at a modern wedding when you're just old enough to believe you're way too young for this stuff.

Photo by Flickr user Kim Marius Flakstad

Registries Are Bizarre

The mortifying dullness of it all hits when you're in a Crate & Barrel, spending your hard-borrowed money on a cheese board. A fucking cheese board. Why the fuck would you ever ask your loved ones to buy you a cheese board, if not to thrust in their faces the inanity that is life as one of "them"?

Wedding registries are aggressively boring—a litany of items so dull you forgot they existed until they were printed out in an orderly list, nice items (because it's no longer acceptable to use old Slurpee cups as cereal bowls), matching items (because discord gives them headaches now), and items the couple are expecting, right down to the model number, because they've foregone surprise in the name of practicality.

Photo by Flickr user Deni Williams

Churches Are Creepy

At least one friend will drag you to church to watch them get married even though they've never expressed any kind of religious orientation. The second you step in, you'll hear that familiar unsettling echo when you step on the marble floor, smell that soapy church incense, and remember why you never come here on purpose as you stare agape at naked crucified Jesus. You're glad you had that breakfast beer.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Playing Dress-Up Is Fun

Your first few weddings—before the sheen wears off of "Canon in D" and quotes from The Prophet—are as novel and satisfying as ripping open a fresh Barbie box. Years of gazing through bridal shop store windows and watching wedding episodes of your favorite shows are unleashed upon some poor David's Bridal employee as you and your BFFs tear through the store like a pack of spray-tanned hyenas. Halter top! Chiffon! We all look cute in this one! The fact that you feel too young to be a part of this makes you feel like you're walking in your mom's giant high heels. You look forward to the showers. You care that your friend found a florist.

The morning of, you wake up in a happy panic. You drink champagne while wearing a kimono with your initials monogrammed on it. You almost forget that one of you is about to change her identity forever. You cry when she steps into her dress. (I still cry when I see any bride for the first time. It's overwhelming to see anyone you care about looking as hot as they can possibly be.)


You laugh and cry and drink all day. Everything is monumentally important. The ceremony. Their entrance. The cake. You keep drinking. You keep crying. You never realize that the two actions might be correlated.

The Only Way to Get Through It Is to Get Drunk

Having just come off the heels of the $100,000 lesson in holding your booze that is college, you foolishly believe that you are a worthy competitor for an open bar. You double-fist whiskeys for no good reason and have at least one nip slip by sunset. You grab a champagne from the tray and pound it before the toast starts, even though it has been made clear to you that alcohol is free and in no short supply.

Photo by Flickr user Sylvar

No One Gets Down Like Old People and Children

You get distracted by a toddler and and old woman, whom you spontaneously air hump, even though you have never met either of them. You should hang out with babies and grandmas more often! They're so cute!

Photo by Flickr user Jason Bache

There's Always Someone to Screw

Shots! Time for the toasts! Somebody should let you make a toast! You corner a man in an unbuttoned dress shirt and tell him how you and the bride are like literally the best friends ever; she is like your sister. You sit in the dark and watch the slideshow. It's set to some Beatles song, and you watch your friend progress from infant to bucktoothed kid to teenager to full-grown adult in four minutes.

You scan the room and see the man in the unbuttoned shirt, now in an undershirt, slightly red and also double-fisting brown liquid. You decide you'll fuck him tonight.


Your girls have drinks in hand. You all watch the first dance together. Your eyes tear up again, and your friend looks like a dream under the spotlight dancing with her new husband. They're whispering things to each other that only they can hear. You burp loudly and tell your friends you're going to fuck that red guy. One of them exclaims, apropos of nothing, that "you deserve it."

You drag the red guy into the bridal suite. You fellate him on a pile of garment bags. You realize you don't know his name.

Shit. What does the DJ mean the night is winding down? Two more beers just in case. You and your friends take the mic and start an impromptu karaoke of "Gimme That Nut" as the groom's grandparents and the man you just performed oral sex on look on in horror.

In this hazy moment, two things become clear: You guys are definitely not old enough to be doing this, and weddings are where shit goes down.

Photo by Flickr user Ben McShea

I'm Really Glad That's Not Me

Throughout the whole wedding process, from the invitation to the crippling hangover, the predominant emotion driving you is relief. You think about the pit you got in your stomach every time you thought your ex might propose—how you knew you guys should break up when you started dreading Valentine's Day—and you're thankful you had the courage to break someone's heart. Your engaged friends stay in at night now, and willingly call themselves "old" because of it.

You're happy to be the one they have to live vicariously through. You talk about how lucky they are, but privately, you both pity them and fear you're next. At the reception, you try not to catch the bouquet. When the weekend is over, you shed your temporary wedding duties like the rumpled dress in the corner of your hotel room, and you are free again. You can go back to your perfect wreck of a studio apartment, and there will be no one there to ask if it's a good idea to eat nachos in bed. You'll be able to jerk off to Six Feet Under in the middle of your living room, and no one will ever know about it.


Photo by Flickr user Heidi Heller

I Really Wish That Was Me

Like any self-respecting American, you also want a year of attention and parties thrown in your honor, and you begin cataloguing mental notes for "when the time comes or whatever." You'll do a destination bachelorette but a local wedding. You subconsciously steal ideas for centerpieces. The ceremony itself is such a perfectly designed program that it functions like MSG on your brain. Doesn't matter if it'd be good in your current life or not, or even if it's good for the bride and groom. Right now, here on this ocean bluff, with a string quartet playing, two people are making one another better. You want a bite of that. You think about your ex and how he used to bring home wine and your favorite cookies and wonder if he was the one. He wasn't. You'll stop believing in the one until next year, when you come back to the same play, different setting, with a fuck buddy you accidentally went to too many brunches with.

Then, on your 30th birthday, to get over your fear of commitment, you'll get a literal tramp-stamp tattoo. The next day, when the bandage is still on, you'll accidentally have drunk sex with one of your best guy friends, which will make you realize that in hindsight, you have a huge crush on him. A week later, you'll wake up early in his bed to leave for a wedding. On the solo drive out to the desert, you'll realize you're in a serious relationship, or whatever.

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