When the invitation to my college roommate’s wedding arrived, the envelope read “and Guest.” My heart sped up. I’ve fantasized about having a plus one to introduce to my friend crew, bringing a contributor to the circle of lifted pant legs during “Billy Jean,” which my friends’ significant others’ have made their own little wedding ritual.
As a single twentysomething, I’ve witnessed a half dozen friends tie the knot over the last few years. I’ve engaged enthusiastically in the traditional donning of the color-coordinated bridesmaid dresses (thankfully not-so-bad ones), I’ve paraded through crowded bars in penis paraphernalia, and I’ve constructed gaudy hats from the bows and ribbons topping mounds of bridal shower gifts. If there’s one thing I learned as sidekick to brides-to-be, it’s that practicality has begun to trump tradition in the wedding planning process. Just as couples agree to meet for photographs before the ceremony in order to attend their own cocktail hour, tight budgets often lead to unattached guests, like myself, receiving invites sans a plus one.
When I attended my first post-college wedding, I didn’t give my solo-invite a second thought. I was single after all, and so were most of my friends. We were assigned a large round table and poured unlimited champagne. There were kicked-off heels and wild dance moves. By the time I received the next invitation, friends were coupling off, some showcasing their own diamond engagement rings. Still, being invited without a date wasn’t something I really noticed. Sure, there was an old guy friend or two I might have been able to persuade to join me with promise of an open bar, but I was much happier to enjoy my friends’ special days without worrying if my guest was enjoying himself.
I made the most of my single wedding status; snogging groomsmen, dancing wildly to the five piece band’s cover of The Black Eyed Peas “Good Night,” and having that second slice of decadent red velvet cake. But through each of these evenings, sitting out the slow songs was definitely my least favorite part of the night. Not because I didn’t have a designated someone to wrap my arms around. I could easily rest my head on the shoulder of the blond, sun-kissed best man I’d been eying all night, but there was no intimacy there. Chemistry maybe. It was the way the slow dancing couples looked at each other. The way they whispered to one another, laughed quietly. I wasn’t going to find that with a random groomsmen.
Most of the time I’m okay with being single. I can visit my favorite sushi restaurant alone when I’m craving a brown rice California roll. I’m not averse to spending a Saturday afternoon window-shopping in my neighborhood, just my white, paper cup latte and me. But holding this most recent wedding invitation in my hand, I felt a pang of anxiety. I’ve been single so long I’m not sure I even know how to have an “and Guest.”
It was my own fault really for having spent the last few years on the move, never sitting still long enough to get close to someone. But I’m finally settling down now. Having moved to a new city, landing an exciting job, I’ve started to date, slowly. Before receiving the invite, I daydreamed about actually getting a wedding invitation with the opportunity for “and Guest.” As I went on dates, I imagined introducing each of the men to my girlfriends and their partners at the evening, rooftop ceremony for which I will don a little black dress beside one of my best friends as she takes her vows.
I scribbled my name across the R.S.V.P. line and sealed the envelope shut, before I changed my mind. I know, at some point I’ll meet the right “and Guest” and be able leave the singles table behind for good. Until then, I’m embracing my party of one.