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How to Attend a Wedding

A few easy steps to avoiding wedding guest gaffes.

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After college, your friends will be divided into two distinct caps: those who marry immediately, and those who don't. In time, they will subdivide into countless other sub-camps: those who never marry and enjoy it, those who never marry and do not enjoy it, those who marry multiple times, those who widow, those who are widowed -- but we're getting way ahead of ourselves. Those who so clamor for legal bonds that they exchange vows before their diploma cools are the nut of the issue here, as, inevitably, you'll have to attend their weddings.

These may be your first non-family weddings, and as such, you will lack the guiding hands (or joint gifting opportunities) of parents or savvy older siblings. Here are a few tips to help ease you along:

1) RSVP:

Reply to the invitation promptly, so the couple can get on with the preparations without waiting for stragglers. If you only intend to stay for the ceremony and not the reception, save them the expense of an uneaten meal by notifying them of this. If you're single, invite your most attractive friend. This will inspire feelings of jealousy in the rest of the guests and wedding party, and inflate your self-esteem in equal measure.

2) The Gift:

Find out where the betrothed are registered, access the registry Online or at the actual store, and buy one or more of the specified gifts. Gifts on the registry generally stress utility, and, as such, are rather bland. Couples often lard registries with gifts they intend to return, because asking for cash is considered low and crude. A check is a fine way to save the couple the trouble of having to return the deluxe pizza cutter you bought them.

3) The Bridal Shower/Bachelorette Party/Bachelor Party:

While bridal showers are less obligatory than they once were, they're still fairly common. If you're invited to a bridal shower, you are expected to provide a gift of practicality and plenty of oohs and ahhs at others' similar gifts. A shower gift does not satisfy your wedding gift requirement. You have to give both, unless the bride says otherwise.

As for the bachelor/bachelorette party, you are not expected to give practical gifts as much as the more intangible gifts of sexual innuendo, drunkenness and photos that will find their way through more hands than Winona Rider.

4) The Big Day:

Men, wear a suit, women, a nice dress or suit. Look sharp. If I were getting married nothing would irk me more than a reception full of people in plaid shirts and cargo pants. Be punctual. Mingle. Meet the wedding party and introduce yourself. Use the present company as a gauge for how drunk you can get without seriously damaging key relationships. A best friend's wedding? Fire away. A coworker's? Watch yourself.

A few more helpful hints:

  • Avoid divorce or shotgun wedding jokes. They may be funny in your head, or before or after the wedding, but they ain't funny now.
  • In cross-denominational weddings, avoid my-God-is-more-omnipotent-than-your-God-style banter. This general idea holds true in multi-racial weddings, weddings between warring paramilitary groups, and weddings between lords and serfs.
  • Verbal references to The Graduate will generally fall on deaf ears, and acting them out, particularly the famed "Mrs. Robinson" scene, will likely get you thrashed by the ushers.
  • Just because the mother of the bride gropes you, doesn't mean you have to grope back.
  • Don"t refer to the bridesmaids as "tail."
  • Don"t complain about the food, even if it does taste like swamp corn.
  • Most importantly, don't hassle the to DJ play the wedding staple, "Celebration," by Kool and the Gang. It's an awful song.

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