The modern wedding guest's survival guide
There comes a time in every 30-something's life when their summer is taken over by an endless procession of weddings. Here's how to survive a season of small talk, wardrobe malfunctions and bad speeches
Over the next few months I will unwittingly learn all the words to 'Twist and Shout', eat approximately one pound of sugared almonds, and develop perhaps a dozen blisters on my feet. Yes, it's wedding season and mine is a six-wedding summer.
Weddings happen in waves, which means most of us will eventually reach a point when we have more Save the Dates in the diary than holidays. It's a social impasse that requires tactical planning, savvy shopping and the latest version of Google Maps.
With that in mind, this is the essential guide for the seemingly eternal wedding guest:
Do I have to attend the hen party?
Hen party obligations are largely based on how well you know the bride. If she's a close friend, your attendance is expected - even if it involves taking part in a pole-dancing master class followed by a foreplay workshop. If you're opting out, make sure to do it early. You'll incur the wrath of the Maid of Honour if your last-minute cancellation means she has to ask everyone to deposit another €20 into her bank account.
I have six weddings to attend this summer. Can I fake my own death?
No, but you can plan strategically. Book your accommodation early to get the best deals (booking.com sometimes offers a 'pay later' option), or club in with friends to rent a local house on Airbnb. Otherwise, consider taking a few extra days off to incorporate a mini-break. The promise of a rustic country getaway will make the moment you're pressed into a conga line slightly more tolerable.
Do I have to buy six outfits then?
No, you just need friends with big wardrobes and generous spirits. If you can't borrow a dress from a friend, consider a designer dress hire shop like Covet (covet.ie); Cari's Closet (cariscloset.ie) or The Ivory Closet (theivorycloset.com).
Alternatively, opt for a piece that can be worn multiple ways. A midi skirt is your best bet - even better if it's reversible. & Other Stories (stories.com) has some reasonably priced options, and its summer sale is on now.
Can I ask to bring a plus-one?
If you've fallen head over heels in love and the bride or groom is a close friend, then you can ask. If you met someone in the chipper at 3am last Sunday, don't even think about it.
Can I bring my children?
Couples that don't want children at their wedding will make it clear from the outset - usually by not putting the child's name on the invitation. Others will entitle the event 'adults-only'. While this may sound like an invite to a swingers' party, it in fact means that you need to organise a babysitter at once.
Cash or gift?
The industry standard is still two €50 notes stuffed into an envelope. However, Carmel Fitzgibbon, the Manager and Wedding List Advisor at The Wedding Shop (weddingshop.ie), has noticed the trend for gifts reemerging. According to Fitzgibbon, the average spend is €80-€100 per person and the most popular gifts are Le Creuset cocottes and KitchenAid mixers.
I've been invited to 'the afters'. What kind of gift should I bring?
There is a general rule that a wedding gift should cover the cost of the wedding meal. Therefore, a B-list invite merits a B-list gift.
I'm generally legless by the time the starter is served. What can I do?
The less people you know, the more you will drink. It doesn't help that the fizz tends to be free-flowing when the bride and groom head off to have every possible permutation of their family tree photographed. The trick is to eat something small with every drink - even if it's often difficult to get the waiter's attention when the mini goats' cheese tartlets are being passed around.
Otherwise, try packing a protein bar in your clutch.
What else should I pack in my clutch bag?
Bobby pins, heel protectors (for cobblestone walkways), blister defense pads, sunglasses, cash (some venues won't have card facilities), tissues, sun factor, eye drops, lip-balm, painkillers, safety pins and a biro.
Can I Instagram the photos?
It is considered impolite to post any photos taken on the day before the couple has done so - and the height of bad manners to do so from the church. While some couples will have dedicated hashtags for social media, other couples would prefer that photos aren't posted at all. Yes, even the one in which you look like a young Brigitte Bardot.
Can I openly express disapproval of the best man's speech?
No. The general rule is to pretend to be hard of hearing. Even if he brings up the fact that the couple met on Tinder and not, as they claim, in the frozen food aisle of Tesco… even if he alludes to the possibility that he lost his virginity to the bride… and even if he mentions the time they all did peyote in New Mexico.
The Euros final is on - can I watch it in the hotel bar during the meal?
This tactic requires critical mass - you'll get a red card and be deemed "incredibly inconsiderate" if you go it alone. Instead, rally together a full squad to wear down the defense.
At what point can I leave?
It's age before duty on this one: if you're over 60, you can do as you please. Otherwise, a successful retreat depends largely on how well you know the couple and how tactfully you can perform a French exit. If it is a work colleague or lesser-known acquaintance, you can discretely vacate the scene after the first dance. If it's close family or a dear friend, you are contractually obliged to stay until someone's shirt is covered in beer and one of the bridesmaids is crying in the loo.
Do I have to stick around for day two?
The second day of a wedding, which generally involves a hog roast or a lunchtime barbecue, is a casual arrangement with a relativity relaxed start time. Couples will understand if you can't make it, but they will be less than impressed if they discover that you spent the day in your hotel room ordering room service and watching Netflix.