What Weddings Bring Up For Single People


Because there is an awful lot of single shaming that exists within our culture, we try to include positive representations of singlehood on APW whenever we can. (This decision may or may not be colored by the fact that the staff, on the whole, really enjoyed their single years and wouldn’t give them back for anything.) But the thing is, I know that there are just as many of us out there who decidedly do not enjoy being single and are coming to terms with that as well. And that voice needs representing too. So here is Carolyn, doing just that.

—Maddie

What Weddings Bring Up For Single People | A Practical Wedding

I was as obnoxious as any eighteen-year-old can be. When my friends and I graduated high school none of us had ever been on a date. I was certain that a wedding would be very soon in my future, though. I had been trained to be a wife. By that I mean that I grew up in a religious community that had very strict gender lines. I didn’t interact much with men, but I was led to believe that they liked women who knew how to iron a man’s shirt in three minutes and who would be demure and quietly respectful.

I thought that I was somehow more qualified than my high school friends to take this position of wife. And I thought that men would be quickly able to see how qualified I was with my wife résumé.

That’s not how life went. Surprise, surprise, I had a lot of learning to do. And at thirty years old, I’m single and I’ve never been married. (Engaged once, and that was a huge mistake. The relationship was terrible and I rushed it because of wanting the wedding.)

For years now I have listened to the messages of society about how a woman’s worth is directly tied up in her marital status. I try not to believe it, but it’s hard not to. It’s everywhere I turn. From the Huffington Post publishing an article claiming that if you’re not married by thirty the reason is you must be a bitch, to my mom’s friends gossiping about why someone is still single. “She cared about her career too much.” “She shouldn’t have wasted time with that man who wasn’t going to commit.” Everyone has an opinion about what a girl has done wrong to end up thirty and unmarried.

All that pressure and emotion is extremely present when going to friends’ weddings. I adore my friends, I’m delighted for them when they get engaged and married. That doesn’t make it easy for me, though. When I watch a particular wedding show about difficult brides (and I do, because hey, whether I’m engaged or not, I love weddings. There’s a reason I’m here at this site!), one of the things that surprises me is when the brides are upset with their bridesmaids for not becoming perfect robot wedding helpers without their own lives. The brides become outraged at their friends for being in the hospital or having a relative die. I think brides need to remember that their friends are not going to behave perfectly. They’re going to be themselves.

But more than that, they are going to be dealing with some very strong emotions of their own during this magical day of yours. It’s not because they are selfish, it’s just what weddings bring up for some of us.

When my closest friend from home called me to tell me she was engaged, I felt two things at once. Very happy for her and devastated that her new husband was “stealing” her from me. I mourned the loss of being the closest person in her life. I felt like her wedding was a ceremony to replace me. In a lot of ways, it was.

A friend and I who grew very close in college had a friendly competition about our guys, guessing which one would propose first. My guy and I split up soon after college, hers proposed some years later. She was marrying the first man she ever kissed and it was such a romantic notion that I couldn’t help but be struck by my own failure. I would not marry the first man I kissed. I had not chosen well. She was getting the fairy tale that I wanted for myself. I didn’t begrudge her having it, but it didn’t make it any easier to suppress my own longing and disappointment.

I’ve been to many, many weddings. At most of them I know at least a few people are gossiping about me, wondering why I didn’t bring a date or when I’ll follow suit. I want them to be proud of me, to see me as a success, but no matter what I do, without a wedding I’ll always be tainted by failure. Some people just think that way. And I get to see them every time there’s a wedding.

I know that this day is about you and your beloved, about the love that you share and celebrating that love. I am loving seeing you happy. I’m doing my best to support you through the stress and the fears and the big changes. At the same time I’m battling my own inner war. I can’t make that go away. As much as I love weddings, they are always going to remind me of what I’m missing, of what I wanted for myself that I’ve not been able to get (when everything else I want is something I work toward and achieve). They fill me with jealousy, love, well wishes, remorse, frustration, appreciation, and disappointment.

You want your guests to have a good time, but that isn’t entirely in your control. You can throw a great, fun party, but you can’t change the inner turmoil that some people will be experiencing. I still love celebrating my friends’ weddings with them, no matter what painful feelings might poke at me during the experience.

I don’t want to bring you down or make you feel bad. I just want to say that your responsibility is to enjoy your wedding and to celebrate how much you love your spouse. Your friends will be experiencing different things than you are, but it’s not your job to fix that. Yours is to just be happy so that we can feel relieved knowing that real love is possible in this world.

Photo by Leah and Mark (APW Sponsor)

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  • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

    Oh, honey. I so completely feel you, and this article is making me thank my lucky stars that my group of friends all seem to be coupling up and marrying late, compared with the norms I was raised with. I didn’t have the bittersweet experience of attending wedding after wedding of people who were close to me, struggling between the extremes of emotion you describe. What surprised me – a modern! independent! woman! etc. – was how affected I was by weddings I only heard about through family and friends who had stayed in my hometown. Nothing says “tragic old spinster” like your little brother casually dropping that he just attended the wedding of two kids you used to babysit, amirite? I even got to the point where TV weddings were hard to watch – I remember sitting raptly through Jim and Pam’s wedding on The Office, only to start ugly-crying as soon as it ended. (Annnnnnd being mean to my boyfriend for no reason for like the next three days. Not proud of that one.)

    The blessing in all this was that, since these responses were happening even in the absence of a significant personal relationship with the brides and/or grooms, it was easier for me to recognize that it was My Own Stuff these weddings were bringing up for me, and to sit and deal with that in my own time. I think you deserve all the applause in the world for working through your complicated feelings while giving all your love and support to your friends as they take an important step you had always kinda sorta assumed you would be taking first.

  • 39bride

    Wow. That is so gracefully written about such a difficult subject. As someone who just got married for the first time at 39 after meeting her husband at age 37, I gotta say you nailed it.

    “At the same time I’m battling my own inner war. I can’t make that go away. As much as I love weddings, they are always going to remind me of what I’m missing, of what I wanted for myself that I’ve not been able to get (when everything else I want is something I work toward and achieve). They fill me with jealousy, love, well wishes, remorse, frustration, appreciation, and disappointment.”

    At age 32, I shook as tears dripped silently off my chin throughout my younger sister’s wedding and passed it off as the kind of tears a loving sister is supposed to shed, then literally hyperventilated in the bathroom afterwards (fortunately, I could play THAT off as not feeling well due to my altitude sickness). To this day, she fortunately has no idea how much it hurt to see her stand there with everything I ever wanted and at the time believed would never be possible for me.

    On the brighter side, I can’t believe I’m sitting here writing these words as a 5-month newlywed. It’s been a long journey. The good news is that while we don’t have 100% control over whether we get what we want in this arena, hard internal work and bravery CAN go a long way toward putting us in a position to be open to the possibilities that come our way.

    • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

      The words you quoted are the ones that resonated with me the most. Apparently we always want something we don’t have… and seeing other people get that hurts. And you hate yourself for feeling jealousy or envy because those are not nice things to feel about people you love.

      Also, what you said: ” hard internal work and bravery CAN go a long way toward putting us in a position to be open to the possibilities that come our way.” Yes, this is exactly what I am learning in such a different context.
      So, I am married, even though I had assumed it *could* never happen and I had resolved to live a happy life even if it didn’t happen. But now I get those feelings when I see people getting pregnant all around me all the time and I seem to live in a parallel reality where that stuff happens to other people but not us.Pregnancy, something I deeply wanted since forever, starts to seem like a foreign, abstract concept. Something that happens to real humans and perhaps I am just of a different kind.

    • rys

      “As much as I love weddings, they are always going to remind me of what I’m missing, of what I wanted for myself that I’ve not been able to get (when everything else I want is something I work toward and achieve). They fill me with jealousy, love, well wishes, remorse, frustration, appreciation, and disappointment.”

      Those were the lines that stood out to me as well. For me, the cascade of conflicting emotions often gushes when getting the news of a wedding. I think I’ve tamed it, and sometimes I have, but other times, it re-emerges at the wedding itself. Grrr.

    • Moe

      You and I are on similar timelines (I married days before turning 40)and the passage you quoted is the same one that stood out to me the most:

      “As much as I love weddings, they are always going to remind me of what I’m missing, of what I wanted for myself that I’ve not been able to get ”

      Like the original poster I grew up in a culture where women were encouraged to be “demure and quiet”. This was something that I simply Could Not Do, it was not who I was designed to be. I often rocked the boat in my conservative church culture when I defied the traditional roles set for women that was submissive and meek. The religious overtones were made even worse by the Hispanic-machismo-culture tha suggested good wives make tortillas and stay in the kitchen.

      Now I’m all riled up and can’t remember the original point that I wanted to make.

      Oh! Stop shaming women by comparing them to impossible ideals.

    • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

      Oh girl. So sorry about your sister’s wedding but it sounds like you were brave and put on a strong face for her. I’m glad to hear you’ve found your romantic bliss!

    • Staria

      Thank you for this comment! I have been a single-older-sister bridesmaid and I held my face in this smile I never wear any other time the entire day. I was welling up with tears the whole day and I can say it was 50% the emotion of watching people I love get married, and 50% my own pain. I thought for sure that people would know I was ridiculously upset, but I just look happy in the photos (thank gosh). I cracked around 6pm and cried a bit to a lifelong friend (the best man), but he’d had a lot to drink so was really sympathetic and also I don’t think he remembers it, ha.

      Thank you for THIS POST! DAMN, it just feels so good to see it written out so honestly! We love you guys who are getting married! But we definitely have to battle an inner war to be there.

      Wanting to be married – or have kids – when it seems like every single person around you is doing that, and you aren’t, it’s a unique kind of pain.

      I have four weddings to go to this year, I only really want to go to one as it’s an old friend, and I’ve taken to feeling rebelliously like I don’t want to go to any more weddings until I’m engaged myself. If that takes years, then so be it.

      Part of it is feeling worn out by celebration of other people’s relationship and family milestones – it’s not just the weddings – it’s as more of my friends have kids, and second kids, and third kids, the birthday party round gets endless.

      But really, I just want a ring on my finger and the secure knowledge that my boyfriend does want to spend our lives together.

  • Kristen

    I want to echo the other ladies sentiments here about how brave a post like this is and thank you for sharing it with us. And I want to add a little something that no one has here yet, though I’m sure you’ve gotten a thousand times over in life. Some of us would have liked more single time. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with where my life is at, but from the age of 18 to my current 36, I’ve been single exactly 5 months of my adult life. Yeah, just 5. It’s pretty hard to grow – to see who you are without anyone else – when you haven’t had a lot of time to yourself.

    When or if you ever get to feeling like you’re missing out, please remind yourself of the precious time you have had with you, becoming a woman on your own terms, making mistakes for yourself only and gaining a strength you couldn’t have gotten any other way. I for one, think ladies like you, are pretty damn awesome.

    • rys

      I totally get that this sentiment is well-intentioned, but imagine the flip side. For many of us who are resolutely though reluctantly single (that is, not in relationships at all yet wanting them), it’s the growth that comes with partnership for which we yearn. It’s more than that too, of course, but I’ve had a lot of time with me, and I’m ready for time to share and develop with someone else. I do feel like I’m missing out, and I have been missing out for a long time. I still live a good life, but there are real limits to living solely on your own terms as well.

      • 39bride

        It’s that awful “grass is always greener” syndrome, but I totally understand both sides of this. As a newlywed, I’m already seeing what I’ve given up because of what I’ve gained. This is what I desperately wanted, so it’s worth it and I am vowing never to complain because I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But a small part of me is mourning the loss of some of the things I took for granted when I was single. It’s so hard to see what we have when we’re aching for what we’re missing.

      • Kristen

        I feel badly because not only have I never experienced what you’re feeling Rhys, but I’ve never known anyone who has wanted a relationship and been completely ready and healthy enough to find and maintain one, but can’t find one. I mean, I’ve known single ladies who wanted to get married, but it was always obvious why they were struggling either with finding the right mate or maintaining a relationship.

        But I have totally experienced feeling stuck in life, feeling like I HAD to move but completely unsure and unaware as to how to do it. For me, counseling and supportive friends did me no end of good. I hope you find the right recipe Rhys. It breaks my heart to think of someone who wants love but can’t find it. That IS something I can completely empathize with. Because even though I’ve only been single about 5 seconds of my life, I’ve definitely been without love, support and a lot of other benefits of couplehood – even when I was in a couple.

        • rys

          You spoke from what you know, and there’s nothing wrong with that — empathy is a good thing. Just recognize that there are a lot of women in their late 20s and 30s who want relationships, are healthy and ready for them, and still haven’t found a person to partner with.

        • Kerry

          You are not being particularly sensitive to single women and the various journeys each woman takes before, during, and after finding romantic love. I think that your sentiments regarding your perceptions of other women’s “readiness” and “healthiness” with regard to entering into a relationship are really misguided.

          I doubt very much that it’s “always obvious” why someone is struggling to find a mate or maintain romantic partnerships. I would hope that you at least try to be a bit more empathetic than that in your interactions with friends and loved ones.

          I am certain that most single women are on the same lifelong journey to “health” and “readiness” (and happiness!) that you are. Your assumption that they aren’t implies some sort of shortcoming relative to yourself on the sheer grounds that you’ve partnered and they have not. Be patient, understanding, and (most importantly) be kind.

          • Kristen

            I’m sorry you found my comments insensitive since that was the opposite of what I was trying to portray. My apologies.

      • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

        I’ve kinda been on both sides of this coin, so this is a really interesting conversation for me to read. I was in a relationship from the time I was 16 to the time I was 22 (that I thought would lead to marriage; thank goodness it didn’t, for many, many reasons). In my experience, it really *did* make it hard to grow as my own person because I grew up in a relationship with someone else.

        Now, had it been a healthier relationship, maybe it would have been different (I know plenty of people find their “match” young and it works out just fine for them)… but, in my case, I feel like I didn’t really come into myself and grow into a mostly-confident adult until after that relationship ended and I spent three years completely on my own just figuring my own stuff out before I got into another long-term relationship (with the man who is now my husband). Of course, now that I’m in an actual good, healthy relationship, there’s a whole heckuva lot of personal growth that happens in that context, too. And, now that I’ve had that time focused on myself, I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” on single life the way I sometimes did when I was with my ex. I feel like I got that time to focus solely on me, and now I get to focus both on us AND on me, depending on the phase/situation.

        I guess I don’t really have a point, other than that both the need/desire to grow on your own AND the need/desire to grow as a couple make total sense to me.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      It was, perhaps not surprisingly, when I finally let go of trying to have control and intentionally stayed single for a year that I actually met the right guy for me. That year was hard, but it was really good for my growth. I agree that it was good to allow myself to blossom without the constant game playing of trying to date.

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      People always want what they can’t or don’t have. Whether it’s to hurry up and find a partner, take that relationship to the next level, or those coupled up people wisting for more time single. I don’t exactly wish I’d had more single time, but I do wish it had been structured differently and in some ways I wish that I’d had more casual relationships. There’s plenty of yearning and plenty of growth opportunities whatever path you take, but regardless you’ll always wish you had more of what you didn’t have.

  • Emma

    So beautifully stated. I particularly like your comments about the limits of what a wedding can do to the mindset of your guests — you can throw a great party, but you can’t control the emotions of the people who attend. Often, they can’t control them either. For some people, it might be a bittersweet day, and that’s okay. Also, it’s not just unmarried women. People in unhappy marriages, people who are divorced, people who have lost a spouse all might feel sad on your happy day. A friend of mine who is happily married always struggles a bit a weddings when the bride and groom’s parents are all there and happy and supportive, because she is estranged from her father and he didn’t attend her wedding. So often weddings remind her of something painful that doesn’t even have much to do with our culture’s notions of romantic love.

    I also appreciate this sentiment because it’s a good reminder to those of us planning weddings that you have to allow for the fact that life, with the good and the bad, will find it’s way into your wedding day. That means some of the people in attendance will be thinking of their own lives instead of focusing exclusively on “your moment.” That might even mean that our best laid plans for wedding zen don’t come to fruition. It’s okay — life is complicated and a wedding day, while more significant than most days, is never going to escape those complications.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      That’s a great point that it’s not just single people experiencing this! Weddings always bring up emotion of some kind in everyone.

    • 39bride

      “I also appreciate this sentiment because it’s a good reminder to those of us planning weddings that you have to allow for the fact that life, with the good and the bad, will find it’s way into your wedding day. ”

      Absolutely! I got married five months after a friend was widowed. I can’t look at pictures of her at the wedding without remembering her loss (and mine too, as he was a dear friend)–the expression on her face in some of them is almost painful to observe… but then the pictures of her in the photobooth being her joyous, goofy self–even for just a moment–can’t help but make anyone who sees them laugh aloud. That’s what a wedding is, sometimes–a determined celebration of goodness and joy amid a world that is often far darker.

      • hampton

        “That’s what a wedding is, sometimes–a determined celebration of goodness and joy amid a world that is often far darker.”

        yes.

    • http://edeng.blogspot.com Eden

      “it’s not just unmarried women. People in unhappy marriages, people who are divorced, people who have lost a spouse all might feel sad on your happy day.”

      Such a good point!

      • MDBethann

        Heck, I had a few moments of sadness on my happy day when I thought about the fact that my grandparents weren’t there – during the middle of the ceremony no less. Weddings, as with any celebration, can be bittersweet and that is okay. There’s nothing wrong with a range of emotions at a wedding.

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    You know I used to feel like you. I was perpetually single and did not even have a real boyfriend until my now husband came along. Sure I had flings, or romances or friends with benefits or I don’t even know what to call them, but those stories never lasted for more than 3 months. I had pretty much resigned / accepted that even if no one truly appreciated or loved me I was going to be happy. I was going to be responsible for that happiness. So I studied hard, I learnt to be alone, I would enjoy going to cafés / expositions by myself or read a book in a park. I discovered I had the choice of not letting some external circumstance that I could not control ruin my life
    Ironically, it was just about at that time when I met my husband and it just clicked and worked from the start (probably I was ready). But boy was it hard to get there, all the tears, and sadness, and desperation even. . Because in the end, you can not control when or how you will meet that person… we met in such an unpredictable, fortituous way, I could not have planned for it if I wanted, it’s like it was meant to be.

  • Shauna

    Such an awesome post that I can totally relate to. I was one of the last people in my friend group to marry, and found that attending and participating in all the weddings/engagements/showers was incredibly painful. Yes, of course I was thrilled for my friends, but I did experience a very real sense of loss and jealousy (even now it’s hard to admit that).

    One difficult aspect of this is that our society doesn’t really celebrate non-family milestones. Marriage and pregnancy generate attention and praise, and heart-felt toasts, and presents. People who are single or child-free miss out. A few ways to ameliorate this:
    - Make a special effort to celebrate single/child-free people’s birthdays and milestones (provided that they want this, of course). Be generous with expressions of love (e.g. you can write a mushy toast for someone’s 40th birthday, or give an amazing PhD-completion gift)
    - Make time to hang out with your single/child-free friends by YOURSELF. Do not automatically include your spouse in every outing. Do not use the pronoun “we” exclusively when describing your actions or whereabouts.
    - Ask your single/child-free friends about their lives without fixating on dating. As well-meaning as it was, I got tired of all the questions about my love life. I didn’t ask my married friends constantly about their marriages. Why was I expected to talk so much about my search for a soul mate?
    - Avoid single-shaming traditions like bouquet toss, and limit the number of slow songs at the wedding (within reason, of course)
    - Be supportive and encouraging of your single/child-free friends, and their choices (do not assume they find their situation a problem). They don’t have a spouse/child to constantly tell them how amazing and love-able they are. You can help with this.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      There were just a few unmarried women at my wedding, so I was able to take a poll ahead of time about the bouquet toss. They actually wanted it. Skipped it anyway, not to make a point, but just because it was another detail that would have to be planned.

      Also, I once left a wedding reception in an almost-panic-attack at the bouquet toss. I was still getting over a broken engagement, and an older man I never met was insisting I participate in the bouquet catching. Thankfully, I had lots of really good friends at that wedding, and overall, it was a healing experience. But, for goodness sakes, if you’re going to have the “traditional” tosses, make them optional for guests.

    • http://www.xwebseries.com Cali

      This is actually the exact reason that we didn’t do a bouquet/garter toss at our wedding! Several of my single girlfriends told me that the bouquet toss was the most dreaded part of weddings for them because a) they felt like their lack-of-relationship was being put on display, and b) they felt like it made all the single women out to be weird marriage-seeking predators fighting over who got to get married next.

      So we just cut those rituals out completely. Nobody missed them.

      • Caroline

        It’s funny, this must be a regional thing. I have only been to one wedding where they even did the bouquet and garter toss, and these were fairly traditional weddings overall.

  • http://edeng.blogspot.com Eden

    Thank you so much for writing, Moir (and APW for publishing). I resonated with SO much of this, unmarried at 34 with many of my friends having multiple kids at this point.

    I discovered APW when I started letting myself think I might actually get married, a couple months ago. I’m not engaged yet but think I may be soon, and already I feel sad/ happy imagining sharing this excitement with my close unmarried friends. Having experienced many “stolen” single friends, I want to be intentional about acknowledging how bittersweet it is, without making too big a deal out of it.

  • Molly

    YES. This post is so eloquently written and accurate. Were I a more talented writer, I could have written this myself. I spent years attending my friends’ weddings and hoping that they couldn’t see my unhappiness. When my best friend became engaged, I felt all of the emotions that you described so well. I felt like I had to hide my own loneliness and jealousy from her, and I became afraid to see her or speak to her for fear that my negative emotions would leak through and ruin her (well deserved) joy.

    Weddings also bring up some unwelcome emotions for couples. My fiance and I have been together a long time — long enough that many friends met and married their partners while we were “still just dating.” People say inappropriate things to unmarried couples at weddings, too, from murmured-in-my-ear “I’m sure you’ll be next dear; he’s just waiting for the right time” to the flat-out “why haven’t you two gotten engaged yet? Is something wrong?”

    Sonya, I also very much appreciate your suggestions given above. I feel like the world needs a constant reminder that choices about marriage, children, and everything else are not necessarily indicative of problems.

    • Kelly

      Argh, why is society STILL like this?? Is it still not common sense to recognize how incredibly rude it is to ask why someone isn’t dating/engaged/married/pregnant? I mean, people don’t ask guys these intrusive questions, why is asking the gals ok?

      Frankly, I think it’s because those questions are the go-to questions when “they” have nothing else to say to someone in the moment, and “they” feel the need to form a connection. We need to help ignorant society come up with better substitute questions/comments for times like those!!

      • Molly

        Kelly, I think you’re absolutely right. They have nothing better to say! My go-to response is “why is it important to you whether I get married/have a baby?” It’s also weird that folks assume that other people are so uninteresting that this is the only thing to talk about. When I was seventeen I vowed that I would never, ever ask a high school student about college plans because it was the first thing everyone asked me and I hated it. I’ve adopted a similar rule for asking people about relationships/babies. Besides, I’m just plain more comfortable talking about books and food and travel dreams.

        • Copper

          Molly, I’ve tried this approach–I don’t want to ask someone graduating college whether they’ve found a job yet, a couple whether they’re talking marriage, etc. But with the exception of people who know me very, very well, this comes off as not being interested in their lives! When really it’s, if you want to bring up that subject I’m happy to talk about it, but I don’t want to push.

          • ElisabethJoanne

            Like Laura’s “How do you fill your time?” try “What’s exciting in your life these days?” They can say, “I just got into Harvard!” or “The cleaner ruined my prom dress!”

        • http://buffalowrites.com Laura

          In this crap-shoot economy, I’ve learned also not to ask people, “Where do you work?” . I try instead to opt for ‘How do you fill your time?”

          Bottom line, it’s just important to be conscious of the fact that people go through different things at different times and certain questions can be painful. Plus, it can lead to better conversations :)

    • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

      This exactly. It’s always so frustrating when people feel they have the right to ask you about your relationship- especially if they don’t know you. The last three weddings I went to were for members of my boyfriend’s family. For some reason, his distant relatives decided (sometimes without even introducing themselves) that it was alright to ask when we are getting married! Yes, we have been dating for a while, but it still seems rather rude!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

    I’m the author of this post and thank you, everyone, for your kind words about it!

    It just poured out of me in a rush when I was reading APW one day and I didn’t think it would have a place here, but I sent it in anyway.

    There is a happy ending to this story, though. I am seeing someone now and we are heading in the direction of marriage. As hard as it was to wait for him, now I know that it couldn’t have been any other way and I feel really lucky and glad that I had the (mostly forced) patience to wait for the right person and the right situation.

    • sfw

      Your post was beautiful and brave. And that last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. Having been on both sides of this now, it is so important to forgive yourself your sadness when a friend marries and you’re alone AND to respect your single friends’ mixed emotions when you’re the bride.

    • sfw

      Your post was beautiful and brave. And that last paragraph brought tears to my eyes. Having been on both sides of this now, it is so important to forgive yourself your sadness when a friend marries while you’re alone AND to respect your single friends’ mixed emotions when you’re the bride.

  • Cleo

    I had never read that Tracy McMillan article before, but I was curious and appalled and hoping that Tracy was a man because I’ve had it up to here (holding my hand a foot above my head) with the woman on woman hate, but no such luck…

    I lost it at this line:

    “Have you ever seen Kim Kardashian angry? I didn’t think so. You’ve seen Kim Kardashian smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape. Female anger terrifies men. I know it seems unfair that you have to work around a man’s fear and insecurity in order to get married — but actually, it’s perfect, since working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife. ”

    So, in order to get married, I need to “smile, wiggle, and make a sex tape” and suppress all my ideas, thoughts, feelings because men are intimidated by them?!

    And there’s so much else wrong there (heterosexism, belittling of men, Kim Kardashian the image vs the person, etc.), my brain imploded trying to catalogue it all (but I guess that’s perfect since my imploded brain will make it that much easier to get a man since I no longer have any opinions or emotions outside of the Kim Kardashian spectrum).

    • Kristen

      I couldn’t figure out who mentioned this article but your response to it made it imperative I go read it. Unfortunately I kind of totally disagree with your take on it. I thought it was pretty brilliant. Tongue in cheek of course, and even if some of it wasn’t (like the reference to “working around a man’s fear and insecurity is big part of what you’ll be doing as a wife”) I’m gonna pretend it was because I think ultimately this article had a lot of tough love that could be very useful to some ladies. Especially the part about how marriage is about giving, not receiving. I think that’s pretty spot on actually. And the more I learn about happiness, the more I understand that seriously you guys, what makes us happiest is making other people happy. No joke.

      • Cleo

        The author of the post linked to the article in the 4th paragraph

        Yes, this part is spot on:

        “Especially the part about how marriage is about giving, not receiving. I think that’s pretty spot on actually. And the more I learn about happiness, the more I understand that seriously you guys, what makes us happiest is making other people happy. No joke.”

        But, unfortunately, to me, the frankness and tongue-in-cheek humor was unbalanced in a way that the humor seemed like a thinly veiled attempt at not offending people rather than bolstering a good satire/humorous article. But that’s just me.

        Like you were saying, there were some good tidbits, but the presentation of the rest of it turned me off completely, in part because I know people who think that way seriously.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

        The article seems to pretty straightforwardly say that if you’re single when you’re thirty, there’s something wrong with you.

        And I completely disagree with that.

        Some women may still have work to do on themselves and their confidence and peace in life, but I think it’s really wrong to assume that if a woman hasn’t found a partner by a certain age then she must be difficult, picky, annoying, self-centered, etc.

    • hampton

      Wow. I didn’t (and won’t, can’t , mustn’t!) read the article… but that is disgusting. And I won’t get started on holding up Kim Kardashian as a go-to role model on relationships. Ick!

    • http://www.whorrak.com/adimatt Adi

      I just read it too and while I’m married my best friend is not and the ONLY reason she’s not married is because she hasn’t met anyone as wonderful as my husband. I get angry and sad and anxious and I never wiggle or make a sex tape. I’m married! Happily! And my friend? She’s much less emotional than I am–she’s optimistic and kind and fun and perpetually single. And yes she wants to be married someday, but who wants to trap a man by being a wiggly doormat? Such BS. Marriage is a partnership, not a game.

      • MDBethann

        So true. And then there are some women who aren’t married because they aren’t willing to marry someone they don’t love. And others who just don’t want to be married, period. Many people have reasons for being single and they shouldn’t feel ashamed for any of them.

        I dated a lot before I met my husband at the age of 30, and I felt somewhat ashamed too. But some of it was the male/female ratio in the DC area – it really was hard to meet men whose company I enjoyed in this area. I’d go to a mixer and it would be predominantly female. It was frustrating.at times. But as one earlier poster said, I ended up learning to make my own happiness. It didn’t always work and I had times where I was miserable, but I set up a pretty good life for myself.

        Like life in general, singlehood is a series of ups and downs and I think the “grass is greener” thought is apt.

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    Oh this is PERFECT. I am pre-engaged myself but this post definitely resonates. I’ve been to a lot of weddings the past few years (late 20s, sigh) and the assumption that everyone needs to be super happy and thrilled is kind of hard to handle. We all have other issues in our lives and sometimes one just doesn’t want to go to the party, no matter how much you love the bride/groom.

    I had a similar experience at my manfriend’s sister’s wedding a few months ago, mostly revolving around feeling very excluded from many of the events (and forced to spend a lot of the weekend alone, in a town I don’t know all that well) and not treated as family, despite the fact that manfriend and I had been dating for 3.5 years and were definitely talking marriage. It was infuriating to me because I know that if I had had a ring, engagement or wedding, on my finger that things would have been different. And then I felt SO GUILTY about all these negative emotions, because it wasn’t “my” day and I should be HAPPY because weddings are HAPPY OCCASIONS and god forbid we actually show negative emotion, so until I got a glass of wine (or two) in me I was pretty grumpy. I think I would have behaved more sanely had my dress not broken while I was putting it on, forcing me to go half-naked to the ceremony site (wrapped in a shawl at least, I was able to wave down one of the bride’s friends to help me in the ladies room once I got there) because I was flying solo the majority of the day of the wedding, since the manfriend had to go get dressed with all the groomsmen in the morning and I was invited (see: not officially family because no ring), but the dress breaking was sort of the last straw and solo-tears were definitely shed in the car. I should point out that all the negative emotions were expressed either in my brain or in private to the manfriend–I like his sister very much and did not want to be a distraction day of, there were just ah, future in-law frustrations (you can tell I’m STILL feeling guilt about having negative feelings that weekend, argh).

    And yes, I spent most of the wedding answering questions from the manfriend’s family and family friends about when we would get married. I had calmed down by then and so I was cordial and polite, but in hindsight I wish I had said something like: “We’re waiting until we’re fluent in Klingon because we want to have a traditional Klingon wedding” or “We’ll get married when the moon is colonized because we want to get married IN SPACE!” I should have charged money every time someone asked me when it would be my turn, ungh.

    So point is: thank you for writing this. Our feelings are VALID and we should not feel bad about having conflicted feelings (or even tears!) at a wedding. And I’m happy to see in the comments that you are on the road to finding romantic happiness, mazel tov to that, that is great. It sounds like you were fulfilled in certain areas of your life, but I am glad to hear that you are achieving positivity in the romantic realm of your life too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      Waiting until you speak Klingon! I love that. Would totally say that :)

    • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

      Hey Dilletantista! Looks like we’re in the same boat. Glad to hear I’m not alone. My guy’s brother got married a couple months ago after dating long distance for 1 year. I love them so much, and they really are perfect together, but it’s depressing to see how family treats their relationship compared to ours. We’ve been dating 3 years, I’ve spent time with the family often, even spending holidays and vacations together. They’ve been dating 1 year, but everyone seems to think their relationship is much more *valid* than ours. She went out of her way to make me feel involved- asking me to be a bridesmaid and spending time with me specifically- but the family didn’t always do the same. I was treated as an outsider, and it hurt. I’m still trying to get over it actually. Still terrified I’ll harbor those feelings after we get engaged.

      • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

        I’m glad I’m not alone in this boat–I was not asked to be a bridesmaid (which is fine–I didn’t really want to be one, but had I been engaged/married to her brother I likely would have been one and it is just so weird, ungh) and I don’t blame any of this on the bride. She and the groom are perfect and lovely. And I get along VERY well with my manfriend’s parents, but still…
        …we went to his parents’ house for Christmas and they’d turned the manfriend’s sister’s childhood bedroom into a fancy bedroom with a comfy queen-sized bed for the newlyweds. Manfriend and I got to sleep on his horrible old twin beds that he’s had since he was four. Talk about feeling like my relationship is invalid, ungh.

        Thanks for sharing your story, makes me feel like a bit less of a monster (we’re not monsters. Not really. I’m in all of ONE wedding photo. One. Out of over 2,000 proofs. Ungh).

  • Valerie Rigsbee

    One question for you singletons out there. I’ve been going back and forth daily as to whether or not I want to do the bouquet toss. There’s just something about it that feels icky – catch this and just think you can be like me. There’s something about singling out all of the single ladies, calling them out and up to the stage, getting them goaded by their friends to go up, even if they don’t want to, fighting over a bouquet with some other girl while their boyfriend watches half-mortified…I don’t know, there’s just something about it that hits me wrong. But I worry that people will miss it if I don’t do it. Are there other alternatives – ways to reach out and say I love all of you and wish you the joy I’m feeling in this moment (in whatever form that might take, whether its as a wife or a masterful career-woman or a crazy-awesome jetsetter)…I would just love to do something that gives everyone a giant hug :)

    I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • http://landlockedlove.blogspot.com Kelly

      We skipped the bouquet & garter toss altogether (even though I wore a garter). I wasn’t keen on the idea anyway, but definitely axed it after my younger, unmarried sister pleaded her case. No one missed it. No one.

      If you want to give everyone a big group hug, then give everyone a big group hug! Play “That’s What Friends Are For” (or whatever song you choose) shoo everyone on to the dance floor and link up in a big circle, sway, and relish each other.

      • http://www.twitter.com/babyinabar Shotgun Shirley

        That sounds awesome!!

    • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

      You stated all the reasons I dislike the bouquet toss and don’t participate in them. And you can add to that list “a potential stranger later touching my thigh as he puts a garter on me.”

      Who do you think will miss it? Are these people’s opinions really important in this matter?

      I’ve been to weddings without the bouquet toss, and have never heard complaints- the party is fun enough without it! And in that vein, the whole wedding itself, and being invited and counted as part of your community communicates your love your love and good wishes to everyone, so don’t worry about needing to do something more.

    • http://www.bridesanstulle.com Sharon

      There is the Southern tradition of a ‘ring pull’ – various charms get baked into a layer of the wedding cake, with ribbons on the outside. All the women gather around and pull together and the person who gets the ring is next married. Other charms might include a money sign for next to be promoted, house for nextto buy, airplane for next to travel, etc. You don’t even have to put a ring in if it makes you feel gross. At the weddings I’ve been to where they did this it was always well received. Probably because it feels less like a cattle call and you’re not required to fight over the one item. Everyone wins!

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        This is interesting. And I am from the south and have never heard of this. Must be a different regional tradition. But I like the idea of promotions or whatever being included!

    • Sara

      Many of my friends ditched the bouquet tosses at their weddings, and no one missed it.

      One of the girls did some sort of couples dance (that had a specific name I’m blanking on) where all couples came out on the floor, and the DJ said different lengths of time – “been together 1 year, 5 years, ten years”. People peeled off the floor as the amounts grew higher, and the couple with the longest amount of years together got her bouquet. I think the ‘winners’ were her grandparents-in-law with 50+ years.

      Another wedding I went to, the couple danced in the middle while we all circled them and sang “A Whole New World”. That has nothing to do with bouquets, but it was like a giant hug.

      • Granola

        We did this and it was hands down the best part of our reception! Our DJ called it an “anniversary dance” and it worked just how you described it.

        In our case, we had a lot of long-married couples, and the cheer that went up when the got to “50 years” and not one of the last three couples on the floor moved was one of the coolest moments. After a winner was finally declared, that couple was asked to give us a piece of advice.

        It was also a really nice way to honor and feel connected with all the other wider marriages in our family/community. That said, our family has a lot of long marriages and very few divorces – I could see causing a lot of discomfort and awkwardness in other circumstances.

        • Katie

          This is so beautiful! I would’ve loved to do that at our wedding! Instead we did a bouquet toss and the first time I threw it over all the girls’ heads, so I had to do it again. And I was so attached to my pretty bouquet that I borrowed the one from the bridesmaid who was least likely to want it back… and then she caught it! She is still very happily single, over a year later, so I guess it doesn’t really mean much… :)

        • Crayfish Kate

          Your comment totally made me tear up. This is such a sweet idea, I may have to borrow it in the future. :-)

    • Molly

      I’ve heard of couples giving the bouquet to the bride’s mother, or to the longest-married couple, or to the person who traveled the greatest distance. It could be a nice way to recognize someone for something special — not to randomly single someone out for being single.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I described my bouquet-toss experiences above. While a majority of the single women wanted it, I heard nothing after I decided to skip it. I doubt they even thought about it on my wedding day.

      The older people, who we might assume would be most interested in witnessing this “tradition,” left way before a bouquet toss would have happened; they didn’t even stay for the cake-cutting.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      I hate it. HATE it. It makes me feel humiliated and mortified.

      Most of the time people are making fun of me for wanting to get married “too much” and then at this bouquet toss, they want me to make a fool of myself trying to knock other girls out of the way to get at this thing that is supposed to mean it’s my turn? It feels like an opportunity for people to pity me.

      There is no way that there will be any bouquet toss at my wedding!

      • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

        Bouquet tosses and garter throws, such bad taste in my humble opinion.

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        I’m not a big fan either. BUT my favorite bouquet toss moment was when a bridesmaid and I dived away from the flowers when they were tossed between us.

      • Corrie

        I second this. I have been to two weddings where the bride did a bouquet toss and when she threw it, it landed on the ground in front of all the single girls who proceeded to stare at it because no one wanted it. On both occasions, when I realized no one else was going to take it, I tried to snatch it up before the bride fully turned around. I didn’t want it any more than the other girls, but I would’ve felt terrible if the bride turned around to see her bouquet sitting on the floor with all of us staring at it. As someone who has been in a relationship for 9 years but is not yet married, I don’t feel like a single lady and hate being prodded to join in a bouquet toss, when my boyfriend and I have been together longer than the couples who were getting married. On the other hand, at the weddings I’ve been to that didn’t involve a bouquet toss, I didn’t hear a single person asking about it.

    • kyley

      I am a total ham and extrovert; I enjoy being the center of attention a little too much, so being singled out shouldn’t be an issue. I have also had a bf for years, so didn’t have anxiety about my unmarried status. So, basically, I should be the girl who loves the bouquet toss, or at the very least take no issue with them. But, even I HATE them with a fiery passion. Skip it; no one will miss it and lots of people will be thankful.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      I got married in my early thirties, so most of my friends were already married and some had kids. But there were a couple of single girlfriends (slightly older than me), and I refused to do the toss (or the garter, but that wasn’t under consideration). Maybe if we were all 21 or something, but as I got older (and older)….well, it got more painful to not have found someone I wanted to share my life with yet, and the bouquet thing just highlighted it for me.

    • Valerie Rigsbee

      Oh my goodness, thank you so much for all of the amazing suggestions and I’m so happy to hear that A) I’m not the only one who feels weird about bouquet tosses, B) no one actually misses them, and C) there are so many other beautiful options. Thank you so much for your help. I think we may do the anniversary dance a number of you mentioned. It sounds so beautiful. Thank you again. APW is so wonderful. :)

    • BLIMUNDA

      I’m a big bouquet catcher. I caught two out of 3 weddings I attended only last year. I’m also in a committed relationship and we’re a pretty rad couple, so we often get asked when will it be for us. For me it depends on the day – sometimes I feel like I can joke with my man “see, the time has come, you can’t escape ah ah ah”, plus the pretty flowers. Sometimes I don’t want other people to make that joke because it would hurt too much, and the pretty flowers aren’t a big enough prize, so I just don’t participate. For me I’ve decided if I’m getting married someday, I’m not throwing the bouquet. That will be the bouquet I needed to catch. Plus, the pretty flowers :) (side note, sometimes brides here have a second bouquet to throw. and a friend once asked me the bouquet back after I catched it because she wanted to keep it. I get it but both options sound wrong to me…)

    • MDBethann

      We did the bouquet toss but not the garter thing. I caught the bouquet at a lot of weddings over the years and several times had either really young or really old guys catch the garter, which was creepy. When my DH didn’t want to do the garter, I was perfectly fine about it. And at my wedding, our 9-year-old niece got it, which everyone thought was cute. Even cuter? Her ringbearer brother tried to catch it too (he was almost 7 then).

  • Amy March

    I know people mean well when they share stories of how they were once single and are now happily married. I know that their stories of accepting singlehood and investing in themselves and it’s only when they stopped looking that they found who they were really looking for come from a good place in their hearts. But it feels like a slap in the face to this unhappily single girl, like if I just tried harder to like where I am, I too could find love. I wish we could be more understanding of this, especially in response to a post about how being single sometimes sucks.

    • KC

      I’m not sure, but I’m wondering if the “and once I stopped looking, there [spouse] was!” stories are partly a response to the *other* narrative that singles get thrown at them: “you just need to try harder! date more! lower your standards! you’re not looking hard enough!” (at least, I got that when single-and-not-actively-looking, starting around 16 or so and basically ramping up in intensity and number-of-worried-friends-and-relations-in-the-chorus until I was no longer single, so I assume that at least some single women have gotten it dinned into their ears as well?)

      So, when it feels like the whole world is saying “you need to do X or you’ll Never Get Married”, it can feel freeing to have counterexamples, saying “nope, actually, my friend didn’t do X and she’s happily married; ditto with my other friend; and a whole ton of people on the internet. So shut up.”. So I’m guessing that’s what most of these ladies were trying to provide?

      Obviously, when those counterexamples end up as a chorus of “You just need to stop caring so much, and then you’ll guaranteeably find The One; you’re just trying too hard…” (and many people do make Their Love Story prescriptive rather than anecdotal, unfortunately), then the addition of further examples no longer provides balance, just aggravation.

      Hope things go well for you soon. :-)

    • Rebecca

      I think what some of those stories are meant to share is that there are ways of being unhappily single without being unhappy in general (e.g., “It sucks being single, but I’m still going to do xyz for/by myself”). The ending “and then I found someone and it was great” you could technically discard, and still find some good advice for how to (try to) be happy even when some aspect of your life isn’t what you would like it to be (whether it be your relationship status, your job, you name it).

      • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

        Can we substitute “and then I found five dollars” for “and then I found my future spouse”? Cause I like that plan.

        • Rebecca

          Yes, yes we can. :D

          P.S. Thank you for understanding my overly-wordy-hastily-written-during-lunch comment

          • A Single Sarah for certain values of single

            And thank you for understanding my, “I hope this makes sense out of my head” comment.

            I really think I might adopt this plan.

      • MDBethann

        That’s kind of where I was going with my response. I realized that I couldn’t make my life’s happiness dependent on someone else – only I can make myself happy. Make and ice your own cake of life and make it happy. Then IF someone comes along, they’re the ice cream to compliment your perfect cake

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      I heard that too many times to count. “It happens when you’re not looking.” And I’d have to say that it’s not entirely true.

      I never gave up hope that I was going to find the man I wanted and even while I was taking time for myself, I did take dates here and there just in case. There was something about allowing myself some room to breathe that did help bring me to a place where I was ready to meet the right guy, but it was still painful. I spent many nights crying and lonely with just my puppy to keep me company.

      I think it’s not about not looking, but about being able to let go when things are not working instead of clinging tighter because of fear. In other words, in the past I would try to force a relationship to work because I thought I’m getting too old to start over. When I loosened my grip a little bit, it helped my dating life a lot.

      But yeah, I want to kill people who say it will happen when you stop looking!

      • KC

        I have this vision of collecting all the “it’ll happen when you stop looking, guaranteed!” advice people and the “you just have to try hard enough, guaranteed!” advice people and sticking them in a room together. A room well-insulated for sound. And only letting them out when they all grasp, to some degree, that different paths have worked out, or not worked out, for different people and that there is an element of finding and marrying the right person that is outside of our direct control (whether that magic wand is “letting go” or “trying harder”).

        (note: I’m not too inhumane, hopefully – I would give them tea and sandwiches with fancy napkins while they hashed it out. But no chocolate until they’re done!)

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Yes. I exactly-ed this because being single can be very painful.

  • Other Katelyn

    The “wife resume” thing is perfectly stated. I worked really hard to unlearn that kind of BS from my own religious upbringing. When I see other women from a similar background react with violent distress that their wife resume hasn’t gotten them the wife job they want, it makes me really sad and also really happy to have gotten out of that unwinnable trap.

  • Sara

    This could not have come at a better time for me. I am the perpetually single person of my group of friends and many of my friends are married. I’ve turned into the running joke of “Are you trying to become the real life 27 Dresses?” with all the bridesmaid requests I’ve recieved. None of that really bugged me. I also love weddings, so I was thrilled to help out with details and become a bridesmaid. I’ve always been single, its never bugged me before.

    Until recently.

    My two closest friends are living with their respective boyfriends. If I’m being honest, they’ll both be engaged and wedding planning before the end of the year. I can see it coming. Whereas many of my girlfriends were constantly coupled up or have been with their now-husbands since forever, these two were my single gals. We went to bars, scammed drinks, hit on boys, danced all night, talked all morning. And we still do some of that with and without their boyfriends (not so much the hitting on boys part….). But its different now, and there’s a tiny ball of something I can’t exactly identify in my heart. It like excitement and happiness they’ve found their other halves, and disappointment and jealousy that I’m the last one standing. This post is exactly what I’m feeling when they bring up dream wedding ideas.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      You definitely have something with that feeling of being the last one standing….

    • Staria

      Yes! You know how people say ‘Leave while the party’s still good’? I feel like I looked away and the party left around me. And I was never a big party person!

      Also, when this happens to you – last single person left standing, and all your friends are taken up with being married and having kids – the standard advice is always ‘find new single friends’. Yeah ok. I actually moved away from the city where all my friends were coupled up because I wasn’t meeting anyone, back to where I grew up… where I met a wonderful guy (after more single time)… but we both feel like we miss those days of lots of friends. And there just aren’t many people in our small town who are our age who don’t have kids.

  • Kristen

    Single Ladies,

    Please help me. I’m seeing responses of anger that someone would presume to point out some people are single for a reason. I’m seeing disappointed responses when the former unhappy singles, now happy marrieds share what worked for them (like to stop worrying about it). I’m seeing frustrated responses to ladies who point out being single isn’t the end of the world. All this, makes sense. I can totally understand that none of these things are making you happy. But what exactly would? Since none of these things seemed like things that would offend or disappoint, I obviously don’t understand the single lady mindset very well and I am always happy to learn a better way to communicate with people. So help me out here because I’m starting to feel like there is nothing a happily married person can say to a single unhappy friend.

    Shauna wrote a great list of ideas for how to make your single friends feel good which was pretty awesome. Maybe we could get a list of things to say in this situation when it seems nothing is right.

    • Amy March

      Personally, I’m not looking for happily married friends to say anything to make me happy about being single, unless it’s Ryan Gosling is naked in the guestroom and shucks, I can’t go for it because I’m married. What I am looking for is support of my reality- regardless of how you dealt with it, it does suck for me. If I bring it up, acknowledge that you are hearing that. Treat it the way you would any other problem. Listen, be there, spend time with me etc.

      • Kristen

        “Personally, I’m not looking for happily married friends to say anything to make me happy about being single, unless it’s Ryan Gosling is naked in the guestroom and shucks, I can’t go for it because I’m married.”

        Um, this above quote of yours? Favorite thing I’ve read all day!

        I get your point, and of course when a friend is hurting you should listen, not try to judge or fix, etc. I guess it gets harder when its strangers you’re dealing with and you make kind of generalized comments and people are taking personal offense to them. I loved your advice about how to treat a single friend and I’ll keep reminding myself that feeling too badly that anonymous and vague comments on a website were misconstrued is probably a waste of time. Time one could be spending looking for pictures of Ryan Gosling…

    • Shauna

      I am now married, but for the years I was unhappily single, I appreciated it when people expressed their loving feelings for me and their faith I would find the right partner.

      Obviously everyone’s different, and what worked for me could be annoying/offensive to someone else. I guess my best advice would to take cues from the single people you are trying to support, and ask them what would work best for them: “You’re so amazing and I know you’ll find the right person eventually. Do you get sick of hearing that? Should I tone down my enthusiasm?”

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      I feel like just accknowledging that it’s hard goes a long way.

      “I know you want this and I’m sorry it’s been difficult for you.”

      Instead of:
      -If you would just do this instead, it would be so easy (my life is not going to play out like yours)
      -there’s something wrong with you that you need to get fixed because no one is going to fall in love with you the way you are now.

      Those kinds of statements are obnoxious!

      Are you so perfect because you got a guy to marry you? That’s the sort of competition that I hate to see. I don’t want to feel like you scored and won the game while I failed because I don’t have a guy.

      Expressing kindness is all that’s needed.

      It’s like when my friend’s mother died. I tried to offer her advice. She said, “You have no idea what this is like. So stop pretending that you do.” I took a step back and said, “You’re right. I don’t know what it’s like.”

      That was all she needed. Just acknowledgment that it sucked.

      • Sara

        Exactly. People that try to ‘solve’ why you’re single are just…not helping. I know it comes from love but hearing things you tried doesn’t mean they work for me. I get a lot of “Have you tried online dating? Volunteering? Join a gym? Have you met someone at work? Are you putting yourself out there?(which, come on!) Try being more open.”
        I try to smile and say thanks, then change the subject.

        • Elly

          Yes. And so often, the people giving this kind of advice never had to work really hard to find a spouse. They met their husband in college or at a summer internship. They don’t know how exhausting it is to constantly join new meet-up groups or volunteer or face down a new room of strangers to potentially find “the one,” so it’s insensitive when they assume that you’re just not doing enough.

          And “go online!” is really unhelpful advice. I don’t know any single people in this day and age who *haven’t* tried online dating. It’s expensive and often times discouraging. I know it works for some people, but I know far more who became cynical and jaded after a few months.

          • Staria

            My gosh yes… the endless effort. It’s not nice but I want to yell YOU DON’T GET IT at people who met their partner without even ‘trying’. How wonderful for you that you met someone and you weren’t even thinking about it. Personally, I was single for years, I worked very hard on myself, I read heaps of books on being single, being happy, and good relationships, and I tried just about every way you can think of to meet guys, including attempting to ‘stop looking’. I met someone, but honestly it all just comes down to luck. Some people are lucky to meet someone when they don’t expect it. Plenty of others come to realise they’ve been single for a while, it’s hard to meet people but they’d still like a relationship. It’s actually perfectly ok to be single, ok with that but still want a relationship.

          • Sara

            Ha ironically, its my mother that pushes these issues a lot. Then I find out that her and my dad met in a bar while he was ‘wingman’ for his friend who wanted to meet her bff (he always jokes that he’s still waiting for Mike to call and say he can stop now). So I’m not sure where she is getting the idea that these things will work for me when they never worked for her.

    • Elly

      I was a little different in that I didn’t want people to pity me for my single status. I didn’t want sympathy, I didn’t want someone to say, “Gee, I’m so sorry that this is happening to you.” I felt that such sentiments just reaffirmed that singleness was a big tragedy, and that being married is the achievement that overshadows all other achievements. What I wanted, as a single person, was to not be viewed as someone who perpetually lacked something important. I didn’t want to be treated like a lady-in-waiting, and I didn’t want people to assume that my life was a second-rate version of theirs.

      Instead, I wanted people ask me how other things are going. Ask me about any of the awesome things I’ve got going on in my life–my career, my volunteer work, my amazing job prospects, etc. So often all these other achievements are minimized when a woman doesn’t have a man in her life. The conversation is always, “Oh, I’m glad things are going well. But tell me how they’re REALLY going, as in, are you dating anyone?”

      In turn, when I ask you how you’re doing, I expect to hear about YOU. Not “we.” I can’t stand it when I run into a friend and ask her how things are going, and I get a litany of “we’s.” “We bought a house this summer. Then we went to Italy. Then we had to put the dog down.” And I don’t want to ask about you and hear about your husband. “We’re doing great! John got a promotion!” Everyone’s mileage may vary on this, but I’ve found that men rarely talk about themselves as a “we.” When I ask a married guy friend about his life, he tells me about the exciting things he’s got going on–not how his wife just got a new job. His wife may eventually factor into the conversation, but most men seem to talk about themselves first.

      I would also caution married people to be aware of their own privilege. Single people put up with a lot of things that married people don’t have to put up with–not just the social stigma but real financial burdens that are pretty grim. When I was a single grad student, I knew a lot of married grad students whose spouses were wealthy, and who were just totally blind to the economic and social realities I faced. They’d be complaining about how they had to postpone the vacation to Ireland because spouse’s job only gave him a week’s vacation. Or about how they were having a difficult time settling on the right time to have children. And it struck me as insensitive–I didn’t get to take those kinds of vacations in grad school, and I didn’t think I’d ever have children. (I think the same advice applies if you’re dealing with married friends who are poor or infertile–please be aware that your problems might look like privileges to other people.)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        As a newlywed, I’m trying to find the balance between “we” and “I.” I know that the plural pronoun can be painful to some people, but my reality is also that most of what goes on in my life goes on with my spouse right with me. I have book club Friday, but my husband also attends. I went to Italy this fall, but it was our honeymoon. I also have work and hobbies separate from my husband, but they’re not all I want to talk about. When talking about things that happen with my husband, “we” is just more natural and easier than “Jason and I.”

        A lot of this is the accursed ambiguity of “you” in modern English. Does “How are you doing?” mean “you and your husband” or you individually? If we still had thee and thou, it’d be clearer, and the questioner could easily make clear she’s only asking about me.

        That said, I see both sides of the marital privilege issues almost every day. I took a major financial hit getting married and supporting my husband. But I always have someone to drive me to doctor’s appointments.

        • Elly

          It’s not so much that “we” is painful for single people (though sometimes it can indeed come off as very smug, and I’m sure there are married people who intend it that way). It’s more that … it’s just annoying. Like I said, I almost never see men use “we” unless they’re talking about very specific things (“I had a great holiday, we went to see my wife’s family.”) Women seem to immediately merge their identities into their husbands’ when they get married. And when I run into a dear friend I knew from singlehood, I want to talk about her and her life and her ambitions and activities–not those of a corporate being. I understand that many women do a lot with their husbands, but I think the entire rhetorical move signifies how certain women conceptualize themselves after marriage.

          What’s more annoying is when you’ve just made a new acquaintance–and you’ve never met her husband at all and have no idea of who he even is–and she immediately defaults into “we” mode without even naming her husband first. It’s weird and disorienting. I always feel like I’m talking to that Jeremy Irons character from The Borgias.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        “Ask me about any of the awesome things I’ve got going on in my life–my career, my volunteer work, my amazing job prospects, etc.”

        This is a good point. As a single woman, this is what I liked in general conversation with people.

        (Though with close girl friends or my parents, I did appreciate the acknowledgement of how it could be difficult, etc.)

      • rys

        Everyone who has chimed in here has made some excellent points. I think most of them center on being cognizant of people/acquaintances/friends (all, but especially single ones as we all grow older) as people with full lives that merit attention, interest, and focus.

        There is undoubtedly a difference between how I want/expect close friends to engage my singleness and how I want/expect others to. I don’t want pity (who does?) but my close friends are usually pretty good at being patient listeners — letting me vent, listening, and trying to encourage. As Moir pointed out above, don’t pretend to know what you haven’t experienced. The dark feelings about being single amidst the partnered are rarely constant but they are often deep, so commiseration without direct experience feels fake even if it’s intended to be sincere.

        Be ginger with matters related directly to dating/relationships. Some single people are truly happy to be single and really don’t care if a relationship is in their future; others care a lot. But unless you have someone to set a friend up with (someone you’ve thought about, not just the single guy at the coffee shop), offering suggestions is usually a terrible idea because as Sara and Elly pointed out, we’ve probably tried it. If one more person tells me to go online, like it’s a magic pool of perfect-for-me-men or tells me to sign up for a [fill-in-the-blank] class…if there is something very, very specific you think a very, very close friend could do to change things, then speak up, but outside of that…just listen.

        Other than that, awareness of couples privilege would really help. For me, it’s often the mundane stuff — I don’t have anyone to help with making dinner or grabbing a gift for a party or shoveling the snow or even just someone to worry about and check in with me when I’m sick. This doesn’t mean don’t talk about your awesome spouse or don’t complain about your lagging partner, but be aware of how it might come across to someone who has no one else to pitch in, ever. Offer to pitch in if you know it could help — when I’m coming up on a big deadline, I’d love for someone to offer me dinner (I try to offer such things to others, to get the good karma juiced up) or come by with gatorade if I’m sick. Not everyone would want this, but if there’s a single person in your life who does a lot for other people, make sure it gets reciprocated.

        And finally, as Shauna pointed out above, find ways to honor, appreciate, and celebrate non-family milestones/daily life. Make a toast at a birthday dinner, get someone the nice kitchenware they lust after when they finish a degree, send them a note telling them they’re awesome, drop off a piece of pie just because…

      • Staria

        Yes! Married privilege exists! It would be great if people could remember this. Coupled privilege exists too, it’s just not as strong.

        I got sick of people thinking I was not a whole person on my own. I was ok with myself – it was everyone else around me who seemed to think they were only a whole entity when considered part of the unit of partner plus kid/s, or them plus their partner.

        • Kristen

          So many really interesting and educational comments here! I want to just put another little thing out there, advice that I myself take all the time and have found extremely helpful:

          Don’t take it personally.

          As an ultra-senstitive person (I think I’m probably almost a superhero so high is my level of sensitivity) there are times where I can find anything someone says to be hurtful. Even good morning. Because sometimes I’m feeling stuff inside that’s got nothing to do with them and everything to do with me. Right now I’m getting bombarded with pregnancy questions since I’ve been married a few months. And as an older newlywed, I don’t know yet if I can even get pregnant. I spent several weeks in constant tears, raging to my husband about how rude and inappropriate people were. How could his sister harass me like that in front of everyone? Why did my friend insist on asking me such personal questions?

          Then I got some great advice – don’t take it personal. No one was actively trying to hurt me or upset me. I could politely ask folks not to talk to me about it, but I could also learn to not let it affect me so much. I learned to relax about it, and now? I laugh it all off. No more tears. And I’m WAY more relaxed about it.

          I hope we all learn to ask our friends and loved ones to speak differently to us when their words are truly hurtful or offensive. It’s way better to tell your besty you need her to tone down the “we” rhetoric rather than drop her as a friend altogether because you can’t take it. But it’s also useful to learn to shake it off. To remember that most of the people we encounter actually only wish us good, not bad. And for every annoying couple habit your married friends might have, maybe you’ve got one too. I mean, I definitely get jealous hearing about the freedom and adventures of single friends. But I also love them for having them. I love them for expressing fear about being alone and I love them for expressing the joy in solo life. It’s easier to love each others flaws than to let them piss us off.

          Sincerely,

          Preachy McPreacherton III

          • Kat

            I like this. In particular I take from it that it’s a good idea to tell your bestie if something they do hurts you, but for people in general to acknowledge they probably genuinely want to connect with you but haven’t quite got it right this time.

  • http://www.christytenneryyoga.com Christy

    These words are so valuable. I wanted to highlight parts of this so that I could go back later and reread those words.

    As a person who loved being single and didn’t really give a crap about weddings until she got engaged, it was really important for me to read this. Because some people do give a crap and it’s hard. It wasn’t for me, but that means that I need to be even more sensitive about what others are experiencing through this process.

    This story is a crucial read for those of us who never dreamed of the wedding, and who are just so damn grateful for our community of friends. Because no matter what the crazy wedding shows say, we really are. This wedding would not be possible or as special without our community.

  • Laura

    Thank you for writing this!

    I was single, with no prospects for SO LONG and it was SO painful, that even now having been with my amazing guy for over 3 years, I still sometimes feel like it’s not real. I ugly cried in an airplane restroom on the way to my best friend’s wedding.

    I think the thing I hated the most was not being able to Grow Up. I couldn’t buy a house, because what if I finally met someone? No house meant no “real” furniture and no dog. Single over 30 meant having the money to be “grown up” and yet still living like someone in their early 20′s.

    My heart breaks for my single friends because I know, having been there, that there really is nothing I can say to make them feel better. Telling them they are amazing will just conjure the pain of knowing you’re amazing but yet single. Telling them to stop trying so hard? What man is going to find them if they stay home?! Telling them to try harder? Well… you better have some specific advice, because odds are they *have* tried everything already.

    The *only* thing that worked for me was being very aggressive about online dating. So that’s the only thing I mention to single people, and only if they bring it up first. Thing is, when I was single, I desperately wanted help in finding a guy. But I was too proud to ask for help.

    (And if you want my advice, go read Evan Marc Katz’s book “I can’t believe..”. I read tons of similar books and that was by far the best.)

    • Other Katelyn

      Can you help me understand why you didn’t feel okay buying a house or furniture, etc when you didn’t have a partner? This is baffling to me (as a person who was mostly single in my 20s).

      • Laura

        Two reasons: One, if I owned the kind of home I could afford to buy in my expensive city, I’d be spending every weekend repairing said home instead of going out to meet guys. Two, you typically need to own a home for 5 years to make it worthwhile, and I hoped that I would not be single that long! If I met a guy for whom that home was inconveniently located, I might want to sell it before 5 years.

        Basically, I held off on getting too established, because to me a house and real furniture was “settling down”, and if I “settled down” by myself, it would have meant (to me) that I was giving up. Continuing to rent and have hand me down furniture allowed me to keep saying that it was going to happen for me any minute now. If you want a house, you should buy one. That was just me.

        Although, I did buy myself nice cookware in my early 30′s.

        • Amy March

          So much of this! I can afford a down payment, but as an investment the types of places I’m looking at should be held onto for 5ish years. In 5 years, I want a baby, which won’t fit, a husband, which won’t fit, and a house in the suburbs. I don’t think it makes sense to pour money into an investment I’m hoping will turn out to not work well.

          But I have bought nice furniture, I figure that can come with me.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

          I bought nice dishes in my late twenties because I decided I was worth it. :) I had previously been thinking I would get that kind of thing when I got married one day, but then I realized that might not happen (or could happen a long time after then or whatever)….so I bought dishes. Which I love. :)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      When I was single, I took the view that I was not going to wait on things I’d always wanted just because I was single. Getting married was not something I could plan on with no boyfriend in sight, so I made and followed through on other plans.

      At the same time, anytime someone suggested a plan that wouldn’t fit with marriage, I was offended. I’m in a part of the country where it’s cheaper to rent, but I did muse on Laura’s issues, and I probably wouldn’t have purchased a home while I was single, because, while you can’t exactly plan on marriage, you can play the odds, and real estate and moving are just huge stress-balls for me.

      I got the furniture I wanted, though. And now my husband wants to get rid of it. Not because he doesn’t like it, but because my single-life apartment is too small for both of us and my furniture.

      These kind of finance-connected lifestyle issues have made marriage hard. (having half the living space, losing my disposable income to feed him and pay for his insurance, etc.) Before I got married, I was living the opening scenes of a Rom-Com: Happy 20-something with an apartment in the city and the occasional designer handbag. I wouldn’t say I regret that “glamorous” lifestyle, but I do wish I’d thought about what my spending habits would mean for a later marriage.

      [For the record, I was paying off student loans, paying my credit cards off each month, and saving for retirement on a fraction of the typical salary in my profession. I guess I was living a slightly more realistic Rom-Com life.]

    • Anon

      I’m sorry, but not allowing yourself have nice things, or be happy with where you live, or buy things that bring you joy sounds a lot like punishing yourself for being single to me. Which in turn seems like it would make it pretty hard to be happy at all.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

        I did start feeling like I was punishing myself for being single.

        I didn’t make huge changes, but I did little things. Like I got my nose pierced, though that is something that’s usually done by married women in my culture. I tried to hold off until I was engaged until finally one day I thought: I really want to do this and so what if I’m not engaged or married?

        I bought some kitchen things that might ordinarily be registry items.

        Things like that. It helped me feel like I was starting to live my life and not just waiting for it to start.

    • Staria

      This is me! Everyone has been pressuring me to buy a house for years and I don’t want to because I thought, how the hell will I afford house repayments when I have kids? and my dad was like ‘won’t your husband pay for your house’ and I snippily replied that husbands tend to come with houses these days. I was right – my now boyfriend bought a house 5 months before we met. and it actually annoys me a little, because I hoped I would meet someone I could buy a house with, and he doesn’t want to sell his house (and neither his mortgaged nor my rented place are big enough for the two of us) and this is EXACTLY why I did not and will not buy a house on my own, because I understand – I would have bought a house I liked too!

      Anyway, I don’t know what to DO about it, but I’m still glad I decided not to buy a house on my own!

  • kyley

    This is a really beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing! It’s a very good reminder that our weddings will mean different things for different people, and we have to let them experience that. Also, that it’s possible to be very happy and very sad at the same time; feelings are complicated, and we have a bad habit of simplifying them.

    This is not 100% related, but I hope I can share with this community, b/c it’s about the flip side: I’m struggling right now with my best friend of the past 15+ years, who spent a long time in a profoundly unhappy relationship and, three months ago, finally broke up with him. Throughout all of this I’ve really wanted to do everything I can to console her and support her, and I’ve been very cautious about my own engagement and upcoming wedding making everything feel worse for her. As a result, I’m feeling heartbroken because all we ever do is talk about how sad and miserable she is, and there isn’t any space for my own happiness (or sadness, either). It’s draining; I’ve tried talking with her, but I just feel like I’ve lost her. I just keep giving, and the last time I got something back was probably 3 months ago. I just miss her, you know?

    I like that in this post you are reminding us all to make space for our friend’s emotions, even if they are not what we’d hope them to be. I think sometimes we try to “fix” our friends when they are feeling sad, and maybe sometimes we have to just let that be.

    • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

      Aw, hugs to both you and your friend! Three months can seem like a lifetime, but it sounds like she may need a long time to just grieve- for the relationship, the lost time, the mistakes made, the uncertainty ahead. While she’s healing, I hope you can find space for your own happiness (and other feelings) with other members of your support network. No one can replace her, but they may have to stand-in til she’s back on her feet. That’s a really difficult situation, good for you for having patience for so long, and I hope you can work through things- independently and together. There are no easy answers when human emotion is involved!

      Best wishes for your upcoming marriage!!

      • kyley

        Thanks! I think you’re right; my sense of time and hers are different. And she’s working really hard at all of this. I realized after I wrote this that I wasn’t helping myself, because I wasn’t creating time for us to hang out and just be friends who do fun things. So we talked last night, and we’re going to do that more often, I’m going to ease up on trying to “fix” her. This post was really very helpful in getting me to realize that last part. What would I do without apw?

        • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

          I’m glad you had a good talk! I know how you feel- I like to fix friends, too. I have lots of strong opinions and of course, they’re the best ones, so I blurt advice constantly.

          Have fun hanging out :-)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      After so many years of being this unhappy single person, I’m now actually getting married. And I’m startled by how bad I feel about it sometimes! Having known the raging jealousy of not getting engaged when I wanted to, now I feel like me getting married is inflicting that pain on other people. I’m having trouble focusing through my fears about every one else’s feelings. So yeah, it can be hard to fully express your joy when you are aware of pain in your friends lives! I keep trying to remind myself that others are not responsible for my feelings and I am not responsible for theirs. I can care, but I have to draw the line too.

  • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

    Oh, I feel you on so much of this. I’m engaged now – at 37 – but when I was 30 and very single, I felt exactly the same way. I so wanted partnership and marriage and was so frustrated by how it was the one thing I could not work toward and accomplish. I felt lost and confused and bad about myself, and now I get really angry that I was made to feel that way, that our society pushes these notions.

    Because here’s the thing: you are NOT a failure. Married or unmarried, single or in a relationship – those things matter in your life, but they don’t speak to your inherent value. It took me a long time to come to this very important understand: I am enough, exactly as I am. We all are. I know how hard it is to really believe that sometimes, but it’s true. And all those people who pass judgment, who promote this culture of judgment – especially against women – they infuriate me, but it helps me to remember that they’re really coming from a place where they judge themselves. And that’s sad for them. But also… eff the haters. Because you should never have to feel bad for living your life as you choose.

    • Laura

      Yes. And no. Because being single isn’t what I chose. Yes, it’s great if you choose to be single and nobody should judge you for that choice. But I wasn’t frustrated due to anything other than not being able to have what I wanted *for myself*, and the only pressure I felt was my biological clock. I can’t blame society for that.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    I have so been there. I spent a couple of years in a conservative Christian singles group where the message was that if you were still single it was because your relationship with God wasn’t good enough yet. So basically, we had a bunch of married people, some of them younger than some of us, telling us that they were obviously superior Christians because look, God gave them a spouse! So much single shaming. At a wedding of a couple from this group, a man from the church stopped at the single girl table and said, “This is going to happen for all of you someday.” I really think he was trying to be helpful, but it sounded so condescending to us. And then there was the 22 year-old who told me and my also-30 friend that gosh, she just couldn’t imagine being 30 and single! Fate worse than death, apparently.

    I got out of that group and was able to have a healthier attitude toward my perpetual singleness, but it was still hard going to so many weddings. Especially when it was my twin sister and my best friend within a month of each other while I was in a clearly-going-nowhere relationship.

    One thing I don’t think anybody has mentioned yet is the survivor’s guilt I felt when I finally did get engaged at 34. It was hard for me, knowing that my happiness was inevitably going to cause pain for some of my friends. A couple of them didn’t come to the wedding, possibly because it would be too hard for them. We never considered doing a bouquet/garter toss.

    And I made sure to make a big deal of my single friend’s masters degree completion the month of the wedding because I know how it feels to have non-marriage milestones overlooked or undervalued. I think the above-mentioned “What’s keeping you busy these days?” is the best thing you can say to your single friends. Because maybe she’s doing something cool you can talk about instead of being the millionth person to give her the same advice. (Stop looking/look harder/be available/keep busy/take this time to work on yourself,/get out there!)

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Yes to open-ended questions like “What’s keeping you busy these days?”

      And No to evangelical single-shaming. As another recovering evangelical, I realized a few years ago, during a time when I was seriously studying all the influences on my ideas about romance and marriage, that it’s another version of the prosperity gospel.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      Ah, yes. The “survivor’s guilt.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you have put it perfectly.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

      Yes! Survivor’s guilt is a great way to put it. I’m having very strange and mixed feelings about my own engagement.

  • Hannah

    This post was really really hard for me. This was the first thing in my wedding planning journey that really shook me to my core.

    I know this is not what you intended by writing this, but I am now terrified of our wedding making my friends unhappy. The thought of making them miserable by shoving my joy in their face…it literally makes me feel sick. I’m now terrified that at our wedding when I see tears streaming down my friends faces it will not be because they are happy, but because the ceremony has made their pain so acute that they are crying in public. We had been thinking of having our wedding party officiate the ceremony, but since the wedding party contains many single people, most of whom I know share feelings similar to this, I now worry this would be heartlessly inconsiderate.

    If my only “responsibility is to enjoy your wedding and to celebrate how much you love your spouse” then I don’t even see the point in having a wedding. I never though I would be one who would consider eloping. I always have thought that weddings are for sharing joy. But the thought of that idea being wrong? The thought that what gives me so much happiness will be causing “inner turmoil” in the people I love most? Why would I do that to them? My fiance and I can celebrate our love in private. We do that every day. Life can already be full of so much hurt and pain. Why would I want to subject my loved ones to more? I always thought weddings were a nice, joyous break from that. But if they’re not….I don’t know what to do.

    I know this all sounds very melodramatic. I’m probably (definitely) overreacting. But I feel a little like my whole concept of a wedding has changed. It’s not that I never thought my friends could have these feelings, of course I knew that. I’ve had my share of jealous/sad feelings at a wedding, but it was always a footnote – a reminder of sadness that was already there. I guess I never realized that sadness could be so acute. That’s probably really selfish of me. But now I don’t know what to do. If the point is just to be aware that my friends have negative feelings…well, I’m definitely aware of that, but I would prefer to not add to their negative feelings in the first place.

    Ahh so many emotions.

    • Hannah

      To clarify: I guess the main issue I’m struggling with is: was it worth it? Did your friends weddings make you more happy than sad? Obviously with how emotionally-charged weddings are it’s going to intensify a lot of emotions. But at the end of the day was the overall result happiness?

      I can handle making people a little sad. That’s life. That happens. But if the overall experience is negative…

      Yep, officially freaking out.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

        The main take away is that you cannot MAKE your friends happy. They are responsible for their feelings. You can love them and pay attention to how they are doing, but it’s up to them to process and deal with any feelings your wedding brings up for them.

        Please don’t feel badly!

        I was and am SO HAPPY for all my friends getting married.

        I may have a problem with envy, but the envy is never about wanting them to not have something. I just want it too!

        I think it’s enough just that you do care. And heck, I love weddings. No matter how much I’ve hated being single or hated myself or struggled, I’ve always loved weddings :)

    • Catherine B

      Oh honey. Please don’t freak out! Your question made me reminisce… several years ago, in the 2 months after I was unceremoniously and unexpectedly dumped, I attended 6 weddings. When I look back on those weddings, I remember the joy. The all out dance party, the giant grins on the couples faces, delicious food and being with friends. Mostly the joy. Was there pain? Yes, I guess so. But for me at least, they were hopeful, happy occasions, and that far outweighed my personal sad times.

      • Leila

        Hannah, I agree with Catherine B. I mean I had a mini meltdown (internally…still hoping that the bride didn’t know) at a wedding where I was the only girl in my age bracket (meaning over about 20) who was single. I was literally told to catch the boquet (it wasn’t meant in a mean spirited way but it didn’t feel great). BUT now it is honestly one of those hysterically funny stories from my single life. And much more vividly I also remember how much fun I had dancing and how much fun it was for us to all get dressed up together (bridesmaids). Also, as an out of towner, weddings were the perfect excuse to come back to town to see my friends! And shortly after her wedding her father passed away, and she has since said that she was so happy that she was lucky enough to have him at her wedding. Everyone brings their own baggage to everything, and as APW reminds us over and over, the world won’t suddenly be perfect on your wedding day. I don’t think you have to feel the need to protect your friends from your happiness, but I would instead make a point to celebrate your single friends moments (my friends would throw parties for all of my education accomplishments). Empathize with their struggles but still celebrate their accomplishments. And most improtantly have the wedding you want to have however big/small that might be.

    • http://thevanillabride@blogspot.com Sonarisa

      Hey Hannah. Thanks for being so conscious of others feelings. It’s great that you’re keeping your guests feelings in mind as you plan things out. However, I think you might be getting the wrong idea from these comments.

      This article resonates strongly with me- I’ve been single at weddings many times. The past three weddings this year have been a bit rough, and there have definitely been tears. However, none of my tears were because the couple was getting married. At no point did I wish that the wedding was not going to happen. I was thrilled for my friends, and excited to celebrate their commitment to each other. I still look back at them fondly, and am always so happy to see the pictures and remember the great times. Because there are great times. Sure, the groom’s grandmother asking me when I was getting married is not one of them. But dancing with my friends- Awesome! Watching the vows- Incredible! Spending time with people at the reception- Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

      Trust me, no matter what other baggage is going on, people will be thrilled to be at your wedding. I promise.

    • Hannah

      Okay, after having a day and sometime to breathe I feel better. Cathrine, Leila and Sonarisa – thank you for your kind words! I already have anxiety about the wedding inconveniencing people (is a destination wedding too expensive for the guests? Is it too close to the holidays? What if the roads are bad? Etc) and I have a tendency to be a people-pleaser to a fault. Reading this post and the 100 or so comments sharing stories of how a wedding can make people sad made it too easy to freak out about those pre-existing worries. Thank you for responding and putting things in perspective – there might be some twinges of sadness, but what you’ll remember down the road is happiness and joy.

  • sandyliz

    I totally worry that my wedding may bring up sad or bad feelings for friends. There will be guests who have been widowed or divorced, as well as a few people unhappily single. And as someone who abhors “traditional” weddings, and therefore has mostly skipped them, I could use some advice-

    Is there anything that can be done to make space for people who aren’t feeling happy or joyous?

    I’m planning some intervention to prevent family from asking anyone at all when they’re getting married, or pregnant, or insert-inappropriate-social-chatter-here, but I also want to be sure that people know we are okay with however they feel. I want someone to have space to be sad if that’s what they feel or need, where they aren’t shamed or embarrassed for not being ecstatic. I mean, its a full day or two of events and food and celebration- I don’t expect anyone to be happy the whole time. Especially not me! And certainly not friends who want to be getting married but aren’t.

  • Amber Smith

    I tend to be very quiet in general, and when it comes to my engagement and coming wedding, I’ve been very quiet. It’s a huge part of my daily life, thinking about it, planning it, discussing the future with my future husband, but I rarely share that with my friends. Because they’re all single. It came to my attention a couple days ago, that one of my bridesmaids feels that when I am sharing things like “We found our caterer! You guys are gonna love the food!” or “Babies are in the 5 year plan! Scary!” that what I’m actually saying is “My love is bettttterrr than your life! nah nah nah nah!!! I win! I got a man first!”
    This is of course not my intention, and exactly why I never share. Being engaged has been one of the most amazing times of my life, but I’m being made to feel guilty whenever I share. The jealousy has reached a point of being cruel and hurtful, and I’m left feeling like my fiancé is maybe my only friend that can be happy for me. How do you deal with this jealousy when you’re planning to throw a huge, expensive party where you shout to everyone how amazingly you feel with this person?