How to Socially Navigate A Wedding
Wedding are fun. An (expected) once-in-a-lifetime celebration of love, bringing together family and friends. Tons of preparation, money and effort goes into the details, and it is important to know how to make the most of your wedding invitations, as well as add the most value.
I did some searching online for “how to have fun at a wedding” and “how to plan to be a groomsmen” and most of these deal with obvious details. In this post, I am going to explain advanced social dynamics at play, so you can make the most of your time at this eventful celebration.
Weddings are big businesses, and can cost a lot of money. Be aware of the financial arrangements at a party, because they can come in handy later on. For example, if you know the father of the groom is paying for a particular dinner, express your gratitude specifically to him. In some cases, one family’s financial power is much greater than the other, and that family generally holds more power of the festivities. They will be the ones who hire the wedding planners, decide the venue, and involve all the guests. Above all else, express gratitude for their invitation of you.
Beyond the financial arrangements, the power dynamics extends directly from the people who are spotlighted: the bride and groom. The social hierarchy will fall into play after the first 1-2 days based on who’s closest to them, and everyone else notices. For example, if you are the best man to the groom, people will pay more attention to you and give you more leeway. You will also get more attention from girls at the wedding.
Because I was good friends with the groom, and his bride and I have hung out before, I was particularly close to both of them and was able to enjoy being really close to all the events, from the rehearsal dinner to the wedding ceremony itself. If you are on the outskirts of the social circle, you can still add value by the following:
1) The Word On The Street: be the guy who has everyone’s contact, and knows which bars to hit after the ceremony. Know the city and where to party. Sometimes, people need certain things. A drink. A cigarette. Some entertainment. For example, be the guy that arranges the pre-wedding party at the local strip club and buy the groom a lap-dance or two.
2) Be nice. No one like negativity at a wedding. There was this one girl who was particularly negative, and I just stopped having fun talking to her after a while. Others felt the same.
3) Be real. People are generally very friendly at a wedding. However, sometimes you need to pierce the social veil and talk about something that matters to a person. There are several ways to do this, and I notice that the best way is to ask real questions and observe. Then, make a calculated statement and see how they react.
How To Talk “Real”
Here are some examples of how I talk, versus how other people talked at the wedding. You can use these to enhance your ability to connect with others and build a more solid connection.
To another groomsman who liked Death Metal:
Platitude: “Oh you like metal music? That’s different!”
More Real Version: “Oh. Slayer? Like, the music Cartman played to scare all the hippies away in South Park?”
To the bride:
Platitude: “Lily you look so pretty!”
More Real Version: “That’s a nice design Lily. The dress. It’s like a one piece that flows all the way down”
To one of the groomsmen:
Platitude: “This is a great wedding”
More Real Version: “Yo. We totally owned the dance club last night. Don’t tell anyone”
To one of the girls who laughed at previous “dirty” jokes:
Platitude: “The bridesmaids all look so pretty!”
More Real Version: “Hey, what did the bridesmaids say after sex?….. ‘Thanks guys!'”
To a bridesmaid
Platitude: “Oh hi! What do you do?”
More Real Version: “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
You may have noticed now several trends that connect with all my questions or statements in conversion. Notice how I ask questions that are 1) important to me and 2) unique and isn’t a repeat of what someone else said 100 times already. Also, being specific helps. If you compliment someone, be specific. They probably spent time on that makeup, or the tie color, or shining their shoes. Noticing that shows genuine appreciation. Also, when everyone else is PC, try to push the envelop with a more risque statement. It is so boring otherwise. In this case, I knew the bride personally and I knew that she’s wasn’t this boring Jewish princess everyone may have fallen for; that’s just her public image.
Caveat: if you’re going to push the envelop and actually BE a unique person, there will naturally be people who are really into you, and those who are not. Such is the fate of someone who chooses to be the purple thread on a white sheet. You have to decide in life, if you want to be a person that expresses himself, or be a person who is afraid to offend.
Offending People / Dealing With Negativity
Guess what? Even if you are the nicest person possible, there will still be someone who doesn’t like you. Maybe they don’t like your hair. The way you talk, or just the way you look. So if you’re still afraid of offending ANYONE, then you’re probably not a fan of my blog either. The whole point of GOS is to be your own version of a rockstar.
Over the weekend, there were 4 instances of people getting offended by me and how I dealt with it:
1. The Outspoken Friend: One of the bridesmaids who is known for speaking her mind. I lost my table number and I asked the table if I could sit down. She said, “how did you lose your table number, are you sure you’re supposed to be here?” The tonality was pretty rude. I already knew she was one of those people who just didn’t have a filter, and I didn’t get phased. However, the whole table was kind of cold and I wasn’t making any traction befriending anyone. She made a couple of other comments during the event. The morning after the wedding I told one of the bridesmaids, “oh your hair is actually curly! So is mine when its long”. She jumps in again, “what, you have curly hair”. Again, its the tonality that counts. The subtext is, “you don’t have curly hair. You’re lying”. I replied, “yeah, when it gets longer”. Another way to deal with this is to pause for 2-3 seconds, sub-communication that you know what’s going on, and then respond nicely. I simply responded nicely and I didn’t think about it too much. However, I can see how this particular person feels protective of her friends. That said, she’s going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, that will be her challenge to deal with.
2. The Conservative Girl: A girl sitting next to me was 16, who was super nice. I tried to have a “real” conversion with her, and she wasn’t having it. I asked her some polite questions and then I said, “who’s your crush in high school”. At one point another 19 high schooler was at our table, good looking guy. I said to her “hey Zach is single, let’s get his number”. She laughed and said he’s too old. That’s when I knew she was on the conservative side, so I changed the conversation to more polite things, we talked about dance, she does ballet and I do salsa. When the bride and groom came over I introduced the groom to her and said, “she’s 16, don’t worry she’s too young for me”. After that I think she got super scared and avoided me at all costs. Some people are more open to dirty jokes, others are very proper and reserved. When we talked about dance, I said, “that’s great, if there’s a salsa-like beat later I will ask you for a dance”. She hesitated and said, “yeah, maybe”. That’s when I knew she wasn’t feeling it, and I was polite to her for the rest of the night. I left the table a lot and had more fun with friends elsewhere throughout the whole night. At one point I returned to the table and shew as there alone, and I just watched people dancing and vibing and I sensed she was uncomfortable and left to hangout with her parents. I didn’t think much about this, however I realized that even though I had no sexual intentions and just wanted to connect with this person, sometimes they are not interested and you just have to sense that and let it go. In these situations, if you sense super conservatism, you may have to tone it down or just move on and avoid it altogether.
3. The Neutral Family Member. One of the bride’s siblings was polite, but I knew that the person didn’t really like me that much. To be fair, they didn’t connect with any of the groom’s friends either. In this case, I tried being nice a couple of times, like “nice speech for your sister”. They said “thanks” but you can tell by their micro-expessions that they were trying to be polite. We all know what how hard it is when someone who annoys us tries to be nice. Our natural reaction is “ok great I have to exert energy to befriend this person”. In this case you sort of have 2 choices, you can push the interaction to the point where it “breaks”. This break can happen and you can then repair in on real terms. Be careful however because this usually doesn’t work in a group setting and must be done 1on1, face to face. Here’s an example of a “break” conversation I had with a previous guy friend of a best friend who hated me:
Me: “hey man. Look I know you don’t like me, it’s cool. I am just trying to do the best for B” (Break rapport, state common interest)
Him: “I don’t not like you man. You just annoy me sometimes”
Me: “what exactly is it about me that annoys you?”
Him: [lists examples of me being fake]
Me: “ok. I understand. Am I being fake to you now?”
Him: “I guess not”
Me: “Regarding the things you said earlier, do you want to hear my side of it?”
Him: “not really man”
Me: “Ok. Well. I’ll do what’s best for our friend, and respect your space”
The guy in question still didn’t like me for a few years. A few months ago, when he was planning on breaking up with his girlfriend, he became a lot nicer. A lot of his previous frameworks broke, and during this period we became better friends.
Back to the wedding: in this case, the sibling was hanging out with their friends throughout the wedding. So just be polite and stay out of their way. You don’t need to force everyone to like you. In fact, just by having fun and interacting with others, they may change their mind. They may come around, but it doesn’t matter anyway.
4. The Bridesmaid With The Boyfriend
This is an interesting one. One of the bridesmaids who I had an ok rapport with, on the way back from the wedding on the bus, I asked her what her tattoo stood for. I just had a pretty sexual conversation with one of the bridesmaid who had a lot of “talent” or so I was tipped off by key sources 😉 She was walking with her boyfriend and said, “humility, trustworthiness, and faith”. I then blurted out, “you forgot sexy”. She didn’t play along and right away became silent and shot her boyfriend a dirty look.
In this case I was in the wrong, I just transitioned from a sexually charged conversation and she was with her boyfriend. I saw no opportunity to repair the damage, so I let it go. The next day at breakfast, after interacting with everyone else I stopped by their side of the table and said,
“Hey guys, I’m sorry about last night. Just to explain myself, in my mind, when I often hear these character traits like honestly, humility, I always think about human paradoxes. Just as we are honest, we are also humans with other things, like sexiness, ability to party. So when I said “sexy” it was to add a contradiction to the very ‘good’ values you already had on that tattoo.”
Her reply was a bit old, “ok, if you say so”. I attempted to explain again, “I have tattoos of mine, and I always liked the paradox” I can see I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I said, “anyway, that was what I meant, ok later”. The boyfriend, to his credit, actually agreed and said, “yeah I get it”. Thinking back, I could have used laughter to get through. I could have said,
“Come on. So think about it. Even if I was hitting on you, what would be my real intention? You’re walking out of the bus, with you boyfriend… I’ve been polite to you all this time until now… what would I be thinking then, to say, “hey if I say sexy she’s totally ditching him and coming to my room with me? How ridiculous is that?”
Anyway, later on, she came by and she hugged all the groomsmen to say goodbye. I held back and watched her. This is what you do when you have good intentions but you want her to set the frame. She came in for a hug so I followed with a light hug. This type of behavior is a sub-communication that I respect her boundaries, and I’ll meet her halfway.
For every person that has a negative reaction towards you, there will generally be and equal amount of 2x more of people who like you, so don’t get so easily phased by this normal social occurrence. Be aware of your own stickiness, and adapt to each situation. Dress well, and increase your chances of success.
People think that bridesmaids should get with the groomsmen but in this particular wedding, the bridesmaids shunned us! Hah. So the only advice I can give would be first determine everyone’s single status. Some guys don’t care, however I have set a boundary for myself: I no longer involve myself with the falling pieces of a failing relationship. You can find out if a bridesmaid is single by chatting her up and asking the question, “so tell me what kind of guys you like, I will keep my eye out for you at this wedding”. Do this after you’ve established some rapport. Once you know she’s single, look for indicators of interest.
The process for attracting girls is the same here as in any social situation. I would say that at a wedding, be more aware of her social standing and don’t embarrass her. Be especially subtle and help her retain her social reputation. And by all means, remember real gentlemen don’t talk about it, they just be about it.
Take the opportunity to learn from your groomsmen. Maybe you are all friends, or maybe you all come from different parts of the world. I learned so much from my fellow men from the UK, Germany, France and other parts of the country.
Remember that in adult life, we seldom have the opportunity we had in school to bond on field trips and sports and other types of activities that help us from a “tribe”. In adult-life, events that require 2-3 days timeline and full of activities create lasting impressions in our brains are rare. So take this opportunity and bond, and make real friends! Chances are you have something in common because you all share a close friendship with the groom. An international crowd offers different perspectives and I really enjoyed it. We live SO closed in our own circles sometimes. This event reminded me to make friends from all walks of life, in all places.
Avoid the “I’m right, therefore they are wrong” mentality. We humans and our egos tend to have this ego energy that has this NEED to be right. I’m cooler, I know how to get girls, etc. Towards the end of the trip, I realized to no one is more “right” or “wrong”. There are things we can improve on as human beings, but just because something is important to you, it doesn’t mean that it is important to the other person. And vice versa.
I learned a lot from all the groomsmen at this wedding and it reminded me of how I love to lead the group as a kid. People think that a leader is someone who uses power to force everyone to do what he wants, but I’ve learned that if the group naturally deviates to a leader, that leader has a responsibility now. He’s supposed to help out, be a central connection, and plan out things. People are looking up to you. With greater responsibility comes greater power. Treat it well. Treat others well.
The Family / Dynasties
The bride is from a Jewish family dynasty. Meeting her aunts and other relatives was a blast. Some were more aristocratic, the majority were just nice people. It was amazing to see the power of the Jewish religion to bring people together. The Chinese have this too, very tight knit family, but less outsiders. In the future, I hope for a family that is multi-cultural and connected. In those social threads of the tribe, a dynasty can emerge and enrich the lives of everyone in it and beyond.
A lot of people are involved in these weddings. I got a number from the bartender at the strip club, as well as a waitress at dinner. Remember to thank the bar staff, working staff, photographers, hotel staff. People tend to treat them as second class citizens, but remember they are just working a job trying to survive. They matter more than you think, and it is not always about the money. Showing them gratitude will go a long way when you need help with a room or some luggage!
Keeping in touch is important. A simple thank you note/message/email goes a long way. Take advantage of the rarity of “bonding” experience we talked about earlier, and keep these connections alive. You may be visiting a new friend soon in a new city or country!
Picture sharing helps to create a lasting memory, and social networks will help you add additional friends as well as add social proof.
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