I got a brilliant email from David Sharp last week after he was fretting about going to a wedding whilst his lovely lady would be part of the bridal party. I asked if he would write a little something, so here you go!
A Simple Guide to Being a “Plus 1”
A couple of days ago I got a frenzied phone call from Alex, my girlfriend of two and a half years, to tell me that her friend, Jen, had just asked her to be a bridesmaid.
We’ve known about the engagement for a month or two and were looking forward to the big day being finalized (we both love a good wedding). Of course I was overjoyed for Alex that she was one of the chosen elite that will be helping the bride through her big day. Once we had hung up however, I suddenly started to think about how this affects ME!
Now I have met Jen and her fiancé on a few occasions but wouldn’t really say that I knew either of them. Like I said, I love a good wedding and now that Alex and I are in our mid twenties we’ve been to a number of weddings where the invitation was to “Alex plus 1” or “Alex and guest” (Ok that’s a bit of a lie as they did all know my name at least!) but my point is that there are plenty of people out there who are guests at weddings of people that they have never even met! Now it wasn’t really a problem before. Alex was always there for me to talk to during the service and to introduce me to people at the reception, and by the end of the night I had a few new Facebook friends or Twitter followers in the bank.
But this is the first time I’ll be sat down in the church/synagogue/castle … all alone… sipping champagne at the reception… all alone… I’m praying I’ll at least be on the same table as Alex for the wedding breakfast!
So how does the “plus 1” survive? I’ve been giving it a lot of thought over the past couple of days and have come up with six key tips to making it through some other person’s big day:
Be the conversation starter
When you are the only person who doesn’t know anyone it is all too easy for others to just speak amongst their friends, leaving you stood in the corner like Billy-No-Mates. Once you have been out of a group conversation for a couple of minutes it’s almost impossible to get into it! So don’t be afraid to make the first move. All you need is to get one person to know your name and they can introduce you to all their friends and so on…
Small talk is your friend
People mock small talk but “How do you know the Bride/Groom?” is a fantastic way to get into that all important first conversation. Once those first connections are made you can move onto an in depth drunken conversation about whether the bride and groom will make it past the first month of married life. (DO NOT have that conversation).
The key to good small talk is to be prepared. Whilst we all know what our job is and our relationship to the married couple, once you actually try to explain it, things can become a little difficult. Take me for example, how do I know the Bride? “Well I’ve met her a few times… She’s my girlfriend’s friend really, not mine…. but me and my girlfriend have been together for ages… it’s not like she’s just invited some random new boyfriend along, haha, oh, wait, you’re probably wondering where my girlfriend is now… don’t worry I’m not crashing or anything, she’s a bridesmaid, so is with the bride right now, leaving me… here… umm…. so… nice flowers, huh!” Whilst factual, I think we can all agree it makes me sound like a frickin’ idiot! So just get your story straight. One nice simple sentence will do… How do I know the Bride?
“My girlfriend is one of the bridesmaids, I’ve only met Jen a few times, but she is so lovely I feel like we’ve known each other for ages. How do you know them?” (Sneaking in a compliment to the Bride is always a good idea in my books). Don’t leave dead air, respond with a question to keep the chat going. If you are terribly shy, prepared small talk is even more key. Saying a short, clear sentence looks sooo much better than having verbal diarrhoea!
Seem interesting… but not too interesting!
For me this is a mine field! No one wants to seem boring but unless you are lucky and have the dream job or are a firefighter who won awards for single handedly saving a whole orphanage from burning down, you will probably need a bit of help. But how can you be interesting, but not so interesting that people want to quiz you for hours about your whole life (which maybe ISN’T that interesting). I find this very difficult. As I’m an actor, people ALWAYS want to know everything, when really, I want to tell them nothing because I do very little actual acting and am embarrassed of that fact. So how do I appear to be the cool, busy, next big thing, without lying too much and have them thinking that I’m actually super famous and wondering why they haven’t seen me in Heat magazine?? Well, again, be ready for the question:
“I’m an actor, although things are a bit slow right now. I’m working on a new play, but who knows when the producers will get their act together and book us some performance dates”. This shows that I am a real actor but subtly lets them know I’m not about to star along side Al Pacino and doesn’t invite people asking when and where they can see me next. Of course this is very specific to me, but the principle works for anyone who isn’t overly proud of their job… “I’m an accountant, but am looking to start my own business, now that I know I can handle the figures, I just need to finally decide what the business will actually do” — Making a bit of a joke about it always helps.
Wear something memorable
Obviously you hope that your dazzling wit and personality will help you stick in the minds of people you’ve met, however in reality, people need a bit of help. So wear a distinctive tie or if you are very brave, a cravat or cummerbund (DO NOT where a cummerbund). It will help people talk about you to others: “That guy in the pink poker dotted tie is SO funny” and remind them that they’ve spoken to you already when three champagnes in…
Look out for the other plus 1’s
There is strength in numbers, so if all else fails, look around the room for your fellow “plus 1’s”. Unless they too have read this blog, they will be the ones stood alone looking scared and confused (probably by the bar). Seek them out and start your own little group…
So… with any luck, following these tips will mean that in the middle of the meal, the top table will be wishing they were on your table, due to the convolutions of laughter all your new best friends are in… Just remember… you are in effect your partner’s representative, so don’t get too drunk and for god’s sake don’t forget who you came with and try to pull the groom’s third cousin. Now go forth, plus 1’s, and be the surprise hit of the wedding!
You can follow David on twitter @Davetaylorsharp – any words of wisdom would be appreciated I’m sure.
Do you have any plus one tips or horror stories?