On Friday morning, I packed up my car and hurtled down the M3 to celebrate a university friend’s wedding in Somerset. Weddings are always wonderful occasions, primarily because it’s an honour to be invited to share the joy of somebody who you care about. In addition, there are plenty of other things to enjoy, and this weekend seemed to bring together a lot of them for me.
It was a rare treat to get out of London: when I do leave the city, it’s normally for overseas, so this was a pleasant excuse to venture across the country and enjoy the open road (once you leave the sticky web of London traffic). I love driving, and on road trips my car becomes my mobile home, with all my travel needs and comforts placed just so.
As with almost every wedding I have ever attended, I went alone. As with the other times, I loved it (again). Apparently this is unusual; there’s a ‘thing’ about going to weddings alone, especially as most of your social circle get married off and kidded up (as mine are) – am I right? I know somebody who didn’t go to a mutual friend’s wedding because she didn’t want to go alone. The perceived awkwardness of having no ‘plus one’; the potential discomfort of arriving and leaving a room of coupled up people alone; of having no dance partner on hand; potentially nobody to talk to without having to break the ice.
I see all how all that can exist, but I do not experience it. For me, going to weddings alone is no different to doing anything alone, which I almost unequivocally love – even prefer – to do. My experience of being a solo guest is more like this:
- Travelling however I like, leaving when I like, packing the car with all my stuff (with all my essentials on the front seat, where I want them) – and listening to whatever I like on the way (Amazon Prime playlist, this time)
- Being able to stop off wherever I like on the way (what’s a road trip without an unnecessary junk food stop?)
- Having a hotel room all to myself (LOVE this). Unfolding myself and my possessions wherever and however I please. Being able to choose which pillows I want out of the (minimum of) four in my room.
- Having to clean up after only one person – me
- Being able to pack in minutes when I need to leave (see above)
- Having my own timetable – getting to arrive at and leave the party when I please
- Getting to talk to whoever I want to
- Sitting quietly and people watching (I love this, too)
- No arguments, unless I really try to kick it off with a friend or stranger (hasn’t happened yet)
- Meeting new people (if I feel like it)
- Being able to return to my own space after the festivities
To me, going to a wedding alone is not only the invitation to socialise with others, but also to have some precious time to myself – a break from my own routine.
And of course there’s the freedom to flirt and be flirted with. It’s fun to catch a stranger’s eye, and spend the evening talking to them (or more). It’s a compliment to be told that you’ve almost made a gay guy wish he was straight (that has actually happened). Best of all, it’s great to be able to choose, and that’s what I get when I go a wedding alone.
I can only assume that the stigma attached to going to weddings alone, like doing other things alone, is largely due to the perception people think others have about them – and that it will be negative. ‘Poor thing, she’s come alone?’ ‘She’s not married yet?’ ‘Is she lonely?’ – is what I’ve thought others might be thinking about me, never. I prefer to think about what my life actually is: independent, free, unconstrained, and entirely mine.
I have had uncomfortable moments: I went to a wedding alone wearing a brocade salwar kameez (Pakistani traditional dress) in 35-degree heat, and just wanted to hide away from people so I could sweat in peace (including the guy who was flirting with me), but that’s about it. My confidence to go anywhere alone has increased with time, and now I genuinely don’t even wonder what other people might be thinking. I’m too busy being grateful for the sumptuous joy of freedom and unfettered independence.
I love celebrating for people I care about, and I also love being able to shut the door afterwards and have my own space. It’s one of my most loved luxuries, and one I am loathe to give up. Going to a wedding alone works out gloriously, actually.
Going to a wedding alone does not mean being lonely. Far from it. I loved spending time with university friends, and meeting their spouses and kids. Weddings are reunions, and I found exchanging experiences with old friends reaffirming. I was reminded of how simple conversations provide unexpected support, and how much I gain from stepping into others’ worlds. As I get older, meeting up with friends I’ve known since I was twenty connects me with that time again. It hasn’t really gone anywhere; it is inside me, but gets forgotten by the layers of other years that build up on top of it. The world only sees the outer layer, but like a Russian matryoshka I have every version of me, every year, every moment, stacked up inside me. That’s what my friends connect me to.
There was of course good food (lots of, too much) and good conversation. We stopped off at a wonderfully quirky farm cafe which uses local and home grown produce in its dishes: The Trading Post and associated Railway Carriage Cafe.
After a lovely walk on Ham Hill, the entire wedding party took up residence in the charming Dorothy’s Tea Room in Hinton St George. There, we enjoyed delicious cream teas and cakes alongside catching up with friends and meeting new people.
I left satisfied in every way, ready to hit the M3 for the return journey – with my essentials right next to me on the front seat 😉