This article was originally published on Better After 50.
Let's start by saying we are not wedding crashers.
We were invited 48 hours before the actual wedding day. Their son was getting married and we had never met him. These were our new friends of two years who we adore and have spent the last two summers with. They were the parents of the groom and had a tight guest list. We had no problem with not being invited earlier. We were thrilled to discuss their upcoming wedding throughout the summer.
Initially upon receiving our texted invite, we were flattered to have been thought of in the chaos that surrounds the countdown to a wedding. But then we paused.
My husband and I sat down and started to reflect on what it means to be a guest at a wedding. Of course we love being included but what does it mean to be part of someone's life cycle event -- someone you've never met.
Bill and I have been married seven years, and the reality is, we have made new friends in these seven years whose children, now young adults, we haven't yet gotten to know.
So we got into a fun discussion about the six weddings we attended over this past summer ... most new friends for him as of seven years ago and some new friends for both of us.
We talked about what made each of the weddings magical in their own way.
You may imagine that knowing one of the betrothed makes a huge difference but it didn't make our top eight list of what the winning elements are. We have been to a few weddings where we don't know the bride or the groom very well, but we are good friends with the parents and the weddings can still be "great."
Mind you, we are not operating in a wedding vacuum without an eye toward what could be in store for us. We love to imagine what it would be like to throw a wedding because we have four boys -- none of whom have announced plans to head to the altar. We can only wonder what their big days will be like should they arrive and what "notes" we will carry with us from our experience as guests.
So, deep into our second cup of morning coffee, we had some fun thinking about what makes a good wedding. We have sat at tables next to the band, even been seated separately from each other, and seated near the exit like an afterthought. We have flown great distances to get to weddings and have experienced the delays that bad weather can bring and none of these factors came up as the most important ingredient that altered our take-aways of what makes us say, "That wedding was amazing!" Or not.
As appreciative guests on the weekend of the wedding we realize our only big job is to dress up and show up on time.
Nevertheless it turns out that despite the endless details that the hosts have gone through, there are eight top ingredients that make a wedding fabulous from the guests' point of view.
- The Couple's Karma: We are all watching the couple and taking our cues from them. Their energy is contagious.
- The Ceremony: Our favorite ceremonies are those that are personalized -- vows, readings, music and those officiated by friends and family.
- The Toasts: These can be the icing on the wedding cake -- funny, heartfelt, creative and often revealing.
- Music/Dancing: Dancing rocks a wedding -- great music and guests who dance are key.
- Our Table Mates: Meet new people or sit with old friends -- we all know the hosts struggle to make this part work.
- Our Relationship with the Hosts: It's truly a great gift of friendship to be invited to join with your good friends as they celebrate one of their most joyfully emotional days.
- Celebrating with our friends who are guests: There's no question that celebrating as a community of friends is fantastic.
- Most importantly -- the afterglow we share with our friends, the proud parents.
At this stage in our lives -- the bonds that are cemented around these lifecycle events amongst friends is incredible.
Having shared the wedding with our dear friends, the proud parents, we are thrilled to have attended as we can revisit their big moment with them forever. This is when showing up as a guest is the gift that keeps on giving.