Must I Attend Every Wedding-Weekend Event?

Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist answers a reader question.

Photo by The Cake Girls

Q. Am I obligated to attend every single event during my friend’s jam-packed wedding weekend?
Amanda Bates
New York City

A.  It used to be that when you were invited to a wedding, you would show up for the ceremony, eat and dance at the reception, then head home, musing tipsily about the prospects of the newly hitched couple.

Nowadays, though, a wedding is never just a wedding. These occasions have swollen into entire weekend-long nuptial-paloozas. There’s the rehearsal dinner, and the softball game, and the campfire, and the sing-along, and the itinerary goes on so long that by the time you make it to the official toasts at the reception, you’re really pretty tired of mingling with the same group of people and wishing Kenny and Emily a lifetime of happiness.

I’ve long bemoaned “event weddings,” but it wasn’t until I talked to a friend who was planning one of her own that I understood why the trend has become so rampant. She explained to me that, as the host, she felt she had to provide activities for her guests for every minute of the weekend. Every minute! I hereby assure all future wedding planners that you are under no such obligation. Your guests are adults, and even if they’re at a remote location, they will manage to find and feed themselves breakfast, without your organizing a scavenger hunt around the blessed meal.

For those of you who are invited to a circus wedding, take heart: You don’t have to attend every event. Choose the ones that you think will mean the most to the bride or groom. As for the others, just say you’re sorry, but you won’t be able to attend. I’ve tried this tack myself, and it works. If the bride or groom took offense, I explained that I simply wasn’t able to go to everything (there’s no need to be more specific than that) and reiterated that I would be at the rehearsal dinner and the wedding (which are pretty much nonnegotiable) with proverbial bells on. Then go hide in your hotel room, order room service, and know that you’ll be one of the few people at the wedding crying tears of joy, as opposed to tears of utter exhaustion.

—Julie Rottenberg