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Two of my friends are getting married. As their wedding day approaches, so do the social gatherings. As a member of the wedding party, my role in these gatherings is to be the assistant host. The wedding party is responsible for ensuring these events go smoothly and that the bride, groom and their guests are enjoying themselves. Taking on a leadership role and partaking in small talk is required. These two criteria are a struggle for me in my daily life. However, reminding myself that these events are for my friend’s soon-to-be union and not myself helps. Here are a couple of additional tips I follow that have helped me through the engagement parties, bridal showers and so on:

1. How do you know the bride/groom? 

This may be a cliche opener, but it is an effective conversation starter. While I have closely known the bride and groom for a couple of years, there are plenty of people at these events whom I have never met or heard about. This opening line places everyone on a level playing field where you can share as much personal information as you please. If the conversation lags a bit you can also always come back to the bride and groom because they are the main event after all. I despise small talk, so being able to have an opening line and a go-to topic boosts my confidence.

2. Keep Busy

Before, during and after an event the wedding party should be busy. There is always something that needs to be done. After I have made my social rounds for the first fifteen minutes of an event I will look around the room to see where I can help. I usually look for the parents of the bride and groom. They are constantly keeping themselves busy rather than enjoying the party. However, the parents have earned the right to enjoy their child’s celebration rather than cleaning up. After I have hunted down a parent I usually ask if I can help or if they would like a break and then there you go – you have a job. Instead of looking at it as being anti-social, you are being proactive while taking a much needed break from small talk.

3. Bride and Groom Watch

At my friend’s Jack and Jill party I was constantly sneaking outside for fresh air. It was nice to be away from the crowd and it was a warm venue. After my third time sneaking outside I realized that the guests were doing the same. However, the bride and groom were nowhere in sight. I went back inside and sure enough I saw the bride and groom fanning themselves while speaking to their guests. Both had been so occupied talking to the guests and being hosts that they did not have time to go outside and take a needed breather. I first went to the bride and slowly joined their conversation as I then asked the guest if she had seen the raffle table so the bride could make a quick escape. The plan worked and with a grateful nod the bride ran to the bathroom before anyone else tried to sneak a chat with her. What helped me was focusing on the bride and groom’s needs and almost transferring my distress and doubling it to how the bride and groom must feel. Being occupied with how the bride and groom must be feeling helped distract myself from my anxieties for the remainder of the night.

4.  Dance Like No One is Watching

After everyone has introduced themselves and their stomachs are filled with sweets and alcoholic beverages, they move their way to the dance floor. Dancing, like many other things, is something I like to do in the privacy of my own home. When I go on the dance floor I feel like everyone’s eyes are targeted on the abnormal way my body is moving to the rhythm of the music. I also am completely uncoordinated so if I am moving my hips the rest of my body remains immobile. Besides the fact that I am terrible at dancing it is again something that is required of the wedding party to do. Thankfully, you can also use this obligation to your advantage. If you look around the room there is usually someone who is in need of a dance partner (no matter how unfitting a dancing partner you may be). For example, children, grandparents, a solo uncle and so on. For my friend’s Jack and Jill there was the groom’s uncle sitting on the sidelines. I asked him to dance and before you know it I was dancing and enjoying myself. While my dancing did not improve, knowing that I had made another person smile and helped the groom and bride in a small way helped me dance in public.

The overall theme of these tips is to concentrate on the bride and groom’s needs. While my mind would often wander to my anxieties, focusing on why everyone is attending helps. Looking at the big picture helps manage my anxiety and allows me to genuinely enjoy myself at these parties. It also gets better as you get closer to the wedding. At the engagement party most people are strangers to one another. However, by the time the Jack and Jill swings around you are seeing familiar faces and are ready to party it up at the bachelorette party.


About Hilary M

Hilary M is a twenty-something Toronto student who is living with social anxiety. She considers herself an ally with people living with disabilities and enjoys working and volunteering at organizations that secure human rights and accessibility for all individuals.

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