A wedding season survival kit, with tips from the pros

People dancing at a wedding reception. (Getty Images)
People dancing at a wedding reception. (Getty Images)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's Saturday morning newsletter, The Weekender. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

The 2023 wedding season is in full swing, shaping up to be nearly as large as 2022.

After two years of stalled nuptials due to the pandemic, weddings began to pick back up in 2022, which experts called the “boom year." Wedding bells rang out at nearly 2.4 million ceremonies in the United States alone. (There hadn’t been that number of weddings in the U.S. since 1984.) And in 2023, 2.24 million wedding ceremonies are projected to happen nationwide.

For those with numerous invitations and save-the-dates stuck to their refrigerators, the season can be daunting. Figuring out guest etiquette can be confusing for inexperienced attendees. And let’s not forget how overwhelming the whirlwind of a wedding day must be for those in a starring role.

On a scale from “forced to be there” to “overjoyed parent,” I would consider myself one of the more excitable guests at a wedding. I cry when the newlyweds profess their love for one another. And by the end of the night, I’m dancing with somebody’s elderly relative, even if I don’t know who’s side of the family they’re on.

If not fun, I believe weddings can be bearable. That’s why I’ve pulled together these tips for surviving wedding season to make the big day — whether you’re a plus-one, an honored guest or at the altar — go a little smoother.

For the plus-one…

A friend-of-a-friend’s wedding can mean free food, lots of dancing and a chance to meet new people. But it’s not your main character moment, Jen Glantz, a wedding expert and bridesmaid-for-hire, recently told NPR’s Life Kit podcast. (And yes, that’s a real job.) Professional wingman Thomas Edwards concurred: Be confident and bring good energy, but be careful not to steal the spotlight, he said.

If you’re feeling shy or tired, don’t feel like every moment needs to be spent in raucous celebration. One of the best parts of a big party is being able to disappear among the crowd. “When in doubt, be an alien,” says matchmaker Amy Van Doran. “Approach [being a plus-one] with curiosity.” You can talk to someone new, or simply observe your surroundings and take in the vibes.

If you’re asked to make a speech…

So, you’ve been asked to give a toast. While it can be a great honor to hear your loved one wants to make space for your voice at their wedding, writing a speech — especially if you are not an experienced public speaker — can be an excruciating process. We’ve all sat through overly formulaic speeches or long ones that simply don’t get to the point. If you want to deliver something memorable, here are seven tips on how to sound more like yourself.

Worried you might stumble over your words? I also asked the WBUR newsroom’s radio professionals for their suggestions on how to take your words from the page to the podium. Here’s what they said:

  • “Don’t write anything down to read! Just speak. If you do feel more comfortable writing something down, make your sentences shorter. If a sentence has lots of commas and clauses, it’s going to be hard to read and hard for the audience to follow.” — Ally Jarmanning, reporter
  • “If it’s not something you usually say, like a certain phrase or wording, a wedding toast might not be the best time to test it out. Have your speech sound like you; it doesn’t need to be a certain level of fancy. Also, especially for a wedding toast, short and sweet is better than long and rambling.” — Meghan Kelly, editor
  • “If you need notes, a single notecard with bullet points might be best. Not sentences. Just one or two words to jar your memory.” — Todd Wallack, correspondent
  • “It helps to write your copy and then hear someone else read it, and then get feedback when you read it.” — Rupa Shenoy, Morning Edition host

And for those tying the knot…

Anyone who’s planned a wedding will tell you that ceremonies are often laden with traditions, some of which are carried out only to appease relatives or friends. When certain traditions become overwhelming or painfully obligatory, it’s okay to break them. This Life Kit episode explores how to communicate your decision to your loved ones and gives tips on how to create new traditions that will fulfill you and reflect your values.

P.S.— It can be unfortunate to spend a lot of money on a wedding, only for so many of the items to go to waste. Listen to this Radio Boston segment to hear how three wedding vendors have strategized to make ceremonies more sustainable.

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Hanna Ali Associate Producer
Hanna Ali is an associate producer for newsletters at WBUR.



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