Q: My wedding is less than two weeks away, and I’ve got all kinds of anxiety and worries I could be asking about… but here’s the one that I really need help with. I’ve struggled with starting and nurturing friendships my entire adult life. I’m usually pretty okay with the fact that I am an extreme introvert, I don’t have a friend group, and I don’t have a best friend. I’m close to some of my family, have some people that I like hanging out with, and I’m happy with the amount of socializing that I do. I do sometimes feel embarrassed about not having friends, but right now I’m in a pretty good place. There are some points in my life that I would have had ZERO friends to invite to a wedding, and I’m excited about the people that I have now.
My mom and sister are having a small PG-rated bachelorette party for me the week of my wedding. I had a tiny number of guests that it made sense to invite; I don’t think all of them will actually come, and I’m feeling self-conscious (almost none of them know each other and most are either new or distant friends). I know this isn’t a unique situation and others have been there. I saw a comment in an APW post where a reader mentioned a bridal shower she went to at which the bride made a really awkward toast about not having any female friends (to the group of women who all showed up to support her). I want to stay positive and make it a good experience for everyone who attends, but I’m nervous that it will be really awkward and I’m going to be fighting embarrassment. I know my mom is embarrassed by how few friends I have and wishes I had friend groups the way she does and my sister does, so that adds another layer of discomfort for me. Social cues are not easy for me. Can you help give me some tips or guidelines for how to navigate this situation?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Most wedding events are mildly, benignly awkward. That’s just how it is, and most guests won’t expect otherwise. It’s clear that you feel like you’re painting a bleak picture here, but the bare bones are pretty much exactly what everyone else is dealing with. A small handful of strangers who’ve never met before? Not being sure who is going to attend and if they’ll have a good time? This isn’t your introversion; this is just weddings.
It sounds like you’re completely comfortable with being a small-number-of-friends kind of gal, but in case your mom is getting to you, let me remind you: you are selective, not abandoned. You picked people to have in your life that you’re excited about, and that is the whole purpose of friendship. Sometimes we can think about this sort of thing all backwards, as if not having piles of friends means you’re not worthy or falling short. Nah, dude. It just means you don’t want to spend your limited socializing energy with people you only kind of like.
You’re buying into a completely false narrative here. You say you’re “embarrassed about not having friends.” But later on, you also say, “I’m in a pretty good place… I’m excited about the people that I have now.” Those are friends! You have friends! They may not look like your mom’s or your sister’s friends (seriously, ignore your mom, she’s projecting). They may not be the friends-from-childhood of wedding blogs, or the perfect group of tight-knit BFF’s in romcoms. But adult friendships look all kinds of ways, and the people in your life that you’re excited about? They’re you’re friends.
So you have no reason to feel embarrassed. But just in case you do still feel a smidge embarrassed, I’m going to give you some Life Advice. When you’re in an uncomfortable situation, the most gracious way to handle it is by focusing on the comfort of the people around you and ignoring your discomfort completely. That sounds like some patriarchal self-sacrificial bullshit, right? But that’s not what I’m saying. It’s pretty unlikely that anyone else will find it weird that you have a very small bachelorette party. So get out of your head. Stop projecting your discomfort onto them. Don’t even acknowledge it! I try to remember this when friends stop by and the house is a mess. Is saying, “Omg I’m so sorry, the place is a disaster!” going to make ME feel more comfortable? Nah. Will it make THEM feel more comfortable? Hell no, it’ll just loop them in on feeling awkward with me. So instead, ignore it all, swing an arm across a table, pushing all the crayons and bills and crumpled paper airplanes to the floor, and set out some chipped mugs of coffee. Allow yourself to ignore all the rest and just enjoy your friends. Pretend like everything is fine. Because everything is fine, once you quit your cringing.
A small bachelorette party of assorted random strangers is totally, completely normal. That’s what most of these wedding events end up being, really. And that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun! Step outside of your own embarrassment and enjoy being with your friends. If they’re coming to your party, that’s the one and only reason they’re there.