The Lone(ly) Attendant

A lonely attendant is sad, but can also be destructive on your wedding day. Brides and grooms ask important people in their lives to stand with them on their wedding day. These people can be friends or relatives, and can come from different parts of their lives. But you will want to think about the dynamics of these people as a group, too, or you can find yourself with a difficult situation on your hands.

College friends, work colleagues, childhood friends, cousins and siblings are all frequent choices for your attendants, and all can work well. But be careful if all but one of your attendants come from one part of your life. For example, four of your attendants are siblings and cousins, and your fifth attendant is a friend from college. In this kind of group the friend can feel very much an outsider. The other attendants have a shared history, are comfortable with each other, and have an established dynamic. If this group does not make an extra effort to include the lone friend in activities like hosting a shower or planning the bachelor or bachelorette party, the wedding weekend can be very awkward. As the bride or groom, you will have many things pulling at you during the weekend, and will not be able to spend a lot of time with your friend. They will have to fend for themselves, and, if not welcomed by the rest of your attendants, can feel very left out and alone.

The truth is that during the wedding day there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” going on. Commonly, for example, the women meet for hair and make-up in the morning, and then wait until everyone is ready to move on. Then everyone gets dressed and waits for pictures to start. Pictures themselves involve a lot of waiting around as different groups are positioned and photographed. Then there’s more waiting for the ceremony to begin, and then a social hour before dinner. At each of these points the lone friend who is not actively included by other attendants is left standing alone on the sidelines. At best they will feel awkward and uncomfortable. At worst they will turn to alcohol to cope. It’s not a far-fetched or even unusual occurrence. At one wedding this year there was an attendant who was so inebriated by the time the wedding ceremony rolled around that they were unable to walk down the aisle and participate in the ceremony. The bride was understandably upset, but with a few quick adjustments to the processional, everything went forward smoothly – minus the drunk attendant.

There is no question that the attendant’s behavior was inappropriate. They were anxious, lonely, and unhappy. They turned to alcohol to try to feel better in the moment. It didn’t work, and it caused additional problems and stress for the wedding couple, which is really too bad. But I do have some sympathy for the lonely attendant, too. I think the best way to handle the situation would have been to either avoid it by not asking them to be in the bridal party (but maybe finding another special role for them – reader at the ceremony, for example) or by asking your other attendants to make a special effort to include the friend in the group activities throughout the weekend, or even asking one of them to be an official “buddy” to your friend.

Standing up in a wedding is expensive and time consuming as well as an honor. It should be a fun experience, too. So if you decide to have a lone attendant, help make sure that they are accepted and included by other attendants. Your efforts will help ensure a happy day for everyone without the drama and disruption I witnessed.