Being The IPO (Insignificant Plus One) At A Wedding

Hi everyone, I hope you’re all well.

I started thinking about weddings the other day; not my own (or lack of), for a change, which usually graces my brain once every 28.3 seconds; no, I started thinking about other peoples weddings that I’ve been a guest at throughout my life.

My parents got married when I was 6, and I was a bridesmaid; my presence at that wedding was pretty important I’d say. Since then, various friends and family members have tied the knot and I’ve been invited to the nuptials and felt fairly good about the whole experience. However, there is a different type of wedding attendance; a whole other ball game, one that makes even the most confident of people quake in their boots. It’s when you’re an IPO, or as I have just coined it, the Insignificant Plus One.

I’ve only ever been a genuinely wanted plus one at a grand total of ONE wedding in my life (and I’m sure since then I am very much unwanted), and that was my ex boyfriends sisters wedding. I knew the family, I was the girlfriend of one of the main attendees; I sat front pew in the church, I was placed at Table 1 during the meal (one of lifes biggest ego boosts, even if your position there is only because you’ve been shagging the main invitee); it was all well and good, essentially.

Aside from this, though, every other time I’ve been a plus one at a wedding, I know for a fact that the bride and groom couldn’t have given less of a shit if I was there or not; in fact, it’s rare I’ve even met them before I see them saying their vows.

We’ve all been there. You get together with someone. Their friend or their colleague or their cousin gets married, they’re invited, and in turn, you’re invited to be the sacred Plus One.

You panic about what to wear; you want to look nice, but you also are concerned that you know absolutely fucking no one and you don’t want to look too try-hard.

It seems months away at first, and it’s usually in a barn or a marquee or some rural location that’s 78 miles from the nearest Premier Inn and you’ve no choice but to stay upstairs in the local gastro pub in the village for a grand total of £642 a night – but apparently it’s fine because it’s got wooden beams, a tartan throw on the bed and you get breakfast the next morning and the sausages are reared 2 yards down the road.

If you’re very lucky, you’ve already met the bride, the groom or both; but generally speaking, you couldn’t identify either of them in a legal line up, and the first time you grace eyes on either is on the most important day of their lives.

I don’t know what my personal worst moment is at the weddings I’ve been an IPO at is; before the ceremony or after. Both are equally heinous for all involved parties.

Before the ceremony is pretty horrendous; you’re huddled around outside the church or in a hotel foyer or wherever it is; everyone’s greeting each other, your date is slapping people on the back, exchanging private jokes, usually dating back to when they were at secondary school together in 2002. On some occasions, to really add salt to the wound, the people you’re being introduced to aren’t called Steven and Richard, but are being referred to with ‘funny’ old school nicknames like Bucket or Choony or Ginger Nut or something equally soul destroying.

You get introduced to Bucket/Choony/Ginger Nut’s ‘other half’; they’ve usually been together since the age of 15, so all the wives and girlfriends know each other, making you feel even more like you’d love nothing more than to get the first overpriced local taxi to pick you up and return you to your gastro pub accommodation.

Sometimes, if luck is on your side, there’s another fairly new girlfriend on the scene, and you both bond over the entire horrifying experience. Little do you know, you’ll probably be doing shots of sambuca with each other later, singing Total Eclipse Of The Heart, adding each other on Facebook, checking in at The Marriott in Trowbridge or wherever it is you are and tagging each other.

The ceremony is the hard part; you feel you need to get the right balance of ‘Ahhh isn’t this all lovely’. When the bride walks down the aisle, I struggle; of course, she looks beautiful, and the whole experience is lovely, but I don’t know this person, and as someone who’s very emotional especially when it comes to weddings, I don’t want to seem like a freak who’s crying at their boyfriends old university flat mates soon-to-be wife walking down the aisle, neither of whom she’s ever met before.

After the ceremony is probably my worst part of the day to begin with; everyone stands around outside not really knowing what to do, no alcohol has been consumed yet, and you normally turn around and your date has wandered off to go and re-live an old handshake he made up with Choony when they were 14 in Maths class, and you’re literally deserted and alone in the foyer of a hotel in Chippenham surrounded by strangers who all know each other and live a maximum of 12 minutes away from each other.

My personal worst part of the day when you’re an IPO, is meeting the bride, groom or both if you haven’t already. What do you say? Hi, nice to meet you, sorry I’m a complete stranger who’s turned up on your wedding day, the meal costs about £112 a head and you’ve paid that for me and we’ve actually never met so sorry about that but yes congratulations, good will to all men!

At this point, the glasses of prosecco usually begin circulating; the common and polite rule is one each, but when you’re an IPO this rule doesn’t apply, so you take two straight off the bat and mutter something about how you must track your boyfriend down to give him his; these go straight down to take the edge off, and then if you’re feeling brave you can usually get away with approaching the youngest looking waiter and boldly taking another off the tray with a look of purpose. Who cares if they’ve only got enough welcome drinks for one each; who cares if the bride and groom themselves have to miss out? It’s the happiest day of their lives; you need a glass of Canti more than they do. If you need to, grab a fascinator or wide brimmed hat and pretend to be someone else; all that matters is getting that ethanol into your bloodstream.

When you’re seated for the meal, it’s a bit awkward at first as you get a feel for your table mates; you’re trying to gage if you’ve been sat at the fun table or the boring table. You can usually judge this by who you’ve been placed with; similarly aged people who immediately started cracking the table wine open and describing which drinking games you’re starting with mean you’ve got a Fun Table; if Auntie Margaret’s or Doris the neighbour who’s hard of hearing is next to you, you’re probably on the Boring Table; Doris hasn’t touched alcohol since the Cold War though so you’re in luck. More house white for you.

The speeches are a tough part for any IPO; the best man is cracking jokes left right and centre, the room erupts in laughter; the only problem is, the jokes are all old stories from when they were in nappies/at school/university, and you only met your date 8 months ago. Anecdote after anecdote, the grooms uncle is heckling, and the only thing keeping you going is the fact another round of prosecco has come round for the speeches, and there’s still 4 and a half bottles of table wine circulating.

The evening affair is by far the best part of what has been a fairly awkward day; most of the attendees are rat arsed, you were in the loo reapplying your lipstick when the bride crashed in and you helped hold up her dress whilst she let the floodgates open, and you’ve sat having a heart to heart with the mother of the bride for 40 minutes. The evening only attendees have arrived, and you, as an IPO at the day event, finally feel like you may not be the least welcome person in attendance.

Then, you finish it all off with a £94 out of town cab fare back to a village in the arse end of nowhere, mud caking your stilettos because you’ve spent all day drunk in a field and pretending you’re not prepared to jump 8 foot in the air to catch a bouquet of chrysanthemums, and you’ve got 6 new Facebook friends who you will categorically never speak to again in your life.

It’s all fun and games being an IPO.

Speak soon.

All my love BGP xx