Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Worst Man: I'm the Friend You Didn't Invite to Your Wedding

5167193848_a998b631a9_zMy friend Stephen planned his wedding very carefully. He picked Howe Caverns, in upstate New York, for the ceremony because it was a favorite weird-but-cool destination of himself and his then-finance. He roped in a mutual friend of ours to perform the ceremony; he timed the whole thing to coincide with the annual Perseids meteor shower. I wasn’t invited.

Stephen told me later that only the immediate families were there. He didn’t want to deal with having a big event, he said—“fretting over orders of centerpieces or picking hydrangeas versus birds of paradise”—or the logistics of wrangling friends to leave the city. “Plus, we knew we’d be having a nice big party here in the city,” he said with a nervous laugh. “You weren’t invited to that, either.”

In fact, none of my adult friends have ever invited me to their weddings. Not Stephen or Tom and Kim or Mary and James or Annabel and Nick or anyone else. When I bring this up, people laugh, and they almost always say, “No! Really?”

It’s not, as it turns out, very easy to ask why you haven’t been invited to someone’s wedding, even if they’ve agreed to talk to you about it ahead of time as part of a totally judgment-free piece that’s really just an exploration and definitely not some bitter, crazy exercise in blame. When the crucial moment comes, they shy away; the conversation sort of steers itself in other directions: Have you run into so-and-so lately? How many kids is it you have these days? It’s like running into a burning building, again and again and again.

The first person I asked was my friend Tom. We first met in 2004 when I moved to New York. He knew many of my college friends, but somehow we never met at school. We hung out furiously for several years; we watched all of Firefly together and went to see Revenge of the Sith with a big group. Eventually, we stopped hanging out regularly (according to Facebook, the last time I’d contacted him was on December 8th, 2007), but we’d still run into each other at parties or concerts and catch up. He married someone else from our social circle last October, and I was not invited. When I messaged him to ask why, Tom told me that he was leaving town for Europe and wouldn’t be able to speak with me. I was a little relieved to escape talking with him. I’d avoided even reading his reply to my message for several days because I had convinced myself that it would be full of angry recriminations—“Why would you ask me this?” We ran into each other at a party a few weeks later, and neither of us brought it up.

Stephen had immediately agreed to talk with me (and, for good measure, sent me an invitation to his baby shower). Though we’ve never really hung out one-on-one, we’ve known each other for about twelve years, since working at the same college radio station; we were part of a crew of several dozen that moved to New York, though only eight of us are still here. When I described our relationship to him as “a long-term-acquaintanceship,” he took exception.

“I’d call you a friend!” he responded quickly. “If you were hit by a car, I’d come visit you in the hospital. I’d watch your cat.”

I was touched. “Would you really watch my cat?” I asked him.

There was a pause. “Wait, do you actually have one?”

I’ve had the same cat since 2003.

Stephen had several theories about why we’re still technically friends, even though we’ve never been close. “Because we’ve never been like super super close,” he offered, “we’ve never had the opportunity to have a falling out.” He also suggested that, after knowing each other for so many years, we have a kind of “common-law friendship.” These were comforting ideas. But it’s hard to deny that some kind of gulf had formed between us over the years: Until our phone call, I hadn’t realized he’d planned his entire wedding in the wake of his father’s death. If I didn’t even know that, why would I have possibly been at his wedding?

Another friend of mine, Mary, got married in May in the barn at Fallingwater, Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece outside Pittsburgh, where she grew up. She was more blunt. “I never thought of you at all!” she told me, laughing. “Oh, God. Sorry!”

I asked Mary if her husband was originally from that area, too. “They’re from here,” she said. “I’m actually from Maryland.” Oh, Christ; I was sure she was from Pennsylvania. Maybe she went to college in Pennsylvania? I don’t know. I had to look up the name of her husband on Facebook.

While speaking, we figured out that it had been at least five years since we saw each other, and those times mostly revolved around Mad Men viewing parties. Still, three of my best friends are also her best friends. Doesn’t this give me some kind of halo effect, a friendship-by-proxy?

“I know you didn’t think—you didn’t really think that you were going to be invited to my wedding,” she said at one point. It would have been insane to invite me. But that doesn’t mean that secretly, somewhere, I didn’t want an invitation to show up in the mail.

The only non-related adult person who has ever invited me to celebrate a marriage was Marie, my very first New York City boss at my very first New York City job. I was extremely young and she much older and wiser; I was 24, and she was 26.

Her ceremony was at a country club-ish place near the water in Massapequa, Long Island, during a hurricane. I was the only person there from work; I remember looking around at dinner and suddenly realizing how thoroughly I did not know anyone else in the room; I had never even met her fiancé before. After the ceremony, it was impossible to find a cab, and so my then-girlfriend and I and rode to the LIRR in a limo with some strangers. I drank too much at the open bar and watched the water smash against the dock outside. Marie was incredibly gracious. We danced together, I think. Maybe? It was a good night.

How did I end up at that wedding and not the others? I realized that in the weeks leading up to the wedding, Marie had been talking about it constantly (as people tend to do) and one day I semi-jokingly said that I was still waiting on my invitation. Ha ha ha. She looked away before saying, “Oh. Ah, yes. Of course.”

That was the only reason I was invited, she told me over the phone. In fact, that’s how many of the other guests were invited. “It’s one of those things like when you’re creating invitations and someone’s like, oh, that would be fun, and you’re like, oh shit, was I supposed to invite them?” she told me. “That happened to me a few times. I assumed if people asked, I was like, okay, sure! I didn’t really know any better.”

I guess I always imagined I’d established some kind of permanent place in the hearts and minds of the people I’d met in my life and that “not talking to someone” was a temporary condition. Maybe it is. But the more births and deaths and weddings and pregnancies you miss, the more you move from “needing to catch up” to hardly knowing someone at all.

We want to believe that there’s order and purpose in the universe, and that things happen for a reason, which we can then understand. The bleak outcome of this process was the discovery that there wasn’t a reason that I had been left out. I didn’t do anything that made anyone angry; I didn’t say anything rude; I didn’t offend anyone by missing a party. It’s just no one thought of me. When they thought of everyone they know who lives nearby and who might want to celebrate a marriage with them, I simply did not cross their mind.

Chris Chafin is a writer living in New York City who finds people endlessly weird and interesting.

Photo by Sarah Parrott

20 Comments / Post A Comment

whizz_dumb (#10,650)

I get invited to a few weddings per year (lately) and it's no cup of tea: it's either costly and takes up my vacation time or I feel guilty about not going and not buying them gifts. Cherish your open schedule and traveling funds.

EM (#244,697)

Oh god my terror of casual or formerly-close-but-not-so-much-anymore friends asking me why they didn't get invited to my wedding is an ongoing concern.

denarcisster (#285,613)

yea dude, i've been to one of these weddings and you didn't miss much

omitofo (#4,921)

I am not married, but creating a guest list for a wedding/paying for a wedding is seriously so fucking stressful sounding.

Wow. I can appreciate that this was done for the sake of an article, but I am so uncomfortable with the author asking his not-really-friends-anymore why he was not invited to their weddings. Weddings are expensive. Typically, families get priority on the invites, leaving few spots for friends, especially ones not spoken to in five years!

maebe33 (#260,817)

it sounds like you weren't really friends? weddings are expensive, you can't invite everyone you used to be friends with once upon a time. maybe they did think of you but since you hadn't talked in 5 years, didn't want to stretch the budget for every acquaintance at this level? don't take it personally. and like others said, would you really even want to be at these weddings? they were probably boring and filled with acquaintances/people you don't know.

It's almost as if everything isn't always about you.

Jed Smith@facebook (#16,415)

@Lily Hudson@facebook It's almost as if this piece was written with humor in mind and not out of navel-gazing solipsism

Jed Smith@facebook (#16,415)

@Lily Hudson@facebook It's almost as if this piece was written with humor in mind and not out of navel-gazing solipsism

black rabbit (#10,816)

I've been invited to two "friend" weddings in my life. One was a legitimate friend – my former bass player who quit the band because I drank too much. Still, he put me in the wedding party with all of his Catholic high school friends. That was nice, I guess. It was also 14 years ago.

This year, at 36, I finally got invited to my second – my wife's cousin, but we're really closer to bride, in a sit together and smoke on the patio at The Bar kind of way. The only reason we went was to ogle her sister, who has been a semi-famous actress on a couple of reasonably successful 2nd-tier cable network dramas and well-regarded indie films, and is very, very skinny in real life. We left before the meal and got loaded at a nearby Old Man Bar.

You're not missing much.

awler72 (#285,696)

I'm confused. You're using the word "friend" but these people aren't your friends, at all. Do you have a best friend? I go to [and current] friend group? Surely, you've been invited to or will be invited to those weddings. The people you interviewed are acquaintances and friends- of- friends which don't make them your friend. Either you get to close to people in your head/over estimate your relationships or you've forgotten the definition of close friend! Weird

alicesherman (#237,158)

You know, I mean, a wedding could just be a big party, rather than the albatross that everyone makes planning it out to be.

Ralph Haygood (#13,154)

@alicesherman: My domestic partner of 14 years and I agree that the only thing that tempts us to get married is the excuse to throw a big party for as many of our friends as possible. Of course, we could skip getting married and throw a party anyway, but many of our friends probably wouldn't come from far away "just" for a party. It's sad.

it seems really reasonable that you didn't score invites in these cases. however, i loved this article because i am haunted by the person who didn't invite me to hers, despite being invited to mine.

I notice that among the few weddings I have gone to, the weddings are wonderful. Exciting. Fun even. And if I am there, the bride and groom usually separate within two years. Those friends who invite me to weddings, but then something happens and I don't make it, those couples stay together. I seem to be the kiss of death for a marriage's longevity. So I don't worry about whether I will be invited or not, but whether I will jinx the marriage.

Just Vicldoo (#285,852)

SHE GOT MARRIED! Tracey Maguire the author of 'The Worker in Me' tied the knot. Who was and wasn't invited, bears thinking about. Its a corker of a book. It was a corker of a wedding. She has the most interesting book trailer if you have a couple of minutes to google it. This is a book that stickybeaks will feed on!

I really liked this. I had friends who are part of my social circle (not my super close friends but people I see in person on a regular basis) who didn't invite me to their weddings. I found out about them on facebook and I'll admit it bummed me a little for I totally planned to invite them to mine someday (if/when it happens). It's funny how social media makes us feel things we never would have felt if it wasn't around.

they just didn't invite you so they could save a few bucks for the reservation. don't fuss over it. even that will fade away.

flg2010 (#288,378)

I had this happen to me twice: one was a work friend that worked for me at 2 different jobs for over a decade (I brought him along to next job), the other was a cousin. Our family is not very close so I can forgive the cousin, hell we never talk anyways.

As for the former employee, well we were for many years drinking pals before I cut down to be healthier. In addition he was invited to my wedding and he attended. The thing is he was only a "work friend" so I totally get it that I was not good enough to invite. This does not however diminish the feeling of simply being overlooked and quite frankly hurt.

What I have learned in my 44 years of existence on this planet is that as you get older you have fewer and fewer real friends. In the end its your spouse that matters the most so hopefully that person you marry will be the "right" one. I can say I only have a few acquaintances and only one real friend, my wife. No one else really matters.

I saved a few 100 bucks not having to go to my former employee and work friend's wedding. While I am slightly hurt I have to reflect on the fact that spending a bunch of hours with people I do not know or will ever know in real life is a poor use of time anyways.

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