7 steps for surviving a destination wedding

It always sounds like it’s going to be fun. Your friend is getting married somewhere exotic and has invited you to come along. What’s not to love? Really, everything. Destination weddings are recipes for disaster. They are even worse when it’s your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend or family member who has the connection. Quickly, you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t interest you in an environment dominated by group activities.

It seems like there’s no way out. Just accept the fact that you’ll sit through many meals over several days with the same people. You’ll hear the same self-important douche hold forth over the mundane details of his unimportant life. Friends of the bride will jockey for favor in front of you. And, you’ll be somewhere incredibly interesting and unable to enjoy it … unless you follow my advice.

Before I get started, a few notes for anyone inclined to comment on this story:

  • Yes, I am lucky to be married, and no, you wouldn’t want to be married to me
  • I know you wouldn’t tolerate my behavior at your wedding
  • You’d probably kick me out (and I’d be fine with that)

Okay, my destination wedding survival tips are after the jump!
1. Become a smoker

If you aren’t a smoker yet, take up the filthy habit. It’s a great way to disappear for lengths of time that are entirely up to you. Everyone will be disgusted with you, but they probably would be anyway. So, now you have the chance to disappear for a while, and nobody will follow you because they think your habit is vile. It’s perfect! I happen to be a cigar smoker, which is even better. Nobody has any interest in coming near me, and one smoke buys me a minimum of 45 minutes of solitude.

This tactic becomes even more powerful when you combine it with one of the others, particularly bringing a book or being involved in work-related phone calls or e-mailing. These other activities give you something to do when you’re smoking. At the destination wedding I attended in Helsinki, I just called my father. When someone walked by, I put a panicked look on my face to make it look like work. I doubt anybody believed me, but I figured I got points for trying.

2. Don’t be afraid to piss off your spouse/partner
All it takes is one public argument to embarrass your reason for being at this event, and you will have a free pass for the rest of the trip. Why? There is nothing worse than fighting in front of people whose opinions matter to you. But, if you are dragged to the wedding at your partner’s behest, you have nothing to lose. One scuffle, and you can do what you want. You’ll be amazed at what your significant other will endure to avoid a public display of contempt.

You will have an unspoken strain permeating your relationship during the trip. The good news, however, is that you’ll be forgiven when you get home. Things that happen on the road tend to stay there. If you can handle a week of a mild discomfort, everything else is easy.

3. Bring something to read
This really is the apex of antisocial behavior. There is nothing quite like cracking open Mary Roach’s Spook during the wedding ceremony (funny that I can be guilty of this but not feel guilty at all). When you read at a gathering, you’re sending a pretty clear message. Nobody will bother you. They know to stay away.

Okay, since there’s no such thing as a free lunch, I’m going to suggest that you bring Best Sex Writing 2009 to the next destination wedding you’re forced to attend. There are several reasons for you to read this important work of non-fiction. First, there’s nothing like that four-letter word in a three-letter word’s body to offend everyone around you. It’s like cigar smoke on steroids. Next, actually reading the book will show you that there are many important issues regarding sexuality that should be explored. Finally, I have an essay in it. I’d like to have an essay in the 2010 volume (HINT, HINT, Rachel Kramer Bussel!).

4. Remember that you’re indispensable at work
Before I realized the power of the three tools above, I found myself at a rehearsal dinner (#1) without a cigars, (#2) while trying to keep my wife happy and (#3) sans book. Needless to say, this is the last time I let that happen while stuck at this wedding in Finland. So, I had to pretend that I was working on a critical problem for my employer … you know, the folks who “pay the bills.” It’s hard to say “no” to that! As I pecked away at my Blackberry, of course, my colleagues were getting incredibly annoyed. They actually had work to do.

For extra effect, call someone (anyone will do), and engage in some talk that sounds business-related. Then, end it with, “C’mon, man. I’m just trying to get away for a couple of days. Can’t you have [random name] handle it?” Pause, sigh and continue, “Yeah, I know it’s important. I’ll be available if you need me, but only if you need me.” Nobody will believe you (unless you’re a better liar than I am), but at least you’ll know you’ve tried to make an excuse.

Tip: If you’re phone doesn’t ring, answering it isn’t believable. So, pretend you got an e-mail asking you to call someone. Or, e-mail a co-worker and ask that he or she call you.

5. Argue with people, preferably family members of the bride or groom
If you are an awful conversationalist, nobody will want to talk to you. So, try to drive all discussions toward the big three: politics, religion and money. Make sure you are as contrarian as possible. Surrounded by conservatives? You just became a liberal! Bring up the lost promise of the Dukakis campaign. Take a stand, and make your point aggressively. Above all else, know that you are always right, and use that position of intellectual superiority to guide every interaction.

Now, you have to be careful with this one. If you are too pushy and rude, the whole thing will blow up in your face. Being left alone is a lot different from being banned from all activities. So, don’t raise your voice or insult anyone (directly). Just make it clear that you are never going to agree with whoever is stuck talking to you. Be dismissive. That way, you can poke your target without being overtly rude.

6. Avoid the shithead
You’ll always find at least one. At the last wedding I attended, there were several (one in particular was a douche with an internship who believed it mattered). Arguing with this guy (#5) will not cut your way. He’s an asshole, and because of his long ties to some schmuck involved with the wedding, he can get away with it. You can’t. Engaging this presence will only be trouble for you.

Avoid, avoid, avoid.

You’ll know who the asshole is within the first hour of the multi-day destination wedding experience. Avoid him at all costs. Run to the bathroom if you must, just to wait for the coast to clear. If he’s approaching, pull out your Blackberry and pretend you just got an urgent e-mail. Just get away, and stay away.

7. Choose what to skip
Especially for some psychotic brides, everything may be scripted. So, you could wind up staring down several days in a cool place with absolutely no freedom to explore what you want. That’s bullshit. You know it; I know it. Don’t treat the itinerary as mandatory. Feel free to blow off dinners or gatherings in order to go see or do what turns you on.

My first night in Helsinki, I skipped some quasi-bachelor party (I don’t do saunas, and they don’t do strippers) to explore the city’s art galleries. It was the best night of my trip. Sure, I got some grief for not being a “team player,” but I didn’t care. I was actually happy.

Remember, ev
ery day is a struggle to preserve your sanity.

Don’t step off the plane planning to enjoy yourself. That’s not why you’re attending the destination wedding. Instead, develop little tactics for extracting what pleasure you can from the experience without damaging any relationships irreparably.

You won’t be happy, and you aren’t going to make anybody happy. Don’t try: just get by.

[Photos from Migrant Blogger]