Why I Refuse To Catch Bouquets At Weddings
It’s wedding season and it got me thinking about how much I love weddings.
More than I love weddings, I love being single at weddings because I get to dress up and it is the one place where it is perfectly acceptable for a single woman in high heels to work the dance floor alongside other people with whom I don’t really have to engage. I mean, what’s not to love?
I also greatly appreciate that food and drinks can be consumed without gratuitous chit-chat. I love weddings.
But, my excitement in hunting for a new dress for an upcoming wedding has awakened the reality that being single at a wedding can also present significant challenges.
Well, one major one comes to mind: The Bouquet Challenge.
As a friend of the groom or his family, I can usually get out of this. But, as a friend of the bride, it takes strategy. Now, I don’t believe in these rituals and I certainly don’t really think that if you catch the thing you’ll get married. But, why risk it, right?
Last year, I attended a girlfriend’s wedding. I had given the bouquet thing some thought, and I had a failsafe plan. Due diligence: as soon as I got to the reception, and after they introduce Mr. and Mrs., I cajoled the lineup from the DJ.
As the song before The Challenge played, I slowly started my exit. Just as I cleared the crowd — I could see the wide-open hallway to hide-a-way within a few steps — I heard “Angeletta” across the sound. Holding the hem of her dress and in a tone more coy than obtuse, the bride unblushingly asked: “Where are you going?”
She knew what I was up to. I confidently explained: “I’m going to the bathroom.” It was an open bar after all.
“No, I’m about to throw the bouquet. Come on”
I was genteel in my noncompliance, “I’m not even dating. I think you have to be dating.”
Lovingly dismissive, she started in the opposite direction: “OK. Hurry I’ll wait.”
Temporarily defeated, but quickly revising my strategy, I relented: “No, I can wait.”
After all, I love weddings. I mean, why make a big deal about it? It’s 3 minutes and she’s my friend.
Honestly, it just wasn’t appropriate to make a philosophical statement or engage in an ideological conversation about the value of marriage or the cultural aversion to singleness.
It is a wedding for goodness sake! Wrong Place. Wrong Time.
So, as Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” blared, the DJ announced “Will all the single ladies come to the dance floor? All the single ladies. It’s about you now, ladies. He put a ring on it tonight, who’s next? Put your hands up.
He went on mixing and scratching the bridge. “We might be making a love connection,” he said as he boasted how he DJed a wedding where the bouquet and garter were caught by people who met at the wedding, became a couple, and later got married.
“Really!? ” I cynically muttered. “He says that at every wedding and it’s probably not even true.”
I took my spot.
As my gleeful friend threw me a smile, it was confirmed. This was a set-up. She was going to throw it inescapably my way. Then, it came to me. Plan B: I’ll just put myself out of range and separate from the pack.
Initiate operation: Out of Bounds.
As soon as she turned her back, and the crowd began the countdown, “One… Two…”, I bolted to the outer edge of the circle of hopefuls. Much to my chagrin, she faced us on 3, quickly spun around, and, on no count, launched the bouquet over her head.
Before I could react and relocate, the tightly bound yellow and white roses came at my head like an asteroid falling from the sky.
As I shielded my face, my ears rang with a loud screech as I felt a strong shove from my left. I was Single on the Sideline and nearly Single Woman Down.
Thank goodness for the solid core and ankle control from years of figure skating, not to mention the reflexive stiff arm practiced while watching too many NFL games. I stayed vertical though, showered by the dislodged rose petals softly careening to Earth.
The overjoyed next-to-wed guest smiled effusively, clutching the now sparse bouquet close to her chest. She shot me a quick glance and a slightly disingenuous “Are you okay?”
I firmly replied, “I really wasn’t trying to catch it.” I had survived.
The passive aggression of this ritual is bewildering to me. And I suspect that’s because it is based on what I deem a false assumption: that single women are just waiting for someone to “put a ring on it”. That all single women are in fact, unmarried women.
Unmarried women at weddings respond eagerly to Beyoncé’s call to “put your hands up” when brides throw bouquets. Single women join me on the margins. We are the marginalized, the misunderstood, and the outsiders.
The difference you see is that unmarried women are “single until…” They are the proverbial ladies in waiting for the one to “deliver [them] to a destiny”, as Beyoncé sings it.
We, the single women, are happily invested in being single. And this is why I never catch bouquets at weddings.
Some of us don’t believe in marriage. Some of us realize that we are just better at dating. Some of us indulge in wanderlust. Some of us just like our space. Many of us single women are willing to commit to relationships.
I have, most recently for 10 years, give or take. But, the idea of no longer being single, of being married, does give me pause.
Perhaps because I understand too well what marriage is: a promise to everyone (those who come to the wedding to witness and those who argue the merits of the institution more generally) and God that until I draw my last breath, I will be with this person and only this person.
I plan to live for 114 years, so promising to give someone 75 of those years, 50, or even 60, is more than I can honestly do. I don’t know that I will want them when I am 75 years old. Maybe I will. But the vows don’t say maybe. The contract does not have a loophole.
I have made a vow to God and men, women, and children to love myself until I am dead. And building that love, maintaining that intimacy, is my covenant.
The level of investment you must make in yourself to be happily married, to build an intimacy beyond romantic love that can last a lifetime, is work I’m not designed to do. I am not wired that way.
And rather than lament that, I embrace it. And that embrace is confirmed every day as a valuable and necessary endeavor for the single, and yes, for the unmarried too.
One thing is for sure true: marriage isn’t the wedding. Marriage isn’t a glorious pageant. Marriage is a series of unpredictable events. And because I know that, I am not unmarried.
I am single. I advocate for women who have chosen to live single, to live not unmarried but boldly single. Because I believe that for many of us, being single is:
- A principled choice.
- Living with the intention to pursue fulfillment and joy.
- Full embrace and honest self-awareness.
- A life that results from choosing self, without guilt or shame.
My friend was very well-meaning and her firm belief in the limitless happiness that marriage promises and her love for me drove her to set me up for the bouquet blunder. It was a well-intentioned thing. But as I explained to her later, I am not unhappy.
I am happily in a long-term relationship with me.
Though I sometimes share myself with others and enjoy companionship, I am not kissing frogs. My affairs have done little to nothing to inspire me to abandon my commitment to wanderlust and solitude. Maybe I could have more, but I know that it can’t be better.
More importantly, the decision isn’t binary: to marry or not marry. There is another choice: being single.
And I put my hands up for that. I’m here for it, and I dance at every wedding, in my high heels, celebrating that choice.