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I was invited to a wedding but told not to bring a guest

Join Globe writers David Eddie and Sarah Hampson for an evening of conversation. Click here for details.

The question

I am a single woman in my 40s. Recently, I was happy to receive a wedding invitation from a male friend and his live-in girlfriend. Since the invitation did not mention whether I could bring a date, I called my friend to ask. The bride-to-be told me that I should know that if the invitation does not specifically mention anybody else, then it is for me alone. She also told me that the dinner was costing them $80 per plate, and they "can't afford to have everybody bring their friends." I told her that I was not asking her to change her policy, but I was uncomfortable going alone, so I respectfully declined the invitation and wished them well. Since then, they have remained extremely miffed at me. I can't help wondering if I could have handled it better or if there is a compromise somewhere. Going by myself is as out of the question as asking the bride to change her policy. Once I went to a wedding by myself and was so stressed by all the happy couples asking why I was still not married that my stomach went into knots and I left just as they started serving dinner. No couple wants such a guest at their wedding. My question is simply: How could I have handled this better?

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The answer

Vis-à-vis weddings, my aphorism has always been: "It is a sign of a person's spiritual development the extent to which that person realizes, unless he/she is the bride, the wedding really isn't about him/her."

In other words: Weddings are all about the bride. Whenever, in the roll-up to the ceremony, some out-of-town uncle throws a hissy fit about his accommodations; or a bridesmaid brews up some histrionics about her corsage (or whatever), I always think the same thought: "Honey, don't you realize? This whole thing? With the flowers and the band and the salmon? It's not about you. This is the bride's Big Day, one she may have dreamt of since childhood. Your job is to make her look good, and/or draw as little attention to yourself as possible."

Now, I am aware statements of this kind have helped lead to the creation of the modern phenomenon known as the Bridezilla.

But I still believe the purpose of everything at a wedding, from the floral arrangements to the dress to what the bridesmaids wear to the music to, well, everything, is to showcase the bride and make her look and feel good and believe everything's going smoothly.

Even at my own wedding, I knew that I, as the groom, ranked somewhere in status between a senior ring bearer and a junior bridesmaid. My job was to clean myself up; wear my monkey suit as well as I could; try to refrain from getting too drunk; and do my best not to screw up my speech too embarrassingly.

But, basically, I was a semi-peripheral player, a sidebar, an opening act, at best, to my wife's Big Day.

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And, well, I hate to break it to you, but you, as a friend - not even family, occupy an even lower position in the wedding-party hierarchy. You're an extra, window dressing, a pylon. Therefore, if Her Royal Highness the Bridezilla says "no guests," the only truly polite thing to do is show up solo and try to have as good a time as you can.

I'm not saying I agree with her policy. I think prohibiting people from bringing dates to a wedding is as ridonkolous as wearing a tiara.

But, like I say, she's the Bride, spelled with a capital Queen Bee, and therefore what she says goes.

Bottom line, it sounds like this wedding still hasn't happened yet. Great! It's not too late: Phone her up; say you're sorry, you didn't mean to upset her; it's just that you're sensitive about being single; but, after all, you'd be delighted to attend on your own.

I bet you dollars to Dunkaroos she surprises you by saying, "Oh, never mind, forget I said anything. Go ahead, bring a date."

Even if not, go soi-meme and have as good a time as you can. And if people ask you obnoxious, point-blank questions about being single (I can't believe people still do that, I thought the Bridget Jones phenomenon put an end to that kind of "Smug Married" behaviour), just say something like: "I'm looking for that special someone who won't get freaked out when he sees I have a tiny, vestigial penis."

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Or: "Well, actually I've been seeing the groom for the last three months, and he assures me this won't change anything."

Or: "I just buried my last husband, and I'm waiting to see if the police find him before I start dating again."

Basically, say anything to shut them up and give them the hint their questions are inappropriate and annoying.

And who knows? Weddings are a powerful aphrodisiac, as we are all aware. Maybe you'll meet Mr. Right - some handsome young architect, also squirming under the scrutiny of Smug Married grilling - at this thing and you'll be glad you went alone.

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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