Let’s say you’re trying to break in a door. The door has one of those tiny glass windows for decoration. So you carefully break the glass, stick your hand inside, bend your elbow and unlock the door. Any good burglar will tell you—don’t ask how we know this—that you’re more likely to cut your hand on the way out, not the way in. Why? Because you lose focus. You get sloppy. You trick yourself into thinking that the job is done.
We see this phenomenon in sports (teams bench their starters and blow a 20-point lead), restaurants (after you finish dinner, the waitress takes forever to check back on you, mistakenly thinking she’s done with the service), and the military (effective invasion, ineffective exit strategy).
And we see it in weddings. Grooms spend months doing the right thing, running errands, laughing at corny jokes from the Mom-in-Law, and now, seconds after they’re officially married, they think the job is done, they think they can relax, strip off their tux jacket, and slam down tequila shots with their bros.
See also: Reception Checklist
The job isn’t done. Your hand can still get cut by glass. Blood can spill.
Yes, you’re officially married. Yes, the reception is a party. Yes, you can (and should) have fun. But you can still do many, many things that will destroy your wedding and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
So follow these rules of thumb:
Do: Pace yourself. No pounding beers like you just finished college exams. If you feel at all tempted to say anything remotely like, “WHOOO!!!” then as Brian Fantana said in Anchorman, “Take it easy, Champ. Why don’t you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while.”
Don’t: Lower your defenses with the in-laws. Remember how we coached you how to handle the in-laws, all those many months ago? Those rules haven’t changed. Today you’re partially sheltered by the “wedding glow,” but never forget that you have a 30-year-long relationship to nurture. It’s still fragile. Opinions are still being formed. You’ve won a big battle but you haven’t won the war.
Don’t: Have premature ejection. People want to party. Even the non-partiers want to party. They hired babysitters and flew in from out of town and got all gussied up, so it’s expected that the booze, music, and stars of the show—you and your bride—stay up later than a toddler.
Do: Have a toast prepared.
Don’t: Lose touch with your wife. (Yep. Wife.) It’s easy to get torn in opposite directions—her with her cousins, you with your brothers. And that’s fine for a while; no need for smothering interaction. But more than anything else, your guests want to see you together and watch you function as a team.
Do: Chug water. Then more water. This is the only acceptable method for avoiding a hangover. The other method is not drinking alcohol, which is unacceptable.
Don’t: Only talk to your buddies. Of course they’re more fun. Of course you’d rather hang out with them. But just like you have an obligation to call your grandmother even though it’s not exactly “fun,” you have a social duty to the bride’s family, your family, and to every last annoying guest. Which leads us to….
Do: Greet every one of your guests. All of them. Even the ones you despise. At the very least, those sorry bastards spent some good money to buy you a gift. You owe them small-talk. Not sure what to say? A few canned lines:
When you’re not sure if you’ve ever met them before, stick with the all-purpose “Good to see you.” This can be interpreted as either “Good to see you again” or “Good to meet you.”
“How’ve you been?” Simple, uncreative, surprisingly effective.
“What’s happening with ______?” Where _____ is the only damn thing you know about them. This works.
“Thanks for coming. Will I see you out there on the dance floor?” Remember, you want the party to be active and energetic. This is the one, singular time in life when it’s permissible for a grown man to ask another man if he’ll go dancing.
Don’t: Get trapped by Uncle Eddie. Most guests understand that you have things to do, people to see. They’ll keep their conversations short. Frankly, a lot of them feel it’s an obligation to talk to you briefly, but they want to move on quickly. And then there’s Uncle Eddie. He’ll grill you about your honeymoon plans, drone on with his “helpful” advice for your 401(k), then rumble through Eddie’s Tips on Marriage. You’d like to stab him in the heart with a cake fork. But that would be deemed impolite, so you just stand there and nod, smiling, wilting, miserable. You have an easy escape—one that you will be using, in some form or another, for the next 70 years. Just tell him that “your wife needs you.”
Do: Reflect. Savor. When you have a rare moment by yourself, make a conscious effort to watch the spectacle, soak in the band, watch your friends dance—sort of like a general watching the war from atop the hill.
Don’t: Assume that you should pound her face with frosting. Try and find out in advance if she wants to ruin her $200 make-up job. Think of the cake-cutting ceremony like sex. You know it’s going to happen. But you don’t know exactly what kinds of kinky things she’s into. And you shouldn’t presume she wants to do everything.
And now for the (real) main event: wedding night sex.