How to survive your first wedding after divorce

The ‘firsts’ after separation or divorce are always going to feel poignant and painful. First Christmas, first holiday, first anniversary… and the first wedding has lots of scope to push your buttons. But unless you decide to boycott weddings for the rest of your life this is an event you’ll have to deal with. So let’s look at how to survive your first wedding after divorce. 

Prepare mentally

How to survive your first wedding after divorce is all about preparation. If you’ve not been in a romantic headspace lately (and who can blame you?) all the wedding bells and whistles might come as a bit of a culture shock. So take some time to desensitise. Maybe watch some films featuring weddings, or talk to friends about how the day’s going to play out. Think back to some other weddings you’ve been to in recent years. Just don’t dwell on your own. 

Remember the first time will be the hardest. But you only have to go to your first wedding post-divorce once. So there’s no point putting it off – the more you build it up in your head, the bigger deal it will feel when you actually do go. That said, you know you best. If your first wedding invite is particularly triggering, maybe because of the people involved or the date, politely decline and send a gift instead. 

Prepare your performance

Wear something that makes you feel fabulous. It doesn’t have to be a standout, red carpet outfit. It can be a tried and trusted combo. Just make sure it’s something that feels like it’s backing you up. Something that doesn’t make you feel self-conscious or dowdy. 

You’re going to have to make small talk at some point, that goes with the wedding territory. So have some stock phrases up your sleeve. If you are seated next to acquaintances who know you’re recently divorced you may well be subject to the “How are you doing dear?” sort of questions, along with head tilted to one side of course. You may bump into people who didn’t know about your separation. 

Or you may need to chat to people who don’t know your circumstances and want to know why you don’t have a dishy date on your sleeve. Either way, have a few stock phrases you can throw at them so you don’t feel blindsided by questions.

“I’m doing fine thanks – keeping busy! And we’re off to Wales next month for a break. How are you?”

“We’re not together anymore, but I’m fine. How are you?”

“My husband and I separated last year. I’m enjoying my freedom right now!” 

Distraction is always a useful way to divert the conversation to safer topics. Talk about the flowers, the colour scheme, the mother-of-the-bride’s hat – whatever lightweight wedding topic springs to mind. 

And keep questions at bay by firing off lots of your own:

“How are things with you?”

“Any holidays planned?”

“How are the children doing, they must be so big now?”

“Did you see on the news about that dog who found her way home from Brighton?”

“What are you doing over summer?”

Have allies to hand

Did your invite come with a plus one? Use it – bring a new beau, a friend, whoever will help you have a good time. No plus one? That’s not a problem. Make a plan with friends in advance. Can you share an airbnb or travel together? If you know you’re going to be seated next to trusted people during the service and meal it makes life a lot easier. 

Are you going to a wedding where you don’t know many people well? In that case, deploy all the performance tricks above. And see it as an opportunity to play at being someone else for a while. One important tip though…

Watch the booze intake!

Weddings can be a great time to let your hair down. And the free-flowing booze may look attractive, especially if you’re feeling self-conscious. But keep an eye on how many glasses of fizz you take on board. 

Alcohol lowers inhibitions, is a depressant and in general, too much of it at a wedding is likely to leave you doing and saying things you’ll regret. So have fun, but go steady. You don’t want to be the thing everyone remembers about your first wedding after divorce

If your ex is there

If your ex is also invited all of these points go double! Try and keep your distance as much as possible. If you do end up next to each other (and hopefully no wedding organiser would be so cruel as to seat you on the same table… so it can be fleeting) stick to pleasantries and move on. It goes without saying that this isn’t the time to get into any big or emotional conversations.

If you cry

Don’t worry, lots of people cry at weddings, for all sorts of reasons! You don’t need to feel self-conscious. If you know you’re the crying type (and even if you’re not, best be prepared just in case) make sure you have tissues and fresh eye makeup in your bag.

If people try to draw you into a conversation about it you can always blame the tears on how happy you are for the couple. There’s no need to talk about your own circumstances. And if you do need a proper sob with a good friend, go somewhere private to get it out of your system, reapply the makeup then come back with a big smile.

It’s not your wedding…

…and that’s a good thing. You’re not the centre of attention. Most of the guests probably don’t even know who you are. So as self-conscious as you might be feeling remember that all eyes are not on you. 

And as much as it might remind you of your own wedding, that’s not why you’re here. You’re here for the happy couple. Focus on them and try to set aside any sadness or cynicism. Someone else has invited you to their party. So just do you, batting off any awkward conversations with your stock responses. And enjoy the party like any other – get on the dance floor, eat the crudités, escape to the loos for a bit of quiet.

If it does all become too much, it’s ok to leave. You’re a grown woman, you don’t need permission! Thank the happy couple for inviting you, say you need to head off (blame a migraine, the children, a burglar alarm if you need to) and go. You’re in charge of you and no decent friend or family member would want you to stay if it was making you miserable. 

Recover

Plan in some time to recover – and not just from the hangover! Getting through your first wedding after divorce can be a big deal. Congratulate yourself for having done it. Use your journal to process your feelings. Debrief with your bestie. Do something nourishing for you the next day. 

Chat with people who get it

Over in The Absolute Academy it’s not just about the divorce legalities. It’s about real life. It’s about how to navigate the ups and downs of managing home, work, children, and your first wedding once you’ve separated. And that includes how to survive your first wedding after divorce. 

About Emma

Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of  The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com

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