I’ve been to more weddings than I can count—in my late twenties, there were a few summers when I attended one almost every weekend. And while there’s nothing more joyful than celebrating the love between two friends, at a certain point, packing up and shelling out to attend a ceremony can start to feel more like an obligation than an honor. To combat the inevitable “do we have tos?,” that became commonplace after my first several friends got married, I’ve amassed a set of tactics for making the most out of weddings. Here are a few of my favorite ways to turn weekend weddings into mini-getaways:
G and I have made it a tradition to forego plane tickets and travel on wheels whenever a wedding is within eight hours. We use a collaborative Google map to plan our pit stops ahead of time, and at this point, we have several routes that we know by heart and look forward to. For weddings in my Northern California hometown, stopping at Hog Island Oyster and the fruit stands along Route 5 are both a must.
Any weekend away should feel like a celebration from the get-go, so I always make a point of stopping at my favorite coffee shop (which is about two minutes from our house) to grab pastries (donut or chocolate croissant for G, scone for me) and coffee before taking off. It’s a small treat, but it goes a long way in making the journey feel less like an extra-long commute and more like the special occasion that it is.
It may seem counter-intuitive to lessen the obligation by making it longer, but leaving on a Friday afternoon for a Saturday wedding can make the trip feel even more like a vacation. By getting in the evening before, G and I have time to go out to dinner by ourselves, which is always a fun way to get to know a new place, whether you eat local barbecue or Michelin-starred food. If you’re invited and going to the rehearsal dinner, make time for a cocktail, just you and your date, beforehand.
Staying in the wedding block of a hotel can be the best if you know most of the wedding party, or the worst if your only friend is the bride herself. While I always booked within the designated block when I was younger, I’ve learned that for some weddings, it’s best to let the groom’s fraternity brothers relive their glory days on their own and book a nearby hotel or Airbnb instead.
The idea of being assigned to a dinner table filled with people I didn’t know used to fill me with anxiety. Hours of forced small talk felt intimidating. But after being assigned to the “random friends” table several times, I learned that it can be a blessing in disguise—after-all, you’re all there because you have a connection with the bride or groom which means you already have a valuable starting-off point. Since approaching the idea of making new friends with excitement rather than anxiety, I’ve been able to make a few true friendships that lasted beyond remarks about the wedding band.
I have an extremely low tolerance for hangovers (like, two cocktails at most) so I can usually count on feeling less-than-ideal the morning after a wedding. To combat this, I always make sure to locate the nearest pharmacy for advil, and diner for eggs and toast (just in case), so that I can bounce back and actually enjoy the next day. In smaller towns, the local pharmacy is a bit of a destination in itself.
The Sunday after a wedding is often an anticlimactic end to the party, when everyone says their goodbyes and heads home, which is why it’s helpful to plan something to look forward to. In the past, we’ve gotten brunch at the best local spot in town (which may or not be the same as the hangover-friendly diner), hiked in the Redwoods, taken a mid-morning surf lesson, and gone wine tasting, before heading home.