A Guide To Matrimonial Feasting

Everyone can agree that there are few things worse than attending a wedding. Entire books could be written on how to survive wedding season from the guests' perspective. (And if you happen to be a book editor, I've got a great idea for one. The proposal's written. Just send me an email!) Enough with those pesky brides and grooms. How about the rest of us, the poor huddled masses yearning to be free, trapped in a world of overlong ceremonies and overpriced accommodations? What's in it for you and me?

Try as I have, it's downright impossible to escape wedding season in its entirety. Either your sibling ties the knot or your significant other drags you along. It's always something. Weddings are an unavoidable fact of life. The best we can do is eat well and get our money's worth. And so without further ado, five simple tips for gorging yourself silly while running up the host's tab:

1. Order by Price

Weddings are no time to be traditional. In real life, maybe you're a vegetarian. Maybe you can't digest gluten. Maybe you're Kosher. Doesn't matter. Remember, this is about maximizing returns (those wedding gifts weren't cheap). If you get to choose an entrée in advance, ALWAYS pick the most expensive. Don't be the sucker sitting there with a breadcrumb-stuffed artichoke. Go ahead: be the guy tearing into a juicy slab of filet mignon. When you're at a wedding, it's OK to be a hero.

2. Stereotypes Are Your Friend

Sometimes you're invited to more than one wedding on the same day. Or perhaps there's no way you can make it to each and every ceremony this season. Or maybe you just don't feel like wasting your whole summer on a bunch of boring weddings. Whatever the case, you need a good way to pick and choose the right weddings to attend. Amateurs will suggest you rank each invitation according to how close you are to the happy couple. Hogwash. You should rank each invitation by how good the food will be. And since this is a wedding we're talking about, and since you can instantly categorize weddings according to religion and ethnicity, it's fairly simple to anticipate which weddings will feature the best food (and thus, which ones you should attend). For example: Indian—Go!; Kosher—Skip. It's OK, I'm Jewish.

3. Abandon All Sense of Decorum

A convenient thing about weddings is that the bride and grooms' collective ego will totally overshadow your own questionable behavior. So go ahead. Ransack that shrimp cocktail station. Pull your chair right up to the buffet and dig in. Plant yourself at the bar and swig Jack right from the bottle. Who cares what those old people think. All anyone's gonna remember tomorrow is how beautiful the bride looked, anyway (related side note: it doesn't matter what you wear, either). You're probably in some random ballroom in the middle of nowhere, so act accordingly. There's no such thing as too many trips to the buffet. There's no such thing as cutting in line or waiting for your table to be called. The only rule is to pile food up onto your plate as high as it can go. If your tablemates aren't shocked when you plop that thing down in front of you, you're doing it wrong.

4. Chat Up The Help

You wouldn't believe how far a friendly remark to the staff can go in terms of upping your food intake. Think about it. You're schlepping trays of finger food around, trying not to be torn limb from limb by a roomful of ravenous heathens who've just sat through the most boring 45 minutes of their lives (i.e. the ceremony). They don't even notice you're a fellow human being. All they see is a plate of food floating through the ether. Talk about a shitty gig. Now, wedding guests who've just crawled out of the primordial ooze will do things like plant themselves near the kitchen door in order to intercept the food as soon as it comes out. Not only is such behavior incredibly gauche, it also contradicts your twin assignment as a wedding guest: to drink yourself silly. You can't hit the bar while staking out the kitchen. Here's what the pros do: first time you encounter a food server, ask him/her a simple question, perhaps about their day or their job or this lovely part of the world you assume they live in. Once their initial shock at having been addressed like a three-dimensional, living/breathing entity wears off, they will proceed to regard you as their favorite person at the wedding. In other words, stick by the bar. The food will henceforth be coming straight to you.

5. Keep Your Remarks Brief

Not only is this good advice for anyone planning to speak at the wedding (priests, rabbis and assorted clergy included), but if there's one thing that stands between you and gorging yourself to the brink of dementia, it's too much chit chat. After a long, grueling day watching two people get married, there's nothing worse than being stopped two feet from the buffet by a gaggle of people you've never met who want to tell you what they do for a living. Can't they see the food??? It's right there in front of them!!! Short of blowing them off entirely (which can be tricky depending on who they are, by which I mean: how they're related to your date), you need a failsafe strategy guaranteed to get these people off your back as quickly as possible. Remember: food awaits! Here's my two-pronged method:

  1. Concoct a cover story so boring, no one will want to hear about it or, god forbid, ask you any follow-up questions. Hey, maybe you're a bestselling author who stars in Hollywood blockbusters on the side. Don't mention it! Remember: you're a bank teller. Stick to it.
  2. Conversely, come prepared with 5-10 questions guaranteed to get other people chatting. As long as they're yapping, you can fill your plate while pretending to listen (just keep nodding). A few I like: "What do your children do?"; "How was your trip?/Did you hit a lot of traffic getting here?"; "Wasn't that ceremony beautiful?" This crap works every time.

Now, if you'll excuse me. I think I see a spring roll.