Other People's Nuptials: Can You and Your Man Handle It?

Any bride will tell you ‑- at great length ‑- how stressful it is to plan a wedding. But what about the guests? Rarely does anyone acknowledge their pain. Even here in Britain, the country that produced Four Weddings and a Funeral, that wry, candid classic of champagne-fueled hookups and heartbreak, we haven't mastered the art of attending OPNs (other people's nuptials).

Every year there are around 2.2 million weddings in the United States, and roughly 300,000 weddings here in the U.K. Multiply that by the length of the average guest list ‑- about 200, in both countries ‑- to get a sense of just how many of us go through the familiar routine: pick main course, pick present, pick outfit, pick date. If you're in a serious relationship, the last choice is already made for you, but you can still find yourself picking ‑- at each other.

The truth is that these lovely, sacred events ‑- opportunities for voyeuristic romance and, hopefully, some amour of your own ‑- often wreak havoc on relationships that are, shall we say, at the tipping point. Is it the sight of another couple making the ultimate commitment? The "are you two next" factor? The sense that your friends are moving forward with their lives, and you're in a holding pattern?

In Jackie and Neil's case, it was the groom's speech. Jackie, a 26-year-old advertising executive, remembers, "He said that when he had first seen his wife he thought, 'Wow!' I realized that I didn't go, 'Wow!' when I first saw Neil, and had always felt that he was the one who was more into me."

Although she and Neil had been seeing each other for four years and living together for one, Jackie knew things hadn't been right for a while. She admits, "I'd already started worrying, and was looking forward to the party side rather than the romantic side of going to the wedding."

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