Here's a little hint about remaining inconspicuous when crashing a wedding reception: It's probably best not to catch the bride's bouquet.
The bouquet toss was the furthest thing from my mind when I strolled into a local party hall on a Friday night. I was simply looking for a great time: a nice meal, a few drinks, and the opportunity to celebrate the wedded bliss of a wonderful couple. Sure, I'd never met either of them. A minor detail.
I wandered in and made a beeline to the bar: an obvious move.
First appearances mean so much. My beer was served in a real glass. No plastic cups for my fabulous, newly wedded BFFs. This was a classy kind of gig. I was pretty certain I would fit right in, if I weren't just some freeloading stranger walking in off the street.
Yet, I wasn't a true freeloader, since I had brought a congratulatory card with a gift card enclosed. I dropped it ceremoniously on the gift table and slowly swiveled my head around, hoping people might notice this, in validation of my presence.
Sadly, as I saw the line forming for the dessert table, I realized I missed dinner. If only I had actually been invited, I might have known what time the event started. But, I wasn't too late for libations--and a chance to mingle and dance with a hundred or so total strangers.
I joined a group of guests on the outdoor patio, and found myself fitting in more easily than expected. No one once questioned me or my relationship to the bride and groom. It was almost disappointing that I didn't have to conjure up any of the prefabricated stories I'd prepared on the drive there. (My name: Shelly. My relationship: Girlfriend of Jim Miller. He used to work with the groom. Where: Hmm. I can't remember. It was a few years ago. Hey, the bride's dress is gorgeous, don't you think?)
Mid-conversation with a cute guy just slightly younger than me, the bride approached, seemingly eager to join our discussion. I backed away, avoiding eye contact, and headed back to the bar.
When the DJ made the last-call for all single women to join in the bouquet toss, I realized it could be a great photo op: a shot of the unidentifiable backs of a group of women, lunging for the spray of flowers. So, I hurried over, stationing myself a few yards behind the line of waiting women. I pulled out my iPhone just as I heard the DJ begin his countdown.
As he finished, before I managed to find my phone's camera setting, I looked up to see the group of single women in front of me--and every wedding guest in the room--staring at me.
Apparently the bride was a former softball pitcher with a hell of an arm. Her throw landed the bouquet far past its intended aim. I glanced down to see it lying right next to my feet.
My eyes darted around the room, which had fallen uncomfortably silent. All eyes were focused on me. I had no choice, really.
I bent down, picked up the bouquet, and clutched it. I smiled stupidly.
As cameras flashed, my heart rate quickened. I pondered: What now?
A little girl came to my rescue. She ran over, tugged on my blouse, and said, "Can I have it?"
I smiled down at my small savior and said, "Honey, it's all yours."
I thrust the bouquet in her hands and walked straight to the exit, stopping only to deposit my half-finished beer at the bar.
"I just accidentally caught the bouquet," I told the bartender. "Probably a good time for me to leave."
As I headed to the parking lot, I envisioned the bride and groom watching a replay of the video. When they got to the bouquet toss, they would look at each other in squinted confusion. "Who is that woman? Wait, you mean you don't know her either?"
Besides my mysterious image captured in digital photographs and video, all I left behind that night was my wedding card. I'd chosen it very thoughtfully. The pre-printed text read: "A toast to good friends: To a great couple, to your love, your future, and your happiness... and to the friendship that will keep us close always."
I signed it: "Thanks for an evening none of us will ever forget."
Yeah. Isn't that the truth.
Ever crashed a wedding reception? Would you have waited around for more photos? Do you think there's a warrant out for my arrest?