Voices: Fifteen weddings in one year? It’s time to start saying no to social obligations

If your entire diary is filled with weddings and hen dos, chances are that some of them are for friends you’re not very close with  (Getty)
If your entire diary is filled with weddings and hen dos, chances are that some of them are for friends you’re not very close with (Getty)

When a friend divulged that she’d had a “massive breakdown” in July, my first question was whether anyone close to her had died (they had not). Was she getting enough sleep? Yes. Eating well? Yes. Relationship problems? Happily in love. Money troubles? She works in finance, so... probably not.

What, then, was the problem? “I’ve been to 15 weddings this summer,” she confessed, head in her hands. “And six hen dos, organising two of them. I’m on the brink.”

To some, this might sound ridiculous. Your affliction is, erm... too many weddings? What, all those open bars and buzzy dance floors are getting you down? Too many free three-course dinners? Oh, poor you; where’s the violin? And so on.

But for those traipsing up and down the country every weekend, or hopping on planes and trains and automobiles to get to events abroad, often spending hundreds of pounds in the process, all to have the following 48 hours or so dictated by someone else’s future mother-in-law – well, it’s a different matter altogether.

My friend was suffering from the increasingly common problem facing women in their late twenties and early thirties, when many of our peers are getting hitched. For the sake of ease, let’s call it “wedding season burnout”. It can be diagnosed in anyone whose entire summer consists of other people’s plans. The kind of plans you can’t really turn down (at least not without a very good excuse). Every Friday, you’ll pack a bag and head off to the next venue.

If it’s a wedding, you’ll circulate the room, indulging in various bits of small talk with people you haven’t seen in over a decade. They’ll ask if you’re still with your ex; if you ever fulfilled the pipe dream you gave up on two years ago; if you’re still running at the weekends. OK, they won’t all be like this, especially if the person getting married is a close friend. But inevitably, a lot of the weddings you’re invited to will be a bit like this – especially if they’re major 150-plus-person events.

Then there are the hen and stag dos. I’ve only experienced the former, so please allow me to summarise the general proceedings:

An obscenely early arrival, often to a far-flung destination that is either abroad or in some sort of shire. A relentless schedule of activities involving penis-shaped paraphernalia and Jägerbombs, followed by various rituals of humiliation among people you’ve only just met – think lap-dancing, strip-teases, and a lot of oversharing about everyone’s respective sexual history. Then, if you’re lucky, there will be some food, and later, a stripper – and you’ll have to pretend you’re enjoying that, too.

The point is that none of this is necessarily a bad thing. Hey, it can even be fun. But when it’s weekend after weekend of activities and excess, it starts to get a bit draining. You neglect yourself, your body, your mind – and your alcohol unit consumption typically flies through the roof out of sheer social obligation.

This was the impression I got from my friend, and it’s certainly the way I feel whenever I’ve had to attend more than one wedding or hen do in a single month. Unfortunately, social lore dictates that you can rarely turn down these invitations.

Unless, of course, you have that very good excuse I mentioned earlier. These may include – but are not limited to – a clash with a closer friend’s wedding or hen do, a pre-booked holiday, hospitalisation, and/or death. Saying “I’m just a bit run down from all of the other weddings and hen dos I’ve been to this year” won’t cut it.

But this simply can’t go on. It’s time to normalise turning down these sorts of invitations. We need to be able to have time to ourselves, to be able to plan our own weekends and do things just for us, whether we’re single or not.

There are limitations to this, of course, and I’m not suggesting you tell your best mate you’re not going to her wedding because you’re about to catch a cold. But if your entire diary is filled with weddings and hen dos, chances are that some of them are for friends you’re not very close with.

Consider it an act of self-care to turn some of those invitations down. You won’t regret it.