How To Make Your Wedding Introvert-Friendly
“There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” —Carl G. Jung
As much as weddings are supposed to be fun days, filled with romance and happy memories, they’re not stress free and relaxing for all of your guests. Weddings are mainly a social occasion; we’re all there to celebrate you getting married first and foremost, but what follows is a whole lot of mingling, small talk and socialising. It’s the same principle as a house party, after-work drinks, or a networking event. Some people love them; some people find them a real challenge. And how easy and enjoyable this is for you comes down to whether you're an introvert or an extrovert.
Let’s just remind ourselves of what being an introvert or an extrovert actually means:
- Introverts (or those of us with introverted tendencies) tend to recharge by spending time alone. They lose energy from being around people for long periods of time, particularly large crowds.
- Extroverts, on the other hand, gain energy from other people. Extroverts actually find their energy is sapped when they spend too much time alone. They recharge by being social.
It’s not just about being shy or outgoing, as people so often think that it is. It’s about what leaves you drained or energised in terms of social situations. Most of us aren’t a straightforward ‘type’ either, the current theory is that we’re actually all on a personality spectrum called the ‘Ambivert Personality Continuum Scale’. Fancy, huh?
I, for example, find myself more introverted when I'm surrounded by people I don't know, yet when I'm with people I know quite well I'm really outgoing. For the sake of making this blog post an honest and open discussion, when I'm at a conference-type event where I have to network with people I don't know in the breaks, I do a Cady Heron from Mean Girls and go wait it out in the toilet cubicle. Or I find a reason to make an unnecessary phonecall outside so I don't have to small-talk. But in other settings I will bend your ear for an hour. I'm not a definite category, I'm just somewhere along the scale and find some social settings much more onerous than others.
Whether talking to people tires you out or gives you a buzz. Weddings, in a sense, are a extrovert’s paradise. Big crowds, lots of people and an excited atmosphere. But for introverts, weddings can be quite overwhelming, especially if they don’t know many of the guests.
To confuse things further, we can break introverts down into two separate categories: non-anxious introverts, and socially-anxious introverts. For those who aren’t the anxious kind then introversion is a preference not a fear, but it can still be overwhelming to be surrounded by a large group of people when your preference is intimate gatherings. But throw social anxiety into the mix, which is an extreme form of self-consciousness - and you may have a number of guests that find your wedding a hard situation to navigate. With more than 1 in 10 people suffering from social anxiety it’s actually quite likely.
As already mentioned, introverts need time to recharge after large social gatherings, and you don’t want friends leaving your wedding early because they feel they need for some alone time. So what can you do to help them feel more at ease at your wedding? Here’s some ideas I came up with that can help:
2) Often introverts don’t like having things sprung on them, and so it’s often helpful to give them prior warning when something else is about to happen. Imagine this scene (this made the introvert in me wince):
It’s just after your wedding meal and people are milling round the room; having a chat and getting a drink. One of your more introverted friends (let’s call him, Tom) is unbeknowingly standing on the edge of the dancefloor. All of a sudden the DJ pipes up that it’s time to dance. One of your more extroverted friends (John) nudges Tom onto the dancefloor, all in the name of some good-natured fun and banter. Tom is now standing on the dancefloor alone, in front of everyone, expected to dance. Tom is embarrassed, anxious and probably wishing the ground would swallow him up. Yet had Tom known the dancing was about to start he might have made sure he was nowhere near the dancefloor... or John.
To avoid the above situation happening let your guests know what will be happening next. This gives them time to work out how they would be most comfortable handling the situation - which may mean making sure they’re right out of the way for the next activity on the agenda. There are a few ways to do this: you can organise a Master of Ceremonies to announce the next part of the wedding in advance of it happening, or you can display a timeline on each of the wedding tables.
3) Finally, I think it’s a nice touch to have some ‘breakout areas’ at your venue (inverted commas are essential for such a conferency term). Basically these are parts of the venue that your guests can use, instead of the main event space that is being used at that moment. So, if everyone is on the dancefloor, it’s nice to have a library / bar type of room where guests who want a bit of space can go and sit with a drink. This isn’t worth having just for introverts; older people at your wedding often appreciate a place to enjoy the peace and quiet! Easily achieved if you have exclusive hire of your venue, but if not it’s always worth enquiring about the possibility of an extra room!
Even though it’s your wedding day, it’s always easy to find ways to accommodate your guests and make them feel more comfortable. For guests that find social situations harder or more tiring than others, it’s very brave of them to attend your wedding where they may feel uneasy. Show them you appreciate their courage with the little touches that make their day a little bit easier!
You’re all great people. Let's look after the people who are great to us!