A friend recently shared with me that she was struggling to figure out how to help her childhood friends feel included at her wedding. She was worried they would feel left out, or worse, be jealous of her friendships with her newer friends. My friend was being wonderfully thoughtful—who hasn't been the odd man out and felt super-awkward?
Events such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, and even just cocktail parties can be sources of stress when you're tasked with bringing together your different friend groups. How will you make sure everyone gets along and doesn’t feel left out? Keep the following tips in mind; taking a little time to prepare before the event can help everyone feel loved and included.
Before a big event, take some time introduce your friend groups to each other. You can start an email chain, group text, or Facebook group to spark conversation. For weddings, many people are having post-rehearsal cocktails for the full guest list to allow guests to mingle in a casual setting. Introducing your friends before the event allows them to get some of the initial awkwardness out of the way so that when it comes to the big day, your friends will all be at least familiar with one another.
Put everyone at ease.
When you bring your different friend groups together, it’s important to help everyone feel at ease. When you know everyone from your different friend groups so well, it’s easy to forget that they don’t know each other and might feel apprehensive.
The art of formal introductions is somewhat lost today. But make sure as a hostess, you make intros high priority. You should especially tend to helping those who have something in common meet one another. For example, if one of your childhood friends studied abroad in the same place one of your college friends did, make sure they know that about each other to make conversation easier for them.
Ask everyone to take a special role.
When planning for a big celebration, show each of your friends how special they are to you by asking them to help out in a unique way as you plan the event. The idea is not to overwhelm your friend with a huge task but rather to help your friend feel valued.
If you're planning a wedding, ask a friend to go with you to the florist to help you decide on arrangements. Or, invite your childhood friends to check out the venue with you. If it's a smaller event, like a dinner party, ask one friend to bring flowers and another to bring an appetizer. Inviting your friends to participate in the fun of planning your event sends them the message that you value their input. When you feel secure in your friendship, you are less likely to feel threatened by your friend’s other friends.
Focus on conversations and activities that bring everyone together.
You’ve probably been to events where no one mingles—where cliques are obvious. When this happens, it only reinforces the perceived divisions between friend groups. Alleviate this problem by planning events that encourage group participation, not just hanging out with those you already know. Planning activities that foster a sense of camaraderie across friend groups encourages everyone to break out of their comfort zones. Try an at-home trivia or game night where each team is a mix of friends from your different friend groups. Encourage them to get to know one another.
Do the best you can.
You can only do your best to help your friends get along with each other. Ultimately, the choice to get along is theirs. Bringing people together from different backgrounds can be tricky, and there is a chance that some of them might not get along. Don’t take it personally. Give them a chance to get to know each other better before you despair. After all, they are all friends with you, so they have that in common.
Bringing your friends together for a celebration or dinner party doesn’t have to be marred by the stress of worrying that your friends might not get along. A little thoughtful planning before your event will help ensure that your friends feel equally loved and welcomed. And you’ll have the joy of seeing all of your friends together, happy, and enjoying each other’s company.
Photo Credit: Molly Winters Photography