3 Tips to Play the Part of Friend-Date
When you're called up to be a friend-date, don't take the role lightly.
When someone gets invited to a party, knowing they don’t have a date in mind, a lot of stress can come with that invitation. It’s as if that “Plus 1” taunts you day in and day out, until you find someone who is A) deserving of the invite, and B) will be able to properly “play the part” as a Friend-Date.
Yes, Mannerly Nation, choosing a proper Friend-Date can be the ultimate game changer for the event, and if you’re ever asked to fill those shoes you have to take the job—and all its curveballs—very seriously. So without further ado, happily say YES and read my top three Quick and Dirty Tips for how to be a proper Friend-Date on these different occasions.
Tip #1: The Wedding Friend-Date
OK, let’s start with the most common Friend-Date scenario, the Wedding Friend-Date. I speak to people all the time who ask if they should feel obligated to bring a friend to wedding, when they’re not dating anyone at the time. In fact, on the flip side, I think it’s crazy for the bridal party to feel it’s necessary to pay for some stranger to attend the greatest day of their lives, just so a guest can dance to a few slow songs (See more: How To Manage a Wedding Guest List). But, with this tricky issue aside, the real issue at hand is how you conduct yourself when you get that magic call. When asked to be a Wedding Friend-Date, your only job is to be fun. Yes, it sounds simple but this event is not the time to nitpick the décor, criticize the band’s rendition of “Let It Go,” or play on your phone. No, Mannerly Nation, a Wedding Friend-Date is a mixture of a Wingman/woman and a best friend wrapped into one dancing machine.
See, the best part about being a Wedding Friend-Date is that there is no pressure on you whatsoever. Maybe your date will have to field rude questions like, “Why are they just a friend?” or “Why aren’t you dating anyone?” but not you. Nope, your only job is to simply eat, drink, and be merry by their side. And by their side is the key factor. If they don’t want to dance, then you sit with them. If they have to take photos with the wedding party or family, then hold their stuff, sit back, and wait for them to be done. At the end of the day, a proper Wedding Friend-Date is like a soldier in war who never leaves a compadre stranded on the battlefield. Your fun is put on the back burner, it’s all about being there for them. After all, sometimes weddings aren’t a time of joy for people who are not in a relationship and a real friend will do whatever it takes to take their mind away, be it with fun or comfort.
Tip #2: The Corporate Friend-Date
Whereas most people think a wedding date is the most stressful of all dates, I firmly believe the Corporate Friend-Date is hands down the most demanding Friend-Date role. See, at a wedding, your date knows the crowd intimately, and there are tons of distractions to mask the nerves on both parts. However, when you’re a Corporate Friend-Date, you are a representation of that person’s taste, character, and friends. They could have chosen anyone but asked you, and colleagues know you are there for a good reason. So, if you look or act like a jerk, or don’t take it serious, chances are people in the office will look at your date as having “bad taste”. I mean, it’s one thing to bring a goofy friend to a wedding to get tipsy at the bar but an office event is the World Series of Friend-Date scenarios.
Now, I’m not saying you have to know the company history, but by no means should you take your role lightly. After all, it’s work! See, when you’re a Corporate Friend-Date even though you may not be dating, your date still wants to make a good impression and that means you have to help them out. In fact, office parties are great ways for people to get face time with colleagues and key figures at the office in a more casual setting. By being a proper Corporate Friend-Date you have to facilitate that opportunity as much as possible. Whereas a normal romantic date may feel obligated to hang around their partner, your job as the Corporate Friend-Date is help them network, be engaging in conversation but when you feel like work is being discussed at a level over your head, kindly disappear into the wilderness for as long as they need that particular private time. Grab a drink, eat some great food and, heck, even network for yourself! In the end, always make sure your friend ends the night with their colleagues believing your date’s circle of friends are first class all the way.
Tip #3: The Family Dinner Friend-Date
How many times do you have to field questions from relatives at family get-togethers about when you’re going to “settle down” or “find the right one”? Granted, I’m guilty of playfully ribbing some of my younger cousins about their dating lives, but I would never grill them like the older relatives do, often making it the topic of the dinner conversation. So, when you get the call from a dear friend to be a Family Dinner Friend-Date, understand that your job may come with a mixed bag of emotions. As a Wedding Friend-Date, you can distract yourself with dancing and some drinking at the bar, so it’s easy to hide away. And with the Corporate Friend-Date, there are a ton of people to have constructive conversations with to make the time pass. However, with the Family Dinner Friend-Date, it’s smaller, more personal, and, many times, there will be nowhere to skip away. A proper Family Dinner Friend-Date always has to be mindful of this fact.
Unlike the roles in Tips #1 and #2, where there will be other “dates” to mingle with, at a family gathering you will surely stand out. It may feel like an interview at times, but that’s because you’re new. Don’t take it as grilling. Look at it as a way to help your friend dodge a round of questions themselves. Like someone setting a pick in basketball. I’m not saying this will happen all the time, but you should be prepared. Knowing this, just brush off. Instead use this time to make yourself like one of the family. You want your friend to feel comfortable with surviving a dinner party but also you want their family to tell them, “I really wish you would find someone like that!”
As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!