I hooked up with the bride's sister after the reception

Her dad walked in when we were partially clothed

Published June 18, 2010 12:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I attended a very close friend's wedding recently as a groomsman and ended up hooking up with the bride's younger sister well after the reception had ended. Though no public affection was shown at the ceremony or reception itself, the bride found out the next day after her father walked into her sister's hotel room to find us only partially clothed -- certainly a surprise for all parties. This has caused quite a stir in her family -- they are fairly religious (Catholic) -- and they are irate about the whole ordeal. The term "ruined wedding" has been used, which I think is a gross overreaction given the circumstances but feel terrible nonetheless. Here are some more details.

I'm 29 and single, she's 22 and single. I've known her for a few years and always found her an attractive and interesting person. She lives in a different city than me but we've both admitted before that we'd date each other if we lived closer. At the engagement party six months prior, the sister and I got very flirty but didn't hook up. The bride-to-be was not happy about that and chided us. That pretty much caused us to cut off contact prior to the wedding. Sure enough, however, the attraction began again once the nuptial events kicked off.

The accusation that has been leveled is that I am a womanizer who preys on women (while I haven't always been a saint in the past, I think this is pretty unfair) and that she is a promiscuous fool for falling for it. Her family has made her feel even worse and I can't imagine what was said behind closed doors. She and I have stayed in very close contact afterward and we've been helping each other through things (and, as an aside, this type of mutually nurturing behavior is not usually associated with a one-night fling in my book).

I, of course, feel horrible that this got the attention that it did and have apologized formally to both the bride and groom. I was in the wrong to put their family in that situation and I take responsibility. They are gone on the honeymoon now and I'm uneasy about my next steps. Am I selfish for thinking that they are overreacting by calling this ruining their wedding? Do I need to stop talking to her sister completely? Do I have a womanizing problem? Is there anything else I can or should do to make amends?

Bad Groomsman

Dear Bad Groomsman,

Aren't weddings great?

Everybody gets dressed up and smells nice. There are flowers and pretty dresses. There's lots of wine and food. Often there's sunshine and toasts. It's a celebration of love between two people, the kind of carnal, delicious love that has so much power over us that it must be contained in ritual.

Afterward the bride and groom have sex.

Why should they be the only ones?

So let's be adult about this. Weddings are sexy. Younger sisters are sexy. People coming from out of town are sexy. Silly wedding singers and dancing are sexy. Catholics are sexy. The whole thing is drenched in sexy, delicious, erotic energy. Weddings invite the energy of a variety of archetypes, including Aphrodite and the Trickster, or Don Juan. It's a wonder weddings don't degerate into orgies.

Well, they don't, usually, because there are always the fathers lurking: sinister, possessive fathers, capable of primal violence, roiling with murderous blood.

So let us set your mind at ease. You had a high-risk liaison and were discovered. But you did not "ruin" the wedding. The wedding was over.

A wedding is a delicately suspended moment. It ignites deep, infantile wishes; we find ourselves wishing it could last forever; but it is a fantasy. So a transition into temporal life must occur after the wedding. In fact, if you think about it, this transition is the one unscripted part of the whole wedding production. It lacks an appropriate ritual to define it. After the wedding, you're on your own. You have to return to normal life. The bill comes. The caterers have to clean up, the band has to get paid and the guests have to sleep it off. The father writes checks and finds his other daughter in bed with one of the wedding guests. People gather their luggage and are driven to the airport. Breakfast must be gotten. It's all sort of catch-as-catch can. Thus we reenter the world of struggle and routine and surprise.

Your liason occurred in this no-man's land of post-wedding transition. In fact, one might say your adventure provided just the jolt everyone needed to shake off the stupefying effect of the wedding fantasy and get back to life as it is. Now people are mad at each other and carping and pointing fingers. Ah, real life!

You've done what you can. You've apologized. It's in the past.

Now: Do you want to spend a lot more time with the bride's sister? Does she want to spend a lot more time with you? What do you want to do?

You're almost 30. It might be time to settle down.

It would make a nice story.

p.s. Stephannie investigates: How common is the wedding-guest hookup?

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By Cary Tennis

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