It’s high season for happily ever after—but other people’s weddings can be relationship Thunderdomes. Should you bring your significant other?

You could go alone and be the party’s bachelor du jour, sitting beside the cutest bridesmaids and dancing with the most eligible hotties, while simultaneously letting your sweetie know you consider yourself still on the market. That’s a lot of drama.

Or you could take a cover date—your sister, your cousin, your lesbian ex-lover. But if you bring a girlfriend along, be prepared: As the happy couple is pledging its love, you’ll be fighting your way through an ultra-Ninja Warrior zone loaded with razor blades and tiger sharks.

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The invitation

You think: Do I want steak or fish for dinner?

She thinks: Was the invite addressed to a) You alone; b) You and a “guest”; or c) You, and the bride called to ask what your girlfriend’s name was so she could be included?

The reality: a) and b) are insults; c) is a sign you’re known to be madly in love and off the market forever. There is no d).

The wedding guests

You think: What a great time you’re having with your buddy and all the friends who knew you in your former life.

She thinks: She’s meeting the ghosts of all your girlfriends past and is on display and being judged by everyone you care about and who cares about you.

The reality: As drinks flow, so too do secrets—will you (or she) mind if she knows them? And everyone will be wondering, “Is she good enough for him?” So…is she?

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The production

You think: Let’s party!

She thinks: Weddings are opportunities for critique—of friends, flowers, dresses, bridesmaids, bands, food: Those olives were so small. Not bad for a first wedding. Kirkland wine, really? The bride is totally pregnant, mark my shotgun.

The reality: Are you sure you want to see this side of her?

The ceremony

You think: How touching, she’s crying.

She thinks: When she says, “’Till death do us part”—you’ll repeat it.

The reality: Are you ready? Not just Kleenex-ready, but “diamonds that cost 2.5x your monthly pay” ready? (That’s the rule of thumb—or, more accurately, finger.)

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The dinner

You think: There’s your best friend’s dad. High-five, old guy.

She thinks: You’re ignoring her.

The reality: Is she OK in a room full of strangers? Will she resent you for abandoning her or becoming BFFs with the band?

The toasts

You think: The blushing couple was meant to be together.

She thinks: We’re meant to be together.

The reality: All wedding toasts are the same: Everyone was meant to be together.

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The pictures

You think: Do I have something in my teeth?

She thinks: This loving portrait of the two of you will last forever. (Or at least as long as the marriage does.)

The reality: In 50 years, when an as-yet-unborn grandchild stumbles on the pic, will you remember who she is?

The dancing

You think: Can I dance?

She thinks: Your dance skills predict your future capacity as a lover.

The reality: Can you stare deeply into her eyes during lyrics that include the words forever, together, only, happy, wonderful, lucky, love, loving, and lovable?

Should you bring her?

But, say she really is the perfect girlfriend: confident, happy, considerate, kind, thrifty, loyal, helpful, courteous, cheerful, brave, clean, and reverent—a scout of a woman. Then, yes, by all means, bring her—and thank the newlyweds for providing a prepaid romantic date, replete with band, open bar, and cake.

Then get ready for snark about how it’s your turn next, Dead Man Walking.