He was the world’s greatest best man. On the couple’s big day, he had organised all the logistics, been a charming host for dozens of guests, delivered a riotous speech and made a gift of an unforgettable honeymoon vacation. Even years later, he saw his duties as incomplete; he wanted to offer the pair a surprise twentieth anniversary party. So he booked a venue for the bash and started going through his address book to contact all of the original wedding guests. The feedback was overwhelming; everyone found the idea sensational. Indeed, everything looked great, until he got to me. You see, the couple was married in the autumn before my own wedding in the subsequent summer. As I will only be celebrating 18 years of marital bliss this year, the lucky couple can only be at number 19.
When someone realises that they have made an awful mistake, there are only two possible options: to reverse the original decision or to plough on. The first option invariably involves a loss of face and/or money. The second option too, it is usually even costlier. The only difference is that the losses, instead of being immediate, can be pushed into the distant future. In order to achieve this though, the decision-maker must re-edit some information here, re-organise a few beliefs there, and make a few additional decisions, all with the goal of making the wrong decision appear right.
My friend’s first attempt was to convince me that I was mistaken about the date of my own wedding. His second was to persuade me that I had underestimated the time that had elapsed between the two nuptials. ‘Round number celebrations are “out” anyway, so boring and predictable,’ he said finally, ‘we could start a new trend by partying at odd numbers.’ I began to sense his desperation. So I offered to undertake the task of calling back all the invited guests so that he would not have to feel foolish in front of the dozen or so people on the list ahead of me. This helped a little. ‘But I’ve already paid a deposit on the venue’, he then whimpered. ‘Shouldn’t I just block the same weekend next year, otherwise I’ll lose the money?’
To the last, he wanted to believe that the money was not already lost. It took quite a while to convince him that it would be better to simply cancel the event and forget about it than to allow festering thoughts about an unused and unwanted venue booking sour a twenty-year friendship with the couple. Sorry, a nineteen year friendship.