Every year about this time, my department has a fairly formal gathering. I just signed up to go despite some hesitance.
The thing is, this gathering is a very couples gathering. It's like a middle-aged prom without dancing (usually). (To be honest, it feels a lot like a holdover from the days of all male profs taking their wives out so that the men can be admired en masse.) Couples sit in pairs. Tables are organized as 4 or 6. If you're a single person, taking a single seat at a table is awkward. It's like you're supposed to pretend that you're actually coupled up with one of the other single people in the department, but obviously, you don't want to be coupled up with those folks or you would be for real.
Usually I'm pretty comfortable socializing with couples. One of my social dining groups includes a couple; most of my friends are parts of couples. I bike ride with a couple fairly regularly. (Yes, I'm sure this sounds like I'm doing that stereotypical thing about how some of my best friends are this or that. Sorry.)
But this gathering is always uncomfortable for me in being so couples dedicated.
I'm not sure that there's any way to have this sort of formal gathering without it being incredibly couples oriented. I'm not sure what could be done about it to make things comfortable for the few of us who aren't coupled up and for the majority who are.
Every year I've gone to this gathering, I've regretted going. And every year I've skipped going, I've regretted skipping.