Dear Team Practical,
I have a very difficult dilemma on my hands and I hope you can provide some advice. It has recently become apparent to my fiancé and me that a couple whom we are very close to (close enough to be members of the wedding party) have developed a serious prescription drug problem. These friends seem far in denial and the more time goes by, the more they seem to find other people to blame for their inability to support themselves.
We have been a little worried about them for a while, but had no idea the extent of their problem until they came to stay with us for several days recently. I’m disappointed to say that we quickly found ourselves witnessing some very telltale addict behavior, and after they left, I discovered that my leftover medication was missing. We are disappointed and hurt that they used our money, food, hospitality, and then stole from us; but this issue is compounded by the fact that our wedding is now only three months away.
We feel sure that it would be unwise to involve them in the wedding party at this point, and we’re not even sure they should be invited to the wedding. We’re not trying to be insensitive to them, or turn our backs on several years of friendship. I am, however, aware that addiction to opiates is a very serious thing. I am worried that even if they accepted that they have a problem… three months is not very much time for them to withdraw from use or to complete some kind of program successfully. I also feel like it would make matters worse to put that sort of pressure/timetable on their health based on our needs.
In short, we want to help them, but are disgusted by how they have used us, and we are very worried about their behavior in front of our family and loved ones. Under regular circumstances, our main goal would be to tell them immediately that we are very worried about them, encourage them to acknowledge their problem, and suggest they seek help.
How do we tell them that we no longer want them in the ceremony (or maybe even in attendance)? Time is running out, and we need to come to a decision soon. We need to figure out how to approach them with our concerns about their health and about how their problem might impact this extremely important day for us.
We’re very worried about them, but we’re also terrified that the way they behaved while staying with us will be repeated in front of our family (including children) at our wedding.
Worried About Us And Them
I’m so sorry for you and for your friends. It’s really hard to see loved ones do something to hurt themselves and the people around them. There are few things that make me feel so helpless.
I understand that it hurts that you’ve been used and betrayed, but please recognize that your friends are not themselves. It’s easy to respond in anger, but really, your friends aren’t terrible people and I think you know that. Addiction just does terrible things. Of course you’re upset about the choices they’ve made, but once you step into the realm of addiction, we’re not even really talking about “choices” any more. We’re talking about disease. In this situation, anger isn’t going to help your friends the way compassion will.
Let’s just set the wedding aside for a moment. Your biggest concern should be finding them help. Who is or isn’t wearing a fancy dress and tux in your photos is tertiary to their health, and your friendship. In your email you said, “Under regular circumstances, our main goal would be to tell them immediately that we are very worried about them, encourage them to acknowledge their problem, and suggest they seek help.” I realize that planning a wedding surely means you’re distracted, but even “under regular circumstances” you’d be a busy person with things to set aside in favor of finding help for people you care about. The wedding is a big deal, but it’s not as big as making sure your loved ones are healthy and safe. A crisis is a crisis no matter what else is going on, and in this case, it trumps even a wedding.
First thing, of course, is to sit them down. This may be hard. Like you mentioned, there may be some denial, some resistance to acknowledge a problem. You might want to check around with family or mutual friends and see if anyone else has already reached out, and if they’d like to come along for moral support. Once you’ve sat your friends down and discussed habits you’ve noticed, why you’re concerned, and how you’d like to help them seek help, sure, it may become clear that being in the bridal party isn’t a reality. But, this decision shouldn’t be framed as punitive. Be sure that your friends understand that their recovery is most important, and any decisions regarding the bridal party will only result from what’s best for them, not making your wedding day smoother, avoiding offending grandma, having “even sides” or ensuring great photos. Less, “We can’t rely on you,” and more, “If getting you help necessitates pulling you from the wedding, we’re pulling you from the wedding. Because getting you help is most important.”
Others of you reading this may be considering “firing” members of your own bridal party. Even if your situation doesn’t involve substance abuse, keep in mind that years of friendship are more valuable than one day in a bridal party. Your decisions regarding who’s in and who’s out should first be made according to what will preserve your friends’ health (physical, emotional, or otherwise), second according to what will best protect your friendship, and only third, what will save the most stress and drama. Taking someone from your bridal party isn’t punishment, and it’s usually not a great decision to make while angry, and WAUT, I’m sure that wasn’t your intention, but we all can use a reminder, yeah?
If it does pan out that in three months they won’t be able to stand beside you, I would suggest that you still consider them members of your bridal party. Just to make sure that your friends don’t equate seeking help for their well-being with being punished, include their names with the rest of the party in the programs, or otherwise honor them how you plan to honor the rest of your closest friends. They’re going through a tough time right now, and I’m hoping you’ll be there to celebrate when they come out of it, even if they can’t be there to celebrate your wedding.
Team Practical, did you need to make tough decisions for the sake of your friends? How did you decide when a friendship was best served by not being involved in the bridal party?
Photo by APW sponsor Moodeous Photography.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!