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Ask Team Practical: Dropping Friends from the Bridal Party


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: Dropping Friends from the Bridal Party | A Practical Wedding 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.

Signed,
Worried About Us And Them

Dear WAUT,

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!

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • Karen

    I appreciate that this response is so compassionate and drama free. Thank you Team Practical, for always staying focused on what matters most. APW is a breath of fresh air on the interwebs! I don’t have any experience to add, just wanted to say thank you.

  • Ambi

    I agree with this advice, although I want to add that my impression of your letter was not at all that you were more concerned with your wedding than your friends’ health and wellbeing. It’s just that this is a wedding website and the wedding issue does need to be addressed, so . . . it made sense to focus on that aspect of the problem. But I completely agree that you can’t address the wedding issue in a vacuum – you have to do it in the context of an overall conversation with your friends about their problem. My gut reaction from reading the letter is that you really do care about these people very much and that any conversation you have with them will be heartfelt and kind – I honestly imagine you crying before you even get one word out. They will likely be angry now, but they will remember the fact that you cared enough to have such a hard conversation and that you did in a loving and kind way. Honestly, you need to be prepared that they may be so angry at you for bringing the issue up, you’ll never even get to the part about them not coming to the wedding because they will make that decision for themselves, out of anger. But if they do want to be in the wedding, even after you have this conversation, I think you may need to give them a chance. I know it may mean more drama for you at the wedding, and that is not something I take lightly, but if you are the person who confronts these people about their problem, and if you do it in a way that shows them compassion and love and support and you really encourage them to get help . . . I think it would send a really bad message if you don’t also extend to them the opportunity to live up to those expectations. If you act in a way that shows you have no confidence in them getting better, they are going to take that to heart.

    Also, when you do have this conversation, please stress how sympathetic you are to their problem and how much you understand – presecription drug addiction is virtually an epidemic right now. Many smart, responsible, law-abiding people who would never dream of doing illegal drugs accidentally get addicted to drugs that are prescribed to them. It happened to my loving and extremely straight-laced grandmother, and it was devastating. Your friends probably already have a lot of guilt and self-hate about this addiction, and they don’t need any more. What they need is someone who really believes that they can turn their lives around.

  • Anon

    I don’t feel completely comfortable with this advice. I agree that response to addiction ideally shouldn’t come out of anger. However it’s also not only fair but important to protect yourself from people who are using you. This can be extremely difficult to navigate when people close to you are in denial and behaving destructively towards themselves and others

    Though lacking the details, I get the sense that the writer feels used — that her friends abused her hospitality and stole from her. I think it’s important to understand that and find ways to set appropriate boundaries (mentally and phsyically) so it won’t happen again. She has a right (and duty to herself?) to engage these folks on terms that are as safe and OK for her as possible. It may help to work through this with a therapist or support group depending on the friends’ issues and responses. It could be quite difficult to do, even if/because she cares about them.

    • Ambi

      I agree with you, but this type of issue is so hard, and so personal, that I think it may be impossible to give the bride any advice – all we can do is talk about what we think we might do in that situation, but we really can’t tell her what she should do.

      I do think that setting boundaries and protecting yourself is absolutely necessary, but personally I am the type of person who waits a long time, and allows myself to get burned a few times, before I finally do that. My reality of dealing with friends and loved ones has been that they can sometimes really be awful, and they can hurt you, but depending on your relationship with them, it can often be worth it to forgive them those transgressions and move forward to a better place. It is kind of like what we talk about with marriage – when is it so bad you walk away, and when is it just a really bad time that you two will work through and end up in a better place. Obviously, we don’t know the details of the writer’s friendship with this couple, but they were close enough to both be included in the wedding party. So, I do think there is something to be said for sometimes forcing yourself to go through some pain and discomfort and unhappiness if the goal is worth it (I phrase it that way because I think we have to keep in mind the fact that the bride and groom may do everything they possibly can, and may really put themselves out there, and may get hurt . . . and this couple could still not get help or address their problem). Ultimately, I think the writer should balance all of our advice and do what feels right to her – there is something to be said for trying ot help them, and something to be said for protecting herself, and only she can know where to draw that line.

      You know, actually, I may be doing a complete turn around on my opinion, but it does seem like the writer already HAS decided where to draw that line, and could be just asking for advice on how to do it. If so, and if she’s confident in her decision, then by all means, I think she should stick with it.

      • Anon

        I think there’s also the bit about allowing people to face the consequences of their actions. If the writer honestly is not comfortable including them in the day, not because of any B.S. about stigma, but because they are not able to participate in the day without harming or frightening others, that is a consequence of their actions. It’s a fine line, but on the flipside it is not her job to accommodate anyone’s out of control behavior.

        I think it is possible to keep loving and believing in someone, while also keeping realistic expectations about what they can deliver Right Now, and what is most appropriate right now. It’s painful and it sucks, but I think it beats being at the mercy of erratic or abusive behavior, or just giving up. It is not an easy line.

        It’s still possible to do the hard work of loving and supporting someone, without letting them hurt or take advantage of you.

        • Ambi

          That’s a really fair point, and I think I need to amend what I said above -if they take active steps to seek help, and they still want to come to your wedding (and possibly if their treatment provider thinks it is a safe idea), THEN I do think you should think about giving them a chance. But you’re right, with an addict, you really can’t trust promises that they won’t engage in the problematic behavior. So, yeah, you’re right – I don’t think that, just because you have a difficult conversation with them about their problem, you have to give them a chance to be at your wedding just because they say they’ll behave. That has to be coupled with real steps at recovery and a demonstration that they are serious about doing this (and most likely, clearance from their treatment program to go, which they likely would not get). It all depends on the circumstances, I guess, and the timing of the wedding makes it seem unlikely that they will have made any real progress by then, so I will admit that I could have been wrong in my advice above.

        • Anon (one of them!)

          FYI there are a couple “Anon” posters here. But basically my opinion is Liz’s could be read as putting too much responsibility on the couple. In my opinion, the couple is responsible to set safe boundaries with these folks, and then find ways to articulate their concern. More boundaries could be needed after that depending on the friends’ reactions. If it were me I’d prepare for this ahead of time by speaking with a professional and/or 12-step group.

          I have addiction & untreated mental health issues in my family and I see a cycle of “emergencies,” of people taking too much responsibility for other peoples’ actions and choices, and walking on eggshells hoping not to offend people. It is painful and confusing to try to understand what to do. Clear and proper boundaries for self-care are necessary. It’s also necessary not to expect more from people than they are likely to deliver in a given moment (even if you hold out hope for them in the long run). As others have said here, you can say your piece and offer support, but people will not get help until they are ready to do that.

          I agree that you shouldn’t let ideas about a “perfect wedding” get in the way of your love for people most important to you. However there’s a real difference between that issue, and just setting safe boundaries for yourself and your guests w/ someone who has a serious untreated & out of control problem. And thinking carefully about the right timing and approach for confronting a friend’s issue is critical. And I really believe it’s not their job to find a way to include out of control people in their wedding just to make sure they don’t hurt their feelings.

    • Liz

      I agree! I’m interested in hearing how you think that would play out. In my mind, directing them toward finding help would be a means of protecting myself, but this may be a good place to open the conversation about what other sorts of boundaries you’d need to establish.

      • Anon

        I think the writer probably has the best sense of what feels safe to her. It sounds like that may not include having them at the wedding. She may or may not feel comfortable having them in her home again, since they stole from her. Seeing them in public places might feel O.K. I don’t know.

        Her friends could probably have a pretty wide range of responses to her expressing her concern for them. I think a therapist or addiction counselor could help best.

      • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

        I agree that directing them towards help is part helpful and also part self-protect and it’s the most compassionate and loving place to start.

        Decisions about the wedding day are probably better when they don’t come from a place of hurt and/or a place of “teaching” consequences (because ultimately that’s hoping for an “a-ha!” moment on behalf of the friends who, in their current state, are unlikely to notice the intended consequence).

        I think there are a lot of “if then” scenarios in this case, which makes it hard. For example, if they get help but aren’t completely better, then can they be in the wedding? This is going to be a step-by-step case where compartmentalizing skills will be handy.

        I think I would start by talking with them (as Liz suggested) being honest about the hurt that is felt and the concern for them. I would find places to deal with the hurt and I would let them decide how they want to proceed with treatment and let my decisions about level of involvement evolve over the next 3 months. For things like programs that are done ahead of time (or the day before wedding in my case!), I would still include them. If they supported you and contributed to your relationship, they still count. They are just not in a position to do it now.

        blah. Rambling response. Cliff notes:
        Step one: Take care of you and your hurt
        Step two: Disclose in caring and honest way your hurt
        Step three: offer resources
        Step four: let it go for a bit
        Step five: Take care of you.

        • HH

          “If they supported you and contributed to your relationship, they still count. They are just not in a position to do it now.”

          This is such a lovely and concise way of saying something so important.

    • meg

      We do, for the record, edit long letters down for space reasons (this was edited down by at least half). And not to be obvious, but we edit them in the most flattering way possible. So, Liz tries to leave everything in you need to know as readers, but she’s always responding to the full context of everything she knows from the letter. Just so you guys know how it works!

    • srb

      i’m not a fan of this response either.

      it isn’t the bride and groom’s responsibility to find them help. and the friends are being themselves. themselves on drugs. there are repercussions to one’s choices no matter if they are in the dredges of addiction or not.

      i think the bride and groom can be incredibly loving to these friends and set a boundary. best to welcome them to the wedding and request they not be in the party based on recent behavior that is unacceptable.

      i’ve been sober for about 14 years. there are ways to act compassionately and enforce personal boundaries AND still have respect that addiction is a horrible disease. you do not have to help get them sober or get help. when they want it and when they are ready for it, they will find it.

      i often find the advice on this part of the site to be incredibly helpful, but this might have been a time where guidance from a professional who deals with addicts could have stepped in and offered advice.

      • Liz

        Thanks, SRB! We did try to bring in a few perspectives more experienced than my own before running the post, rest assured.

        I think what’s important to notice is that WAUT stressed that if it was any other time, she’d try to help her friends find help. In this post, I’m hoping to emphasize that wedding time shouldn’t negate whatever you would normally do in a crisis situation.

        • srb

          i apologize that i had missed meg’s later post that stated you had indeed consulted with others. i do appreciate that!

  • rys

    What a thoughtful response, as usual.

    I don’t have anything add to this particular situation, but I would like to offer a reminder that circumstances sometimes create situations in which bridal party members want to be dropped. My high school best friend — with whom I remained close post high school, post college, and whatnot — asked me to be a bridesmaid. I had already agreed to make her chuppah and this was her way of showing her gratitude. However, as a transatlantic and transcontinental dress search went on and on and on because she wanted to find a single dress that would fit her 2 bridesmaids of very different sizes, the process drove me nuts. I’m not a shopper, and I think there are much more significant ways to show support and symbolize deep friendship. Anyways, I was home and saw her mom, who realized how exasperated and frustrated I was getting. To make a long story short, I was demoted or promoted (depending on one’s perspective!) from bridesmaid to Chuppah Maker/Best Friend Without a Portfolio (bride was a political journalist abroad so “minister without a portfolio” had a certain currency).

    This was a fantastic result for both of us: I made her chuppah and read one of the seven blessings in a dress I already owned, and she had a much easier search for a bridesmaid dress. I stayed with her the night before the wedding, and we remain close friends who joke about my now-well-known policy of only accepting bridesmaid assignments that don’t have communal dress requirements (but happily accepting any and all other creative help requests…I’ve made all sorts of things for friends and happily watched the wedding from the audience). There are times when even “regular” friendship is best served by detaching it from the bridal party.

  • KB

    I totally feel like Liz hit the nail on the head with this post. It really seems like WAUT doesn’t want to make her wedding be the ultimatum or even the “one more thing” that leads to the creation of an artificial bottom for her friends – she just wants them to get help and not have her wedding turn on whether or not her friends get help. I would also elaborate on what Liz touched on, the importance of not accusing and focusing on your concern and worry. It might help to visit or read some literature from Al-anon/Ala-teen groups for family and friends in your area, just to get more information in dealing with whatever feelings you have about your friends now and how your friendship has changed.

    And I also have to say that I’m sorry and this situation really sucks, but you’re a good friend for recognizing that something is wrong and wanting to act so that your friends’ behavior doesn’t affect others, including children, at your event. Hopefully your friends will respond positively to your concern; but even if they don’t and they pull away or react badly, know that you are a good friend for putting your concern for them first and foremost and being brave enough to ask them to get help instead of ignoring it or enabling them to continue down this destructive path.

  • http://minnesota-chic.com PA

    What I would suggest is shifting any tasks and responsibilities (picking up flowers, arranging things with the caterer, whatever) that you had allocated to the two of them to other members of the wedding party, or other guests. This will allow them to remain a part of the wedding without you feeling like you need to check in with them all the time to make sure things are getting done.

    (This is, of course, in ADDITION to checking in with friends and family to see if people have already attempted to get help for these people, and if not–or even if so–getting people together to talk to them and offer support.)

    I wish your community luck and strength as you navigate this!

    • Liz

      Yes, great point! Remove the pressure of the role without the honor of it.

  • http://fromasmallstep.blogspot.com Kinzie Kangaroo

    As always, I love reading Liz’s advice. But I would have to say that I would probably try to find a (very kind, positive) way to not have this couple as a part of my wedding party. We had to make some decisions about the people we wanted to surround ourselves with at key times of our wedding day. I have a friend who is sometimes a source of negativity, and I didn’t want to risk having that friend around every moment of the day on wedding day, when they might have made the day into something other than a very joyous occasion. It was a tough decision, and feelings were hurt in some ways, but we did our best to be gracious and inclusive all the same — but at the end of the day, I’m so happy that I surrounded myself with loving, positive people on my wedding day.

  • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

    This is tough stuff WAUT. Seriously tough. And I’m really really sorry you’re having to go through it at a time that is supposed to be as joyful as a wedding.

    The even tougher thing is that your conversation with your friends really may not work. It might not lead to any sort of resolution at all. They may have a million excuses for why they’re doing what they’re doing. They may not even want to believe they’re doing anything wrong. Addiction is a horrible disease and you were certainly right when you suggested that three months isn’t much time. Depending on how far gone they are, three months may put them well on the right path. Three months may also just put them three months closer to seeing that they need to change.

    Aside from seeking help for your friends, seek joyous wedding help for yourself. Whatever you decide about these friends in your wedding party (because that is such a hard hard hard decision that will have to be made based on THIS specific addiction scenario), do not let your happiness (or the logistics) of your day rest on them–certainly let it be ADDED to by their presence but not subtracted from by absence or misbehavior. Turn to your other bridal party member, family, friends, whoever you’ve got. Addiction doesn’t just happen to the addicts, in fact, it’s often much worse for those around them.

    WAUT, you deserve the best at your wedding, just as your friends deserve the best support you and their other friends/family can give them. You have all my best wishes and sympathy as you go through this journey.

  • KateM

    Liz had such a great answer. She nailed it all the way around and including the response to addiction. Before you do anything, I would also recommend doing an Al Anon meeting and talk to people there. Addiction is so hard, there is never a straight forward answer and they have to recognize the problem and want to change it for themselves, otherwise it can’t be forced on them. Please know that. I understand feeling hurt and used, you will find that most family and friends of addicts feel the same way, and understanding that it is a disease and what that entails can be really tough. I have a family member who at 29 has been a admitted alcoholic for over 3 years and is “trying” to get better. In and out of AA, has a girlfriend/fiance who is literally the best thing to ever happen to him, and he knows it, and he can’t get sober for her, as much as he wants to. He got his second DUI the night before my wedding and spent that night and the following week in jail. It is really hard not be angry. I really recommend counseling with an addiction professional before you take the step of confronting the couple, it will help both you and them to have as much information as possible when you sit down. I agree that the wedding has to be the incidental, because their addiction is not about you, it is about them. I know you will have some tough decisions, sending thoughts, prayers, and hugs your way.

  • Kayla

    Some of this advice made me uncomfortable too. I completely agreed with most of it, but this last part really hit a nerve, in a bad way.

    “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.”

    Where does “protecting your baby family” fall in that hierarchy? For that matter, what about “protecting your family of origin”? Since we’ve talked so much about how planning a wedding helps a couple plan for a marriage, it worries me to think that the top two priorities should both center around taking care of our friends rather than ourselves.

    • Liz

      For me, the bridal party is about your friends more than the rest of it. You’re picking who you want to honor, so of course they’re going to be factor 1. I consider protecting your relationship closely tied to protecting your family. If I knew my friends were somehow going to put my family at risk, that would of course put my relationship with them at risk. So, if they’re going to hurt my family by being in the bridal party, it’s best for our friendship that they’re not in the bridal party. Did I explain that well? I’m having trouble articulating.

      • Ambi

        I get what you’re saying. That part of your advice didn’t bother me, though. I don’t want to make this sound harsher than I intend it to be (and I am not really saying this necessarily applies to the original poster here), but I do think there is something to be said for focusing on your friends (and family’s) needs, maybe even to the expense of your own needs, to an extent. It is really a judgment call for each person to make. But I think there is already so much about the wedding process that focuses on what the bride and groom want, how they are experiencing the wedding, how they feel, etc., that it is not crazy to advise a bride and groom to focus on the needs of others (in this case, very serious needs). I think it is very good advice that, in this situation, you have to priortize the most serious needs, and her friends’ need to get help for their addiction is, in my opinion, more pressing than the bride and groom’s need to have a drama-free wedding. Of course, as stated above, them getting treatment would probably also accomplish the drama-free wedding, so it would be win-win. But I agree that the focus has to be on their health, not the wedding. As big and important and meaningful as a wedding is, it is small in comparison to an addiction from which these friends could easily ruin their entire lives or even die. So, in that sense, yeah, I do think that the people who are closest to these friends may have to prioritize their health and well-being over some other important things right now.

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          I think putting the friends’ well being as high priority is important, but at the same time even if the couple getting married has a calm and serious discussion with them about their concerns there is still a very good chance that the OP won’t be able able to convince their friends that they need help.

          And, if that is the case, there’s a consideration for what is the best for everyone – the OP and her friends and the wedding guests in general -involved if the friends don’t get help. Honestly, to me, it might be excluding them from the wedding party. But it’s a hard call to make.

    • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

      Protecting your baby family is really high on the list of things that need to be done. I think what Liz was trying to get across in her advice is that a substance abuse problem that is severe enough to make someone uncomfortable to have very close friends in their home is a really serious problem that needs to be addressed. Any questions about who is in or out of a bridal party is a much more secondary question to “What kind of help do my friends need? Are they read for that help? Do they know I’ll help them when they are?”

  • Amy March

    I think keeping their names in the program would be very confusing and draw questions and concerns about their absence. I think instead, maybe include a line about how the happy couple is grateful for the support and friendship of their lived ones near and far and their thoughts/prayers are with those who were not able to be present for the celebration.

    I think my decision on whether to have them attend would come down to their behavior and how it would impact the day. Lying? probably not an issue. Stealing? Potentially major problem (picture purses discarded on tables while their owners dance).

    I can’t make them to get help, all I can do is say that I love them, and I hope they seek help, but that they stole from me, and I can’t have them at my wedding.

    • Liz

      Interesting! We had some groomsmen unable to show up (for reasons different than those in this post), and we still listed them in the program. No one mentioned it or asked about it. But I could see how that might have worked differently, also.

  • anon for this

    As someone in recovery, I would say that things like not being allowed to be in a close friend’s wedding would actually help me reach a bottom where I was able to be in enough pain to get sober. (For me, it wasn’t weddings: it was a lot of family intervention, some messy issues with cops, and my whole life generally coming down in flames; for my fiance’s, it was a lot of other things, so you just never know! But the point is, we both had consequences that led us to being sober for many years at this point).

    Just my two cents: I would definitely try to intervene in some way, probably one person at a time (ie: don’t do both of them at once… that’s never good). I would do your research and find local AA or NA meetings and also out patient and in patient treatment options, just in case one of them wants more information on getting help. I would tell them how hurt you are by having them steal from you and that you will always love them, but you have some clear boundaries for them right now. Understand that they probably will not get sober right away (keep your expectations low — al anon is a great way to learn how to do that), but I think the worst thing for someone in the disease is to have a bunch of people who do not give them consequences and only enable them to keep living how they are living. If they feel like they got away with their behavior, they will keep engaging in it.

    Good luck!!!

    • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

      I really like this advice. I would call self-protection and boundaries the “potential” unintended consequences. If you know someone who has a drug or alcohol problem, the boundaries have to be established. Hopefully he or she comes around, but the boundaries are established for you not them.

    • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

      This: “Understand that they probably will not get sober right away (keep your expectations low — al anon is a great way to learn how to do that)”

      I know this is such a hard thing to hear but it is so so so important.

    • anon

      Thank you for sharing this. As someone who planned a wedding while not attending my Al Anon meetings, I can’t believe that I wasn’t working the steps through the whole process. I finally mustered the courage to go back a few weeks ago, and it’s the first time since getting engaged that I feel like a can breathe again. I know it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is the one thing that’s given me any semblance of peace.
      Above there was some talk about how much emphasis there is on the bride and groom, and that maybe, in the process of wedding planning, there should be more emphasis on others, particularly if they are in crisis. I understand that this comes from a loving, good hearted place, but I think when we talk about addiction it is important to give people the space to not be responsible for the decisions of other adults. Yes addiction is a disease. Yes we deeply love our family (or in this case friends) who suffer from addiction. However, no matter how much we express our love, support and boundaries, we have no control over the behavior of another adult. Without living through it, it can be incredibly hard to understand such a stance, but it is the only way through that I’ve found.
      Planning a wedding with a mother not in recovery was literally the hardest year of my life, despite the fact that she has suffered from this for over a decade now. It was the people who stood by me without telling me what was right for me that gave me the strength to put one foot in front of the other.
      I hope you give yourself permission to show love and support in a way that preserves your safety and sanity. For me that ended up feeling/being impossible, but I found that it was an opportunity. As much as I hate it, everyone but me loved our wedding. I still can’t talk about it without crying, but it did get me back to meetings. And that will eventually lead me back to myself. Thank God.

      • Ambi

        To Anon for This and Anon, thank you both so much for opening up and sharing – you’ve provided so much perspective on an issue that is really really difficult to understand from the outside. Like most people, I have had dealings with friends and family members suffering from addiction, but my experience is nowhere near yours, so I am going to defer to both of you – you really make very good points.

        I also just want to say that part of HAMPTON’s post, below, captured what I have been trying to say, but expressed it so much better, so I am just going to “exactly” that:

        “And while “protecting your baby family” is absolutely important, protecting your wedding isn’t the same thing. If you try to approach friends in these circumstances and start with “I am concerned about how your drug problem, and whether or not you are up to your roles in the wedding,” they will likely only hear “I am concerned about how your problems are going to affect my wedding,” and that conversation is going to go downhill fast. I think that Liz is pretty spot on. IMHO, the initial conversation should be about the health and well being of these friends with little or no mention of the wedding or their roles in the bridal party.”

        I’m learning that the approach I instinctually gravitated towards (as described in my posts above), may actually create enabling behavior, and I really do recognize the importance of setting boundaries and protecting your baby family. I just think that, as Hampton said here, and as I read Liz’s advice, you basically have to put the wedding aside and just approach the situation focusing solely on friends’ need to get help. Yes, you are going to have make wedding decisions, and yes, there is a very big possibility you will need to ask them not to come, but I think that the first steps and the first conversations have to be just about the friends and their problem – not the wedding. In addition to everything that has already been said about that, I also think it is practical advice because, in my experience, if you provide an addict with any opportunity to blame someone else, make excuses, or rationalize their way out of consequences, they will. So, if you go into the conversation talking about anything other than just the friends’ problematic behavior, I suspect that they are going to focus on those other things and use it to avoid accepting responsibility for their own actions. For example, it would be so easy for an addict to rationalize that, they aren’t the ones with the problem, it is just that their friend has turned into a crazy uptight bridezilla and is being unreasonable. Again, in my experience, the same thing can happen when you set up boundaries and make the addict live with their consequences – they very often internalize the situation as YOU being irrational and unfair and mean, not that it is due to their own actions. Obviously, they are the ones with the problem, but I have found that when you set up consequences as a “teaching moment” for an addict, it often backfires because it comes across as an artificial or contrived consequence that has been imposed by someone else, not a true consequence of their behavior, so they can easily get out of having to accept it. You can’t change this – if the addict isn’t ready to accept responsibility, they just aren’t going to – but you can minimize the opportunity for them to do this by focusing solely on them, their behavior, etc. – not the wedding. Does that make sense?

        • anon

          I think you’re right on. In many ways I had no idea how to have a healthy relationship with anyone because of the way addiction warped my reality. I was shocked to find that supporting an addict is in many ways the same as supporting anyone else. It’s pure insanity that I ever thought it my role (or frighteningly enough, my responsibility) to fix everything around me. I was doing the best I could, but it was certainly not doing me any good. Come to find out, healthy relationships are ones where you are straightforward, supportive, and let go of the outcome. In many, many ways, this situation has nothing to do with the wedding. It’s certainly heartbreaking timing, but oftentimes an addiction is hidden for many, many years even from the oldest of friends. If I were in this situation, I would express my concern, offer support, and then set boundaries. Even if someone agrees to seek help it is certainly no guarantee of recovery. The desire for recovery has to be internal and healthy boundaries give people the best chance at learning to taking care of themselves. And in the end, the boundaries in your relationship are different than boundaries for your wedding. Having two conversations may be exhausting, but it certainly keeps things clear. Whatever you (or anyone else in similar circumstances) decide, know that you’re not alone in all this. I really hope that you figure the right way for you.

          • Ambi

            When you talked about feeling like it was your responsibility to fix everything around you, that was really a lightbulb moment for me, regarding WAUT’s question. It is wonderful and admirable that she is trying to figure out the best way to help her friends. And it is really understandable that she is worried about her wedding. And I am glad we are all giving her so many different perspectives and opinions in our comments. But I think that the realization that it isn’t WAUT’s responsibility to solve her friends’ problem helps so much when reading and digesting these comments, since we seem to be disagreeing quite a bit on the best approach. What I mean is, reading all of our comments, she may get become anxious that if she goes too far one way she may not be acting as a compassionate and loving friend, while if she goes too far the other way, she might not be allowing the friends to deal with the consequences of their actions and would therefore be an enabler . . . I think the point is that she just needs to do what feels right, since she is obviously coming from a place of genuine love and concern, and after that she has to let go of feeling responsible for fixing this.

    • meg

      This is really interesting. I’m mostly just commenting so everyone will notice it. Read, read!

  • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

    Rambling response above but wanted to add something to consider with respect to protecting self and family when deciding if they are still invited. I would very seriously consider whether I would trust my friends around guests’ medications and/or money (Like in purses and such). I don’t say this to be paranoid. This has happened to people I know very well.

    If you do not trust them (and I noticed that one of the questions was, “How do we tell them if we don’t want them in the wedding party or as a guest?”), then when you have you talk I would say, “I care very much about you. I have these places and recommendations for you. I want to help to the extent that I can. Right now I do not trust that you would not be tempted to steal from family members or other friends if the opportunity presented itself. And that makes me wonder if it’s appropriate for you to be at the wedding or around my family until you are better and know that you can trust yourself”

    I guess I weigh pretty heavy on the side of self-protect, but I don’t think it has to be independent of caring and compassionate behavior.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      For me, the issue of these friends’ stealing other guests’ money or medications is not one of SELF-protection, but of protecting the other guests. It’s not like someone getting drunk off the alcohol the hosts’ provide and just making a fool of themselves. It’s closer to then letting that drunk drive.

      If you really think these friends are a danger to other guests, you can’t choose their inclusion/honor to the expected hurt of everyone else.

  • hampton

    sometimes i wonder how long the APW editors have to mull over an email before they can respond with such refreshingly calm, empathetic advice and get straight to the heart of “here is what matters the most.” it’s such a loaded topic and i found myself reacting pretty viscerally to WAUT’s email.

    And while “protecting your baby family” is absolutely important, protecting your wedding isn’t the same thing. If you try to approach friends in these circumstances and start with “I am concerned about how your drug problem, and whether or not you are up to your roles in the wedding,” they will likely only hear “I am concerned about how your problems are going to affect my wedding,” and that conversation is going to go downhill fast. I think that Liz is pretty spot on. IMHO, the initial conversation should be about the health and well being of these friends with little or no mention of the wedding or their roles in the bridal party.

    it’s a messy situation but could get so much messier if you don’t approach the conversation in a way that makes it clear that you value the health and safety of these friends above all else.

    • meg

      We mulled for days, and had a couple staff discussions about what the answer could or should be, and then ran it by someone versed in addiction. That doesn’t mean we always nail it (and people are pointing out great things in the comments, which is why it’s called Ask Team Practical) but that’s the process ;)

      And yes. To everything you said here. I agree.

    • http://bigweddingsmallbudget.wordpress.com Barbra

      “And while “protecting your baby family” is absolutely important, protecting your wedding isn’t the same thing.”

      This is it. Exactly.

  • anonymous

    I had a similar problem, but mine, ultimately, ended in the worst possible manner. My grandfather, to whom I was very close–he was really more like a father figure to me when I was young–had a drinking problem that, over the course of several years developed into a serious problem and then this year, between his drinking and a prescription pain medication problem (prescribed to him for very real pain, but abused by him), it became clear he was trying to kill himself. My whole life, if I’d imagined my wedding, I’d imagined my grandfather having a central role in it.

    We tried a family intervention, but even at that time, because of his inability to spend any time even mildly sober, and his, by then, frail physical state, it was clear to me that he could not travel to attend my wedding. At the time, I couldn’t think of anything more heartbreaking than telling him he couldn’t come to the wedding, except, maybe, imagining him there in his frail, incoherently drunken state. Well–something more heartbreaking did, in fact, happen–he died of his alcoholism a couple of months ago (my wedding is this fall).

    I know that this story is an incredible downer, and I don’t know what I would have done if my grandfather had lived until my wedding, but I’d say that Liz’s advice is really spot-on. Have the painful conversation–even if it doesn’t work, they don’t get better, you don’t trust them to attend your wedding–talk to them. If there’s any chance that they can recover, they’ll really need anything you can give them (that being said, as was mentioned above, you do need to set boundaries. And I think it’s fair to uninvite them from the wedding if you really won’t be able to trust them there, just try to do it in the most loving possible way, and try to figure out first if there’s any chance they might be able to attend sober or at least sober enough to not be disruptive.)

    • http://www.3upadventures.com Beth

      Anonymous.Replace grandfather with dad and that sounds like my story. The self medicating for very real pain. The realization that they wouldn’t be able to attend your wedding. The death before the wedding. All of it.

      Hugs, love, and sympathy from me.

      • HH

        My heart is aching for you both, and goes out to both of you.

        So much love for you.

      • Ambi

        I too am sending love and hugs and sympathy tears to both of you. I am so sorry you have both gone through so much. I really appreciate that you are willing to share your experiences with us though. As this post makes clear, there are a lot of other people out there dealing with similar situations and hearing that they are not alone is huge.

        I think these two comments really drive home the point for me that this Ask Team Practical post should be grouped with the other APW posts telling very sad, but very real, stories about how weddings can be far from perfect and sometimes include a lot of pain. We have many posts where a parent has unexpectedly died during wedding planning, or a fiance has been seriously injured, or the bride was diagnosed with a serious illness – I think it is important for WAUT to view her situation in that kind of light. It is sad, and there will be some pain and disappointment mixed in with the happy tears on her wedding day, but all of those other APW demonstrate that the love and joy and support of your wedding day will ultimately create an amazing and touching experience for you both, even when it takes place during a time of mourning or worry. In short, addiction is an illness, and while they won’t help her figure out exactly how to deal with her friends, I think those past APW posts may help WAUT in dealing with her own feelings and in emotionally preparing for her wedding.

      • anonymous

        Hugs, love, and sympathy right back to you. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I hope your wedding was (will be?) joyful and full of celebration, despite the grief.

  • http://www.myhonestanswer.com my honest answer

    I agree with Liz. Your friends need help. So you help them. The wedding (though important) is secondary, and it shouldn’t really affect your actions. You do what you would do anyway. And then you thank your lucky stars and marry the man you love. Best of luck.

  • Sarah

    First off, I want to offer my sympathies to WAUT. This is a very difficult situation without the added complication of the wedding and the fact that your friends have already been invited to be a part of the wedding party. I don’t have an answer on how to handle such a delicate situation, but want to offer some solidarity from a similar experience.

    Although I agree with many of the writers who suggested that the friend’s health and well being should be paramount, I feel that it is okay (if very heartbreaking) to remove them from the wedding party. My fiancé’s oldest friend has been struggling with prescription drug addiction for several years now. He is no longer the fun, witty person that my fiance grew up with and it has been a very painful process to witness. When we were deciding on our wedding party and very small guest list for our wedding we struggled mightily with whether to include him. Three years ago he would have been asked to be the best man without hesitation. Ultimately, a number of factors played into our decision not to include him in our day. The most important was the fact that we live across the country now and would have felt responsible for his safety during his visit, something we were neither able to take on nor comfortable tasking mutual friends with. I do not know what sorts of behaviors WAUT’s friends were exhibiting, and whether they are at the point of endangering themselves or others in social situations, but I feel that this is something that should be taken into consideration. Being worried about embarrassment from someone’s behavior is one thing and can be dealt with, but being worried about their safety and the safety of those around them is a much more serious situation. I wish WAUT strength and courage in helping her friends through this difficult time. As we have talked about in other APW conversations, the roles that friends play in our lives are constantly changing and weddings only highlight those changes.

    • Ambi

      “we live across the country now and would have felt responsible for his safety during his visit”

      This is such a big deal, and you articulated it really well. Thank you for bringing it up!

  • Jashshea

    I’ve had this window open all day and I can’t seem to find a way to reply. I’m not sure I know what’s best here – I’ve tried applying it to my situations/friends and I’m still not coming up with any useful advice for the LW. What a brutal situation. A brutal situation any year, let alone when your attention is focused on something that is supposed to happy and sparkly.

    I think others have said this – you need to remove the wedding lens from this. What would you do if this happened next year? 3 years ago? Would you sit them down and tell them to get help/provide support? Would you cut them off?

    Note: I’m not judging either option. It depends on the friendship for me – I have friends that I consider quite close that I would still cut off if they stole from me. I’m a bit of bridge burner like that. I’m also very generous with the ones I love, so it would break my heart if a friend needed something and didn’t ask, but took (although, prescription drugs are an altogether different situation than money or other material items).

    If you choose to ask them to get help, I’d let the tone of that conversation set the course for the in-the-wedding/not; invited/not decision. If they react poorly and say they don’t have a problem, maybe you need to gently tell them that you disagree with that assessment and can’t be around them until they’re ready to admit that they have a problem. Let them know that you will be there for them when they’re ready to be supported.

    That may be super direct. We’ve talked a ton on APW in recent weeks/months about asking for exactly what you need and I think this is a situation where dancing around the topic may do more harm than good.

    • Ambi

      This is such good advice. Letting the tone of the first conversation (the one about them needing to admit they have a problem and get help) determine what you do about the wedding issue is sensible.

      And, I am tiptoeing on eggshells here, but I am glad that you bring up the point that the friends stealing from her is not a clear-cut black and white issue – depending on your relationship with the people and your own personal reactions to the betrayal, I think there are a wide range of possible reactions and we can’t assume that any one reaction is right or healthy. I know this is not a view that is shared by many of the people who have been commenting here (and I am learning now that this view would probably be enabling behavior, so please be aware of that), but I know from experience that my own personal reaction to a theft such as this would probably not be as intense as many commentors have described here. I do realize prescription drugs are different, and having your pill bottle with your name it out there floating around among addicts is scary and creates legal problems, but I have had the experience of having a friend suffering from addiction steal from me (he is an alcoholic and stole liquor from us during a party we hosted). I was extremely sad for him, and it was an eye-opener that he needed help, but I don’t remember feeling betrayed or angry in the sense that has been described today. Obviously, situations are different, and this happened to be a very good friend who had been through a lot and with whom I had enough history that I wanted to help him work through the problem, even if it meant having to keep a really close eye on him whenever he came over after that.

      I only say this to make the point that, while WAUT’s natural reaction was obviously one of anger and betrayal and, as other commenters have described, she understandably seems to have gone into self-preservation mode, and all of those reactions are reasonable, right, correct, and healthy, I just don’t want us to pile onto the idea that that is the only way to react. We should take WAUT’s reaction at face value and deal with her feelings as they are, but at the same time we can recognize that, if you are reading this and thinking that you would have had a different reaction, that is okay too.

      I find it really interesting to see where I fall on the spectrum of this discussion, since I would never have considered myself an enabler before. I am the person who hounds my family members about making smart responsible choices (mostly financially) and has had to be painfully stubborn in making them deal with the consequences of their own actions (no, you cannot go out and party all your money away and then stiff me on the rent – I will kick you out and get a new roommate, even if you are my brother). I am leaarning a lot about myself through this discussion. I do tend to forgive slights and I almost never hold grudges, and when it comes to addictions, I tend not to take the behavior personally or feel angry or betrayed – it just makes me sad. I am not sure if this makes sense. And I’m not saying this is the right approach (a few commenters have made excellent points demonstrating that may not be), but it is genuinely how I react to these things, and may be how other people react as well.

  • RachelM

    My perspective comes as one from a family with a lot of addiction problems (father, sister, aunts/uncles)- none at all myself, thankfully. I think Liz’s advice is very good and KB is right on with advising WAUT to consider Al-Anon for help/advice. I want to emphasize the importance of realizing that people who have addiction drug/alcohol problems see the world differently than those who don’t. What you view as reason or compassion may not jive with them while they’re using. Defensive reactions or attempts to evoke pity are common and should not be taken personally. Showing that you care is important, but it’s almost all that you can really do. You can’t rush an addict into recovery; they have to make the choice themselves. In my experience, it’s important to set firm boundaries to protect yourself while being honest, but not hurtful. Again, in my experience (I want to make that clear so as not to be accused of generalizing or offending anyone as I believe this is a very sensitive topic), I’ve found that people with addictions will take advantage of any opportunity given to feed their desire (hence the stolen pills in WAUT’s situation); they don’t mean to disrespect the people they’re taking advantage of, that is not their focus. I don’t think their actions should be taken personally, but should be seen as reason to set very firm boundaries. Finding a balance between protecting yourself while treating your troubled friends with compassion will probably be hard, but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Once recovered, they may just thank you for it.

    Best of luck. I hope your wedding is wonderful and your friends get the help they need.

    • http://theblogwhisperer.tumblr.com HeatherG

      “I’ve found that people with addictions will take advantage of any opportunity given to feed their desire (hence the stolen pills in WAUT’s situation); they don’t mean to disrespect the people they’re taking advantage of, that is not their focus. I don’t think their actions should be taken personally, but should be seen as reason to set very firm boundaries.”

      Agreed. Friends stole from their home. Line crossed. Self and family protection activate. And then provide compassion and help, if it’s wanted.

  • Jess

    To Team Practical: While I have nothing but respect for the place of compassion that your response comes from, & while I agree wholeheartedly with your advice that WAUT & her partner reach out to their friends to offer their help & support, I completely disagree with your advice that they work to find a way to keep their friends involved in the wedding party.

    To WAUT: My sister has been severely addicted to opiates for more than a year (though her opiate use began even earlier than that). Many members of my immediate family are alcoholics, but my experience with my sister’s addiction has been something entirely other–that much more extreme, that much more destructive. I know that my experience can’t extend to be universal, but it sounds like your instinct is telling you that your friends should not be involved in your wedding–& I think you should follow that instinct. Sit down with them, discuss your concerns, let them know you will support them, but also let them know that you feel hurt & disrespected & uncomfortable with their involvement in your wedding. I absolutely believe that when dealing with an addict, you need to protect yourself first. Your friends will seek recovery when they want it more than they want their drug. I encourage you to attend a local NA meeting, & I hope for peace for you & for your friends.

    • Liz

      Jess, I really appreciate your input!

      I think it probably is the case that these friends wouldn’t be able to be included for logistical reasons, if nothing else. My hope is that that conversation can be framed in a way that doesn’t read as punishment for a tough time.

      • Jess

        As I said in my original post, Liz, I really do appreciate the place of compassion your advice is coming from. & I definitely agree that if removing the couple from the bridal party is WAUT’s choice, it shouldn’t be framed as a punishment or a rejection. It’s a reeeally tough line to walk…

        What I find interesting about many of these comments, is that there seems to be an attitude of either/or: *either* WAUT can put her friendships first & reach out to the couple, *or* she can remove them from her bridal party. I think that, particularly since we’re dealing with addiction, the two choices have nothing to do with one another, & certainly are not mutually exclusive. & I also worry that WAUT will feel like a “bad friend” if her choice is to remove the couple from the bridal party, or even to uninvite them from the wedding entirely, when either of those choices would be a completely valid boundary to set with friends who are active addicts.

        There is also, & I think this has been discussed above, little to nothing that WAUT can really do to help her friends. She can tell them she loves them. She can tell them she will support them in their recovery. The list about ends there. Beyond that, the best thing that she can do for herself is to set whatever boundaries with her friends that she thinks she’ll be most comfortable with going forward.

        • Liz

          I’m sorry you got that impression! That’s not my intention at all. My emphasis is that removal from the bridal party is framed in compassion and concern, not in punishment and anger.

          Edited to add: I think the crux of disagreement between us (if there is one!) is outlined above, where someone (smartly) said that protecting yourself and protecting your wedding are two different things. If not allowing them to come to the wedding is your means of protecting yourself from further betrayal and harm, that’s one thing. If you’re just lashing out in anger or maybe concerned about the photos turning out great, that’s another. The best way I could think to be sure that you’re making decisions from the right perspective is to just put the wedding aside for a minute, and figure out what’s best for your friends and for your relationship to them. Come back to decisions about the wedding later (cause those will be informed by the other decisions, anyway).

          • Jess

            Oh! I didn’t get that impression from anything you wrote…more from some of the conversation going on in comments. I apologize for not making *that* clear : )

            As for your edit: Yes, yes, yes. I am totally behind you on that entire paragraph. So I think perhaps there isn’t a disagreement between us (& certainly not a mean-spirited one).

            Anyway, thanks for hashing this out a bit with me! & thanks for all of the thoughtful advice you give out.

          • Sunny

            Brilliant thread and post.
            Just as protecting your baby family and your wedding are two different things, the conversation about getting help and not attending the wedding are entirely different conversations. This its how I understood Liz ‘ s post, and I think that is spot on.
            Furthermore- these are two people- I really agree with the poster who said they should be addressed separately. Of course the dynamics of a couple who share an addiction are super complicated, but seems important to me that the conversations be held separately.

      • Jess

        ALSO, (& sorry to go on), but your comment to Ambi below is super helpful in clarifying the perspective that you were coming from in the original post. I really do hear you, & I think that approaching any conversation with only the best intentions of love & friendship is so important in dealing with situations like this one. I just don’t believe that the realities of the addiction can or should be removed from the response to WAUT here. I don’t think it’s about putting the friendship first, & the wedding second: I think it’s about putting yourself first, & the friendship second, & making a choice about the wedding that takes the issue of addiction into account.

  • Ambi

    Liz, I totally get that (in fact I said something similar in my very first comment), but I kind of thought that the point of your response (and many of our comments) is that you can’t really address the wedding issue by itself; ideally, discussion about their role in the wedding would only come in the context of (or maybe occur after) a larger discussion about their addiction. Is this bride responsible for fixing her friends’ problem? Absolutely not. But given the fact that she said that if this had happened under normal circumstances, she would speak to them about the problem and suggest that they get help, and given that she DOES intend to bring up the subject with the couple at least in terms of talking about their involvement in their wedding, I think it is good advice to say that the focus should probably be more on the couples’ addiction and need for treatment and less on the wedding (at least initially). Just because it is a post about her wedding doesn’t mean that the best answer isn’t to approach the problem as she would if she weren’t worried about her wedding. I still agree with your initial advice, and I don’t think that, by telling her that the conversation should be framed more in terms of what her friends need at the moment and less in terms of what role they will play in her wedding, you were in any way insinuating that she has any responsibility for making sure they get help.

    • Liz

      Hold that thought, Ambi! I think you’re responding to a thread that caught in the spam filter, and I’m trying to restore it now!

    • Ambi

      Somehow this ended up in the wrong spot – it was in response to Liz’s comment, above, that this isn’t a post about addiction, it is a post about making wedding decisions in light of your friends’ current experiences. Sorry it is out of place!

      • Liz

        Ah, dangit. The original comment was deleted by the poster, but here’s what my comment was (to which Ambi is responding):

        I think it’s important to remember that this isn’t a post on how to deal with addiction, or how to help friends battling addiction. This is a post on making decisions about your wedding in light of experiences your friends may face. A crisis situation around a wedding is no less a crisis situation, and shouldn’t be treated differently because of its inopportune timing. (There’s never a convenient time for a crisis, is there?)

        It’s also a post about chopping friends from the bridal party in a loving way, rather than an angry or punitive way. It’s about having that conversation in a way that puts the friendship first, and the wedding second.

        Please don’t read this as a post on how to help friends through addiction, as this is not what is intended. This isn’t the place for such a question, and I’m certainly not the person to answer it. Instead, the take-away would hopefully be that the health and safety of your friends is more important than wedding day decisions, and at the heart of it, choosing who is in your bridal party is about finding the best way to love on the people around you.

  • S

    I really disagree with this advice. In my experience people only get help when they’re ready and while you should definitely offer help and try, you also need to be fiercely protective about what sort of behavior is okay around you and in your life and it sounds like the writer experienced behavior that was not okay, and shouldn’t be in her wedding, and would be quire reasonable to lovingly say cannot be a part of her wedding.

  • WAUT

    Hello All, I’m WAUT. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who responded. We’re extremely grateful for the support that people have given in their advice. From those who have gone through addiction themselves, to the ones who have had the same problem facing them, to the contributors who have just reached out, the outpouring of empathy and support has been a true comfort.
    The hardest part about addressing this issue with our friends is (as some posters have acknowledged) that we know they are quite likely to react with anger, betrayal, denial, or the belief that we don’t understand or care about them. It is truly, truly, a comfort that strangers have said that they see how much we care for our friends and that our hearts are in the right place. I hope that some day (soon or in the future) that our friends know that we are not cutting them from the ceremony as a punishment or to teach them a lesson, and that nothing but love for them would prompt us to tell them how worried we are about their lives.
    I’m particularly touched with Liz, Meg, and those contributors who talked about how long they took to formulate responses, and by how hard every person here tried to convey so much empathy and respect for my predicament and for each others’ opinions. I’m impressed and honored that the APW staff took so much careful consideration among themselves and even consulted someone with experience in the realm of addiction before answering my questions. This is truly a wonderful community.
    If nothing else, I feel that we can now go into this knowing that we are understood and sympathized with, that we aren’t alone in facing these issues. I really, really hope that our friends will know how much we love them, that our first goal is to offer them real help (we’ll be sure to tell them), and eventually they understand that the boundaries we set are as much for their well-being as for ours.

    • Joanna

      Hi WAUT,

      I’m so glad you’re getting the support and comfort you need here.

      I just want to say that most likely, your friends will be resentful of you for awhile; just as likely, they’ll eventually realize you were there for them when they really needed you and will treasure your friendship even more. My fiance is a recovering addict. I’ve experienced rough patches with him and have had to remind myself that he’s not doing it to hurt me – just to hurt himself. There’s probably a lot more than drug use going on with them under the surface – poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anything!

      Unfortunately, they may decide they’d rather be friends with other users who “accept” their drug use. But I wouldn’t give up on them. Sometimes you have to show support from a distance. I wish you all the best with this, and I wish your friends all the best too. They’re lucky to have a great friend like you.

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  • Jessnyc

    I think it is really hard to give advice on this subject if you don’t know a lot about addiction/ aren’t a professional trained in dealing with addicts. For example, “anger” can be an important step for the relatives/ friends of drug addicts, because there is a fine line between being a good sympathetic friend and enabling.

    I think you need to tell your friends that you are worried about them, and that you think they should seek help. Tell them that if they can’t do that before your wedding you feel uncomfortable about them being at your wedding. If they don’t seek help after you have spoken to them about it (and they probably won’t) then you are perfectly entitled to say you don’t want them in your wedding party or at your wedding. You may even be doing them a favor, by showing them real consequences to their actions.

    good luck,