The Care And Keeping Of Friendors


It seems that every time there is a discussion of having friends help at your wedding, someone jumps in to say that they don’t WANT to help out at weddings, thankyouverymuch, and then the currently engaged fold into tiny balls of shame and vow to not ask anyone for any kind of help ever. The trouble is, most of us love getting to help at loved ones’ weddings. When my friends get engaged, I start secretly jumping up and down, waiting for my assignment. So it’s fitting that today’s post on the care and keeping of friendors comes from longtime reader and all-the-time commenter Lisa. She happens to be getting married in a few weeks, and I happen to be stage-managing her wedding (whee!).

Meg
The Care And Keeping Of Friendors | A Practical Wedding

by Lisa Carnochan

I’m the oldest kid among four siblings. Two years ago my brother and his fiancée asked me if I’d be willing to help with their wedding. Or maybe I asked them if I could. In any case, the answer was, “Yes, Lisa, you can. You can do many things.”

On the list were:

  • Advise on the colors
  • Help choose the linens
  • Taste the food
  • Find a florist and consult on the resultant flowers
  • Come along on wedding dress shopping
  • Find the bride a hair and makeup person, drive the bride to said hair and makeup appointment when the time comes, and then on to her wedding venue
  • Make a sign for the entrance to the wedding

I was over the moon.

The Care And Keeping Of Friendors | A Practical Wedding

Now, two years later, I thought I’d look for some useful lessons in that experience. In the time-honored etiquette protocol of Dos and Don’ts, I present you with The Care And Keeping Of Friendors:

DO

  1. Let your friendors choose something they like to do, or else let them bitch in a humorous manner. (I was in my cheerful element with visuals. Had I been delegated spreadsheets, for example, I’d have been swearing up and down the San Francisco streets.)
  2. Direct your wedding photographer to take pictures of all the stuff your friendors create. (When the dust settled, I had photos of most of the flowers, but not all. And while it’s hardly a big deal, there is no record of the sign to which I dedicated one hour gluing feathers to cardboard and two hours removing feather residue from my nostrils.)
    1. All the stuff created particularly includes your friendors’ children, if they have them. Or their pets.
    2. Aren’t my children beautiful?
  3. Include your friendors in the heart of the matter, i.e. your relationship. Part of any wedding is to bind a marriage, and your community can do that better if they have a glimpse into its workings. Use car rides as sweet confessionals, lunches as long stories punctuated by burgers or coq au vin or tofu.
  4. Throw convention to the wind. (But you know that part already.) Use your friendors to help you trust your gut.
  5. Use your friendors as a buffer against annoying factions, such as vendors and family.
  6. Recognize friendor efforts.

The Care And Keeping Of Friendors | A Practical Wedding

DON’T

  1. Use up all your friend points overruling your friendors’ ideas. You don’t have to say yes to everything, of course, but we all want to feel valued for more than our manual labor.
  2. Don’t recognize our efforts too much. We take on this task out of love, a desire to be part of your ritual. Over-thanking distances us from what matters, again, the heart of the matter.
  3. Worry. The point of us is to lighten your heart.

So enjoy, all you almost weds. You’re going to get a lot of presents, but when you ask people to help—on the right stuff—you give as good as you get.

Photo by: The Booth (first photo) and Ian Londin Photography (second and third photos)

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  • TeaforTwo

    Maybe my protestantism is showing, but my reaction to any naysayers is always that OF COURSE people want to help with your wedding, and if they don’t, they have no place on the guest list. And frankly, anyone who gets in a snit about being asked to man the guestbook or set out some placecards probably wasn’t going to have fun at your wedding, anyway, because that kind of problem is ALL THEIRS.

    That said, I think there are a few keys to asking people to help you with weddings (or anything else in life): making it as easy as possible for them to get their jobs done, and making sure they can still have a good time. I once offered to help with a friend’s self-catered wedding – heating up and serving the food they had made ahead. I was happy to be asked, but less happy to discover that they had left ZERO instructions about what food was there (there was apparently a whole stash of venison stew at the cottage next door that I didn’t know about and so never got served), how it should be prepared, or where it should go when we were done. I found out the day of that they were also expecting me to stay and help with clean up and dishes for 100+ people.

    I would have been honoured to do either set-up or clean-up, but both meant that there was no time to enjoy the day as a guest. And a checklist of what I should be doing to set up the food would have meant that instead of stressing out that I was RUINING their wedding dinner, I could have done the task a lot more confidently.

    It really is an honour to help with someone’s wedding, but I think the best route to go is often to give small tasks to a lot of people (who each then get to feel valued and important to your life and marriage), but make sure that no one person has enough on their plate that they won’t ALSO get to be a guest.

    • meg

      “Maybe my protestantism is showing.” HA. Lisa and I feel you on that.

      I agree. You only should give HUGE jobs (like stage managing) to people you are totally sure are ok with it, or who offer. I’m actually *not* a guest at Lisa’s tiny wedding, which makes it easier. The last time I stage managed I was a bridesmaid, which in my world is always a working position anyway (aka, I bust my ass as a bridesmaid). So in both cases, I didn’t/don’t have to worry about my guest experience.

      • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

        Am I lucky or what!?!?!

    • Amy March

      I think there’s more going on here. I’m delighted to help with something meaningful, or something necessary. But guest books do not need manning. Unless you’re having guests autograph a live pig, this is just busy work. If there is a live pig, I’m there.

      And maybe it’s my self-reliant work ethic Protestantism showing, but I still don’t like planning on delegating huge jobs to your friends. If they want to help, great. And often people do. But things like cleaning up and breaking down your wedding? I’m not down with it as a hostess in my everyday life, and I’m struggling to embrace it for a wedding.

      • KC

        Actually, I disagree with you on the guest book front, at least at semi-crowded venues – someone who will corral people to sign the guest book is invaluable (says she whose guest book had maybe 1/5, probably fewer, of the people there?).

        And I’m down for cleanup anytime. It’s an afterparty! (no, seriously, blast that music and have fun)

        I guess, I think the key is knowing your crowd; just like some people are on the “why don’t you just take an airport shuttle” vs. “I’m so honored to pick you up from the airport” lists, different wedding tasks will feel menial/necessary/honoring to different people. You trust me enough to let me come over early to the party and clean stuff, hence seeing (and clearing away) the grody shower scum or the post-cooking sticky kitchen floor? That’s a big deal. But I’m sure some would find that insulting.

        • ANOTHER MEG

          I completely agree with you, KC. A good friend of my husband’s from high school got married this year, and we all helped break everything down at the end of the night. It was cheerful, tipsy chaos. We broke down tables, loaded up dirty linens, and took out garbage. Those who weren’t interested in helping left right after the reception ended, but we already knew they’d need help and had no problem pitching in. Then everyone headed to the bar to drink with the bride and groom until the early hours.

          That was our crowd. It won’t work that way for everyone, but if you have people who are up for it, are already sweaty from the dancing and really just want the bride and groom to get to the after bar sooner….well. You’ve got a clean up crew.

          I think the key was that we knew ahead of time it would happen and the bride knew we wholeheartedly meant it when we said we wanted to help with anything they needed.

        • TeaforTwo

          Exactly, and another exactly to Another Meg and her tipsy chaos!

          My fiance and I both have huge families – totally about 130 people – and so when Meg talks about the family reunion aspect of weddings, holy heck do we get that. We’re getting married in December, and I keep squealing with delight at how it will be like having TWO Christmases this year.

          And you know what happens at Christmas? Everyone pitches in. You can bet that when we have 40 people over for dinner on Christmas Day, we do it without caterers or cleaning staff. Everyone in the house has brought a side dish, or hauled folding tables up from the basement, or taken the kids downstairs to build train sets so their parents can relax with a glass of wine. And when dinner is all over, one of my favourite parts of Christmas is gossipping with my cousins and aunties in a dish-washing assembly line.

          • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

            YES YES YES

            (and same for friends as chosen family)

    • anonforthis

      I agree wholeheartedly. I can’t imagine ever not wanting to help, and acknowledge how lucky I am to have likeminded friends. I’m the friend who’s up at 3am helping clean her best friend’s kitchen after a house party, just because. However, a recent experience helped me shape what my idea of appropriate helping means. When a close friend decided to self-cater last summer, I eagerly offered my expertise and help as I have years of catering experience. In her mind, I think she thought since it was a small wedding (about 30 people) it would be easy enough. A year went by, and about a week before the wedding, she decided to take me up on my offer. Great! I thought. Until I realized the amount of work I was undertaking. Myself, along with 1-2 others, ended up working the wedding (if you’ve ever catered, this was a full 12 hour gig, up at 7:30am and did not sit or rest till 8pm, including setup and breakdown). I don’t regret helping, and would have done it again in a heartbeat, if only because, what the hell else would she have done?

      That being said, I think if you ask good friends to help, it’s important to know what you are asking. I ended up working rather than attending, I missed her getting in her dress, wasn’t there to help with all those little touches best friends do. I was barely in photos, and didn’t get to eat or drink. For me, it was just another job, and I was sad to have missed out on being a guest. I love cooking and serving, and love watching people enjoy my hard work. But, I now know when it comes time for my wedding, I just won’t feel comfortable asking my friends to miss the event for the sake of helping- I’d want to find a happy medium, or something that won’t exclude them from enjoying the party. I don’t harbor ill will towards my friend, and was so glad everyone enjoyed themselves and the food- it was a beautiful day and we all cried like babies- I just think it’s important to be mindful of what you are asking for and plan accordingly.

      Thanks to APW for another great, thought inspiring post!

      • anonforthis

        I can’t seem to edit, but wanted to add what I meant by “knowing the amount of work I was undertaking”: When my friend asked for my help, my understanding was I’d be making one or two side dishes, but that they (or the hosting property) would take care of bigger tasks. I was happy to help, but I think it would have been helpful for me to know ahead exactly how much work and what kind of work I’d be doing. This wasn’t a potluck where I just provided some food, and had I known that, I wouldn’t have said no, but I would have organized my time better, worn different clothes, and adjusted my expectations from guest to caterer. I hope that clarifies things, if it wasn’t clear as is.

    • Lanky

      Yes, surprising a friend with more stress and work on the day of the wedding can totally ruin the day for them. A long time ago, my (now ex-) boyfriend’s sister was getting married, and she was using “friendors” for everything. This was fine, for the most part. My responsibilities for the wedding itself were to help with some decorating in the morning and managing the iPod for ceremony music.

      Somehow, this turned into being the only person decorating and effectively being the DJ for the reception. My then-boyfriend was supposed to be the DJ, but somehow it was overlooked that he was also in the wedding party and needed to be elsewhere for the entrances, special dances, etc. I was even announcing people that I had barely met (I didn’t know most of the wedding party’s last names, even). I tried to roll with it to avoid making the bride and groom stressed out, but I was so angry about being put in this position.

  • Emily

    I have two questions. First, what constitutes over-thanking? At weddings I’ve helped at in the past, I didn’t feel very appreciated, so now that it’s my turn I try to be very generous with thanks. What is considered too much though? Now I’m scared I’ve crossed the line!

    Second, any advice for working with friendors who are actual professionals? I have hair stylist, makeup artist, and graphic designer friends who are providing their services as gifts. What is the protocol? Do I tip them, give them a gift, or just a heartfelt thank you note?

    • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

      I think you’re safe with the thanking- I think Lisa’s point was to focus on how much you appreciated your friends’ presence/love/support vs. the particular task they completed. So yes, acknowledge and appreciate the hand-lettered sign, but gush over how much you love the person, rather than gush over their calligraphy skills. That’s my take-away, at least.

      Also, if your friends are specifically providing services as GIFTS, I wouldn’t tip them (just as I wouldn’t tip the friends who went in on getting me an expensive registry item) As long as all parties are clear that the professional service is a gift- and clear whether the gift is the whole amount, or half-off , or whatever the case may be- I don’t think a tip is necessary. I’ll leave it to the etiquette experts if this interpretation is wrong, though. . .

      • KC

        As a repeated and very happy Friendor, I *totally* agree on the No Tipping, but for those who use consumables (flowers, in some cases makeup/hair, food of whatever variety), offering to pay for “ingredients” (while adding the recognition that the main value is in what they’re doing, not the consumables) is fair game, especially if you request “upgrades” of some kind (like, they would have put together carnation boutonnieres and you requested slightly-more-expensive roses).

        • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

          Right on. I’ve often heard of the labor/talent being gifted, and materials are then “at cost.” Like you mentioned- pay for the flowers themselves, the film, the flour and sugar. I think clarity in the expectations are important in any friendor arrangement

          • KC

            Yes, clarity in expectations is the #1 thing!

            (and I’ve often also gleefully given the consumables when they’ve fit in my budget – it’s just something to specifically confirm and, in that conversation, to probably work from the assumption that you’re paying for any consumables and ask whether it would be helpful to them to have money beforehand, etc.- they will most likely be happy to correct you if they want to pay)

        • rys

          I basically agree with KC, albeit with one modification based on personal experience. When I make chuppahs for friends, I think of the fabric/materials as part of the gift since they will keep the chuppah (in that sense, it’s akin to making a wedding quilt for friends, which I also do, but it just happens to be used in the ceremony first). That said, I very much appreciate a line in the program (if there is one) since I think it’s akin to mentioning the names of ushers or readers or whatever.

          In one case, when I refused money for the fabric, my friends made a donation in my honor, which I thought was a lovely way of recognizing the materials cost. If you really feel like showing thanks (more than a simple thank you/note), find a way to honor the friendor at an appropriate time — an extra-special birthday gift, a meal during a stressful time, some “you’re awesome” random flowers…basically ways of showing love that don’t suggest your friendor work requires direct payment.

    • http://thevanillabride.blogspot.com Sonarisa

      After reading this list I became consumed with Over-Thanking. This is probably a thing, and I probably do it. Any one have a handy chart or decision making guide for thanks? Am I being too clinical about this?

      • meg

        I think the point is to assume that it’s being done as a gift. We want to know we’re appreciated, but there are ways to be thanked where you start to feel like, “They do know I did this because I care, right? Not because I’m a hired hand?” I think, don’t over work and don’t over thank come in the same package. They’re a friend, you can’t hold them to the standards of a professional (they’re taking time and energy to do their level best, that’s all you can expect). But also don’t do the equivalent of basically paying them. If they do something big, maybe take them out to dinner, give them a card, return the favor some day. Done.

        • Kari

          I respectfully disagree about assuming. If they’re a close enough friend to be asked for help. the discussion is warranted.

          The reason I say this is that there’s a big difference between picking up flowers on the way to the wedding and taking the main set of photographs or performing at a wedding.

          It’s just a chat. Chances are the friend WILL offer it as a gift, but don’t assume.

      • Sarah

        I should have read your concerns before I posted my own rant about over-thanking below.

        Of course it depends on the task and how the person asked to do it, but I think thanking them for taking on the task and then when the job is done and/or at the event itself is enough. I think something personal is necessary (as in, not a blanket statement in your speech “Thanks to everyone who helped”) either an in-person acknowledgement or a note afterwards where you specifically acknowledge what they did. “Carol, thank you so much for taking care of the table settings. I knew it was in good hands and I didn’t worry about it at all. Everything looked amazing!”

        People want their efforts to be recognized, mostly just to know that you were happy with it and they didn’t screw it up! That’s just me, though. For those of you who felt under-appreciated, what would you have liked to be different?

        Also, don’t forget that while you don’t want people to be slaving away behind the scenes, giving people tasks is a good way to get your guests to interact in a less socially anxious way than standing around with a drink in their hands. Consider the introverts!

        • Emily

          Re: feeling underappreciated, I made something for a friend for her wedding, at her request. She got it in the mail (which I could tell because of USPS tracking!) and she was silent for days until I brought it up. I just would have appreciated a more prompt and enthusiastic thanks for my effort, and a little more indication that she actually liked it (though maybe she didn’t). It’s quite possible I was too sensitive though.

    • lisa

      I would make sure you are both on the same page in terms of are they performing the service or is it a gift. I had a friend, who does interior design, offer to take over all sorts of projects for our wedding. I offered to pay, so said no, no and no dozens of times. So I thanked her profusely, gave her a generous gift, and thanked her more. A week after our wedding, she returned a tote of wedding items to me. Tucked inside was an itemized bill for every project that totaled several hundred dollars. I sent a thank you along with paying the bill and we haven’t spoken since.

      • Brenda

        That’s just passive-aggressive. If she wanted you to pay, she should have said so.

        • KC

          And if she didn’t want you to pay, but wanted you to know the “full value” of her gift, then this was not the way to do it (plus: tacky, anyway). Yikes.

    • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

      My brother and his wife thanked me at the wedding, which was lovely. But they brought me a present back from their honeymoon, and that wasn’t necessary. They never went all the way to over-thanking, but I could see what over-thanking would be like. Had they done but one more thank, I might have felt that they didn’t believe me when I said how much I loved doing it, and it might have felt like they felt obliged to thank me.

      Confusing, perhaps, but there it is.

  • Sarah

    THANK YOU for putting in the part about not over-thanking the person! Especially when people offer to help, accept the help with the appropriate gratitude. But you’re so right that over-thanking leads to distancing the person from the event.

    I once helped a friend before she moved after she had gotten rid of her car. I offered, I had a car, I had the day free, and the errand was no big deal, but she so over-thanked me that I started to question – wait, are we not friends? Is this not what friends do? Would she not do the same for me if the situation was reversed? It made me feel like I was a stranger off the street helping her.

    Perhaps an over-reaction on my part, but I remember it when it comes to my wedding. I constantly remind myself that people that offer to help WANT to help and that that’s what makes them feel a part of the event. People who participate take ownership. Also, you get to use the gifts and talents of your friends and family and it makes the event so much more personal. Great post!

    • meg

      EXACTLY. You explained this perfectly. EXACTLY.

  • KC

    The only times I have not been happy about helping is when there haven’t been any instructions (so… “do setup!” when you don’t know where the chairs are or what the desired arrangement is or why the napkins are all different colors – should they be all one color at each table, or should each table have a rainbow?) and I’ve felt like there are Definite Pinterest Expectations but I don’t know the “vision” and someone’s going to end up disappointed.

    But yes, I’m totally down with manual labor. There is little more satisfying than building something pretty, unless it’s clearing it all away again and making everything tidy. Or feeding people. Feeding people probably wins, actually. But any of those three? Way more fun than standing around trying to make small talk with relative strangers while not having anything to do with one’s hands. The most fun conversations happen while you’re rolling tables, wrangling crates of string beans, washing giant vats of silverware, and you all have your literal/metaphorical hair down and are up to your elbows in doing something. In my opinion, anyway. :-)

    But… I’m incompetent at being the social force tying people together at parties, so I’ll probably try to suggest someone else if you hint about planning a shower/bachelorette party, and you truly don’t want me to give a toast (trust me) or do a reading, and I will probably tell you that. But the things I *can* do, whether they take advantage of my weirdly specific skills or are just grunt-work, I’m on it, and gladly. :-)

    • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

      Haha, yeah I think aside from knowing your crowd (as rule #1), the second rule is to be considerate. A surprise command to wash dishes (even cloaked as “I really need you to. . “) is not considerate. Taking the time a month before the shindig to say “I’m recruiting dishwashers, are you available? No worries if not, I also need people to take home a lovely centerpiece.” That way they have an out, and they are prepared for the task (personally, I’d bring gloves and an old shirt. Done.)

      Once, when we moved my cousin, we had to open every box outside the new place b/c the old place had roaches (hence, the move). I also literally locked the cat in the bathroom. Oops. Don’t care. Still fun. Yay physical activity! Cute bandana in my hair! Being a bad-ass with a box-cutter! Different folks, different strokes. You can be a good friend a lot of different ways, and thank goodness.

    • KC

      I’ll definitely plead guilty to being weird. :-) But I suspect there might be cash/class/community differences at play? I bet if there was a wedding where there was more than abundant money for everything and only top-notch professionals were used for everything “visible”, no DIT permitted at all, but then we were asked to do the dishes and eat PB&J in the kitchen so they could save enough out of the budget to get a third professionally-lit ice sculpture, I might have been more than a little “where are your priorities?”-ish. But I think basically all friends’ weddings I’ve helped out at have been stretch-the-cash weddings to some degree or another, and it’s honestly an enormous amount of fun washing dishes in a group and having soapsuds wars and seeing how fast you can make that mountain shrink (surprisingly fast with enough help!), or rolling out those tables and hanging decorations and making boutonnieres and then figuring out where to hide your super-scruffy “setup” clothes during the wedding and reception, or helping out with the food and getting to see the platters you set up get immediately decimated. And I have enjoyed those weddings vastly more than weddings where I’ve “only” been a guest – some of that is probably due to introvert status (and not wanting to be “social” and “visible” in a very large group of mostly strangers for 6 hours straight, oh help), but part is just that it’s *fun* to help build things.

      I got into the “we help everyone with manual labor!” thing when I was pretty young (hello, elderly neighbors who needed assistance with weeding and stuff), and then further in high school and college, when most of my friends lacked money (many had jobs that paid less per hour than movers get), and in the grad school world, most of our friends are still not exactly floating in pools of cash, so life is a bit of a “it takes a village” effort when the people in your community definitely do not have enough cash to cover paid help or new anything (borrowing/loaning out tools, yep. free babysitting, yep. grocery delivery when people are sick ['cause Peapod is seriously expensive from this budgetary point of view when all you need is some gatorade and saltines and canned soup], yep. carpooling or driving people to the mechanic/train station/etc., yep. grabbing something from the free pile at a garage sale when you know it’s what a friend’s been looking for, yep. trading lessons in cooking/repair, yep.). Weddings get included in this (except when paid for by wealthy families) – you want to feed everyone at your wedding *and* include basically everyone in your community who wants to come? It’s going to take some help and quite a few trips to Costco, and that help is ready and willing and is going to have a party goin’ down in the kitchen. :-) (I mean, after the food gets served. No partying while “the rush” is on, although bad jokes are still allowed.)

      Moving with only three boxes is crazy and I could see that scarring someone for life! Also, volunteers should always know what they’re getting into as much as possible, whether it’s weddings or something else – an afternoon of moving already-packed boxes and furniture using a big truck is Not The Same as packing *and* moving. (admittedly, moving almost always takes longer and requires more boxes than the person moving thinks it will [I'm not sure how closets get fractal like that]. But still. Three boxes???)

      I have no doubt that a lot of expectations would be different when your friends’ time is and has always been considered scarcer than money, though, and when the communal values and expectations are different and when these are not things you enjoy or are accustomed to at all (setting up tables with no prior experience: less fun, I’m sure, than having who-can-set-up-the-most-tables races!). But almost anything is fun when you’re enjoying the people you’re doing it with, whether they’re new to you or not, and if they’re also in the habit of enjoying getting things done, then… well, things end up being really fun. :-) I guess it’s a bit like the old-fashioned quilting bee, or corn-husking party, modernized for our convenience. :-)

      I’m honestly not sure what we’re going to do when/if we move up a couple income brackets and suddenly it’s not socially acceptable to email all your friends offering up the used-but-still-working stuff that you won’t be taking with you to your new apartment, and when it’s assumed that we’ll make major life transitions with the assistance of paid help rather than of well-beloved friends, and when the only gifts are purchased (not homemade, not used, and definitely not a pair of hands offered up for use), and when the only get-togethers are solely for our own entertainment/networking, not to help someone out, and when potlucks are not acceptable as a party form. To me, it honestly sounds really lonely and scares me. But hopefully it won’t actually be lonely on the other side? (please tell me it won’t be?)

  • Embarrassed Bride-to-Be

    Friendors. I’m still smarting from a super uncomfortable friendor moment last week. It was super awkward — maybe the most awkward-est of awkward moments in planning my wedding so far — after a good friend offered to “take care of” flowers for our wedding. Her offer, mentioned many times, was this:

    “[Friend], as your gift, I’d really like to take care of the flowers for your wedding.”

    Naively? stupidly? I’d assumed she meant . . . she was paying for the flowers. Knowing nothing about floral arranging and/or event planning, it didn’t occur to me that we could interpret “take care of” in different ways.

    Before everyone wants to hit me with a blunt object for such an expensive assumption, the market where we’re purchasing our flowers is very reasonable. Like, every single flower for the wedding — bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, tons of stems for arrangements — for less than what another florist had quoted for just my bouquet. Still $200, yes, I took it as an extremely generous gesture from someone I consider like family and didn’t really question it. We’ve been excitedly discussing flowers for months, if not years.

    When we finally went to place the order last week, I started feeling guilty about her paying for the flowers — it just seemed too generous, especially with some bills I know she has coming. When I told her how grateful I was for her help and offer but that I’d really like to cover the cost of the flowers themselves, you could have cut the silence with a knife.

    Her response was swift: that I’d misunderstood her; that she was not offering to pay for the flowers; that she was simply offering her time to pick them up and take them to the venue, then to arrange the stems on-site. She was obviously uncomfortable and, because we’d driven to the florist together, we were stuck in a small space together for another 45 minutes.

    Maybe it doesn’t sound quite so bad in writing, but seriously: I was mortified.

    I tried to cover it up with a quick, “Oh, that’s totally fine, that’s what I was hoping you’d say, I just didn’t want to offend you,” etc., but she seemed almost . . . mad about it? Like I was trying to take advantage? I don’t know. We’ve been friends for many years and have seen each other almost every day since this incident, but things have felt a little “off” to me.

    It’s made me second-guess every conversation we had leading up to this moment, and trust me: I’m not the type of person to be like YAY, GIVE ME GIFTS! (though there’s nothing wrong with that). I have no problem paying for the flowers myself and am deeply appreciative that she’s offered to take care of the logistics of getting the flowers to our venue (which is quite a drive from this florist). But the awkward snafu and discussion of $$$ has put a damper on our friendship. I have other friendors offering to help with various parts of the wedding, but now I’m feeling super shifty and awkward about it.

    My fiance and I are paying for the entire wedding ourselves, so I have no experience discussing money or funds with family or friends for the big day. Has anyone dealt with mistaken money issues before? Any advice for how to move past this incident with humor? I’m going to have to give my buddy the cash to pick up the flowers the day-of, and I’m dreading that conversation now, too.

    • KC

      On the plus side, you’ve already had the conversation! But, if you haven’t already, you’ll probably need to emphasize that you are in fact grateful she’s taking care of picking up the flowers so you don’t have to worry about them. (that you weren’t just grateful when thinking she was paying for them, too. :-) )

      I think actually sitting down and asking people what parts they’d like to do and what help they’ll need from you is usually a good plan (or doing this via email if they’re impulsive “yes”-ers who can’t turn down anyone to their face). If something is multi-part (like food or flowers or setup or whatever), then breaking it down together into a list so you don’t accidentally assume they’re doing or not doing a specific bit of it is good. It’s more happy-fluffy-yay to just hand-wave over stuff, but having expectations ironed out makes everything work better in the end. And again, express gratitude for them and for what they *are* doing if there are “job reduction” surprises along the way. (not, like, over and over again, just enough so they know you’re not disappointed that for them, cleanup means putting decorations in boxes, not washing all the dishes and not transporting those boxes to your apartment)

      If you have friends who want to help: it will most likely be good. :-) Just get those pesky assumptions/expectations nailed down ahead of time, and have an awesome wedding. :-)

      • Embarrassed Bride-to-Be

        Thank you, KC — you’re right. I’m going to be really careful about expectations vs. reality moving forward with friends, and definitely careful to get clear on both what they’re offering and what I’d need done.

        I guess this just taps into my own anxieties about asking for help . . . I’d always, always rather do something myself, if I can. But I can’t pull the wedding together myself. I just feel guilty thinking I’m “inconveniencing” others, and that’s where the APW mantra comes in: my wedding is not an inconvenience. Have to remember. And ask the hard questions.

        • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

          I think you should see this like any other project, clarity is important. When someone says, I’d like to help with x, then you say, Great! What do you want to do? What don’t you want to do?

    • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

      I find you can sometimes smash awkwardness by just dragging it out into the sunlight. Either say to her (or write her a note saying) something along the lines of: “I’m so sorry about my misunderstanding of your offer! I want to make it very clear that I am so thrilled and so grateful to you for handling all the logistics and arranging. I’m not sure how else I’d manage it. Please forgive my incredible, silly oversight. Omg, this is just like (reference other really embarrassing moment you two have witnessed/experienced together). I can’t believe I was such a doofus. I’ll have the check for the flowers ready for you on X date, no worries at all.”

      And then you get back to friendship as usual and she follows suit, or if she’s still weird, ask about it “Is there something bothering you? You seem a little off today.” And don’t over-explain, but acknowledge the misinterpretation and hopefully move on.

      .. .Is there any way you could pay for the flowers in advance to avoid making her middle-man for the money? If not, just hand over the check, no big deal.

      • Embarrassed Bride-to-Be

        All good tips — thank you! I like the idea of writing a note. I always express myself better in writing . . . will plan to do that.

        After reading your comment, my plan is now to have the flowers paid in full — better to not have to mention money again. But the florist is actually Amish . . . so I have to actually drive down the week before the wedding (as part of their ordering process) and hand him cash. But I’m going to do it. Better to avoid putting any more weird pressure on the situation . . . eek.

    • ART

      agreed with the above…and to your credit, I would have heard the same thing in “take care of” – it’s a euphemism for “pay for” used pretty frequently. At a restaurant, “I’m taking care of the check” doesn’t mean “hand me your credit card and I’ll bring that bad boy up to the counter for you” ;)

      • ART

        (which is *not* to say that transporting and arranging your flowers is not a very generous gift, it was just poor word choice for explaining it. “i want to arrange your flowers” would likely have avoided this situation.)

    • http://www.greensnapdragon.com Emily

      As someone who has done flowers for weddings as a friendor MANY times (and also with my own floral design business), I think the issue here is one of miscommunication. I can think of only two times when I did flowers for a wedding and paid for the actual flowers myself in addition to doing all of the labor, setup, etc. and that was clearly communicated between me and the marrying couple in advance (once I was supposed to get publicity in exchange for my work; the other time it was a close family member and I was only making a bouquet and a few pin-on personals). If it were me, I’d write her an email or sit her down and apologize for the miscommunication, that you’re thrilled she’s giving you the gift of her time and skills, and you’re looking forward to seeing what she creates with the flowers you’ve both picked out. To be honest, the fact that you’re getting bouquets, bouts, corsages, and table arrangements for only the cost of materials (and you’re not doing any of the labor yourself) is pretty amazing. It might be a good time to clarify and communicate with your other friendors exactly what it is they’re providing for you and what you will be covering. If everyone’s on the same page, everyone will feel better.

      In terms of the conversation where you discuss giving her the cash to pay for the materials, just hand her an envelope with the correct amount plus a bit and let her know that there’s a bit extra inside for just in case (like, say, the florist has something in the cooler that will fit right in with your vision but wasn’t pre-ordered). Provide the other materials she’ll need – floral tape, shears, ribbon or fabric to wrap the bouquets and bouts, pins, floral foam if she’s using it in the centerpieces, etc. And then yeah, maybe after the wedding write up a really nice thank-you note and also offer to take her to lunch or something.

  • KC

    Yeah, the wedding Triathlon events can be rough, especially when you’re expected to not have a life going on outside of the wedding and its associates and when this state is prolonged excessively. (work? family? hobbies? sleep? of course not!)

    I think the only wedding I’ve had a problem with, though, (as opposed to just happily tired, possibly with hilarious War Stories) has been due to wedding couple whining/gossip about other friends’ help – if, as a friend who helped tie invitation ribbons, you hear the bride complain about another friend who helped glue flowers on programs and how she did a terrible job and they’re just so ugly but she wouldn’t tell her friend that because her friend would be so insulted so of course she thanked her and said how beautiful they are but she just hates them and wishes she could find an excuse to throw them out… it’s really hard not to wonder what she’s telling other people about the results of your help.

    As stated, though, this is fortunately rare. Regarding bridesmaiding specifically, I don’t usually find all the parts of being a bridesmaid “fun” exactly, but I’m very, very happy to do it. Even in an ugly dress. :-)

    • rys

      I draw the line at mandated wedding wardrobes, but you want me to set up, clean up, give a toast, move boxes (I am an awesome packer, and actually like doing it!), scrub your oven, watch the dog, paint the walls, I’m there. I do appreciate the proffering of a good drink during or at the end of the day (activity dependent, of course).

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

      It all comes down to knowing your crowd, really. I’m crazy uncomfortable doing the big social events, but I love my friends so I’ll do them. Within those events, I’ll be great at set up and tear down and awful/awkward at the actual socializing with different people bits and the worst idea ever is asking me to plan them.

      On the flip side, if I were going through a wedding again I’d let my best friend plan and throw me a shower because even though that sounds like torture to me, it’s something she’d be great at.

  • Claire

    Thanks for the tips, Lisa! I never would have considered that someone fulfilling these roles was a “friendor” rather than a friend or family member helping out.

    I used a lot of friendors for my wedding. Very talented people I’m friendly with (but not close enough with that I would have invited them to the wedding otherwise), provided the live music, catering and photography. These casual friends run businesses and make a living offering these services. I treated them as trusted, treasured vendors, and paid them appropriately and thanked them enthusiastically.

    I really, really did NOT want my family or close friends to help with the heavy lifting of the set up or break down of our wedding reception. I wanted them to enjoy a relaxing, joyful evening as a guest, not as unpaid help. That feeling was probably influenced by my less-than-positive experiences with previous self-catered weddings I’ve helped with. But a bigger reason is that I wanted the wedding reception to be a gift of gratitude to the people who have loved and supported us. The ceremony was for us; the reception was for our people, and I wanted them to enjoy it work-free.

    Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out at all! Thanks to a miscommunication, someone accidentally sent the hired servers/bussers/cleaners home early in the evening. We had to have the venue returned to normal before the next day. Long story short, my brother and brother-in-law ended up breaking down the rental furniture and my brand-new in-laws helped us wash dishes in the middle of the night. I was upset because that was definitely not my vision, but they were all incredibly gracious about it. Strangely, both my husband and in-laws have commented that working together that night made them feel more bonded with my family. Maybe it’s a farmer thing :)

    • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

      Hey, I didn’t know I was a “friendor” either until Maddie and Meg told me:).

  • LadyCrabtree

    Delurking! Last year I helped a friend by hosting their rehearsal dinner and setting up snacks after the ceremony (and then cleaning up afterward… not in the plan but no one else was doing it). My parents and I are huge believers that people should help out when they can and helping is loving, so when I told my mom about the wedding, she and my dad offered to help out too. However, my friend then thought that she had to invite my parents. She didn’t!

    It actually made everyone a bit grumpier because then they had to dress up and they really didn’t know anyone other than me and my boyfriend. My dad can be a grump at weddings because he really doesn’t understand how expensive an undertaking it is (my sister has a word document of all of his complaints at weddings), and since he now felt like a guest he then was frustrated that he was hauling tables around. They (and I) would have been much happier if they just went to the ceremony, left in the middle to set up snacks and then shook the bride and groom’s hand during snack time. My take away – when some one offers you something for your wedding, you aren’t required to invite them to the wedding as a reward. Some people are just happy to help and an invitation might instead become an obligation.

    Other take away: have a really good plan of what is going to happen that day, write it down, and share it with everyone who needs to know. We were super frustrated when we realised that half of the food was hidden away somewhere , and because of that we weren’t able to set everything set up before the end of the ceremony.

    • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

      Hahahahaha. Word doc of complaints! The birthday roasts!

    • KC

      I’m also happy to help without an invitation to the wedding/reception, but some people might find that insulting, so checking with each person (or your contact to them – in this case, if she had asked *you*, this would have been avoided, yes?) is probably the best route.

      • LadyCrabtree

        Well, I actually told her that she didn’t need to invite them, but she insisted. She called my parents and told them that they absolutely had to come. My parents were the ones to offer to do things, she didn’t ask them first. I do agree that if you ask someone to do something for your wedding, it would probably be rude not to invite them, but what if they offer to do things for you just because you’re a person who might need things? All my mom wanted was to see her sparkly dress and make everything great.

        • KC

          Oh, dear. So, not just a failed-to-check, but a total mismatch of expectations of what was wanted/ideal. People and communication are surprisingly complicated and weird sometimes. I don’t even know how I would have “fixed” that one.

      • AVA

        So glad this topic came up. I wasn’t sure what etiquette surrounds friendors and invites.
        I’m leaning towards combining this wisdom with guest list advice in another post that said you might want to consider inviting people who you want to be better friends with in the future.

  • stella

    i love this post, and typically love the chance to show love to my friends by giving my time and dish-washing or flower-hauling or shower-throwing abilities. i am having a really tough time at the moment, though, with a dear friend who gets married in about a month. and i would LOVE some APW wisdom.

    i think she’s having major anxiety and stress about the wedding and maybe even her relationship, which i have so much heart for, but instead of being willing to talk to anyone about the emotions at hand, she is ordering all of her close people around like we are paid vendors who have nothing else going on in our lives besides her wedding. she is alienating pretty much everyone around her by being so demanding and offering no thanks at all. being a friendor is one thing when it feels like a gift the couple appreciates. it is another when they act like it’s a gift to us to have to do all the heavy lifting, that we should be grateful to them for the chance. we all love her a lot, and would normally be happy to help out, but at a certain point it feels like enabling her bad behavior is going to mean she looks up a week or two after the wedding to realize she’s got a new husband and a lot fewer friends.

    what should i do? ride it out and just endure a wedding where all the people who are close to the couple are miserable and grumbly or find a way to tell her that she needs to be a little more gracious and less demanding? i fear that telling her now will just be a shoot-the-messenger moment, and i also hate to add to her obvious stress! advice/thoughts/wisdom??

    • KC

      I’ll throw in the caveat up front that if she’s already overwhelmed, she may not be able to process anything more, really, and there may not be much of an option beyond riding it out and helping her pick up the pieces afterwards.

      However, if you can pinpoint some achievable, preferably specific behaviors that would be good to alter, and check with at least one other person in the situation that they agree (because “I would feel more valued as a friendor if you bought me chocolate” is not likely to be totally universal), you can maybe address things from a point of love and of “maybe this would be a better way to do it?”. But yes on the messenger potentially getting shot for this. And also, she may not be able to substantially alter her course at this point. (weddings: a lot of stuff and feelings and transitions and changes and expectations and messes)

      Obviously, if you are going to ditch her for this behavior, then tell her what’s wrong in time to change her course rather than staying silent and ditching her with no opportunities for repair later. But generally it’s a good plan to give people extra latitude all around weddings, since there’s a whole lot of pressure and people involved with different expectations and emotions and stuff and it’s *hard* to get out of the tornado and see things from everyone else’s perspective even if you’re normally empathetic, so unless this is bringing out things in her that you knew and didn’t like before the wedding but were ignoring (in which case, maybe it’s time to move on)… but if this is a wedding-induced aberration from who she normally is, then maybe cutting her a lot of slack for now, grinding your teeth, letting it go, and then picking things up later is best?

  • TeaforTwo

    Not related to helping, but related to this:

    Meg’s Miss Manners cheerleading prompted me to pick up and read her Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, and I found her advice on guest lists so refreshing. She says that the way most of us go about determining a guest list is completely upside down, in that people tend to determine what they can afford (say, 50 guests) and then try to cull the list from there. Instead, she says – and I can’t believe this has never occurred to me – that the couple should list everyone they want to include, and then determine what level of hospitality they can offer to that number, be it a formal dinner or cake and punch.

    I was the one in my relationship campaigning for a bigger wedding over a more lavish one (and I won! we’re having a tea party wedding that is just perfect for us!) but I had never heard it put quite that way, and reading it in print just made SO MUCH SENSE.

    So to tie it back to friendors, I would much, much rather be invited to a wedding and contribute my time/talents/potluck dish than have to sit one out because the hosts thought that they couldn’t afford to host me.

  • ART

    We’re planning a super DIT wedding at a family member’s home and hoping to get enough help with the food that no one person feels like they have to do too much (as I told my fiance, we have to go Monica Gellar with our organization in order to get away with this). Our family is the helping out type, luckily, but we aren’t taking it for granted that they just really want to take time off work and come make 80 servings of bean salad for us. One thing I am thinking of doing is screen printing aprons for everyone that will be helping us cook as a thank-you/acknowledgement that they really made the whole thing possible (knowing my audience: I actually think they will love this). We have a year to plan meticulously/butter them up/determine how to thank properly. I will take this advice to heart!

    • http://www.amidprivilege.com Lisa

      Oh yes. Aprons. Great idea. Dish towels, or tea towels, as the British say.

  • Brenda

    Nevermind exhausting my friends, those things exhaust me! I got married. We had a wedding. (Well, we had two weddings because of silly immigration laws. But the first was just some friends at the pub.) No engagement party, no shower, no stag/hen do, no rehearsal dinner. I bought my dress off the internet. I got my nails done by myself. And my husband and I cleaned up our own wedding, with loving help from friends and family. It was great.

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