Q: A close friend of mine is getting engaged in the very near future, and I’m over the moon for her and her fiancé-to-be! There’s just one catch: I don’t want to be her bridesmaid. Actually, I don’t want to be anyone’s bridesmaid.
Around the time of her wedding, I’ll probably quit my job to go back to school and will quite possibly be planning and saving for my own wedding. Things wouldn’t be dire, but I can’t get excited about coughing up hundreds (let’s be realistic) to be a bridesmaid. Even if I were filthy rich, I’m still not sure I’d be excited because I like to choose how my money and time is spent, rather than feeling like I’ve spent it on a package deal. I don’t want to be judged for not spending $200 and two vacation days for a bachelorette party, and instead using it for a nice apartment/taking vacation/things that I want to do and buy. I don’t want “can” spend $300 for a kickass bachelorette to become “should” or “must.” No one has the right to presume upon my money. There won’t be a way to gracefully decline the pre-wedding event invitations either because we live in the same town (which I now fear means I have to buy her three gifts no matter what). Even if we have a budget talk, there will be other financial demands coming from sources other than the bride, and I don’t want to be cast out for not pulling my weight.
Is there any way I can decline bridesmaidship without irreparably damaging our friendship? Or should I suck it up and try to meet her expectations? I am worried that if I say no, she will be very hurt, even if I assure her I’m there for her—I do truly want to be a friend for her and help her out. On the other hand, if I say yes, I fear I will end up the one who’s hurt and resentful, but with no socially acceptable way to pare snowballing costs and bear the whole ranking-the-friends ritual.
Maybe it’s just a fact of life that we have to sacrifice money and time to do things we don’t believe in for the sake of peace, but all advice is welcome.
—(Nonsensical Or Not?) Making An Important Decision
A: Dear (NON)MAID,
One thing that strikes me about your letter is that it seems like your making a lot of assumptions. Is she going to ask you to be a bridesmaid? Will a bachelorette party really cost all that much?
That aside, sure. It’s your money. It’s your time. It’s your friendship. If being a bridesmaid will just make you resentful, definitely do not do it. You’re a grown-up in charge of all of those things, and “Will you be my bridesmaid?” is a request, not a demand. You’re allowed to answer, “No.” But don’t tell her the exact reasons why. There’s a small chance she’ll still be hurt if you vaguely say, “It’s not a good time for me,” or some other general, glossing reason. But she’ll for sure, definitely be hurt if you say, “I’d rather spend my money on a vacation than on throwing you a party.” If she does ask you, tell her you won’t be able to be her bridesmaid. Think of some other ways you can be supportive and helpful as she plans her wedding, and offer to do one of those instead.
But, meanwhile, I’m going to try to convince you to look at bridesmaiding a little differently in the future.
Toward the end there you ask if we all must “sacrifice money and time to do things we don’t believe in.” It makes me wonder—what is it you don’t believe in? Sure, a wild night at a bar wearing a hot pink “bridesmaid!” sash might not be top priority in your life. Maybe not your first choice for how you’d spend your cash. But supporting your friend? You believe in that, right? That’s worth a few bucks that you’d otherwise rather spend elsewhere, even if syrupy cosmos are not.
Perhaps you’re not picking the dress and color, or the bachelorette party venue and price. But you’re chalking these funds up to “friend support.” I may not be happy about wearing yet another shiny polyester dress, but I can be pretty thrilled to know I’m wearing that ugly-ass cocktail dress as a way of loving on my friend. It might be easy to consider these little things as “frivolous” or “unnecessary” or something, but they’re the trappings (social, cultural, alright maybe even WIC-imposed) of a really big super significant event. Maddie offered that being asked to be a bridesmaid is like being asked to be the godparent of a relationship. That’s big!
Granted, maybe this isn’t your way of loving on your friend. Yes, yes, like I said—don’t be a bridesmaid. But there are often times in friendship where you don’t get to pick and choose how your friend needs to be supported. Sometimes it’s a middle-of-the-night phone call, when all you really need is sleep before your early alarm. Other times it might be a garish dress and setting aside some vacation plans. It can be important to support your friends the way they ask you, instead of the ways you’d prefer.
Team Practical, when do you suck it up and lay out the cash to be in a friends’ wedding, and when do you say “not thanks,” and sit it out?
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!