Q: I am in a wedding in less than three months, and I am so happy for the couple tying the knot. Sadly, the bride is not quite herself lately. She has acquired a sense of entitlement that surprises me and her other friends. I have been trying to ignore it because I’m afraid to address it with her and risk upsetting her, and have instead focused on doing my best for her—sense of entitlement or not, she does deserve to have her family and friends be excited for her. Nevertheless, we did have a blow up yesterday.
I am not the first person she has lashed out at and will probably not be the last. I am inclined to blame the bride’s changes in attitude and behavior on WIC-related pressure and stress, and to give her the benefit of the doubt, and to hope that in a few months things will get back to normal. But at the same time, knowing that she used to be so kind and gentle, and being so frustrated by the changes wrought upon her by the pressure and stress of planning a reality TV-worthy wedding, I have resolved as I start planning my own wedding to do everything in my power not to transform the way that she has. I don’t want to be demanding, I don’t want to be cruel, I don’t want to forget how to say thank you.
Before all of this happened, I had been intending to ask a total of four women and one man to be my bridespeople, but right now I think I would prefer just to have all but one of them as guests. So, the questions all this has been leading up to are: can I still ask those people to help, even if they aren’t bridesmaids and bridesman? Can my maid of honor and my mother hope to count on them? Or would that be rude and presumptuous? If we do go with just one and one, how do I handle it if someone (and by someone I mean the bride who is making me consider an elopement) is offended that I haven’t asked her to be in my wedding? Is there a way to tactfully explain to her that her wedding was, for me, a refresher course in how not to treat people?
A: Dear Anonymous,
Depending on what you’re asking, it’s probably not presumptuous or rude to ask your friends to help with your wedding. To expect them to help, well, yeah that’s where presumption comes in. And there are certainly some limits to how much help you’ll want to request. But generally speaking, close friends are eager to help close friends—regardless of bridal parties or titles and how they play out.
But are you really avoiding any of the possibility of becoming demanding simply by avoiding titles? If you’re still asking them to help, but skipping over the honoring part, it seems to me like the possibly troublesome bits are still there, just without the formality and pretty outfits. Here is the real truth of the matter—the fact that your friend clearly has lost her mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. If one person handles the idea of “bridal party” really poorly, that doesn’t mean that bridal party in and of itself is the problem. It means your friend sucks at being stressed and turns into a sort of a jerk. I’m guessing she would’ve done that whether she had someone to call “bridesmaid” or not.
You’re looking at the wrong variable in this equation. It’s not an issue of bridal party titles being inherently bad, or even of asking someone for help being “presumptuous.” Those things can happen pleasantly just as easily as they can happen horribly. The variable here is your friend and how terribly she’s handling the pressure.
That sounded harsh, but I do get it. I’m completely that person who gets snappish and rude when I’m stressed out or anxious about something. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my friends or that I feel entitled to stomp around on feelings; it’s just emotion overload. Stress turns me into a jerk. I get, too, that you’re worried that it’s not just stress and anxiety, but some sort of wedding-brain mind control thing happening. I mean, that’s possible. We never really know how we’re going to respond to the big things until we’re right there in them. You really can’t know from this side of it what it’ll be like to plan a wedding and how that pressure will affect you.
But I’m assuming you do know how you respond to anxiety. I’m guessing you’ve dealt with deadlines and budgets and family politics. How do you typically handle those things? What’s likely to push you over the edge? Is there a way to avoid it in a wedding-planning situation? Self-awareness is maybe the best defense against wedding stress. You maybe can’t anticipate how you’ll behave while wedding planning, but you can try to eliminate some of the clear issues. You can decide in advance what’s important to you and make those things a priority. So sure, set limits on what you think will stress you out. Make the wedding smaller, maybe skip on the bridal party if you think that will help. But please don’t assume that because one friend handled her wedding poorly it means you will, too. If nothing else, you’ve already got an example of what not to do.
TEAM PRACTICAL: How have you kept your head in the face of WIC pressures?
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question, please don’t be shy! You can email: 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!