Q: My best friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. We’ve been friends for over ten years, and she was a bridesmaid in both of my weddings. Even though I live on the West Coast and she resides on the East Coast, it was a no-brainer.
Both my weddings were very simple: few guests, no shower, no bachelorette, and no need to buy a special dress. I assumed I’d need to buy a dress, but my friend never set expectations that I’d be involved much beyond that.
Quite out of the blue, I found out that I’m being recruited to plan and host a very large bridal shower (fifty-eight guests) at a nice restaurant. I say “found out” because I learned of this after the fact. The two other bridesmaids and the mother of the bride started planning it all without me. The mother of the bride let me know that the bridesmaids are responsible for: invitations, postage, decorations, guest book, flowers, other centerpieces, games and prizes, favors, and cake.
I’m concerned because the mother of the bride has been very specific in her expectations of how each of these items should be handled. For example, the invitations need to be paper, not digital. And the favors need to be bought, not homemade or DIY.
Every day I receive emails of the things she’s seen on Pinterest, or of a new idea to consider. The other bridesmaids and I talked about a budget, but I’m really concerned that she hasn’t been sensitive to that, since she’s carrying the lion’s share of the cost for food and drinks for the guests.
The bride doesn’t know at all what is going on, and definitely didn’t dictate the large guest list or elaborate planning effort. I’m feeling conflicted because the bride asked me to be a bridesmaid and she’s one of my closest friends, but her mother is making the shower planning distasteful. I’m not able to shell out hundreds of dollars to fly to the shower, and also cover all of the expensive items the mother of the bride wants to include. I’m thinking of telling the bride that I can’t be a bridesmaid, if only to get the constant emails from her mother to stop.
Help! There has to be a better way!
A: Dear Anonymous,
This is all just a part of the bridesmaid deal. Not the shower, but her mom.
I know you’re frustrated that your friend didn’t lay out her expectations for you up front. But the bridal shower isn’t the problem here; Mom’s wild demands are. When you’re asked to be a bridesmaid, a (hopefully) pretty dress is involved, but “manage my crazy family” is also implied, no matter how small or big or low-key or fancy the wedding. By agreeing to be a bridesmaid, you agree to take those punches—in large part to spare the bride. (Besides, you said the bride has no idea this shower is happening—how could she brace you for something she herself didn’t know about?)
Hopefully, this all points to your friend planning the wedding she wants, and her mom exhausting all of her hopes and dreams and desires on this shower. You might be saving your friend this hassle, fielding all of the Pinterest emails so she doesn’t have to. Wouldn’t that be nice? You’re doing some noble (albeit irritating) work.
Handling Mom’s demands doesn’t necessarily mean caving to all of them. If your money is being spent, you have a say in how. You mentioned that you and the other bridesmaids came up with a budget—do some research and see what you can get within that budget. It probably means some compromises. You’re right that she’s probably not aware of your budget restrictions, so voice them. If she sends another expensive idea, you can say, “That’s lovely! But if we do that, we’ll need to cut back over here, or we’ll be over budget.” An unfortunate part of handling family for your friend is being willing to be the bad guy occasionally. Sure, you want to keep Mom as happy as possible. But there are actual facts (like how much money you have in the bank) that you also have to contend with, and it’s better that you say so up front than overextend yourself and grow to resent your friend.
And, psst: I know you were frustrated when you wrote this email, but I want to mention something right quick. Not everyone is going to have your wedding. It’s fabulous that you planned a low-stress wedding, considerate of your bridal party. But one bride’s “low-stress” is her bridesmaid’s “uh, yeah, right.” And, having planned weddings before, you can understand that there are many priorities in the balance. (Plus, nobody picks their Mama.)
Godspeed, Anonymous. This part of being a friend isn’t easy.
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