Is My Friend Trying to Get out of Being a Bridesmaid?


She “might” have “work obligations”...

by Amy March

a woman's back full of tattoos seen through the window of a dress

Q:DEAR AMY,

I got engaged a month ago (wee!) and am planning a wedding about this time next year. Last week, I started making calls and visits to ask my friends to be bridesmaids, and I was met with a resounding yes and excitement from all of them. All except one. One of the girls I consider myself fairly close to (closer than some of the other party members) said she “would see” and it would “depend on work.” I was a bit surprised, but I made it clear on the phone I understood she couldn’t attend every event (she lives a few states away), but I’d still be thrilled to have her stand up with me on the wedding day. It still sounded like even that was too much of an ask, and her reply was still “maybe.” We sort of awkwardly hung up and now I have no idea where that leaves us.

Do I write her off as a bridesmaid and just send her an invitation and hope she can attend, or do I call her and demand a yes or no? Are you allowed to respond with a “maybe” when someone asks you to be a bridesmaid? I would have fully understood a no, but she wasn’t clear either way. Am I going to come across as pushy if I make her decide this far out? How long am I supposed to wait for a yes or no? The week before the wedding? Is she just trying to get around saying no and I misread how close we are?

—Maybe bridesmaid

A:DEAR maybe bridesmaid,

First things first, do you have a wedding date? An actual date that comes with reservations at wherever this shindig is going down? If not, stop worrying about a bridesmaid who can’t possibly be expected to commit to a vague plan and get on that!

Assuming that’s out of the way, can we start by having a little more consideration of your maybe bridesmaid? You put “depend on work” in quotes, which I think is because that’s literally a quote, but also because it doesn’t seem like you’re buying it. Nowhere else in your question do you even seem to acknowledge that it might actually be true. There are all kinds of jobs where a year or so out, you really can’t guarantee you will be available. Maybe vacation time is only approved six months in advance. Maybe your business depends on you being there to handle things, and you just don’t know yet if you can make it work. Either way, as a general rule we’ve all got to work so that our bills will stay paid, so let’s assume there’s at least some truth to it (because srsly if you believe she’s just straight-up lying to you, why are you friends?).

Because, assuming she’s not lying, this situation really sucks! And it sucks primarily for her! It’s so hard to feel like you can’t say an enthusiastic YES to things you really, really want to do because you also really, really can’t afford to get fired.

There’s one other thing lurking in your question that I think we should talk about. She’s “fairly close”? Is she actually a close friend? Do you see each other regularly? Do you talk to each other? Email? Visit? Text? Getting married has a way of making you actually look at all of your relationships in the clear light of day. I know not everyone sees it this way, but I think that if you don’t see someone, or talk to them, text with them, or communicate with them regularly in some way, they aren’t a close friend. Be honest with yourself, because it matters whether this maybe bridesmaid is an “I know what to hide in your apartment in case you suddenly die” friend, versus a “totally is happy to see you on Thanksgiving Eve and send you memes of drunk cats” friend. And if she’s the latter, she may not want to jump through the hoops to take time off work, buy a dress, and spend a pile of money to really do it up right as a bridesmaid in your wedding. And that’s okay, but you need to get that out in the open.

As for having no idea where it leaves you, it leaves you with a bridesmaid who can’t give you a yes or no answer right now. Obviously, not what you wanted to hear. It’s nice to get an enthusiastic ABSOLUTELY to this ask! It’s personal, and if you’re feeling hurt and confused that’s fair enough. Think about when you actually need to know. I’d give it a little more time and then follow up! Ask her not just if she knows for sure, but when (if ever) she will be able to commit. Let her know that you’d love to have her as a bridesmaid or a guest, but realistically you’re gonna need a yes or no answer on the bridesmaid gig in the nearish future.

She might think you are being pushy, but as long as you’re being pushy and kind, you’re on the right track. Give her some time and space, but you don’t need to give her until the eve of the wedding unless you want to. And remember, you’ve gotten a lot of enthusiastic “YES DEFINITELYS,” so, really, you’re fine. Positive self-talk is your friend here. You are kind. You are smart. You have lots of friends. One “maybe” is not a referendum on you as a person.

Y’all. Remember. The people in your lives really do have jobs and obligations and bills to pay. Even when you are planning a wedding. You measure your life in love, but her landlord measures in cash money.

—Amy March

HAVE A WEDDING QUESTION?
EMAIL ME: AMYMARCH [AT] APRACTICALWEDDING [DOT] COM.

Amy March

Amy has loved weddings at least since the second grade when she made an epic diorama of Charles and Diana’s wedding for “important historical event” day. She has purchased every issue of Martha Stewart Weddings ever published and will happily talk to you for an hour about the relative merits of blush and bashful. Her happy place is poolside with a glass of rosé and a good book. 

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  • Jessica

    She may also be gun shy about being a bridesmaid due to a not-great experience with another wedding.

    Totally not speaking from personal experience.

    • Elizabeth

      Amen. I haven’t been asked again since the last wedding I was in, and it was not an experience I want to repeat.

    • Lexipedia

      Agreed. The last wedding I was in has made me hyper-anxious about our wedding party enjoying themselves. No 6AM makeup sessions, no highly specific requests for mismatched dresses (everyone had to have a different assigned embellishment, different assigned tone of the main color, different assigned neckline) combined with unwillingness to make dress suggestions, no unreasonable expectations for our 100+ degree weather photoshoot, no forced cleaning after…

      • Her Lindsayship

        “combined with unwillingness to make dress suggestions”??? nooooooope.

    • Zoya

      The one time I was a bridesmaid, it was a totally ordinary and fine experience, with what seemed to be an average amount of wedding frustration and drama. I was honored to be asked and I had a great time at the wedding. It taught me that I am not a bridesmaid-y type of person.

      Help you out with wedding prep? Absolutely. Come to bachelorette parties and showers? Sure. Dance my face off at the reception? You betcha. Official bridesmaidery, with assigned dresses and beauty standards and roles and cultural expectations? Not my comfort zone.

  • Sara

    I have two friends from out of state with insane time off scheduling. One barely ever takes days off because of the hoops she has to jump through, and the other needs to ask like six months in advance for any sort of time off, plus she works weekends. So it may actually depend on work if her work is insane.

    Or she could be using it as an excuse and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I would press for a hard yes or no in a couple months, but try not to be offended if she just honestly can’t do it.

  • Zoya

    Another addition to the list of questions Amy asked: how did she deliver this “maybe” on the phone? Was she super-excited and apologetic, or evasive and lukewarm? In my experience, that’s often (though not always) a way to distinguish between a genuine “maybe” and a soft no.

    • That’s what I was wondering… I will say, I do think that being asked to be a bridesmaid is the place for a “no-no” not a “soft no” if her friend is sure she isn’t going to do it.

      • Zoya

        Oh, totally agreed. But she might feel as if a wedding honor isn’t something she can gracefully refuse. (Not that that’s the letter writer’s fault in this case, but people internalize some crappy norms about this stuff.)

        • Definitely fair, if you aren’t good at saying no to things already, cultural pressure around weddings does *not* make it the easiest place to start!

  • mjh

    I know Amy acknowledged that people have varying definitions of closeness before offering her own so no shade whatsoever, but I just want to throw out a vote for closeness not necessarily having anything to do with frequency of communication. While it’s not the only type of close relationship I have, I definitely have “I know what to hide in your apartment in case you suddenly die” relationships with people with whom I don’t communicate often. I find it to be a testament to the closeness of the relationship that we could go for long stretches without interacting at all and pick right back up any time without feeling any intimacy lost.

    • ssha

      This is me with my friends who aren’t from a group setting.

  • Violet

    I’m not saying she *is* lying, but it’s possible she’s got something else going on she isn’t ready to fill people in on yet, so work is the cover story. Maybe she’s pregnant but still less than 12 weeks and isn’t sharing, maybe she’s interviewing for a new job that would involve relocation but doesn’t have it yet, maybe she knows another friend is going to get married around that time but hasn’t shared the news, etc. Just putting it out there, since I think you can suspect your friend isn’t being 100% truthful all the time without it being a statement of your friendship.

    • Amy March

      Yes absolutely! Such a good point.

    • sofar

      My mind also flashed to “totally pregnant.”

    • mjh

      Very good point.

    • angela

      My sister found out about THREE not-yet-announced pregnancies in the process of asking people to do wedding things for her! So, definitely. (And her dream of a wedding full of babies came true!)

    • Mmhmm…

      I remember I *wanted* to say I had “work stuff” going on when my BFF got engaged because I knew her wedding was a mistake. I didn’t, and I stood up with her at her wedding, but this would have been my way of buying some time to a) see if the engagement actually moved to the wedding-planning, hey-they’re-actually-going-to-go-through-with-it stage, or b) decide whether I could stomach the idea of supporting an ill-intentioned union.

      I am NOT saying that’s what is going on here – not at all – but I did experience that gut reaction myself.

  • sofar

    Agreed with the advice.

    Also — and I get this is not possible in all situations: But, maybe you’re fine with her being a “maybe” bridesmaid until almost the last minute? Especially if you’re not expecting her to show up at the bachelorette or shower events.

    I had a “maybe” bridesmaid until about a month out. She lives abroad and isn’t super well off. We weren’t doing matching bridesmaid dresses or trying to match the numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen. So I was like, “OK here are the bridesmaid dress parameters, feel free to show up wearing said dress … if you can.” I ordered an extra bridesmaid bouquet for $25 and had her name in the program just in case. She ended not making it. But we skyped her in. The extra bridesmaid bouquet ended up on the guest book table. And nobody pays that close attention to the program.

    • PAJane

      Strong agree. It’s a little harder if everyone is supposed to wear the same dress that takes 6 months to produce, but if the important thing is really honoring her by having her stand up next to you and be in a bunch of photos, because you love her that much, perhaps some flexibility is called for. Or if she really can’t commit to wearing the uniform, maybe ask if she wants to be included in all the planning as an honorary, behind-the-scenes non-bridesmaid, because again the emphasis is on, Gosh, I love you and I want you involved in any part you can comfortably and joyfully participate in.

      • Amy March

        Yes, but also I just think it’s important that this not be the only way. You can be a wonderfully loving friend and still want your bridesmaids in matching dresses and to know if they are going to be there months in advance.

        • PAJane

          I mean, part of my comment was about trying to find other ways to include her if she can’t commit for sure to being there in the matching dress. The emphasis, for me, would be on considering whether her priority is still celebrating and honoring their friendship in some way, and if she can still find a way to do that even if she can’t give a hard yes right now, or up until whatever given point, or even if she says no.

    • Katharine Parker

      This is a good way of being flexible and understanding of your friend and also recognizing that these logistics work out either way. Sometimes members of the wedding party end up not being able to attend–and it’s ok! No one cares about an extra name in the program, indeed.

      • Amy March

        Unless you care! Which I think is also okay. I know personally the uncertainty would take a lot of mental energy, so I’d be cutting someone off much earlier than the night before. I’ll deal much better with realizing it ain’t happening 6 months out that having it up in the air a week before.

        • Katharine Parker

          It’s always ok if you care! But also things happen that upset our plans, and it’s good to have a reminder that things work out if someone has to drop out unexpectedly.

          • Amy March

            Yeah I think that’s different though.

        • sofar

          I read Katherine Parker’s post as “nobody [who is a guest] cares about the extra name in the program.” I totally get a bride/groom caring, for planning’s sake. But if anyone’s worried a guest is going to do the math at the ceremony and fret about (or even notice) a missing bridesmaid, that’s probably a worry they don’t need to have.

          I mean… if I were really bored at a long ceremony, I might make up an elaborate story of betrayal as to why a bridesmaid was missing, for my own amusement inside my head … but I doubt most people are that crazy.

          • Jessica

            I would be whispering conspiracy theories to you.

          • sofar

            YES. My husband doesn’t like the head-stories game (although he plays D&D, which is the SAME THING in my mind). So you should totally be my wedding date instead.

          • Jessica

            I would be honored and always need an excuse to buy another dress!

          • Katharine Parker

            Yes, I meant that guests don’t care about extra names. Brides/grooms are allowed to care about whatever they like, even the things that guests will probably not care about (I cared about everything at my wedding, down to the glasses used at the bar).

            I will also be there discretely speculating with you and Jessica, as this is my main hobby in life.

          • Amy March

            I can just see the three of you now, exactly like the three brides watching on Four Weddings.

            “I gave this Wedding a 4 for overall experience. The ceremony was sweet, and they look so in love, but I think a bridesmaid dropped out last minute, the dinner was cold, and they wouldn’t serve me shots at the bar.”

          • Lisa

            But the potatoes were fantastic!

          • penguin

            Those damn potatoes!

          • Katharine Parker

            “Why did the bridesmaid drop out? Probably she knew that the lines at the bar would take us forever to get a drink, the buffet line would run out before we were served, and we would end up calling a pizza in the parking lot. Or she’s an astronaut, but those are the only two reasons.”

          • Jessica

            Who doesn’t serve shots???? Downgraded to a 3.

          • Jessica

            (obvi kidding)

          • Anna

            Bahahaha super late response but literally my mom’s ONE ask for what we serve food/drinks-wise at our wedding was “no shots”. She’d been at a wedding for one of her grad students a few months before and all the family and friends were pounding shots and it evidently got pretty out of hand. But I’ll have to tell her she caused our wedding to lose imaginary internet points xD

          • Jessica

            Every wedding I’ve attended where there were shots ended up being a hot mess, so I totally understand that rule!

          • Zoya

            My husband would absolutely do this.

          • mjh

            +1 on the imaginary backstories and circumstances game in general. A walk down the street is always enhanced by thinking up names, careers, hobbies, pets and random life details for people I pass by.

            But seriously, I’ve seen people list a loved one in a program for an event just like this in an honorary capacity without stating that it’s honorary. Like best friend or sibling can’t possibly make it but is there in spirit and would have loved to be a bridesmaid/whatever other position? Put them in the program as a bridesmaid/whatever other position.

      • sofar

        Yep! I’ve seen people lose their minds about last-minute dropouts, but I’d kind of bargained for that anyway, given that most of my bridesmaids were in the baby-having stage of their lives. Was thrilled we had only the one wildcard.

        I get that you don’t get to choose what you care about, as others are saying — and, as a big planner and control freak, I usually care about this type of stuff. But it saved me so much mental energy to go in with the attitude of knowing there was no way for me to sort the presence/lack of presence of bridesmaids in advance.

        • Katharine Parker

          I also know from planning my own wedding that in the thick of it the little things seem monumental, so stuff like an extra bouquet and the name in the program can seem IMPOSSIBLE TO HANDLE. So it was good for me to recognize that these things are actually entirely manageable, as in your case.

          • sofar

            Ahhhh yes, I had many a melt-down about the little things. Because so many little things are “just one more thing” you have to handle.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I think even if one is not ok with a “maybe” bridesmaid in general, a year out is early enough that it can be ok for at least the next couple of months. Especially since LW doesn’t require her presence at other events.

  • Lily

    Could it also be a potential financial issue? I was a bridesmaid in a wedding where the MOH confided in me that she regrets saying yes because of the financial obligations that came with being a bridesmaid. Even if you hypothetically know its a dress, shower gift, bachelorette, etc, its hard to know the exact cost and it can get so expensive. It may be worth it to say exactly what you would expect- especially since you mentioned that she is from a few states away and would be traveling to the wedding.

    • Lisa

      Yeah, this. I was a bridesmaid last year, and one of the other bridesmaids almost didn’t participate because she was concerned about what the cost would be. It was helpful for the bride to discuss with her the costs she expected each of us to pay, which is what convinced the woman to take part.

    • Anne

      Yeah I think economic and career uncertainty is a potentially huge factor here, especially because it’s a hard thing to talk about in the context of weddings/celebrations. Personally, the next year is looking quite crazy for me and my husband, with multiple non-local weddings and some still-undefined conferences, interviews, and other end-of-grad-school transition stuff. On top of that, our financial situation is in some substantial flux depending on the idiotic GOP tax bill. It’s just hard to respond to things like my in-laws trying to schedule and plan an extended family vacation several months in advance – they’ve been fairly confused by our noncommittal dithering. It’s lucky we are not in any wedding parties because a) the extra cost would be stressful and b) we probably won’t even know for a little while whether we’ll have the time and money to be there at all.

      There’s just not a good way to tell someone excited about planning a big event with you that even though technically you might currently have nothing scheduled on their specific date, you have very little idea whether you’ll have much spending money you’ll have or where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing in the surrounding time period. And you feel bad but you just don’t have the resources to do everything.

  • penguin

    I think there should be a wedding date first before you ask potential bridesmaids to commit – otherwise they don’t really know what they are committing TO. I’d rather have someone say “maybe” than say yes and then have to back out later. Also if she still can’t commit after getting more details, then I would say that if it’s not a “yes!” it’s a no.

    • Amy March

      I agree. I think it’s fine to ask first, after all you may want to schedule around their availability, but completely reasonable to say maybe to a vague plan.

      • Abby

        I agree, though caution against asking for availability from anyone other than immediate family because it can cause lots of hurt feelings if you wind up not being able to accommodate everyone.

        • Amy March

          Definitely a danger zone

        • Jan

          Also, some people are suuuuper liberal with what they tell you they absolutely cannot make work and that can put you in a tough spot. When asked for black-out dates, my sister-in-law sent me two weekends in a six-month block that DID work for her, instead of sending me dates that absolutely would NOT work for her. We were annoyed, scheduled outside of her “good” dates, she came to the wedding, and it was fine. But it did cause some unnecessary drama.

    • sofar

      Yes. I asked everyone before I had a date, to get an idea of whether they had any hard black-out dates. But I made it clear that their “yes” wasn’t a hard yes and that I wouldn’t be mad if the time/location didn’t work for them.

      My husband’s friend asked all her bridesmaids and then, after they agreed was like, “Hey, guess what! We’ve decided to get married in EUROPE!” And was suuuuper sad when some then dropped out.

      • mjh

        That husband’s friend story… :/

      • Amy March

        If you have to trick people into saying yes, there just may be a flaw in your plan.

        • sofar

          Yeah. It wasn’t a deliberate trick on her part, more like they were planning on getting married locally, asked their wedding parties and then decided a couple months later, “Know what? We’d rather get married in Europe.” And then, when they told people their exciting news, were very disappointed to find that several of them balked at it and went from, “Yes, we absolutely will be in your wedding party for your Dallas wedding,” to “Hmmmm I’m not sure I’m going to be able to even make it.”

          More poor planning/cluelessness than a deliberate trick.

  • PAJane

    If she does end up a no, and she really is that close of a friend, please be mindful of not punishing her for it. It think it’s fair to be disappointed, but we talk a lot about how (potential) bridesmaids have the right to say no to things they can’t commit to, and I think the other side of that is brides also accepting that no with grace. Assuming, of course, that everybody is doing their best not to be a jerk about it.

    • mjh

      Agreed.

    • Amy March

      I agree about punishment, but I do think it’s only natural that this is the type of no that can have an impact on a friendship. You can not be a jerk and not be vindictive and still become less close to someone who isn’t around for a big deal thing.

      • PAJane

        Oh, absolutely. Human beings are still human. It would just be a shame for this to be a relationship killer if she’s got a good reason she can’t commit. Especially since, as I see it, asking someone to be a bridesmaid is in part of a way of honoring people you love a whole bunch.

  • AmandaBee

    This is one of those situations where there are 1,000 possible reasons behind her noncommital.
    Maybe she needs to know a date and location first
    Maybe she is under a lot of financial stress
    Maybe she’s planning to conceive and doesn’t know what her life will be like in a year
    Maybe she’s struggling with social anxiety or depression and can’t imagine being in a wedding
    Maybe she’s not that close to you
    Maybe she loves you but doesn’t like weddings
    Maybe she likes you AND weddings but has had an awful experience being a bridesmaid before
    Etc.

    I understand that it’s frustrating to have someone who can’t commit right now, but it’s still really early in the process and you’re really reading a lot into her response. Spend some time firming up your own plans, then follow up with her in a few weeks/months and ask again. Things might be different then. If she wants to back out, let her know you understand if something happening in her life is making it hard for her to commit to this and it’s okay for her to say no (because it is).

    • Jan

      Yeah, as I was reading I was like, “I can think of half a dozen reasons I would react this way to a friend that aren’t a reflection on my feelings about that person.”

  • Mrrpaderp

    I’m one of those people with a demanding job that’s hard to schedule around. When my BFF in the whole wide world got engaged, but didn’t have a date yet, I couldn’t give her a definitive yes that I’d be able to make it. I have stuff on my calendar over a year from now; if your wedding is right before or during trial, I’m not going to be there. Even if you’re my BFF. That’s the job. And people who don’t understand that I can’t just walk off the job for them… don’t stay in my life very long.

    THAT SAID. LW is 100% entitled to feel disappointed by her friend’s lack of excitement. Maybe that’s not friend’s personality and if that’s the case, that sucks, you have to sort of take people for who they are; but at the same time your feelings are valid and you’re entitled to them. You just have to separate the “I’m disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm” (valid) from the “I’m disappointed that friend won’t per her career on hold until I pick a date” (not valid).

    • Cleo

      Speaking to lack of enthusiasm – I have some social anxiety stuff that makes it so that saying anything other than an unequivocal yes is so fraught for me that my “maybes” or “nos” come with a side of *my mind is racing about how guilty and terrible I feel and how my friend probably thinks I’m self-centered/terrible/anti-social/doesn’t like her* so any positive feelings I have are usually lost because I’m in my own head.

      Not that this is necessarily true for the LW’s friend, but maybe the TL;DR on this letter is that no one is a mind reader…

      • Samantha

        I agree on the social anxiety stuff – I wish I had said “maybe” or even “no” to being my friend’s MOH when she got engaged last year, but I thought agreeing to do so was the right thing to do because that is what would make her happy.

        But with my anxiety? It was a nightmare. I’m not someone who organizes groups of people I know, let alone strangers, so when I had to wrangle 15 people for a bachelorette party or plan a bridal shower? It was not great for my mental health and though I tried to convince her I was not the best choice for a MOH and should be downgraded to a bridesmaid or not be in the wedding at all, she wouldn’t have it. I was able to have another bridesmaid step in and be Co-MOH with me, but it still sucked. Even though she was accommodating and seemingly understandable, I can’t help but feel like I was being a nuisance during her wedding planning and put a strain on our relationship.

    • Dana East

      Thank you for making this distinction! I think it is possible to offer an “enthusiastic maybe” in this situation. Like, “Oh, wow, amazing, I am so delighted to be asked and of course YES in spirit but in practice I’ll be honest I’m a bit of a maybe because of my life but I will try to make it work and let you know soon!” is one kind of maybe. But an overall “meh, I just don’t know, we’ll have to see *shrug*” response? That’s a very different kind of maybe and does give the impression that she…just…isn’t that into the idea of standing with you. It has less to do with the maybe itself and more to do with what’s behind it.

      But that is a communication thing and I think you could probably find out where she’s at with a kind, honest, open follow-up conversation (not a defensive one). And if you’re not close enough to have that kind of conversation, well, I think you might have your answer.

    • Jan

      Yeah, my work has bonkers busy seasons, so when I’m asked to be in a wedding I literally cannot commit until I know it’s not going to be during one of those busy periods. That’s just the deal.

      And agreed– hopefully any good friend would manage to muster some enthusiasm at being asked. Otherwise, why are you friends?!

  • jem

    Also…. LW says the wedding will probably be around this time next year. This is a hard time of year to commit to things! Between having to take time off for holidays, it could be hard to navigate/afford more time off/travel expenses. Also, super busy time of year for some industries.

    • penguin

      This is a good point, I hadn’t thought of that! Although I also wonder when LW submitted the letter – I know some of them don’t run for a while.

      • Amy March

        Yes, this one is probably a fall wedding- I can’t remember exactly but there is always a lag.

        • jem

          Oh doh! I didn’t think of that.

          • Amy March

            No it was a really good thought! I should have edited that info in.

        • Angela’s Back

          Same caveats may apply though–if you’re saving your vacation days and monies for holiday travel, you may not be able to drop that time and money on a fall wedding, especially since they’re so close together.

  • flashphase

    Going to make a push for not asking your bridesmaids out loud until initial details of the wedding are set. It helps you lay out exactly what you are asking for from them and when, and gives you a little more time to feel extra certain about everything. No feelings are hurt if you ask two months after you get engaged rather than a month!

    • sofar

      At the same time, though, I get the point of asking them before you have an exact date, because you may want to plan around any hard black-out dates they have. I told all mine, “Hey, I’m getting married next summer between May and September. Do you have any plans/issues in that time frame?”

      But agreed, you need to have at least a window of dates AND an approximate location so they know if it’s going to be destination or will require them to travel.

  • sage

    I needed to read this today. I have been having *Feelings* lately about one of my own bridesmaids who doesn’t have a ton of time for my wedding events (or hanging out in general) because of her work…

    She has been really leaning in at her job the last year, and she’s in biglaw. We have the same job but at different firms. For years we used to get lunch together once or twice a month and hang out at other times. She’s one of my best friends. But now we never get lunch together, she is always late when we hang out (one time she showed up to a group dinner 1.5 hours late), and this weekend she didn’t come to my local wedding shower. She told me she wouldn’t be able to come because she would be working all weekend. Of course I want her to be happy with her career, but I feel like I’m losing my friend in the process and it’s been painful. I’m trying to give her space to live her life and keep my expectations low so that I am not disappointed, especially when it comes to the actual wedding.

    • Amy March

      Oufff yeah that’s a career that’s particularly rough on family, friends, your health etc etc. I think it’s possible to both recognize that this isn’t something she is doing at you, while also acknowledging that at some point intent doesn’t matter, and she isn’t showing up or available for the job of friend. And that is definitely a painful thing.

    • Jewels

      Yeah Biglaw can be so freaking hard to navigate, especially if you’re still an associate and want to eventually make partner. This is why I don’t want to be in Biglaw for very long, or at all if I can help it, once I’m done with law school. I’m really sorry you feel like you’re losing your friend. I’d try to be as supportive of her as you can and give her some grace, but also guard your own heart/feelings since it doesn’t seem like she has the time/energy to be super invested in other people’s lives right now.

    • Jan

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with that, that’s so hard. Coming from someone who has a demanding job and can easily veer into “foresake all others” territory in the name of leaning in, might I suggest kindly letting her know how much you miss spending time with her? I don’t even realize I’m doing it sometimes when I get super sucked into work, and just recently one of my best friends let me know she was bummed that I’m never able to see her anymore. She wasn’t accusatory but was obviously sad about it, and that really sucked. But, she was right. I realized I hadn’t seen her in weeks at that point (very unusual), and it got me to realize how little I’d been paying attention to most other people in my life. Since that conversation I’ve been much more mindful of making sure I have at least one or two evenings free to spend time with family and friends. So, yeah– gentle nudging can be super helpful.

  • Her Lindsayship

    LW, I totally understand feeling stressed about the “maybe” because we all live with this narrative that we should have a gaggle of gal pals all just THRILLED to drop everything and celebrate our pending nuptials. In reality, though, folks got their own lives, and one less bridesmaid does not mean you’re failing or she hates you or really anything. Many things about the wedding planning process will not go the way you expect based on the cultural narrative unfortunately, so take this opportunity to practice dealing with those feels. They are normal.

    • theteenygirl

      Well I was in the process of writing basically this, but about 10x longer. You said it much better!

    • Natalie

      Well said.

  • Natalie

    It sounds like maybe your friend has some stuff going on. I would approach it from finding out what that is, not necessarily in relation to your wedding, but because you sound like a thoughtful, inquisitive person who is trying to understand how your wedding will be a part of the special relationship you have with this person. My suggestion would be to get together with her not under the pretenses of discussing the wedding, but instead about having a heart-to-heart about what might be going on in her life.

    As someone who is struggling to commit to being a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding next year, I have felt SO ASHAMED that I can’t commit to each and every thing on the bride’s list. I love her dearly, but she’s asking a lot of us, and there are certain things I simply can’t afford to do. I’ve also had a lot going on (just got divorced, still paying laywer bills, working an inflexible schedule, and trying to change jobs in the next year).

    You sound like a very reasonable and caring person and it seems like you are willing to be really empathetic towards the challenges she’s facing and how that might affect her ability to participate fully and/commit to bridesmaid duties.

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  • Elizabeth

    Ugh I’m in a similar situation. I was very clear with my maids that I understood a wedding is a big ask and a ‘no’ would not hurt my feelings, they were still invited, and I hoped they could still attend. I had a potential bridesmaid say no, which I completely and totally understood. But I had another who won’t give me a straight up answer. We have a date, and I’ve called her and texted her and asked her if she can be a maid (and totally fine if she can’t) and she just keeps ignoring me or saying maybe.

    I am planning to pay for accommodations for wedding party, and the date is fast approaching for when I need a headcount of bridal party. I told her this, and still no answer. We can be going along having a conversation about anything, and when I mention the wedding, she ghosts. I’ve told her a ‘no’ is totally fine and she’s still invited, but she just can’t say either way and it’s sooooooo frustrating.

    • Zoya

      At this point, it might be time for the “If I don’t have a definite answer by X date, I’ll assume you’re a no” message. I am a champion dither-er, and this is the kind of message that gets my butt in gear. (I had a dear friend do this for me when I was dithering about singing at his wedding, and it forced me to take a hard look at my calendar and say no.)

    • penguin

      That does sound frustrating. I would take the sofar invitation method on this – “If I don’t hear from you by X date, I’ll assume you’re not going to be a bridesmaid”. Or honestly at this point, just assume she’s a no and let her know.

      • Zoya

        Jinx! :)

    • Amy March

      “I’m booking accommodation so I need a firm Yes by xyz date. If I don’t hear from you by then I’ll mark you down as a guest.”

  • Pickle

    If LW is here, I’m really curious about the specifics and tone of the conversation. Was she like “Oh, how nice of you to ask me! I’m not sure yet if I can say yes because it will depend on work, but maybe! Love ya bye!” or was she like “Oh. Uhhhh. . .maybe? Depends on work. Gotta go”. If it’s the latter, I definitely understand why you’re taken aback and worried.

  • MTM

    I was totally this friend. I had really bad flight anxiety about the cross-country flight plus a really horrible boss who at the time told me there was never a good time for me to take vacation (plus the finances of this being a $3k+ commitment when I hadn’t even had more than a long weekend in the past 5 years), it was just too much.

  • Jewels

    I’m one of those people whose job makes it so that I literally can’t schedule things out more than a few months at the most, and even then we’re basically expected to cancel any plans if something comes up at work. Case in point, I was supposed to be attending a family event this weekend and it looks like I may have to cancel last minute because of work. So when one of my best friends was getting married, she called me and let me know she wanted me to be at her wedding and that I was invited to all of the showers/bachelorette stuff, but she didn’t want to make me commit to being a bridesmaid because my job is so demanding. And I didn’t know if I could make it to her wedding until like, 1.5 months in advance, but I was able to go and she had me sing in her wedding! So it all worked out:) but for real, some jobs are insane and do not let you make plans more than a few months in advance. Once I asked my manager if I could schedule a vacation 6 months in advance and she looked at me as though I had grown two heads. Fun times.

  • Kate

    We had a groomsman who gave us a maybe that apparently was meant to be a no. He said he was thinking about going abroad, so he’d have to wait to see whether or not he’d be in the country at the time of our wedding. When his travel fell through, we assumed he was planning to be in the wedding party, and we included him on all wedding party communication from the start, but then on the weekend of the wedding (I don’t remember if it was at the rehearsal or the actual wedding) he made a comment about how he’d only found out a week ago that he was supposed to be a groomsman.

    So definitely get a clear yes or no before you assume this friend is or is not accepting your bridesmaid request. But I do agree that you should give her some time and communicate again – definitely ask her when she’ll know. If she can’t answer that question, maybe offer her an easy out? Something neutral (not accusatory) that makes it clear that she’ll still be invited even if she can’t be a bridesmaid.

  • Jan

    Good advice given here. LW, you have a year! That is so much time! Nail down some details if you haven’t already, share those details with your friend, and then give her some space to consider what she’s up for. Be kind, and let her know you totally get that she isn’t sure yet, but can she please just let you know by X date so you can proceed on ordering dresses? As others have pointed out, there could be a million reasons she is not sure if she can commit, and most of them probably have nothing to do with you. I know it would suck to not have someone you consider a close friend stand up with you, but that’s just how these things go sometimes.

    ETA: It also crosses my mind that perhaps the friend doesn’t believe that anything less than total commitment wouldn’t be met with hurt feelings on the LW’s part. Like, LW is saying she’d be totally cool if her friend can’t make every event, but is that true? I’ve known women who said stuff like that but ended up really annoyed and/or hurt when someone close to them couldn’t be a part of their planning process/shower/bachelorette party.

  • pdxatheart

    As somebody who works opposite hours and who used to (and sometimes still does) freelances…she honestly might not know for some time. Sometimes 3k gigs fall in laps only 3 weeks out…and she might really need that cash. You probably know if she’s in this type of situation. If she actually is, and If it were me…I’d be picking returnable bridesmaid dresses from Anthro, asking her to book her plane ticket on SW airlines, etc. But you might totally not be ok with the uncertainty and that’s totally fine! Anything else she could do if she ends up being able to come last minute? Reading? Hanging out in the bridal suite? Receiving an “i love you thanks for being a close friend” gift?

    • pdxatheart

      also +1 on Amy’s point of is she actually a close friend. I just got married and had a 45 person wedding…we had to do some hard evaluating on who is close at this stage of life, or has kept in touch over the years etc.