Should I Fire My Bridesmaid For Being Preoccupied With Her Health Issues?

I feel guilty

Q: I have three bridesmaids. Throughout the wedding planning process, I have tried to be very independent and also to make their responsibilities as carefree as possible. Some of this is for my own sanity, I’ll admit. I lost my mother years ago, and none of my relatives live anywhere near me, so most of our wedding planning is between me and my fiancé.

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Two of my bridesmaids have been transparent with me this whole time; the third, who I’ll call “Sarah,” is readily unavailable… and it’s not her fault, to a point (I mean, she could at least reply to her texts). Sarah has multiple health issues. She was in the hospital for four months until recently, followed by some time in a rehabilitation center. She was then home for about two weeks and had a seizure (she does not have epilepsy), and now is in the hospital again for testing. Throughout all of this, I have tried to be as good of a friend as possible. I texted her, called her, went to the hospital even though it is several hours away, and sent her presents.

When I asked Sarah to be my bridesmaid, she appeared to be joyous and excited, but since then she has been silent. She hasn’t once asked me how my wedding planning is going, but I don’t blame her for it; I can see that her health is her focus and it rightfully should be. But there is at least something she could be doing, and that is communication. She doesn’t even reply ever—and I mean ever—to the bridesmaid group text.

The problem is that Sarah is not completely open with me about things. For my engagement party, she kept claiming she and her fiancé were going to go… even up to a few days in advance. It was only up to the day before that she finally admitted they couldn’t go; they hadn’t bothered to book a place to stay, even though I gave a list of hotels/motels in the area over two months before.

Due to this experience, and some others, I fear that Sarah may not want to be my bridesmaid anymore. Considering her health problems, I wouldn’t take offense to her attending as a guest. However, my other bridesmaids, my fiancé, and even my brother have voiced their concerns that “she is blowing you off.”

I’m not sure how to ask her the heavy question of: “Do you still want to be a bridesmaid?” Because she is going through huge things beyond her control, I feel… well… guilty. Very guilty, even though others have told me I need to prioritize my wedding despite the chaos. My brother brought up our mother, whose own mother died only three weeks before her wedding, and that she still forced herself to go through with the wedding despite the tremendous loss. He also brought up our aunt, whose father also passed very soon before her wedding, and she too still went through with it.

I’m not sure if my guilt makes sense. If I bring up the “Do you still want to be a bridesmaid?” question to Sarah, and she really does still want to have the role, should I have different expectations from her? I already have reduced her workload as much as possible. All I have left to expect is for her to buy the dress (I’m covering her hair and makeup) and to show up for the wedding…. Is that even too much?

What should I do?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Ignore your friends. Do not cut this bridesmaid. That “guilt” you’re feeling is just plain old common sense.

You keep reiterating that she doesn’t have any responsibilities, that you’ve scaled back your expectations. But she’s somehow also not meeting your expectations? You should have none. In this situation, the role is 100 percent about honoring your relationship and 0 percent about attending the right parties or responding to wedding planning texts.

It sucks to be back-burnered, and in reality, you have been. But I’d bet she much prefer having the time and energy and focus to devote to your wedding, rather than being preoccupied by the stress and expense of a scary health situation. Just reading her situation, I’m overwhelmed for her. Yeah, other people have faced tragedy and still managed to be present for weddings, we see those inspirational stories on this very site all the time. But did you notice that both of your brother’s examples were how women handled their own weddings? Death of a loved one is of course tragic, but is it comparable to the very personal physical, emotional, mental, and (likely) financial toll of experiencing your own body rebelling? You can’t just blanket say, “Well, people go to weddings despite hard stuff, look at these other folks who did.” This situation requires a different perspective, and a ton of compassion.

If you’re ultimately concerned that she won’t show up for the wedding (after the engagement party experience, I can understand), consider buying her dress. And do whatever else you can to get her there. Then, expect nothing else from this woman, and be grateful if she does manage to be at your wedding. I assure you, if she gets there, it will have been something she fought hard to be able to do.

—Liz Moorhead

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