We have one year of our two and a half year engagement left, and I am starting to pick my bridal party. I’ve put this task off for as long as possible because my fairly close relationship with one person has taken a pretty big turn in the last few years. I always thought this person would be in my wedding, and now it is frustrating to me to be around her for more than a few hours.
She got married two years ago and, when I got engaged, she started doling out (unsolicited) “sage advice” like it was her job (and most of it was WIC bullsh*t which I tried to explain my feelings on and was promptly ignored). For the last year, every time I spend time with her I am reminded about the pitfalls of “X” decision and that our guests won’t appreciate “Y” choice. At first I listened politely, but now I’m getting to the end of my rope. I’ve started to stop attending events that I know she will be attending and, when we do speak, I avoid the topic of our wedding at all costs.
Here comes the problem—I know this person is expecting me to ask her to be in our wedding. Truthfully, I feel a little obligated to ask because we were incredibly close (a few years ago), I think she still believes we are close, and I was in their wedding party. What do I do? I feel like asking her is going to cause me so much stress and frustration, but I don’t want to upset her by not doing so. Is this even something I try to talk to her about? If I do, do I wait to ask her to be in my bridal party until I know she won’t do this to me anymore? AHHH—Help!
– Better To Ask Or Not Ask?
How frustrating! As if you don’t have enough strangers and family members and David Tutera trying to tell you how to have a wedding—now your friends need to pick on you, too? But, I need to confess something. Although I know we all get in a tiff about those jerks who try to tell us what to do, sometimes those jerks are just well-meaning friends. Everyone likes to play the role of Expert. The fact that she does, too, doesn’t make her a bad friend—it just means she’s human. At least I hope so. Because I do this all the time. Somehow, when someone brings up something they’ve never done before but you have, circuits cross and we all hear, “How would you do this?!” Being the first to get married and have a kid among some of my friends, I find myself often gritting my teeth to keep from offering unsolicited advice. We easily equate experience with expertise, and that’s just not how it works. It’s annoying but probably well-meant and unintentional.
But! I have to be honest, the first word in your letter that jumped out to me was, “obligated.” Yuck. I hate that word when we’re talking about weddings (and most other things, too). There are a scarce few times when I’d concede, sure. Do something out of obligation. Be nice. Give in. This instance is not one. Asking someone to be a member of your bridal party means honoring someone who has and will support you and your marriage. It’s a place of respect for loved ones with whom you’re close or to whom you’d like to be closer (see: your sister in law, for example). That’s the first question I’d answer here. Has she been a good friend to you (if, perhaps, a little annoying) and you’d like to honor that relationship? Or do you really just feel obligated?
If you decide that you really want her there because she means a lot to you—NOT because you feel obligated—I think a sit-down chat over some coffee (or margaritas?) might be all you need. Add some emphasis on the “Yay! I’m getting married! I want you to be my bridesmaid!” angle, but with a note of, “In this role, I need you to support my marriage and my wedding decisions. Even if it’s not how you would do it.”
I thought long and hard about who I wanted to be my bridesmaids and decided on my sisters and my three childhood friends. When we finally decided on a dress, I got a call from one of my bridesmaids saying that she can afford the dress, but nothing else. I was a little thrown off because not two weeks before, she was picking dresses well over the price point I wanted, saying they weren’t that expensive. I explained to her that it will cost more than just the dress and have been upfront all along about the costs involved so there were no surprises. But to help her out, my fiancé and I decided to pay for a portion of each girls’ dress.
The next day she called and said she can afford the dress, does not want us to pay for a portion of it, but that she will not be attending the bachelorette party, shower, or be getting her hair done with us the morning of the wedding because she will find a cheaper place to have it done (even though I haven’t booked anything for our hair so we don’t even know what it will cost). And she said she will be leaving the wedding early because her husband has to work the next morning, so she will only be staying for dinner and until the dancing gets started.
I understand her position and the fact that it is expensive to be in a wedding. (Her husband is also in two weddings around the same time as mine.) And I can help her out to an extent, like paying for a portion of her dress so she can use that money on her hair or whatever, but she is still refusing to partake in the bachelorette party and other pre-wedding events that will potentially cost money. I was the maid-of-honor in her wedding and went above and beyond to give her the bridal experience she wanted. I’m hurt that she doesn’t want to be there for me in the same way, or be present at the other wedding events. I was upfront with her about what my expectations were in an effort to avoid all of this, but it seems we’re at an impasse. She has offered to step down if I want to find someone else, but we’ve been friends for so long and I really wanted her to be by my side through this. But I also think it’s unfair to the other bridesmaids who will have to pick up her slack.
So what do I do? Just accept the fact that she’s only going to be present at the ceremony? Or do I pick a different girl to be my bridesmaid who is willing to go the distance with me on this special event?
– Losing One Sister(-like-friend) To Inconvenient Necessities Gripped In Ritualistic Life Decision Revolving Around Marriage Achievement
Dear LOST IN GIRL DRAMA,
I’m sorry! It’s so hurtful when friends don’t behave the way we expect and just generally disappoint us.
But, I’m gonna give it to you straight. There are no “obligations” involved in being a bridesmaid. Ask not what your bridesmaid can do for you, ask what you can do for your bridesmaid. Or something. You’re selecting a group of people that you’d like to honor by giving them a position of importance in the ceremony. The end. There’s nothing else to it. If they wear matching dresses, if they throw you a party, if they help you stuff envelopes—that’s terrific! But it’s just icing on the wedding cupcake. Let’s make sure you’re not taking that “maid” part of “bridesmaid” too literally, shall we? (In fact, maybe we should just call them the Bridal Brigade to avoid confusion?)
Maybe it’s time to let go of your list of expectations. Remember, etiquette doesn’t allow you to plan a bunch of parties in your honor (or convince other people to plan and pay for them for you). If your bridesmaids plan stuff for you, great! If they don’t, trust me, they love you anyway. I mean, you’re not getting married for the parties and gifts, am I right? You’re also not choosing friends for a bridal party so they then can foot the bill for a bunch of fun nights for you. Let them decide what they want to plan, and then do so within their own budgetary restrictions. And for goodness sakes, cut them a break and let them do their own hair if they can’t afford a hairdresser. I know, right now it seems like if she cared, she’d pay for the hairdo. But trust me when I say that’s not the point of a bridesmaid (it’s to keep crazy away from you on your wedding day and wipe your tears and such).
I realize that part of the sting is that you’d hoped she would want to do these things for you and with you—the way you so willingly did for her. Unfortunately, I can’t explain the motivations behind her decisions. Maybe things are much worse financially than she anticipated last week. Maybe she feels too guilty and proud to accept your help. Maybe she’s just a flaky friend who doesn’t see skipping these events as a big deal. There could be any number of reasons. If you think it represents the possibility that something in your friendship is amiss, it’s worth a chat. Let her know that you love her, you want her to be there during these important moments, and you’re even willing to pay her way if it means spending some time with her (use that money that she’s not taking for the dress!).
If you still feel a rift and aren’t comfortable having her stand with you at the wedding, she already gave you an out. Go ahead and take it! But, if you want to honor your friendship, there’s no reason she shouldn’t be your bridesmaid. That’s all that being a bridesmaid entails, after all.
Team Practical, how did you choose members of your bridal party? What expectations did you have for these roles? How are you working to adjust those expectations when they don’t work for the people involved?
Photo: Leah and Mark Photography.
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 or use the submission form here. If you would prefer not to be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Although, we always love a good sign off!