Can I Get My Boyfriend to Skip My Toxic Friend’s Wedding?

AAPW: The invite's a surprise, but maybe I should go for the party

by Stephanie Kaloi

bride and bridesmaids drinking

Q: My boyfriend and I were invited to an out-of-town wedding for an ex-friend I have a bad history with. We had such a toxic friendship and emotional end that I was surprised to receive an invite at all. I hardly believe we were intended to accept the invite, and I am vehemently against the idea. Unfortunately, my boyfriend, who is completely aware of my history with the bride, is adamant on attending because he has known the groom for over a decade.

We were invited via a single invitation sent to his home. Bob’s friend is someone he has known for over ten years through mutual friends but rarely connects with one on one, neither through devices nor in person. Meanwhile, the bride might as well be on that faraway island with her groom given the lengths I traveled to extricate her from my life. As our friendship dissolved, the whole situation devolved into nasty bickering that further soured us toward each other and reinforced the substantive reasons I do not want her in or near my inner circle. In the two years since then, the only communication between the two of us was the wedding invitation sent to Bob a couple months ago.

I’ll own however selfish this makes me: I am well beyond the stage of life where I’m willing to go through dire straits to please, or (worse?) not to offend, people I don’t care much about. I couldn’t imagine attending a party hosted by them on an average day in my own neighborhood, so why should their out-of-state wedding be any different?

I would like to send the couple a gift and kind regrets. Bob believes declining the invitation would be horribly rude and a bit of a buzzkill as he’s looking forward to reconnecting with other mutual friends at the wedding. There are certainly times in life that require significant discomfort in exchange for greater gain, but I’m not sure this is one of them.

What’s the practical answer?

—TOFTM (Too Old For This Mess)

A: The entire time I read your question, a second question kept bouncing back at me: Is there a reason your boyfriend can’t just go to the wedding by himself? As much as I feel you on this (truly nasty ex-friends are the worst), I have the sneaking suspicion that this idea has to have at least occurred to one or both of you, and for some reason, it’s not the solution you want. I think there could be two reasons behind this:

1. If he goes to the wedding alone, it’ll feel like a betrayal:

My initial thought was that you’re worried that if he goes to the wedding alone, it’ll look like he’s saying, “Hey (Bride), I’m totally okay with you, no matter what my girlfriend thinks.” I assume there are other mutual friends attending the wedding who probably know the entire story behind why the two of you fell out, and I wonder if perhaps some part of you worries that everyone will assume that your boyfriend showing up solo = he doesn’t support you in this matter.

2. If he goes to the wedding alone, the bride might try to start drama: Without knowing the ex-friend in question, or the specifics of how your relationship with her deteriorated, I also wonder if you’re worried that your ex-friend might corner your boyfriend at the wedding and demand an explanation for your absence, or if she and others at the wedding might devote a portion of the day to discussing how terrible you are in front of your boyfriend, and that either way he’ll be put into a position that isn’t desirable.

Again, both of my ideas are speculative, but here’s where I’ll dispel them, just in case:

1. part of being an adult means making your own choices and respecting those of others: Here’s the thing about being an adult in a relationship with someone else who is also an adult: you have to let each other make your own decisions. Maybe it’ll suck if your boyfriend attends the wedding solo, but if you’ve thoroughly explained your side of the story, and it’s truly important to him that he attends the wedding, it might be time to just respect that and let it go. If you don’t feel like your boyfriend is actively trying to piss you off by attending, then chalk it up to good memories of days gone by with the groom for him. Since it sounds like attending any part of the day is a hundred percent out of the question for you, I would spend the day doing something ultra fantastic (go out of town, stay in town and go get a massage, go to a fabulous lunch, etc.) and try to avoid fretting about the wedding and what’s happening. (And keep inquiring texts to a minimum.) Maybe he really does just want to go see friends he hasn’t seen in forever and that’s it—there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to do that. To me, a sign of a healthy relationship is that both parties are comfortable together and apart.

2. acknowledge that he should be old enough to handle any drama: Say your boyfriend walks into the reception and the first thing the bride does is corner him and start asking about you—so what? He doesn’t have to stay and listen to it, and a simple, “Hey, it’s your wedding day, let’s not talk about this,” should suffice. I don’t know her and her maturity level, but if your boyfriend is going to see his friends… then he’ll just hang with his friends, the end. Right?

The moral of the story is you’re both adults, and he can go alone. You won’t be involved, he’ll see his friends, and everyone is happy.


Stephanie Kaloi

Stephanie is a photographer, writer, and Ravenclaw living in California with her family. She is super into reading, road trips, and adopting animals on a whim. Forewarning: all correspondence will probably include a lot of punctuation and emoji (!!! ? ? ?).

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  • Isn’t this the perfect occasion for a white lie? Why not just say that you’re sorry, you’ve got another commitment that weekend, but that your boyfriend is excited to attend?

    • MC

      Yep – or that only one of you could afford the travel / get time off from work.

      • Katie

        I bet they don’t even ask, since you’ll just indicate one person and choose one meal on the RSVP when you send it back. No need for any fibs. And if Bob and the groom don’t really speak that often, I don’t see why they’ll have occasion to do much catching up at the wedding either. The groom will be busy and spending time with family and the bridal party, and Bob will be hanging out with the other non-bridal party friends. And MAYBE the bride would have time for a small passing dig on the LW (We’re so glad to see YOU, Bob.) but her situation is likely to be the same. Bob is going to go and party with his friends, and that’s highly likely to be the end of it.

        • ART

          And hopefully Bob understands that he can choose not to share that kind of dig with anyone else, including LW, if it does happen. Unless he loves drama :)

  • Violet

    Oh man, all my thoughts on this ultimately circle back to one main idea: this chick is living rent-free in your head, LW. Time to evict her.

    You doubt the invitation is sincere (“I hardly believe we were intended to accept the invite”) yet you’d send a gift. To be blunt, why? Because you want her to have a present from you? So she thinks you are a polite person who follows etiquette? To not offend the groom who apparently didn’t really want you to come, either? (I mean, your boyfriend knows how to send a gift to his friend, right?) Get her out of your head.

    You don’t want your boyfriend to go alone. Because then what will she think of your relationship that he attended and you didn’t? Get her out of your head.

    You are now having a protracted (assuming, based on the fact that you wrote in) disagreement with your boyfriend when a simple non-attend from you would solve this? Get her out of your head.

    You don’t want to go through dire straits for people you don’t care about, but this whole conundrum is one strait. Don’t go, boyfriend goes. Get her out of your head!

    I personally might not use “Too old for this mess” because I’m not sure not letting people get to you is directly tied to age. But I totally agree it’s often correlated, so I see where you’re getting that from. So if it works for you, make it your mantra. Day of, if you start thinking about her, your boyfriend being there, or people gossiping, think, “I’m too old for this mess,” and go back to whatever fabulousness you planned for yourself that day.

    • Sarah E

      A thousand times yes.

    • ART

      I agree with all of this. Also, we had a friend actually show up but then immediately bail on our wedding, we pretty much knew why, and we had a great day anyway and didn’t talk about it to them or each other or anyone else for one second that day, because we got fucking married that day! I hope I’m not the kind of person that could be described like the bride in the letter by anyone that knows me, but still, can we acknowledge the possibility that neither she nor her groom will ask or say anything no matter what LW & BF decide to do, because it’s their wedding and their feels are a little busy already?

      I totally know that it is possible to have all this drama and piss off brides and grooms by doing or saying the wrong thing, I do. But the phrase that comes to mind is “don’t overestimate your own importance.” That has always been helpful for me, even when it’s a bit hard to swallow.

      • Violet

        YUP. Day of, I think it’s highly unlikely that the bride herself is going to be thinking much about this. It’s that old “spotlight effect,” whereby because we are our own main characters in this show called Life, we think we’re main characters in everyone else’s lives, too. But usually we’re just a recurring character, or supporting cast in the case of close friends and family.

      • tr

        Oh my gosh yes! By the fact that there will be mutual friends there, and the invite is from a couple you two are not presently close to, I’m assuming this is probably a 100+ person wedding.

        Guess what? Even if they weren’t distracted by the whole getting married thing, and this was just a regular dinner party on steroids, the bride would be hard pressed to give much thought one way or the other to your presence. Add in the whole getting married thing? The odds of her cornering anyone to start drama about your non-attendance drop to virtually zero!

  • Amy March

    I’m so confused by this letter. Obviously the practical answer is that you stay home, because you don’t want to go, and he goes, because he would like to. Is the issue that you want him to not go out of loyalty to you? That seems completely unreasonable to me. You talk about the wedding of your singular ex-friend, but it is actually plural both your friends, and a messy end to a friendship doesn’t seem enough to make this into a test of your relationship. Is the issue that he is insisting you go? Equally unreasonable- attending a wedding with your friends on your own is not a big deal at all.

    I think the real question to be asking yourselves is why you aren’t arriving at this solution and what digging in your heels on either side is really about.

  • Jess

    If you really are past the “people pleasing” stage of life, then everyone’s advice totally makes sense, you do you, don’t go and just let your BF go. It won’t be a thing, and it’s certainly not a betrayal.

    If you aren’t (I readily admit that I am not and very much care about whether or not people like me), is it possible that this is less about your BF showing solidarity with you and more about what his friends will say about you when he tells them that you’re not there because you don’t get on with the bride?

    • Amy March

      Why on earth would he tell them she isn’t there because she doesn’t get on with the bride? That is so very very rude. Obviously he just says “TOFTM couldn’t make it this weekend and sends her best.”

      • Jess

        Of course it is rude! But could it happen? Totally.

        • Amy March

          Really? If she can’t trust her boyfriend to behave appropriately and not make her out to be a bad person, they have bigger issues than this wedding. If she is worried about that, she either needs to get a handle on her worst-case-scenario worrying or get a handle on why she is dating someone she doesn’t trust to behave with basic manners.

          • Ashlah

            I mostly agree with you, but I could see the boyfriend maybe mentioning something like that to one of his (non-groom) friends at the wedding. Maybe. In casual conversation with a friend, he may say something like, “Eh, the two of them had a falling out a while back” or some such. Should he say anything of the sort? Probably not.

          • laddibugg

            I definitely see my guy saying something that without meaning to -_-

          • Jess

            I can see a BF just mentioning it because he doesn’t see it as a big deal, or because he thinks it’s openly known. Both are typically male responses to “drama.” It’s not maliciously ill-mannered, but inconsiderate all the same.

            I freely admit that I am prone worst case scenario worrying, which is certainly something that should be managed, not used as an excuse to limit other people’s behavior (other than maybe reminding said boyfriend that she would appreciate it if he stuck to “TOFTM couldn’t make it”). Which is really the only reason I brought up the concern – it’s something to examine and lay aside.

            I certainly don’t think she should go and I don’t think she can or should stop her BF from going.

  • Audrey

    I really really want to know why separate attendance doesn’t seem like an option to her, because there are so many possible reasons:
    – It’s out of town and it would take up his vacation time she wants to use with him
    – He’s the type of person who hates taking trips without her and is trying to get her to go
    – She’s angry/concerned about how much money the out of town trip takes, even if only he goes

    And so forth…

    • raccooncity

      Gotta admit, I’d be pissed about the vacation time thing as well.

      • tr

        I suppose that I would and I wouldn’t, if that makes sense.
        The reality is, if the relationship lasts more than a couple of years, there will be times when one of you takes a vacation day for something that the other one doesn’t want to do. My fiance has taken vacation days to work on household projects that I didn’t care about. I’ve taken vacation days to visit out of town friends. In a perfect world, we’d agree on those things 100%, but that will never happen. And that’s okay. One vacation day isn’t that big of a deal, in the grand scheme of things.

        • laddibugg

          I get a little pissy when I feel the boyfriend squanders his vacation time (when there is another option) because he gets so little.

  • Mrrpaderp

    I’ll propose a third possibility: LW fears that ex-friend will worm her way back into her life if BF attends the wedding. Now that BF’s friend is marrying ex-friend, what does that mean for BF’s friendship with both his friend and LW’s ex-friend? What does that mean for LW’s friendship-by-proxy with this couple?

    It’s (relatively) easy to say you’ll cut a toxic person out of your life. Where it gets messy is all of the mutual connections you share. Setting boundaries is painstaking and painful. LW and her BF should talk about where those boundaries lie so they can both protect LW from being subjected to ex-friend.

    • Eenie

      Yes! And this is why in this instance a little white lie could come back to haunt her (she couldn’t make it! AKA there’s no hard feelings!). It takes work to set boundaries and if he goes the bride could take that as backsliding on the boundaries to the relationship.

    • Amy March

      Nothing? BF has been friends with groom this entire time. He isn’t close to him, doesn’t see him one-on-one and gets together on occasion with mutual friends. Why would the marriage change that?

      I also think there is an important distinction to be made between a toxic person and a toxic friendship, which is what they LW says she had. Takes 2 people to make a toxic friendship, and while ending that relationship might be necessary I think the case for total exclusion from life even to the extent of not “letting” your BF go to his friend’s wedding is extreme.

  • Kayjayoh

    “Is there a reason your boyfriend can’t just go to the wedding by himself?”

    This was my thought as I read the letter as well.

  • Katie

    Oof, I’m kind of on the precipice of dealing with this however in a slightly different way. My toxic ex best friend and I haven’t spoken in 5 years and my life is better for it. One of my good friends is getting married, and while I am thrilled for her, j am dreading all of her wedding events because she is also friends with my ex friend. I’m probably going to just suck it up and go with my head held high, but it is stressing me out. The only thing getting me me through it at all is that this girl has probably not thought about me once in 5 years so why should I?

    I agree with the other commenters that the boyfriend should just go; there’s no use to subjecting yourself to something that is going to upset you for the sake of politeness.

    • Huh, I’ve thought about this with family, actually. I only invited 2 members of my family on one side to our wedding, one of whom I am VERY close to. Should she get married, though, it’s possible that being there to support her would necessarily involve seeing toxic family that I’ve cut out of my life and that’s going to suck. But if it happens, like you, I’ll hold my head high and go for her sake.

  • GigiAnon

    Is Liz no longer doing AAPW or with APW? Stephanie’s answers are great! Just curious.

    • She’s on a much-deserved break. She’ll be back <3

  • honeycomehome

    So not the point… but that photo is hilarious with the one bridesmaid on the end chugging a tequila bottle in a row of beers.

    This letter is sort of deceiving, in that she didn’t really get invited to her ex-friend’s wedding. Her boyfriend got invited to his friend’s wedding. Without that relationship, there’s no invitation.

    If I was invited to an old friend’s wedding where I’d get the chance to connect with other old friends and my boyfriend threw a fit because he and the groom had a falling out and he didn’t want me to go… I’d be pretty resentful. (Hi! This isn’t about you!) So, I co-sign everyone who says he should just go alone. He shouldn’t pressure you into attending, and you should return the favor and let him go without a guilt trip.

  • JC

    In this letter, I’m hearing a lot of fear of altering the status quo. I have a similar situation with an ex-friend/toxic relationship. She is getting married soon, and while we are now on fairly pleasant terms, I’d prefer not to be invited to the wedding, just to keep things at the acquaintance-level we’ve developed.

    But the power of controlling the status quo was taken away from the LW as soon as the invitation was sent to them. While I agree with others that the best option seems to be her boyfriend going to the wedding, I think the fear is bigger than any plan of actions one of us can provide. No option that anyone can come up with is going to be satisfying, because they all involve altering the silent truce that had been maintained for so long. I think it will take time, processing, and more than a touch of forgiveness for her ex-friend and for herself, and all I can offer is a pat on the back in sympathy for that sucky process.

    • Violet

      This is beautifully put. I think anyone who’s removed themselves from someone can understand this dynamic. You create a physical barrier between yourself and the person, trusting that an emotional disconnection will follow. But sometimes the status quo you’ve established doesn’t involve any emotional processing; you just kind of ignore the whole fallout. If they’re not present in your life, you can ignore your feelings about it.

      Getting the invite is an example of when the person crosses the physical barrier you’ve created, bringing your attention full-force to the fact that the emotional healing you’d hoped would happen naturally didn’t really occur. So now you’re thrust back into a connection (however tenuous) with the person, not on your terms, where any choice you make has some kind of consequence. Such a sucky process, indeed.

    • Her Lindsayship

      I appreciate this measured response – still the same overall advice as most others here, but instead of attacking the LW for being dramatic, you sympathize. Good interneting, you. ;)

      And it’s just so true… We don’t know what the hell happened between LW and ex-friend, but clearly it was bad enough to make her react in a less-than-reasonable way to this wedding invite, and who are we to judge? I’ve definitely overreacted to unimportant crap when it related to someone who hurt me.

  • laddibugg

    For all you know this could have been a heated argument between the future bride and groom….

    ‘Let’ your boyfriend go. He’s probably looking forward to it, and I sorta agree with him that you’re being a buzzkill on his plans to have fun with his other friends. I’m totally assuming you had a falling out over something that did not involve violence or harm to others, or infidelity between her and someone you dated (and even that last one I’m on the fence about)

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