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Is It The Maid Of Honor’s Job to Cater A Bridal Shower For 80 Guests?

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Q: Dear APW,

My good friend since middle school, “Tina,” asked me to be one of her two maids of honor for her upcoming wedding. I cried happy tears and was very excited to start the planning process. We’ve been planning her wedding on Pinterest long before she even met her fiancx, and I thought I knew what I was doing.

When I met with Tina and her other maid of honor (OMOH) to talk guest list and bridal shower details, Tina told us that her wedding guest list is about 350 people. That’s a large group, but Tina and her future husband have large extended families, so I expected as much for the wedding. Then, Tina told OMOH and me that her bridal shower guest list is about eighty people… and that OMOH and I would be responsible for the costs.

I was floored. I admit, I didn’t do enough research before accepting my MOH position. I accepted on the spot out of excitement. I have read countless wedding etiquette articles for bridesmaids and MOHs, and all of them spell out that the MOH (and sometimes bridesmaids) are responsible for throwing the bridal shower.

The OMOH is a student, and I am a young professional with a lot of student loans.  We—at least I, I can’t speak for OMOH—don’t have the financial wherewithal to throw a bridal shower for eighty people! When I mentioned the financial burden this would impose on us in a group chat, OMOH stayed silent. She hasn’t complained about the cost to me, and to be fair, I’m not sure if she has brought it up privately to Tina.  Either way, I feel like the only one thinking this is a little much.

In addition, Tina has said that plastic tablecloths, tableware, and flatware are “not ok,” and the venue she picked does not offer set up, clean up, or table service.  Cleaning eighty sets of dishes after the bridal shower would lie on the bridesmaids. I have brought up to Tina my concerns on the finances of catering for eighty people (?!) and the logistics of setting up heavy tables & chairs, washing eighty sets of dishes, and likely having to wash dishes during the bridal shower (because how many people only use one plate or fork for a lunch buffet?). But every time, I am met with “It’s a pretty expensive thing to be in a wedding” and “That’s not like a bajillion dollars.” She didn’t appreciate my recommendation to get the metal-looking plastic flatware for a more “sophisticated” look with easy cleanup. She likes the truly finer things in life.

I’m torn. I feel like a bad friend for seeing dollar signs every time my friend dictates what she wants, but at the same time, I feel taken advantage of. If the MOHs are going to be financially responsible for the bridal shower, then shouldn’t they choose the number of guests they can accommodate, the decorations, and the amount that they can afford to spend? I feel like I’ve been made into a MOH ATM for my friend’s fairytale wedding.

I don’t want to back out of this wedding. Again, I’ve been excitedly waiting for this day with Tina. But I’d also like to not go bankrupt. Please help, I’m afraid of being labeled a cheapskate.

—Being Taken as a MOH ATM  

A: Dear MOH ATM,

Oof. The foggy thing about weddings is the distinction between what’s an established “rule” and what’s just a personal expectation, and then above and beyond all that, what’s actually polite and conscientious and considerate of the actual people involved in a real situation. Your friend is right that sometimes the maid of honor is the one to host and foot the bill for the shower! But you’re also correct that a host gets to, you know, offer to host and then select affordable options she’s willing and able to cover.

When so many of these weddings work a specific way, we can start to expect them to always work that way, and we lose sight of the actual etiquette (i.e., concern for other people) that underlies all of it. Your friend just assumed you would pay for everything because in the weddings she’s seen, that’s how it’s been. I’m sure it’s nothing malicious.

But agreeing to be in a bridal party isn’t equivalent to writing a blank check. You’re allowed to say, “This is too much; I didn’t anticipate this.” You don’t need to rely on rules or look to etiquette. It’s not always about what Emily Post would think, or how other weddings work, or whether your co-maid-of-honor can’t afford it either.

As intimidating as it is, you’ll have to be really specific and personal: “My budget cannot handle the cost of this.” Because sure, maybe she’s right that “it’s pretty expensive to be in a wedding,” or “it’s not a bajillion dollars!” But those statements are super relative (and bajillion is not a real number), and we’re talking about very specific things here: your budget and this bill. You can arm yourself with some suggestions (maybe the other bridesmaids can help cover expenses?) or even be prepared to say, “This is how much I’m able to contribute, what would you like to do within this budget?”

And also address the manpower required to pull off this party at this venue. I’ve been to loads of lovely showers where there wasn’t a paid staff on hand to set up or clear tables or wash dishes. It was all done by a loving community of yes, bridesmaids, but also moms and aunties and friends. With eighty guests, you’ll definitely need more than two maids of honor handling this. Maybe she’s got a core group she knows will pitch in, or maybe she hasn’t considered the actual logistics of pouring water into eighty goblets at once. Bring it up.

Based on some of the conversations you’ve recapped for us, it sounds like she may not take that well. It might cause some friction for you, but presumably not as much as the resentment built by forking over cash (or time, or effort, or energy) that you just do not have.

Tell Tina just what you’ve told me: you’re super excited about her wedding, you’re thrilled to celebrate her, you want to do everything you can to throw an amazing shower—but you have real life limits. Because if you don’t tell her about those limits, those first three parts won’t be very true for very long.

—Liz Moorhead

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