Q: My best friend of ten-plus years is getting married. She found a great guy, and she’s a great girl (obv, which is why she’s my bff), and it’s always lovely when two people find each other and fall in love and want to commit to that in front of friends and family. I’m happy for her, I’m happy for her soon-to-be husband and his two kids from a previous marriage. I’m happy for their families and extended families.
I’m even happy for me! I love a good wedding, and I love my friend, and I’m so excited to get to stand up there with her and help her proclaim to a bunch of people that she’s going to stick by this dude through thick and through thin.
Then she dropped a bomb on me. But before I get to that, there’s something you need to know about me: I’m not the dress-wearing type. I’m what used to be called a “tomboy,” and is now called “masculine of center.” Basically, I wear pants and suits, not dresses and heels.
So back to the bomb: I don’t have to wear a dress, and can wear a Men’s Warehouse rented suit with the rest of the groomsmen. But that means I have to stand with the groomsmen, lest I ruin her picture-perfect lineup. And it’s not that I don’t know her husband, because I do, but he’s not the one I’m there for. I’m there for her.
My friend of ten-plus years doesn’t want me standing on her side of the aisle, because what I’m going to wear doesn’t match the rest of her bridesmaids. This is her wedding day, and this is her vision. But I can’t help but feel like I don’t count as a person in her life, and I’m instead a photo op.
I’ll bite the bullet, and I’ll stand with strangers. I’m the last person in the world to cause drama around someone else’s wedding. But I do want to let her know that she hurt my feelings. She’s my best friend, after all.
How do I tell her that weddings and bridal parties are more than just clothes and pictures?
—Nobody Puts Pants in the Corner
A: Dear NPPITC,
Oh man, that’s awful. It’s not uncommon for folks to get hung up on the aesthetics of a perfect wedding vision. But common or not, it’s still pretty hurtful to be told, in a way, that you don’t fit that perfect vision.
This is probably an instance where she (hurtfully, shortsightedly) didn’t think through the implications of what she’s saying. She’s trying to give you the room to be who you are, without noticing that she’s boxing you into a totally different role. She tried! And got like… halfway there. Because she’s trying to jam her wedding into a mold that doesn’t fit. I’m sorry that you’re the one being squashed out.
Rather than wait till after to let her know that you were hurt, I’d bring it up now. I know you don’t want to cause drama; I know wedding decisions sometimes feel a little fragile. But I’m guessing this misstep is completely unintentional and it would help for you to point it out to her. She probably hasn’t even considered what this means and needs you to say, “So, hey, I was looking forward to standing on your side since I’m here to support you.” Sometimes folks are so eager to help make you comfortable that they don’t stop to think about what exactly would be the best way to do it. Give her the chance to fix her mistake instead of telling her afterward, when there’s nothing left to do about it.
But I’m not queer, so I turned to our Brand Director, Najva Sol, for her perspective. Spoiler: she also recommends chatting with your friend.
Since your friend didn’t think this all the way through, maybe you can help her get there on her own, without causing any of that unwanted drama. You could remind her that it’s traditional for the wedding party of each person to get ready with them. If you become a groomsman, you won’t be there to laugh with her while she gets dressed, and instead you’ll just be a tomboy in a room full of naked-ish dudes you barely know. (And maybe she won’t be so into putting you in that position!)
Also, your friend probably isn’t considering how damaging valuing aesthetic over friendship can be. I mean, what other factors wouldn’t fit with her vision? Tattoos? Short hair? Plus-size folks? It’s a slippery slope. That’s not to say she can’t have the picture she dreams of (I assume you can step aside gracefully for a few “only dress” shots, even if it burns a little), but does she really not want you along for the adventure of her wedding day because of pants?
If gently pointing out the above doesn’t work (or you already can anticipate that it won’t go over well), I’d wait and say exactly what you told me. That being asked to stand on the other side of the room made it feel like symmetrical photos mattered more than who you are and what your relationship is. She’s your bestie, so I’m guessing, assuming, hoping that she’ll be able to hear that and apologize for it.