Q: We’ve decide to postpone our wedding reception, but are still getting married this year with a small group in attendance. From the start we had a small wedding party, one best man and one maid of honor. The best man and his wife have been spectacular, they’ve called and helped us plan a mini-bachelor/ette party for both of us. But my maid of honor is absent. She hasn’t helped my mom plan a small bridal shower, she wont be attending the shower either. She also said she doesn’t feel comfortable going to our family home for a weekend to celebrate the bachelor/bachelorette. We only wanted our “people” plus, significant others, so six people total for a little pre-wedding party, and she is nervous. How do I be sympathetic to COVID concerns, but also tell her that I’m upset and wish she was there for me in this super emotional time of postponing most of our wedding?
A: Your question is blurring two different issues. One is emotional support, and one is physical or planning support. Let’s take them one at a time.
First: the physical support. In March, and article went viral called The Hammer and The Dance. The idea is that we have two methods of responding to COVID. First is the hammer: aka, full lock down. Second is the dance: which is a more flexible mitigation of risk. In theory, you don’t move into the dance until your government has, you know, controlled COVID spread. But since our government hasn’t done that, we’re being forced into a far more complicated dance of trying to mitigate risk while doing whatever basic activities we need to do. And that makes the dance impossibly hard, because every one has a different idea of what level of risk they’re willing to take. Sometimes, that level of risk changes on different days, or in different moods. Why? Because there are no firm rules, and we’re all just making it up as we go along.
But the problem with the dance is that it can cause enormous interpersonal tension, if what you think is reasonable risk is not what a friend or loved one feels is safe. And it’s clear that your MOH has a different risk assessment than you do. Which is fair enough. Given that we know there is asymptomatic transmission, and that you’re only as safe as your least conscientious contact—it makes perfect sense that she doesn’t want to share germs with six people. This is particularly true given that she has know idea how safe these six people are—or are not—being.
And that leads us to issue number two: emotional support. It’s perfectly reasonable to want your maid of honor to be there for you, during this difficult and emotional time. That’s her (honorary) job, after all! And I can’t tell you for sure why she’s not… only she can tell you that. But my guess is that she feels pressure to participate in something she’s not comfortable with, you’re not taking no for an answer (at least not without hurt feelings) and so she’s just shut down. (Also note: if she feels that these parties are unsafe, she may feel like she shouldn’t ethically contribute to planning them.)
What’s the solution? Very likely it’s a heart to heart. But you need to take the lead and listen to her needs and concerns, and accept what ever level of risk she is or isn’t willing to take. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in a better place to ask her for her emotional support, and she’ll be in a better place to provide it because she won’t feel under pressure.
I’m so sorry. Weddings are so complicated and emotional in the best of times. And we are living through the worst of times. It’s not fair, and neither of you deserve this. My best advice is to remember that people are all we have right now, and we should all hold on to that tightly, no matter how imperfect things are. (And they are fucking imperfect.)