I was so incredibly excited to receive my friend’s Save The Date last June (her wedding is this coming September). I promised her years ago—before my own wedding and child—that I would not miss her wedding, no matter where it was. She has been single for quite some time and had been yearning to find someone, so I know her struggles and am so excited for her. She sent a chat channel of a bunch of our group friends the Save the Date and it’s a three day celebration in India. A few days in Mumbai and a day in Delhi. We are from Los Angeles.
I rarely take time off as I am not a full-time employee with PTO, but I wanted to live up to my promise. I assumed that my husband would be invited (they have met and partied in the past) as I didn’t think she would expect us LA friends to go halfway around the world (a thirty-hour trip) to a developing country was a safe thing to do alone. That, and because he’s my husband, not boyfriend, and I was used to the American etiquette of typically inviting spouses unless otherwise noted. My husband and I planned to make a trip of it and created an entire itinerary to various countries to visit friends instead of doing the entire thirty-hour travel all at once. I booked our tickets, made arrangements for my son, and excitedly told her that we were coming. Note: I told her “we”.
Her invites are not arriving for another few weeks (about a month or so before the wedding) and had I seen only my name on it upon arrival, I would have then asked her at that moment if it was okay for my husband to come or, knowing how my husband is, it would have been absolutely okay with him to head home and skip the nights of the wedding since India would be the last leg of our trip. I’d really like to chalk it up to bride stress but she and I talked and after the conversation, I felt awful and I do think it was a bit of an overreaction and made the situation worse than it needed to be. Her words were that I was disrespectful of her headcount, that I just assumed the Save the Date was an open invite, and she was pissed I didn’t run it by her first… and that her wedding had become a joke. I reassured her as best as I could that everything was okay and I completely understand, apologized if it upset her, that it’s her wedding, and she should be enjoying this occasion, not stressing about it… that she should do what she planned and everyone would be supportive. She repeatedly asked if I was still going, that it was just the principle of not being asked that miffed her, and I reassured her everything was okay and tried my best to keep things lighthearted and supportive. However, after the discussion, I feel unwelcome… that I was invited on accident (she mentioned something about not realizing who was in the group chat but she was so excited and just pasted her Save the Dates in it, though she was likely referring to other people, but given the context of the conversation, it felt directed at me). And now, I’ve upset the bride.
My question is: how do I gracefully exit out of attending her wedding without adding to her stress and causing a rift? I would honestly prefer to sightsee than have a two-to three-day commitment in a country I have never been to. I would also like to enjoy it with my husband—despite being married for seven years, we’ve never taken an international trip together (life, kids, etc. got in the way). She knows my tickets are booked (canceling would be costly) but in my slightly bruised heart, I really do not feel comfortable attending her wedding, but I know if I RSVP no, I will get a slew of questions and she would feel responsible. I do not want to cause drama and I’d like your guidance on how to best navigate this gracefully. Is my reaction and gut desire unreasonable?
Thank you for your time.
Ouffffff y’all have made yourselves a situation here and… I have many thoughts.
To make this clear from the get-go, I am absolutely 100% not here for not inviting people’s spouses to their weddings. I mean, my goodness. I just cannot with this. If you can’t afford to include both a person and their spouse, you can’t afford to include that person. Plan accordingly.
That being said, there’s a lot to unpack here. A promise made before you get an invite means nothing. It’s not an unbreakable vow, it’s a nice pleasantry you said years ago. Evaluate whether it makes sense for you to attend a wedding when you receive a Save the Date or invitation, and if it doesn’t and you feel guilty about a long-ago promise, deal with that guilt by sending a gift and a card.
While I agree with you that your husband absolutely should be invited and that was a fine assumption, a general word of etiquette advice to the masses: Save the Dates are often ambiguous about who exactly is invited, which is fine, they’re meant to be informal alerts to the date. If you are going to book travel early, I think it’s a good idea to check the details. For instance, maybe you should know for sure if your kids are invited before booking travel, or maybe you want to know if your boyfriend is invited before you decide to make a trip. I don’t think couples need to spell all this out on a Save the Date, but if it makes a difference to you, it’s totally fine to ask!
But back to your situation in particular. You’re falling into the trap of making up excuses and justifications when you don’t need them, which loads of us do. It’s okay for the story to be “I assumed my husband would be invited, obviously, and planned accordingly, and now I’m not sure I want to go without him especially after the bride was mean to me.” You can skip the part about it being unsafe to expect you to go celebrate a wedding in India alone, because A: that isn’t true, and it’s a little offensive, and B: it isn’t your real issue at all.
I think talking this through with her was the right call once it became clear there was a misunderstanding. However, I think you were entirely too accommodating and reassuring to the bride. She absolutely should have invited your husband, and it would have been perfectly fine to say “Cassandra, I really am pretty upset at this reaction. I’m sorry I didn’t double-check with you when I got the Save the Date, but he’s my husband. Of course he should be invited. And we’ve booked thirty expensive hours of travel to go to your wedding because it is important to us. I don’t know what else is going on, and I’m sorry this is upsetting to you, but I’m really shocked you apparently expected me to leave my own husband behind for a long and expensive trip to your wedding.” Brides are also just people. You do not need to protect them from hurt feelings at any cost, including your own reasonable feelings.
It’s unclear to me what the resolution of your conversation was, and I think it could have gone two very different ways. A: you’re very sorry and of course your husband won’t come, or B: you’re very sorry for the misunderstanding but of course now your husband is coming.
If A, reach out again and say that you’ve thought about it more, and you’re just not comfortable attending without your husband, and if she’d prefer you not to attend then you’re going to cancel. Sure, that might cause a rift in your friendship but honestly who cares—she’s treated you terribly. It might cause friend group drama, but you’re an adult who doesn’t need to engage with that beyond “I don’t go to weddings my husband isn’t invited to, but I wish her all the best” and stop talking about it. Enjoy your vacation! (And maybe don’t make it super public that you’re going to be in India during her wedding but skipping it.)
If B, go. You are already flying to India for it! You got your way in the end. Yes, everything about how she handled this was bad, but she got to the right place in the end, and flouncing out over it is clearly going to cause a ton of drama you say you don’t want. Weddings are hard! Even though I completely disagree with her on this decision, I don’t think it makes her an irredeemably horrid person or anything. She just made a bad call on this and I think a long-standing friendship argues in favor of a bit of forgiveness.
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