Q: Dear APW,
My younger sister is getting married. She moved across the country three years ago to live with her now-fiancx. Neither of them has ties to the area. It is essentially a destination wedding, as it’s far enough from their home that they and their local friends have to find lodging. My sister shrugged off any concerns about folx not being able to attend due to the cost/distance, saying that they had plenty of time to save money. She refused to have conversations about alternate arrangements or possible problems.
Now, we’re weeks before the wedding, and less than half of the 125 nonrefundable guests have RSVPed. One of her bridesmaids is dropping hints that she is going to bail, and another already has. Lots of family have to miss because they can’t swing childcare, and her core group of local friends is driving there/back the same night, so no late-night rager or day-after brunch. Basically, no one is showing up for her the way she assumed they would. She’s expressed frustration and disappointment, and I can tell she’s keeping a lot of anger inside. I feel awful for her, and just want to help her feel peace about the day.
What can I say to her that isn’t a platitude? What should I do here?
A: Dear SLSS,
Show up for her. Do what others are not. Be at the wedding, be excited, be present. She may not want to unload on you (after all, you told her so), but maybe you can validate for her, “Hey, that must be really frustrating, you must be really hurt.”
You mention feeling “awful for her” but I’ll bet you also feel a complicated mix of frustration and vindication. You tried to tell her! Argh! But your sister probably was fielding a whole ton of other well-meant advice and unsolicited opinions. It gets to the point where you need to tune some of it out, and that could mean the good stuff gets tossed with the bathwater.
Knowing that, try to tuck aside the “I told you so”-ing which I know you’re dying to do. This is her wedding. She gets to make whatever choices she likes, and then has to deal with the fallout of those choices. That alone is heartbreaking enough, without being reminded that someone warned her. (A bridesmaid dropped out, and another one is hinting she’s going to drop out with weeks to go? Who are these people?)
You can’t change this, and nothing you say will really make it better (I think you know that). So just show up for her, and try to make sure that the people who do show up for her on her wedding day matter so much more than the people who don’t.