In a recent post, we asked for engagement and wedding questions that were burning a hole in your brain, so that we could answer them in our “Good Advice” columns. Bridesmaids kept popping up: those slippery ladies have been unenthusiastic, misbehaving, and sometimes just plain missing. This, friends, is a problem. We’ll deal with all of your other wedding attendant issues soon, but I want to first address the most serious, which is the case of the rogue bridesmaid. Your emails and text are going unanswered; at meetups with mutual friends (your other maids, perhaps?), she’s nowhere to be found. You have no idea if she’s bought her dress, or even if she’s planning to show up on your wedding day.
First: this is a friend problem rather than a wedding problem, and you need to approach it as such. In my experience, most people in their 20s and 30s (which is the average age of brides and their wedding party) have a lot going on in their lives, and not all of it pleasant: new jobs, bad jobs, no job; messy romantic entanglements; a general disillusionment about what it means to be ‘grown up’ (yeah, it’s way overrated); and very possibly, their own spouse and children demanding their time and energy. All of these things can cause, in no particular order: frustration; jealousy; resentment; regret; longing. Imagine if you were dealing with a life-altering shitstorm–or shitstorms, because truly, these issues often overlap–and your dear friend was getting married. And she was really excited. And really in love. And showered with presents and attention. Now you see it, right?
I know, because I’ve been there. I was the last of my small group of high school friends to get married, and I was bitterly jealous, wondering when and if my life was going to come together, and aghast that I felt that way. I dealt with these feelings by withdrawing from wedding planning altogether. I didn’t go rogue, but man, I was pretty close.
So brides, this is your job: if your friend (because she’s a friend foremost, and that’s what you hope she’ll be when this is all over) is AWOL, call her. DON”T TEXT OR EMAIL. Those methods of communication are too easy to ignore, and frankly, too impersonal. If you get her on the phone, here’s a conversation starter: “Bridesmaid, we’ve been friends for a long time and I feel a distance between us. I’m wondering if something is going on in your life that I don’t know about because I’ve been so caught up in planning the wedding.” Then pause. If she starts spilling her guts, great; just listen. Don’t even mention how stressed/busy/complicated your engaged existence has become, because this is about her, not you.
If she vaguely brushes you off, make small talk, then try to bring the conversation back around. At some point (maybe not this phone call, but soon), you’ll need to ask point blank, with kindness and no malice: “Would you still like to be in my wedding? I understand if it’s a burden.” You’re giving her an out, which is the gracious thing to do. And if she wants out, for the sake of your friendship, let her. As hard as it is to watch a bridesmaid walk away from your wedding, letting her go with the spirit of sympathy and understanding is the only way to salvage the friendship.
Ultimately, you need to swallow your frustration–“but she’s supposed to be there for me! I shouldn’t have to be chasing her down”–and recognize that weddings, for those intimately involved but not actually getting married, can be catalysts for all that is undone in our lives. And you need to proceed accordingly, with grace and sensitivity.