Dear Fran, really good advice, and practical for the next time it might happen. It's always better to confront s situation straight on, rather than let it fester.
A good friend of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was excited to be asked and immediately said yes!
Then the costs started rolling in. She picked a very expensive bridesmaid’s dress (almost $200 more than I’ve ever paid for a bridesmaid’s dress before!), and wants us all to buy the same shoes and get our hair and makeup done, too.
For the bachelorette party, she wants a three-day trip to wine country—including renting a house, hiring a limo, and extravagant dinners every night. It’s going to be upwards of $700 per person, which I might be able to swing, except that I also have to travel (including flights and a hotel for three nights) to the wedding itself.
I’m really financially strapped right now, and there’s no way I can afford all of this without going into debt. The other bridesmaids don’t seem to be concerned at all about the cost, so I don’t want to be the party pooper, complaining about every penny we spend.
I probably should have thought about all of this before I said yes, but I didn’t, and it’s too late to back out now. Help!
Well, this is a dilemma. Let me ask a few questions to get you thinking: First of all, is it possible the other bridesmaids are just as upset? As a psychotherapist, I’m constantly struck by the vast difference between the face we put on in public and the thoughts and feelings we harbor in private. How do you know one of them hasn’t already complained or isn’t struggling silently too? It sounds to me as if your bill for this gig could top $4,000—that’s a lot of cash. I think it’s likely you’re not alone in your frustration.
Next, let’s consider your friend: Is she normally a thoughtful person who’s been struck silly by the excitement of being a bride? Or (and let’s be honest), does she have unfortunately narcissistic tendencies and insist on the best of the best, even if she (or her parents) can’t afford it? A third possibility: is she one of those wealthy people who is simply unaware of the financial struggles and priorities of the rest of us?
Whatever the case, while I believe we should have empathy for others’ psychological and emotional needs or weaknesses, this does not mean we should make their unreasonable priorities our own, become doormats, suffer unduly, or go broke because we lack the courage to confront the issue.
Sadly, the real problem here is that you risk the relationship no matter what you do. If you say nothing and go into hock over this wedding, your resentment will fester and eventually break the friendship down. Yet if you do say something, she might get angry, and that could also damage the friendship. Yikes.
Here’s my advice on how to proceed. Write her a lovely email, subject line: Please Forgive Me. Tell her how much her friendship means to you, that you’re thrilled to be included in her big day, and that you’re very sorry that you failed to consider how much this would cost. Admit that you’re struggling financially, then suggest something you could bow out of. Easy choice: skip the $700+ bachelorette party weekend. Or ask about doing your own hair and makeup, but let her know you’re happy to go along with the style she chooses. For the wedding itself, bargain shop for hotels online and try to keep your food and drinks bill to a minimum.
You could even say you would understand if she wants to ask another friend take your place in the wedding. This ultimately puts the ball in her court and leaves the decision up to her: You can participate in some of the bridal activities, but not all, or you can happily attend as a guest on her big day.
If she insists, berates you, or tells you not to come, well, so be it. If she’s truly a shameless bridezilla who won’t work with you and listen to you, you are better off without her, difficult as that might be. And if she’s truly a friend, she’ll understand.
Look, I love fancy shoes and a trip to wine country as much as the next girl, but I value people and friendships more—by a long shot. Try to live your life as a model of that. It definitely doesn’t mean you’re a party pooper!
Finally, next time a similar situation arises, have the courage to ask the awkward questions before you commit. It’s never easy, but it can get you out of even more difficult conversations down the line.
Best of luck,
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