Saturday, October 31, 2009

Special to a woman in a nuptial nightmare

Dear SpaceCadet,

I have a semi-close friend (who was once a very close friend) who recently got engaged. Before her boyfriend even proposed she asked me to be her maid of honor. I agreed and knew at the time they didn't want a long engagement. Since she's become engaged she is adamant about having an early January wedding ... like, January 2, 2010. She will be finalizing the date this weekend after visiting a few wedding venues.

When she originally told me about her choice of dates, I gently suggested that she reconsider because of difficulties with finding vendors, the inconvenience for guests, the cost of travel and lodging during the holiday season, etc. She responded to that suggestion by basically saying that she thinks most of her family can make it and that nothing else mattered. The issues for me:

1. she lives several hours away in a city with limited lodging which is likely full now because it's also a college town.
2. I don't know that I can afford to be a maid of honor that soon after the holidays, nor do I think I will have the time to perform my maid of honor duties between now and then.
3. I think she expects that I'll spend my New Year's Eve with her before the wedding, and there's nothing I'd rather do less.

I don't know if I should tell her now that I cannot be her maid of honor if she finalizes that date, or wait until she tells me that date is set in stone before I make my case. Am I being unreasonable?

For what it's worth, our friendship has been strained ever since she started dating this guy and she was a less than gracious host when I visited her (upon her request) a couple of months ago. I know that if I back out it will be the final nail in the coffin of our friendship and I am prepared for that.

What should I do?

Maid of Inconvenience

p.s. - I am a huge fan of your Prudie letter are so clever!

Dear Maid,

Flattery will get you EVERYWHERE, lady! I mean that!

Okay, look, I hate calling women bridezilla. I think it's degrading, sexist and gets knuckleheaded men who aren't helping plan a very stressful and elaborate life event off the hook. But then I have to get a letter like yours and I think, "Jesus Christ our Lord and Shepherd, be a credit to your pre-married woman state will ya?"

I also have to laugh at her. She "recently" became engaged and immediately fixated on a January date, which is coming up in two months. Ha ha ha! You aren't joking when you talk about accommodations, vendors and everything else! LOL to the moon and back! She is totally hosed! The Saturday, nay, the day after a holiday? Which is a holiday wherein a lot of people get married? Which is also coming up in less than four months? Within, I am sure, a budget?ROTFLMAO!

So, you see, your spending New Year's with them at all may not even be in the cards. She may fall flat on her face getting the big three (venues, catering and services) to come together, forcing her to push back the date.

The advice to glean from that last paragraph: Don't remind her how hard it's going to be or say "I told you so." Just see if she can meet the challenge of getting the basics down. And if she's a picky little lemonface, who wants Barbie's Dream Wedding with ice swan sculptures and flight harnesses so she can swoop down the aisle like Peter Pan, or just has a particular band in mind, she may back down in the face of finding Her Amazing Day impossible to get right within her limited time.

Okay, so let's assume she DOES, somehow, pull off the major players for the wedding and she's NOT picky. She still has to get her guests on board.

Of course, she's saying as long as her family can make it, nothing else matters. Uh-doy! What about HIS family? Are these guests nearby? (Update: Maid of Inconvenience says, actually, yes, the whole family is within a day's drive.)

Well, it looks like if she's not going to be too picky about the wedding and only cares if family can make it, that you may in fact be screwed into going to this wedding and hanging out with them on New Years.

See, here's the thing: You agreed to do this duty. And if she's truly going to have a very short deadline for her wedding, she will likely not have time to find someone else.

But there's an up side to all of this. Although she is taking on some ridiculous planning challenges, and although right after the holidays is kind of a sucky time to put more eating and celebrating and money spending on anyone's agenda, she seems kind of flexible in terms of what she expects out of the experience itself (like, maybe she won't expect you to spend as much as you think you'll have to). And, if you think about the New Year's holiday, it is one where people could drive out on Friday, see the wedding on Saturday and head home on Sunday without needing to take time off.

If you look at it in this light, she's actually ... kind of okay.

But what it comes down to is this: There are her problems, which are all about, "is this the wedding she wants to do?" and there are your problems, which start off sounding like, "this is a crazy idea, I'll be broke at that point" but end up sounding like, "I just don't really like her enough to do this for her."

I think your real problem is you just don't like her enough to have made a commitment that would inconvenience you. You don't even have your arms completely around the level of inconvenience it's going to be and you're already tripping balls. I mean, you are going fetal thinking about hanging out with her for New Years instead of your real friends, right? How crappy does it make you feel that there's someone relying on you for her special day, and you're upset you can't hang out with people you'd rather hang out with the day before? A lot, I bet.

So here's my advice: Figure out what the damage is likely to be before you react. How much money does it look like you're going to have to spend? How much travelling are you going to have to do? Any time off work? Because you need to know her expectations before you lay out your parameters.

See, you do have an out. And that is the incredibly short time period in which you have to prepare. You get to tell her, as soon as she has an idea where her wedding is going, and if it becomes apparent that it is too rich for your blood, that you are happy to be there for her special day, and are grateful for the special role she wants you to play (grit your teeth if you must) but you made something of a mistake when you agreed to be the maid of honor, because you thought you'd have more time to save up and plan than the two busiest and spendiest months of the year, and you're worried you can't meet her expectations. Is she willing to lower them in consideration of your circumstances?

(i.e. maybe you won't have to throw an elaborate party for her, maybe the NY bash will suffice and be kind of cheap for you because it'll be you, her, two cousins and a sister and no male stripper because they're all booked/out on break, i.e. maybe you can wear whatever dress you want or she'll have cheap ones for you, i.e. no shower possibly.)

If she's reasonable, and I really hope she is, she'll recognize this and her expectations for you will be lower than the other poor MOHs out there. If she isn't overcome with materialism and tradition (and she seems kinda free and loose there), she may be able to have her family help take on some of the roles the MOH usually fills, mostly I'm thinking of the bridal shower here.

But the most important thing to do when you talk to her is admit that you are concerned about your own limits getting in the way of her having the wedding experience she wants, and surely she's aware that her timeline is pretty much determining your limits at the moment, and surely she can work with those limits as much as she's working with a shortened timeline.

This way, (if I've been giving her too much credit and her ungracious hosting turn is her new identity and not a one-off) if she's pissed off and angry and the friendship falls apart, it's because she's being a bitch, not you. Don't you be the unreasonable one by criticizing her choices as unilaterally unreasonable and ridiculous, even if you think they are.

The idea is that she gets to make choices, and you get to make choices, about what you're willing to do for each other in your friendship, in the name of history if nothing else. Besides, breaking up a friendship because of a wedding? For either of you, that's not a good way to go. If nothing else, it's a cheesy cliche.

I'm sorry this friendship seems to be petering out, but your best bet is to let it die a natural death and not let the wedding turn into drama that stomps it flat. I know that there can be a kind of temptation to utilize the wedding as a kind of weapon that way — you sound kind of at the end of a rope here in putting up with your old pal ("I am prepared to do that" is pretty ominous backing-out talk) — but don't leave in a swirl of anger. If you are forced to back out, make sure it's a mutual thing, where both of you agree that you shouldn't be MOH. Sure, that may kill the friendship, too, but in a totally, totally different way.

Also, I hope for her sake if she does decide to hold this thing in two months that everyone who wants to book a room can book a room.

I think the takeaway advice for you, and all the other readers here too, is that in the future, "Don't agree to be the maid of honor to someone who you'd rather not spend New Years Eve with."

Sorry this was so long, but I wanted to make sure I covered what I wanted to say. You have choices and limitations, she has choices and limitations, and either you're going to be able to work around them as friends or you won't. My way, friendship gets one more shot, and stability gets a chance.

Good luck!


  1. Holy cow -- thorough, insightful, compassionate to the LW and other people in this scenario. I'm not actually sure if you're allowed to be all those things when you're posting on the internet. :) I so enjoyed reading this, though.

  2. I don't know. Given the completely unreasonable time frame it sounds like the bride is behaving like a bit of an ass about this. I have questions for her like:

    1. What's the hurry? If you're as in love as you think you are, waiting a year and having a truly wonderful event won't be a problem at all.

    2. Who is this guy? Why is it that you've seemngly had a complete personality change and treated a friend rudely AFTER you met him, but not before?

    3. Whose idea is it REALLY to have the wedding so soon after the engagement?

    4. Are you doing it because you're afraid he'll leave if you don't?

    5. Are you pregnant? (A shitty reason to get married, BTW. It almost always ends in tears.)

    6. A classic sign of a potential abuser is to rush the relationship, alienate all of the friends and family of the girlfriend, and push to make it permanent as quickly as possible. Classic because once married, women are more motivated to "make things work" and less likely to leave once the ugliness starts. The LW might consider this the next time she talks to her friend and before she dumps the bride.

    That said, I think that since this is a damned unreasonable request, no shame attaches if the LW bows out, as long as she does it NOW, not later. Give the bride a chance to shanghai someone else into this whacked out scheme, send a nice present and leave it at that.

  3. I have one practical point: scheduling a wedding during flu season.

    Three years ago, we had a family wedding in mid-December. 20% of the invitees were felled the week before and couldn't leave their beds, and another 20% attended in perfectly ghastly shape. Between H1N1 and the immediately preceding stress of the holidays, January 2 might be tempting fate. (I feel something coming on just thinking about it...)

    But to the real point, as Aunt Messy makes clear: The period of engagement serves a more serious purpose than for booking the parties and collecting the gifts. It gives the parties time to think better of it. When I see people rushing their nuptials, it occurs to me that it's in order to quash their doubts.

    As ever, I can't top SpaceCadet and Aunt Messy in the soundness of their advice.

  4. You are all so wonderful for your comments! Aunt Messy, to answer your questions:

    1. They've been dating 2 years and allegedly haven't had sex. I think that's 80% of the reason for the short engagement. Also, he's in grad school and she works at a University...they are attempting to plan the wedding around their time off from school/work.

    2. This friend has a history of completely changing her personality/hobbies/interests for the sake of a man. Once she met this guy (a conservative cowboy) she became sort of boring, extra white-bread, and all of a sudden very loyal to his alma-mater (not hers, btw).

    3. I think it is both of their ideas.

    4. No chance of him leaving...despite the fact that I'm not crazy about him, he is a good man.

    5. DEFINITELY not pregnant. See #1.

    6. DEFINITELY no chance of abuse. She remains close to her parents but I think alienates some of her girl friends because we are so different now.

    Chloe - You are SO right! I think they're truly in love and given the fact that she likely doesn't want to be her old self, they'll probably last.

    Thanks, wonderful ladies!!

  5. Good advice, Spacey.
    I think the questions raised in the comments are pretty good ones, but ultimately not the LW's problem. Sure, she couuld voice her doubts to the bride, but it seems like the friendship has been strained by these doubts already. Further talk isn't going to change the situation. If she wants to preserve civility in the friendship, it might be better not to dwell too much on how wrong she thinks the bride is.
    The best thing to do, as you advised, is to consider her own limitations and bow out as graciously as she can if she must.

  6. Two years and no sex?! Did you hear that Spacey? I sure hope it's true love, because sex and money are the two biggest reasons for divorce that there are.

    Getting set for a wedding with only a couple of months notice is STILL a rotten trick to play on friends and family. If making whoopee is the only reason they're getting married, then it would be kinder (and classier on the couple's part) to go to city hall now and have a party in the summer.

    OR...someone has to rein in the bride's expectations about just how elaborate this wedding can be given that there's virtually no time to plan it. Given that he's in school and she's working a university job, we know they have no real money to have a big wedding anyway.

    Anonymous, it's time to roll your eyes, throw up your hands and politely decline the "honor" and claim poverty. Let someone else stress out over this. It's an ill-considered move.

    And I STILL have a problem with the way this guy is alienating her friends.

  7. I heard it, I heard it! Oh dearie me!

    You know I had a coworker who was preserving herself for marriage, but that didn't mean she wasn't "doing other things," and one day she told me and another woman she couldn't wait to be married so she'd never have to give her bf a bj again.

    We were aghast.

    Then they got married and she got preggers right out of the gate and promptly quit having sex with her husband so the baby wouldn't be, I dunno, compromised in his innocence? We could tell this husband was not going to be getting much for many, many years.

    The only thing we could do is be grateful that this was not our marriage. Two other people, for whatever reason, have chosen to make this their thing. It's not my chosen pizza topping, but no one is making me eat it, right?

    The other thing is there's a difference between the kind of guy who manipulates a woman into changing when she's with him and a woman who likes to become just like whoever she's with. If she's the latter, she might could do better than subvert her own personality (if she has one) for his unattractively cowboyish one. I can't get behind it, but I understand that it happens in relationships free of manipulation and abuse.

    I think it's good that she's reaching out. I'm sorry she's having to wait until marriage though. This seems like a train wreck bound to happen. It'd be nice if she realized it, and I totally get MOI's desire to withdraw from the situation. These people sound nuts. But maybe if the bride is reaching out to her she recognizes she's been an ass and wants to do right.

    Or maybe she's lost all her other friends by becoming some stepford cowgirl.

    Anyway, if she's hell-bent on imposing herself (and now that I know she's Savin' It I think she may just be really wanting to boink) wedding-wise, she's going to get what she has coming to her. And if she's not ... she's going to lose more than her MOH.

  8. I don't know Spacey ~ I don't see what the problem is.

    I don't think it's weird or presumptuous of the couple to want to get married in such a hurry once they've decided to. It's kind of their problem and not the LWs if they can't plan the gala they want due to the holidays.

    Any one of the reasons the LW cited would be enough to relieve her of MOH duties. She can't afford it, logistically impossible, we don't seem to be as close as we once were and therefore I wouldn't feel right standing up for you, etc.

    The final nail for me was when I read that the LW was perfectly okay with losing the friendship altogether over this. If I was the bride, I'd sure want to know that the person I'd picked to be my MOH thought so little of the friendship. I'd want to know so I could ask someone who really wanted the honor. Heck, even a casual acquainance sounds like it would be a fair substitute for this LW, given her negative frame of mind about the situation.

    I had a similar situation with a co-worker. We were once very close when she started dating her boyfriend, and she asked me at that time to be bridesmaid if they got married. Well, two years later and we haven't worked together for nearly a year and they get engaged. I'm still on the hook for bridesmaid (which she made clear she did so she wouldn't have to ask her trashy cousins instead) and I can't even get this girl to talk to me about the dress I'm supposed to plunk down $300 for. Plus all the accessories. Plus the out of town travel (for me and my son, plus I'd have to arrange for a sitter during the wedding, as kids weren't invited.) for 3 days up and back. I finally had to tell her that I just couldn't do it. And you know what? We haven't spoken since.

  9. I agree with Messy that it's perfectly reasonable to tell the bride that 2 months doesn't give the MOH time to do the job right. I also agree that the sooner she tells her friend, the better, so the bride can find someone willing to take on the job.

    But really, shouldn't someone's MOH be someone the bride is really close to? If they aren't that anymore, just tell her you don't think you're the right person for the job.

  10. Wonderful job, Spacey! Wonderful, well-reasoned response.

    I have to speak up on behalf of short-engagement brides like myself. I got married a month ago following a 3-month engagement. It wasn't exactly my ideal scenario, but it had nothing to do with being preggers or trying to lock in the relationship before my guy could get away. Instead, The Guy and I both knew that we wanted to get married and figured that it made more sense to do it before I started my overseas job rather than waiting for a year and trying to plan everything at a great distance and with infrequent visits. As it was, we had 3 months to put together a wedding in a town 500 miles away (my hometown -- my parents were underwriting the event) at the same time that I was trying to defend my PhD. I had a very short list of what I considered critically important for my wedding: church ceremony, white dress, aisle, family, and The Guy. Anything beyond that was icing on my (non-existent) cake. Of my four bridesmaids, no two lived in the same state (or consecutive states). I tried to do what I could to keep costs as low as possible for them and would have completely understood had they been unable to participate due to cost or short notice. The girls were not expected to throw me a shower or bachelorette, nor did I drag them along for tastings, dress shopping, etc. In the end, I had a wonderful wedding and am thrilled that my close friends were there to help me celebrate.

    Chances are good that the LW's friend isn't trying to plan an over-the-top event (unless she's delusional about her timeline) and she's aware of how busy that season is for everyone. Since it doesn't sound like the bride is being particularly demanding of anything at this point, the LW should just have a friendly chat with her about what her limitations are with respect to involvement in the wedding. It doesn't sound like the LW is particularly concerned with being friends with this woman anyway, which kind of makes the rest of it a moot point. If the LW really doesn't want to continue the relationship, why not just politely decline the position of MOH and move on with life? Nobody's world will end over the decision and it's nicer to do that than sit around resenting your "friend's" plans.

  11. Thoughtful, helpful advice as usual, Spacey. Answering Messy's questions is also important. I have to say I don't usually see any real problems with short engagements, though, depending on circumstances.

    I was married 6 weeks and 2 days after our engagement, but we had been living together for almost 9 years and neither of us saw any need for a long engagement or a big splashy wedding. We lived in a rural area where we were the only couple married in our church that year and our reception was held in the local fire hall ~ there wasn't any competition for that weekend. I didn't have a bachelorette party and my husband's bachelor party was him, his father and a good friend sitting and talking over some Drambuie in our back yard. Everyone from both sides with whom we wanted to share the day was able to be there and my MIL did NOT show up (yay!). We recently celebrated our 25th anniversary and we sometimes still hear comments about how lovely our wedding was.

    So to the LW, I can understand why your friend doesn't want to wait very long and I can also understand your reservations. Talk with your friend about her expectations for you and for the big day and decide if your friendship is worth accepting the situation as it unfolds. It sounds like you need to make your decision quickly, then don't beat yourself up about it, whichever way you choose to go.

  12. This one reminds me of the time where one of my friends sent out an engagement announcement via email with a link to her wedding site. On the site, she listed the Maid of Honor. My name was there.

    Only problem? She NEVER asked me. She just assumed that I would do it, and plan all of her events and such. So, I gritted me teeth and started work on her events, coordinating guest lists, getting game ideas together, saving up for my special, hand-made dress... And she and the fiance break up out of the blue. Made me want to never be a maid of honor EVER again.

    So I would say to the LW that if she really doesn't want to do it, make up some reason and tell your friend that you really can't do it. I mean, if you have a funny feeling about it right now, you don't want to be out cash in January for something that could be the most stressful SNAFU imaginable.

  13. I don't see how the fact that this is a college town makes lodging a problem. In fact, Jan 2 is probably a great time to find lodging in a college town. All the kids are at home, there are no football games or other events to bring in the alums... Re the cost and the duties, what are these duties, and what are the costs? If she's making you buy a stupid dress, yeah, that's a problem. If she's not and you need to get an appropriate dress, that's an investment.

    I don't think two months is short notice, in particular if her priority is having her family present.

    But you're an adult: you can say yes or no and accept the consequences either way.

  14. The captcha word forf my post up there was "splurate". I really like that word.