My friend and I used to be very close in middle school and early high school. We are 22 now. We see each other twice, maybe three times a year at most. We live in different cities, went to different colleges, have different interests, etc. We never had a falling out and I still like her very much but I would barely even consider her a friend. BUT she recently got engaged. She’s been with the guy for 6 years. She doesn’t have many close friends because she alienated them all since she’s been dating the guy. She asked me to be in the wedding and stupid me got emotional about how long we’ve known each other and automatically said yes. A few weeks ago she sent out an e-mail to all the bridesmaids saying we have to pay $150 to get our hair and makeup professionally done. I almost had a coronary. I have a job but I don’t make a lot of money. That e-mail got me thinking about the other costs that come with being in her wedding. I’m going to have to pay for a dress, shoes, etc. Not to mention the fact that I’ll have to take off work to travel to where she lives now for the bridal shower and bachelorette party. Basically, I’m realizing that this was a terrible idea. I barely know this girl anymore, and I don’t want to spend lots of time and money on someone who isn’t a part of my life. But I’m afraid if I back out now she’ll hate me. Plus, I don’t even know if I can back out now without being really tacky. What do you think?
Well, I think two things: one is that yours is a story I’ve heard from a lot of girl friends over the years, about the girl who disappears into a relationship only to emerge years later seeking the friends she ditched in order to fill out the bridesmaid roster for an unaccountably large wedding filled with people who know neither one another nor the bride. It pretty much never goes well for the bridesmaids, who find themselves shackled to a bride who has spent a long time making her relationship with one dude the focus of her life and time, and very little time maintaining relationships with female friends — because, of course, The Wedding is to be the pinnacle of that relationship, and bridesmaids are the minor, supporting characters in the two-person show she’s made her life. She probably doesn’t care about most of them except insofar as they look nice in the photos (although, often, she doesn’t want them to look too nice) and she’s certainly not used to focusing on their needs.
The second thing is that, yes, it is hard to back out of being a bridesmaid once you’ve accepted and, yes, she will probably hate you if you do. Of course, there’s always the argument that, if you only see her twice a year now, you’re never going to see her against when she’s married anyway. But, from a fairness perspective, I think you run the odds on this one and see if she’ll kick you out — or, at least, be a real friend cognizant of your individual needs (in my experience, the least likely scenario).
Tell her the truth: you can’t afford $150 worth of primping after you shell out for the dress and shoes. Look for a salon in the area that will do your hair (it isn’t gonna cost $150 — even in urban areas, a blow-out and up-do is $30-$60 in a moderate place) and tell her you’ll have your hair done there, and you’re even willing to get it done in the style she wants (which is probably why she wants her bridesmaids to go to one place together). Tell her you can do your own make-up. Tell her that you can’t afford the time off or the travel costs for the three visits — bridal showers and bachelorette party attendance are nice, but reasonable people (I know, big caveat) understand that inviting an out-of-towner to be a member of the wedding party often means they can’t be around for every event. Figure out if your budget and vacation time will allow you to do even two of the three “required” events, and then offer her that, if that’s a possibility.
If she’s really interested in being your friend, she’ll understand, and you’ll have a reasonable compromise and a sense of whether she’s really your friend. And if she rants and raves and threatens and cries and guilts and cajoles, then you’ll know you’re just a setpiece on her Big Day — and you can decide whether being her setpiece is worth the money she’s demanding you spend on her. And, if you’re really luck, she’ll kick you out in a big dramatic scene and you can skip being a bridesmaid and attending the wedding.
If you have a problem with a friend, relative, coworker, or other person in your life, email Megan at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a problem with your boyfriend, you should probably just try talking to him.