Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I’m finding myself in a real life “Bridesmaids” situation. I have been best friends with “Jennifer” for years. She recently got engaged to “Mike.” The wedding is this summer. We initially talked about a small bridesmaid’s gathering beforehand. Then Jennifer vacationed with Mike’s family in January, and when she returned, she told me it was really important to Mike that his sister “Lisa” be her maid of honor. Jennifer relented.
I thought things like being a bridesmaid didn’t really matter to me, but I didn’t realize how badly I wanted to be Jennifer’s maid of honor until I wasn’t. Lisa has completely taken over. She isn’t consulting me on any decisions. She comes to Jennifer and says “well Mike wants this,” or, “I talked to Mike, and it’s important to him we do it this way.” Really?! I mean, does Mike really care if the color palette has lavender or dusky rose? This is just Lisa wanting to be close to Jennifer and Lisa trying to call the shots.
In the meantime, for the bachelorette party, Lisa has rented a private house in Napa for five nights this spring. It’s extremely expensive, and frankly I’m not even sure how many people can afford it. She’s made it clear we will all split the costs, and is talking about reservations at some really expensive restaurants.
I feel like every time I offer advice or input, Lisa one-ups me, trumps me, or just generally squashes my ideas. Jennifer is overwhelmed with planning and doesn’t seem to notice this is happening. I want to tell my friend that my feelings are hurt and her maid of honor is royal pain but I don’t want to worry her or ruin her “big day.” What should I do?
Wanda says: Weddings put an inordinate amount of pressure on the bride and groom alike, as demanding family members descend with laundry lists of requests. From requests to wear hand-me-down gowns to wedding party line-up dictations to unsolicited advice about venues and menus, the pressure to please can weigh down even the most buoyantly optimistic duo.
Don’t add to that noise. The best thing you can do is continue to be there for Jennifer in whatever way possible. Sounds like she’s already been somewhat strong-armed into stacking her bridal party with family and good on her for trying to play nice and appease the in-laws and her hubby-to-be. Be her sounding board, rather than a divisive and contrary voice. Not only will this set you apart from those trying to micromanage her big day, but it will remind her that you’ve got her back.
Do her a favor, and let her know that if at any point someone suggests something she simply doesn’t like – fish instead of chicken, doves instead of rice-tossing, a cello solo instead of the traditional Wedding March – you are happy to go to the mat for her. That’s where you can add value to this: standing up for your friend’s interests as she becomes increasingly overwhelmed with tiny details and pushy personalities.
Also, keep an eye out for an area of the wedding you might own and manage to give yourself a sense of ownership in Jennifer’s big day. That could be offering to take her dress shopping, helping host the bridal shower, or setting up spa appointments for the big day. Having a task to focus on could alleviate some of your stress, and help you to feel more involved in your best friend’s wedding.
Wayne says: I’m not sure what being downgraded from best man to some dude by your best friend feels like. But I imagine it’s kind of like heading into my favorite dive bar, where the chats are great, the drinks are strong, the snacks are free, the jukebox is iconic, the bartenders are crusty (in a good way), and your favorite people are always at your favorite table when you arrive. And then you strut in one evening and all the lightbulbs have been replaced, casting a bright blanket over the place; the bartender is some stranger who doesn’t know your name or your drink, and doesn’t even acknowledge your existence; the chip bowl isn’t just empty, it’s gone; that awesome jukebox has been replaced with some internet device that plays today’s greatest hits for the highest bidder; and a bunch of strangers are being really loud and messy at YOUR table.
Heartbreaking. Bewildering. Devastating. Things will never be the same.
But that’s life. Dive bar owners blow up their business models (and jukeboxes) to class up the joint. Friends relent to family and soon-to-be family when pressure is applied. Strong personalities overwhelm chill people and force their way into your comfortable spot.
Best you can do is take a deep breath, realize that this is what it is, and adjust accordingly. No point in fighting Lisa or adding more stress to Jennifer’s life. Wanda offers a great option of accepting the demotion and stepping up as a utility player – "What do you need, Jennifer? Let me handle that!"
Or you could just back away entirely and sit this one out. Lisa is a pain. Napa is expensive. Weddings are overrated. Jennifer is oblivious. And if you aren’t going to have a great time and you can’t enjoy this special stretch in your friend’s life by her side, what’s the point? Maybe your sudden absence will remind Jennifer who has always had her back and her best interests, and she’ll move you back into the lineup. Or maybe you’ll just show up to the wedding with no responsibilities and make the most of the open bar.