Please help my girlfriend back out of a bachelorette party!
April 4, 2015 11:32 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend was invited to a bachelorette party, which will be held in two weeks. She RSVP'ed a week ago, but realized that she’s made a big mistake in agreeing to go. She now wants to back out, and would like to know how to do so without upsetting the bride. Details inside.

GF = Girlfriend
B = Bride (I don’t know her).

This question is being written with GF’s consent.

GF and B used to be drinking buddies in college. They rarely meet up these days, maybe once a year or so. F told me that she was surprised she was invited to the bachelorette party, since she didn’t think they were ‘super-close’.

GF is a former alcoholic, and currently doesn’t drink. B was and still is a big partier/drinker.

A few days ago, GF was invited by B to a bar for a ‘pre-bachelorette’ party. GF figured she could join them and have fun without having a drink. Along with B, there were a few other people from GF’s college days that she knew; all of them will be going to the bachelorette party.

GF says that she was heavily peer pressured to drink while she was at the bar, to the point where she became quite uncomfortable and upset. Apparently, B and a few others were disappointed that GF wouldn’t agree to drink. B and one of the acquaintances would make snide remarks the whole night like “What happened to you?”, “What, you don’t know how to have fun anymore?” and “You’d better make up for this at the bachelorette party.”

At the bar, GF said that she had to be up early the next morning and didn’t feel like drinking, which she thought was a decent excuse, but the other girls would have nothing of it. B and the others stayed out late, while GF left around 12. GF hasn’t told B that she doesn’t drink anymore, and she said she doesn’t want to. GF now realizes that she doesn’t have much in common with B anymore, and judging from how the night at the bar went, doesn’t expect to be seeing much of B after the wedding.

The bachelorette party will be held pretty close to where we live, and it wouldn’t be a huge money expenditure or anything like that; the party basically amounts to bar-hopping till the morning. They’ll be shuttled from bar to bar in a party bus, so there’d be no chance of leaving early.

GF seems terrified of this prospect. She doesn’t want to be insulted all night for choosing to remain sober. Also, as someone who’s struggled with alcohol addiction, she’s worried that she’ll be too tempted to drink and fall off the wagon.

GF is still planning on attending the wedding, since there will be more people and the bride will likely be too busy to notice that GF isn’t drinking. Also, GF figures she can duck out of the wedding after three or so hours without anyone really noticing. I won’t be in town that day, and won’t be able to attend the wedding with her. But she seems pretty dead-set on not going to the party, and doesn’t want to catch any flak or snide comments at the wedding for skipping. I think it might be wise for her to back out too, considering her history and how much time she’s spending worrying about this. She just doesn’t know how to go about doing so.

So, how does GF manage to get out of the bachelorette party while ruffling as few feathers as possible? A sickness? An unexpected event? She doesn’t want to disclose her alcohol problem, since her family and I are the only ones that really know about it. She also wants to hurt the bride as little as possible. Thanks, let me know if you would like any other details.

Edit: Ack, I just got an update from the GF while I was writing this! B texted the GF asking if she wants to buy a ticket for an event during the bachelorette party. So if she backs out, she has to do it now or B would be out the money for the ticket. GF needs to come up with something by the end of today. Please help, Mefites!
posted by CottonCandyCapers to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"Bride, it turns out I'm not going to be able to make it to the bachelorette party. Have fun!"

That's it. No apologies, no explanation.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:36 AM on April 4, 2015 [137 favorites]

Why is there no chance of leaving early? Is there public transportation she can take home after a courtesy hug for the bride? Or can you (or anyone) pick her up?
posted by xo at 11:40 AM on April 4, 2015

"I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to back out of the party. I can't wait to see you at the wedding. I bet you're so excited."
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:40 AM on April 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

I would send exactly the message Violet Hour suggests.

Bride and this friend group have been rude and jerkish to your girlfriend. She doesn't owe them an explanation. Sorry, not going to be able to make it to the party, I'll see you at the wedding, have fun! Nothing else needed.

To the inevitable follow-up texts, ignore ignore ignore.

I mean, worst that happens is that the Bride gets mad/pissed off and doesn't want to be friends with your girlfriend anymore. bfd, girlfriend doesn't want to be friends with her anymore anyway.
posted by phunniemee at 11:42 AM on April 4, 2015 [24 favorites]

Since GF and B aren't that close, B probably doesn't really care much whether GF goes or not. I'd definitely start off with the explanation-free option above. But B may start asking why she can't come.

She can just make something up. If she has no go-to excuse (mine is always "I'm working", but if your GF works 9-5 that won't work) try something like "it's health-related". Which is true. It would be rude for B to push for more details, but if she does "I don't really want to get into all the details, it's personal" should shut her up.
posted by tinkletown at 11:45 AM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

Tell her you can't make the party but you'd love to take her to (lunch, the museum, anywhere else they could go just the two of them). If that's true, of course; you could also just back out completely.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:49 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Your gf is overthinking this...she just needs to tell the bride it won't be possible for her to attend the party.

Seriously, this doesn't sound like someone your gf wants to spend time with anyhow.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 11:51 AM on April 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

GF now realizes that she doesn’t have much in common with B anymore, and judging from how the night at the bar went, doesn’t expect to be seeing much of B after the wedding.

Which means there's no huge reason to stress out so much about this. I like roomthreeseventeen's phrasing of "I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to back out of the party. I can't wait to see you at the wedding. I bet you're so excited." It's polite and firm. Any follow-up "But whhyyyyyyy???" texts can be answered with, "I'm sorry, I just can't." As many times as necessary.

I suspect the bride may actually be relieved, if the pre-party went so badly.
posted by jaguar at 12:03 PM on April 4, 2015 [9 favorites]

Your girlfriend doesn't need to care if this upsets anyone. Frankly, I think changing her yes to a no is more than the bride deserves, but I can understand not wanting to be the kind of person who RSVPs and then doesn't go, so fair enough.

If the bride pushes back, gets upset, or in fact says a single goddamned word other than, "oh, I'm so sorry I won't see you there!" then she can hang up or change the bride's name to Garbage Person in her phone and never ever look back, because the bride is bad and she should feel bad about her life.

Grownups do not ever push other grownups to drink, unless the drink is water and the person is dehydrated.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:03 PM on April 4, 2015 [49 favorites]

GF needs to either tell the truth or lie.
Truth: "I don't drink anymore. Like at all. So I'm uncomfortable going to a party like this."
Lie: "it turns out my mother is having surgery that weekend and I'll have to be there to support her. Sorry!"

Tell the truth if she wants to keep B as a friend. Lie if she's done with the friendship.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:05 PM on April 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

I suspect the bride may actually be relieved, if the pre-party went so badly.

I just realized that might have sounded snarky against your girlfriend, which I didn't mean to be! The bride sounds totally self-centered and unable to be a gracious with people who have different priorities than her own, and so your girlfriend's absence will relieve the bride of having to pretend to have any empathy, which will likely make things easier on her selfish self.
posted by jaguar at 12:06 PM on April 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

If you want minimal fuss, GF should text her afternoon of and say she is really ill. Food poisoning.

Then call the first restaurant or bar they are going to and order a plate of nachos or whatever to be sent over to them.
posted by amaire at 12:15 PM on April 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

She's worrying too much about hurting this woman's feelings. A person who would pick on her for her choice to not drink and pressure her to do so when she's expressed that she doesn't care to is not a friend. I rarely ever drink and no one I hang out with has ever made me feel bad about it.

Go with the first suggestion and tell her not to give it another thought.
posted by cecic at 12:27 PM on April 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

my bachelorette was nothing like this one sounds like it is going to be, but there were a few friends who said they were coming but then couldn't at the last minute (work stress, illness). it was NO PROBLEM. if it had been my best friend, i might have been sad for a second, but still understanding that people's lives don't revolve around a party for me. as it was, i had fun, they were missed, the end. this can be easy!
posted by andreapandrea at 12:28 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tell your girlfriend that her continued sobriety is the NUMBER ONE priority right now. Good for her for protecting it. A simple "I can't make it" is all she owes anyone.
posted by pearlybob at 12:34 PM on April 4, 2015 [14 favorites]

GF needs to be able to say "I don't drink anymore." There's no shame in it and no one but the worst asshole will keep picking on you to drink after that.

But a no-escape pub crawl with dedicated drunks doesn't sound like a good idea even for someone whose recovery is very solid.
posted by MattD at 12:37 PM on April 4, 2015 [16 favorites]

To minimize ruffled feathers, text Violet Hour's response to answer the bride's question. When B asks why, give empathy rather than facts: "I know--it sucks, right? I hope you and the rest of the girls have a ton of fun, though! How excited are you for [ticketed event]?"
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:45 PM on April 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm voting with the "no explanation needed" team.

She can just say "Ack, sorry. I can't make it." The ticket convo is a perfect moment to just do it. There's no room to explain in a text! Whew. So just reply "Was meaning to give you a call. I won't make it on the 10th. Have an amazing time, though (I know you will!) :-)"

Bonus: I've heard people respond better to bad news if there are a lot of exclamation points! And smily faces ;-) . In my experience, it works. I think it helps guide people towards what you want them to read into it all, which is not "your friends are shitty people who pressured me to drink and I don't want to be around them" but rather "I'm so happy that you're going to have a good time! I'm sorry I won't enjoy that good time with you! Have fun!"

There are studies out there that back this up, but I'm way to lazy to go find one for you.

Upshot: tell your girlfriend not to sweat it and take the text as the easiest possible out. It's a great moment to just say she won't make it. Period. Done.

If she wants advice on how to raise the larger issue (damn, I wish your friends could respect my sobriety!) with B, that's a different question and there are lots of ways to address it. But she's totally under 0 obligation to say more than "It turns out I won't make it afterall."

PS. I don't believe in lying. That always gets more complicated. Better to just say "I'm not going to make it." (I mean...maybe "sorry I'll miss the fun" is a lie, but that's a different kind of lie than "my mom is having open heart surgery")
posted by amandabee at 12:58 PM on April 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

This isn't complicated. Not only shouldn't your gf go for her own sake, but she should not go for the bride's sake - obviously these are drinking events, that apparently is the whole point, she's killing their buzz without meaning to, and I imagine that if your gf had said "I'm sober now" at the last event, they would have said "then why are you here?" She just needs to send regrets with our without the truth, doesn't matter, and that's the end of it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:21 PM on April 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Food poisoning.


Last minute work trip.

Boss is making you work over the weekend.

Someone the bride doesn't know is having a family emergency and she is going to watch their kids.

Still on antibiotics after being il.

I totally get the sentiment of the other commenters, but I just don't see abruptly backing out of a bachelorette party with no explanation to not fluster a lot of feathers, which is what the OP's GF appears to be trying to avoid.

Also, while I think the girls acted fairly obnoxiously, I don't think they are quite the horrible, horrible people that they are being painted as. It doesn't appear that any of them have a clue that GF is now a recovering alcoholic and the entire point of getting together with your old college buddies for a "pre-bachelorette" party is to drink. It sounds more like everyone reverted back to their immature drunken college days rather than any actual maliciousness.

Since this is two weeks out, I would probably go with some sort of work or family obligation that has suddenly been thrust upon you both.

I'll steal an example from a friend, "OMG my BF's mother is insisting, JUST insisting, that we go up for his grandma's 92nd birthday because this could be her last and apparently she will NEVER forgive us if we don't. I cannot believe this. I'm going to have to miss the bachelorette party. I am SO pissed right now you have no idea."
posted by whoaali at 1:41 PM on April 4, 2015 [8 favorites]

Your girlfriend is a gem. My "friends" flake on me all the time. I've actually started wishing for some kind of "Miss Manners" time where invitations accepted represented a committment and backing out was seen as incredibly rude and could jeopardize your social standing. But, we don't live in that time and the bride-to-be and her friends appear to be acting like total snots. The correct thing to do is say, "Oh thank you so very much for the invitation, I'm so sorry but it turns out it won't be possible to go. Have a wonderful time!"
posted by amanda at 2:17 PM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

While it is rude to back out of an invitation without an excuse such as acute illness (which... you plan to have in three weeks... doesn't work) or some other exigent circumstance, the truth is a good enough reason in this case. She could just say 'for health reasons'.

Except that the bride and her cronies have already demonstrated that offering the truth will elicit rudeness from them, at best, and danger to your GF at worst, so in theory no explanation should be necessary, and the script "sorry, I won't be able to attend after all" and the broken record of "I'm sorry it just won't be possible".

To be truly polite, if you have to break an arrangement, the GF could offer to take her out to lunch one-on-one on a specific date, not just some vague time in the future. However your Gf has already decided she doesn't want to keep this friend. So she might as well not do that.

If she truly wants to do it without upsetting the bride - as opposed to just the polite way - she could buy the ticket for the event, and then suddenly be really really sick and throwing up the afternoon of the party such that she just can't come out. That would be witness to the integrity of her desire to go but just not being able to. But I suppose this bride would just rip her a new one for flaking regardless of the reasons, and she'd have paid money for nothing, and probably still upset the bride.

So yeah, the "I'm afraid it's just not possible" has got to be okay for this situation.
posted by tel3path at 2:46 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think the first response is fine. Plans change and stuff comes up all the time, that's life. I seriously doubt the bride is going to be super upset because your GF cancelled. She really doesn't owe any particular explanation about why she isn't coming if she doesn't want to go into details or make up some story. I would make sure to do it in time that bride doesn't buy the ticket or anything though, just so she doesn't come back later wanting repayment.

The bigger thing to keep in mind is that your GF is not going to be able to make everyone happy and there's nothing she can do to absolutely guarantee no one is ever offended or snarky to her about something. If she's been perfectly polite about something and people are still jerks about it (whether it's her sobriety or cancelling plans or whatever) that's their problem, not hers.
posted by Kimmalah at 3:00 PM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

This is a situation where I understand the right to privacy, but not the point. If I'm in recovery and going to hang out with my old drinking buddies, I tell them the score. I still drink, and I tell my old drinking buddies that I've gotten old and scaled back a ton. That way, when I nurse my drink, and don't order a round of shots, they know I don't have one foot out the door.

She's depriving an old friend the opportunity to support her. And by making excuses that imply she still drinks during other occasions, she's creating the impression that she doesn't like her friend.
posted by politikitty at 3:36 PM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

3 options:
1. Honesty: I'm sober now, and wouldn't feel comfortable being at all the bars
2. White lie: I'm sick :(
3. Straight forward: I won't be able to make it, sorry.

Don't fret, choose option and stick with it.
posted by Toddles at 3:45 PM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

How about just be honest, "I thought about the invitation and I realized do not find it all that much fun to go out with people who are drinking so I am going to pass. I am looking forward to the wedding". That should do it.
posted by jcworth at 4:56 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

I just don't see abruptly backing out of a bachelorette party with no explanation to not fluster a lot of feathers, which is what the OP's GF appears to be trying to avoid.

SECONDING THIS. I don't think pulling a Miss Manners "I'm afraid it will not be possible" is gonna work on a bride on bridal activities either. People want to know why you are suddenly bailing out, especially when you said yes before. Period.

Either make up some kind of other person having a health crisis drama, or suddenly have a business trip, or just say that you have come down with some sort of illness, need to be on antibiotics or whatever other drugs force you not to drink for the next three weeks, and say that since you can't drink, you're bailing out, have a good time, guys!

What would be interesting if you did the latter would be to see her reaction--would she still want you to go even if you're sober, or say "byee!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:02 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

In a similar situation - I wasn't about to tell a relative stranger that going to a strip joint is likely to trigger me into a PTSD breakdown - I just went with the flat "I won't be able to make it, sorry, I'll be at the wedding." and repeated that as often as necessary. My husband backed me, which made an ENORMOUS difference to me personally as well (it was one of his siblings' weddings).
posted by geek anachronism at 6:34 PM on April 4, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm thinking the bride is wishing she could uninvite your girlfriend, anyway. So your girlfriend should put the bride out of her misery and simply say "I'm sorry, I won't be able to make it to the bachelorette party after all." I'm betting the bride will be more than happy to hear it.

In other words, tell your girlfriend to reframe the apology in her mind as a favour to the bride and she won't feel bad about it any more.
posted by Dragonness at 7:09 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi all. First off, my GF says THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the answers. She forced me to use caps and type that three times.

GF ended up texting her something along the lines of Violet Hour's suggestion. No reply back yet, so maybe the friend didn't take it so well (GF doesn't really seem to care though). GF will probably get asked at the wedding, and she'll probably go the white lie route.

BTW, GF understands that she should just tell the friend she doesn't drink anymore. She's just "irrationally ashamed of doing so" (her own words).

I'll leave the question open for now in case anyone would like to chime in on how to best handle the inevitable "so why'd you skip?" questions at the wedding. Thanks again, this has been a big help!
posted by CottonCandyCapers at 9:01 PM on April 4, 2015 [7 favorites]

I'll leave the question open for now in case anyone would like to chime in on how to best handle the inevitable "so why'd you skip?" questions at the wedding.

"Oh, it just didn't work for me. Did you have a good time?"
posted by jaguar at 9:04 PM on April 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

And that works as an ongoing formula for any follow-up questions: Non-committal vagueness + question about what happened.

"Oh, I know, I wish I could have been there, what did I miss?"
"Yeah, it just didn't work out, what happened?"
"Yeah, I know, it sucked that I couldn't make it, what good gossip did I miss?"
"Oh, you know, family stuff, what should I know?"
posted by jaguar at 9:17 PM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

GF needs to be able to say "I don't drink anymore." There's no shame in it and no one but the worst asshole will keep picking on you to drink after that.

Yea i'm strongly with this one too. Don't make anything up, just state the truth.

The response will really tell you whether she cares about her as a friend at all, which seems to be something your GF kind of wants to avoid. Maybe because she already knows that this is kind of a shallow friendship at this point and doesn't really want to confront that?

A real friend would be cool with it, and might even say to come anyways and that she'll have your back on not drinking. A crappy friend will say well, anything besides that other than "Oh, well i understand if you don't want to come since it's that type of drunkass event".

This is one of a few situations in which a white lie will likely get you more pushback than just telling the truth, and where telling the truth is likely to also give you info that's worth knowing anyways.
posted by emptythought at 9:38 PM on April 4, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'd say,"I just don't enjoy drinking anymore and didn't want to be a party pooper. I can't wait for the wedding, I know it's going to be amazing, you have such great taste and are so organised. It's going to be wonderful. I'm so so happy for you both and honoured to be invited."
posted by taff at 11:00 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just some thoughts on your GF being just "irrationally ashamed of doing so" and worrying about how to best handle the inevitable "so why'd you skip?" questions at the wedding...

I don't want to discount your GF's choice -- in this instance -- to keep her real reasons to herself, and I understand her inclination to -- generally -- keep her sobriety under wraps. There's a lot of shame tied up in addiction, and many people are uncomfortable about sharing that aspect of their lives publicly, particularly with relative strangers. That's her call to make.

My choice was to be 100% honest about my sobriety, from day one. And I've never, ever suffered any negative social or workplace consequences from that choice. And if I did, like to the extent described in your OP? Oh man -- I'd laugh incredulously in their faces. Quitting drinking was one of the hardest challenges in my life, and I'm damn proud of pulling it off. I might as well be ashamed of being selected to be a NASA astronaut (Note: I have not actually been selected to be an astronaut).

My sincere hope is that your GF is one day comfortable with owning her victory.

As for fielding prying questions at the wedding, nothing is necessary beyond reiterating her previous white lie. After all, she's no longer close to these people, so what does their consternation really mean to her? What remaining "social niceties" debt does she owe a group of people who didn't respect her choices previously? To be fair, bachelor/bachelorette things are pretty much 110% about getting hammered, so I can see why -- barring sheer maliciousness -- these people might not have "heard" her in that context. But the expectations surrounding actual weddings are a little different, as are the lifestyles and motives of the attendees. I imagine that any continued pressure to 1) explain herself or 2) get drunk this time, damnit! are likely to rebound negatively on the aggressor.

But that hypothetical just illustrates why being open about previous addictions is so much easier, in the long run: No one in their right mind will dare push the issue, and if they do literally everyone else in the vicinity will see exactly who isn't in their right mind.
posted by credible hulk at 11:35 PM on April 4, 2015 [13 favorites]

If she wants to join them but doesn't want to drink, just tell them she took some medication and cannot drink any alcohol.
posted by WizKid at 10:26 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think GF should give B and her other old pals the benefit of the doubt and tell them she just doesn't drink anymore and is too tempted or uncomfortable in drinking establishments to go. It's very possible they were joking around with her at the pre-party because they did not have any info from GF that she had changed course in regards to drinking. GF doesn't even have to say she had a problem or was embarassed by drunkenness or whatever, just that she doesn't drink anymore. That could be for any reason (medication, job, trying to have a baby, weight loss, better sleep, whatever). If her friends had this info, they might not have goaded her to teh point of discomfort.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am trying to think of how I would respond to this if I was GF. I guess there are alot of factors going on here including that in B's mind this is her special celebration for the last of her days pre-marriage with her mates, but if I imagine the best of the situation than I would hope there is more to GF's friendship with B than just old drinking days. If this is the case then I would call B, tell her I can't make the bachelorette party but I would love to take her out for one on one lunch before the big day. This way the focus is more on the friendship between GF and B going forward rather than whatever happened in the past. If B wants an explanation on the lack of attendance then tell her the truth - not being honest means that B wasn't given an opportunity to step up and respond in a way a friend would.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

how to best handle the inevitable "so why'd you skip?"

My default for this when I absolutely do not want to engage with the other person about it is to say, "I broke my leg and had to be shot," then laugh, then immediately change the subject. (Weddings have plenty of subject changing built in. "I love your dress/hair/catering/flower girl, who did you use?!") Then exit at the first available opportunity.
posted by phunniemee at 9:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [3 favorites]

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