How to stop resenting a wedding
December 21, 2017 1:12 PM   Subscribe

Last year, I very happily agreed to be the maid of honor for my best friend's wedding. But now the wedding is only a month away, and I'm having a hard time getting over feeling cranky about the details. How do I swallow my feelings so they don't leak through during her wedding weekend?

My bestie is having a destination wedding in a location about 2500 miles away from where we live (it's a city, not a resort). I've never liked the idea of going to a destination wedding, but I agreed to it because she was my maid of honor and it meant so much to me to have her stand with me when getting married, and I so wanted to be there for her for her wedding. She's been like a sister to be for decades and it would have crushed me to miss it.

However, my enthusiasm has significantly dimmed as we've gotten closer to the wedding. Earlier this year, my partner and I were forced out of our apartment and moving wiped out virtually all our savings. I was close to having to cancel when I finally found some money to cover some of the wedding costs. That was a relief, but it didn't cover everything and I'm still nervous about how much everything will cost once we're there.

Meanwhile, money has always been somewhat difficult with her. She's been in constant crisis mode ever since I've known her. Since I love her so much and hate to see her struggle, I've been financially generous to her when I could. But I've never resented it or kept score because I always made sure to only give what I comfortably could.

However, now with the wedding planning, money issues are raising their head between us. She had initially said that she would make it as financially easy for us as she could - that as long as we were able to get to the venue and pay for our hotel, we wouldn't have many more expenses since they would be hosting meals and events, and she would even pay for my bridesmaid's dress.

But as we got closer to the wedding, she told me that she was at risk of losing her job and that they'd spent all their savings on the wedding already, so she would have to cut out all of the other hosting they planned on. Which meant more money we'd have to spend during the wedding weekend, but how could I say anything when I'm employed and she might lose her job? So I resigned myself to having to put aside more money for the trip, and decided not to ask for help with the dress.

However, last week she found out she wasn't losing her job after all - happy news! So I decided to ask (by email) if her offer to help with the dress still stood, as money's still tight for us, especially with the holidays. She wrote me back what felt like a pretty passive aggressive reply. She said that she wished I hadn't waited to ask, since she's super sick and has no money and can't even afford to buy holiday gifts for her family, but fine, she guessed she would have to find a way to make it work. Long story short, she eventually was able to give me some money for the dress, which I totally appreciated. But I'm still having a hard time getting over my hurt feelings that she acted angry that I asked, when she was the one who volunteered to help out in the first place. (She also has a history with mutual friends of borrowing money and then getting angry when asked about paying it back.)

My feelings are also complicated by the fact that for years, she will make multiple plans to visit me (only 2 hours away), and SWEARS that she will come, but then she ALWAYS cancels at the last minute. She's done this to me twice in six months (once because she got a bad haircut) and last week had her finance cancel so she wouldn't have to and then avoided contacting me for two days. We both have mental health issues and I try to be understanding of her limitations, since I have some too, but it still hurts. Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown with the football.

This is how she's always been, and for decades I've always told myself that her friendship is worth it. I value her friendship so much that I've been able to accept that that's how she is.

But after all this wedding stuff, I'm feeling put out and resentful and crabby and that's not how I want to approach this wedding. I really do love her so much, and want her to have a wonderful wedding, and want to be as supportive and loving as I can that weekend.

I recognize that ultimately I'm the one who agreed to be in her wedding and made that committment, so it's up to me to just go and make the best of it. So I'm looking for suggestions on how I can focus on her wedding and not let on that I've been having negative feelings. No matter how much I might want to address some of this stuff about our friendship, doing it before the wedding is over would risk adding more stress to her already huge wedding stress and I don't want her to have an inkling how I'm feeling. So I really need to find a way to just make peace with this freaking wedding once and for all.

Thanks for reading this and any suggestions very welcome!
posted by Neely O'Hara to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you can manage it at all, just pay for the dress yourself. It's clearly become a source of resentment and a carrier for a lot of other unspoken feelings between you. I wouldn't want to feel beholden to someone who treats me like that, so take that obligation on yourself and take away her ability to use it as a beating stick - whether a passively-aggressive or actively-aggressive one.

Also, sit down and make as detailed a plan as you can about controlling expenses that weekend. No, you don't have to go to every restaurant meal and bar night you're invited to. Just beg off and say you need to rest up. Or just say, honestly, "I can't afford it, we're just going to grab a simple sub" or whatever. Can you pack extra snacks/food you can eat in your room? Can you bring your own stash of wine/beer/champagne for toasts in your room instead of always going down to the bar for drinks? Can you research the hotel menus ahead and time and find affordable options, and see what other restaurant and grocery options are nearby for provisioning yourself?

Can you call and ask for a room downgrade or whether there are any special prices? Or find a cheaper room in another hotel? No reason you have to be in the SAME hotel as long as you can join them there before the wedding and stay organized.

Is the dress already bought, or can you offer to search for and buy, with her approval, another, less expensive dress that still fits the look?

In your shoes, I'd just take back every bit as much ownership and control as I can. It's worth the money not to have her holding her "generosity" over your head. You need to be in charge of your commitments for the weekend. As for the issues you have with her, yes, maybe you'll want to address them in future or maybe as you grow you'll grow apart. But one thing I would definitely do is avoid either lending her money or resources, or borrowing them from her. Looks like both of you have some issues around that that are enmeshing you both.
posted by Miko at 1:24 PM on December 21, 2017 [30 favorites]

"I recognize that ultimately I'm the one who agreed to be in her wedding and made that committment, so it's up to me to just go and make the best of it."

I would just focus on this, you know? The stuff about her flaking on visiting you does not to me seem to have anything to do with the wedding stuff, you just happen to be annoyed with her about a bunch of things right now. One of my dearest, oldest friends had a destination wedding a few years ago, and I was horribly broke and ultimately had to return the bridesmaid's dress, cancel the trip, and not go to her wedding. She offered me money to help me make the trip, but I wasn't comfortable with that idea at the time. If I had gone, I would have worked hard to not feel resentful, because it would have been my choice to spend the money to go.

It sounds like your friend is extremely bad with money and like this wedding is really financially impractical right now. I wouldn't look to her for sympathy or understanding about your financial obligations to the wedding, she obviously has a weird perspective on how broke people should go for these things.
posted by cakelite at 1:26 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

You're doing what I call snowballing. You're wrapping up ALL THE FEELINGS about this person at once. You don't need to do that. Try to separate out your feelings a bit. Know that right now, you are both under stress financially and you're right, now isn't the time to address things. Personally, I would write down the things I want to address and literally put them away in an envelope for after the wedding. Create a mantra for yourself, something like, "The show must go on" and say that whenever these feelings arise. Miko has some great suggestions about handling some of the money things. Try to remember how you felt when she was standing up for you and give her the same support, money aside. Best of luck to you.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:28 PM on December 21, 2017 [28 favorites]

Totally agree with the above. The other thing is, too, that during the wedding itself, focus on why you're there besides her, if you can. Do you like dancing? Are there mutual friends there that you'll get to enjoy? Is the city itself cool to walk around in and explore, for free? Do you and your partner have fun and make games out of shitty situations? Coming up with techniques to focus on the positive things while you're there (coupled with the above great advice about budgeting and financial separation) will be super helpful.
posted by knownassociate at 1:29 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Earn back your money at a (hopefully) open bar?
posted by raccoon409 at 1:33 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

It sounds like she planned an event that she can't afford.

This is a weird thing to go into debt over. I'm not sure how you handle it, but try to look at creative ways to finance it in advance- is there stuff you could sell on ebay? Have a garage sale? A low interest credit card or low interest credit union personal loan you might qualify for? A side gig? Some memorabilia you can sell? Freelance work??

With enough money to cover your expenses for the event you won't be so pissed off and you'll be able to go and enjoy being there. This would be my focus.
posted by jbenben at 1:35 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Just don't spend any money on this. Wear a dress you already have or get something cheap off Amazon if you really must. Do you have any "good times" you can remember? Are you going to make new "good times" at this event? I guess focus on that. I guess you have to spend money to get yourself there, absolutely don't feel obligated to spend any money on making her event a success.
posted by bleep at 1:36 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you could do this without it making you feel resentful, consider going to the wedding without your partner. If you're flying and can cancel one person's flight, there's huge savings right there. You might be able to find another wedding guest to split a hotel room with. You'll cut all your meal and drink expenses in half. The major downside is you won't have your partner there to commiserate with/get emotional support from, so you'll have to consider whether that will hurt your overall mission. But on the other hand, you might find that without your partner there, you're that much more involved and present with your friend (and any other friends who will be there that you don't usually get to see), and you can just dive into the whole event, show up as fully as possible, hopefully enjoy it, and then head home.
posted by TrixieRamble at 1:46 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Oh, the other thing that I found to be really helpful during stressful weddings is to remember that it will be over soon and remove yourself from auxiliary weddings activities whenever you don't absolutely HAVE to be there. There's no need for 4 bridesmaids to sit around for 6 hours watching everyone get their hair and make up done
posted by raccoon409 at 1:53 PM on December 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Reading the other comments... If you haven't bought a dress yet, maybe cancel your tickets and reservations and just don't go?

"Mary, with the unexpected move earlier this year, I realize even if you payforthe dress I really can not afford to be in your wedding. I love you and I'm sorry to miss your special day..." Etc., etc..

If you put anything on a credit card, that's getting a loan to attend her wedding. If that's not something you want to do, then do not attend the wedding. Find out if you can cancel the plane and hotel. Figure out financially if it makes more sense to go (tickets/reservations are non-refundable) or if it makes more sense to cancel.
posted by jbenben at 2:04 PM on December 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I’m just going to talk about the feelings.

One thing you can do is focus on the trip. Since you are going there, what (small due to time) thing can you do in that city for you that you’ve wanted to do. Do that. Read trashy books in a hotel bath/poolside, knit by the fireplace...whatever brings you personal joy beyond the bridesmaid duties that doesn’t add too much to the cost. Depending on the destination I also advise the joys of a picnic of local cheap food... I almost always try to hit local bakeries for bread and maybe a cheese or similar.

Second, this is a huge gift so...focus on the giving. Remind yourself of the good times and honour those even if times are changing. Dance for that love at her wedding regardless of her inability with money.

Third though...also it may seem counterintuitive but you may need to give those negative feelings a place (just not centre stage). Before you go I would spend a couple of hours letting yourself feel resentful, draw, write a never-to-be-sent letter. I personally would be so upset at the change in expenses. Some of this is stress of a bad year too. Write or think it out and set it aside to enjoy the trip for what it is.
posted by warriorqueen at 2:23 PM on December 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

1) You are allowed to cancel if you need/want to.
2) If that "ruins the friendship", the ruining was pre-done. She will likely be disappointed but she should get over it once the wedding is over and she's had a chance to recover.
3) People are weird about money. They are weird about weddings. The two weirdnesses have a multiplicative, not an additive, effect, so people are SUPER MEGA WEIRD about wedding money.
4) IF you choose to go:
4a) Remind yourself that you are choosing to go. Maybe you chose it because it seemed like the best of a set of bad options, but you still chose. This framing will help you feel less powerless and put-upon.
4b) Table all non-wedding issues of long standing to be dealt with after the wedding. There is no benefit in trying to deal with them now, because you're so annoyed with your friend that everything about her is annoying you right now.
4c) During the event, remember: just because you came to the wedding, that doesn't mean you committed to every single event, especially expensive ones.
4d) You are allowed to attend the wedding itself and even be the maid of honor and still not do stuff that the maid of honor "has" to do. It is perfectly fine to say "Sorry, Friend, but because of the cost of travel, I won't be able to pay for the bachelorette party; let's see if there is something low-key we could do instead, like watch a movie and eat snacks and socialize."
4e) See also, "no thanks, I'm going to grab a sandwich at $cheap_place instead of going for the tasting menu at Chez Pricey!"
4f) Your default attitude is breezy, friendly, and factual. If passive-aggressive baits are laid, you not only don't pick them up, you don't even notice they are there.
4g) See if there is anything at the destination that YOU genuinely want to do/see, and take a chunk out of the WEDDING MADNESS to do/see it. That will help you feel like you got something out of the cost of the trip even if the wedding drives you nuts.
5) If you choose not to go:
5a) Send a nice present (not a lavish extravagant one but something reasonable and nice) and a heartfelt note, telling your friend all the ways that she is special to you and you cherish her friendship and wish her nothing but the greatest happiness forever, etc.
5b) when you get the guilt trip: "I know, I really wanted to be there, but I just couldn't swing it financially. I was there celebrating in my heart, though! The pictures looked amazing! You two looked so happy!"
5c) Table all non-wedding issues of long standing to be dealt with after the wedding. There is no benefit in trying to deal with them now, because you're so annoyed with your friend that everything about her is annoying you right now.

Good luck!
posted by oblique red at 2:24 PM on December 21, 2017 [13 favorites]

I recognize that ultimately I'm the one who agreed to be in her wedding and made that committment

This isn't a job that you signed a contract for. It is a gift that in a perfect world, you would want and be able to freely give.

Don't go into debt for this. If you can swing this without carrying the financial burden on your back for as long as it takes to pay it off, then go. Otherwise, stay home and conserve your resources. It sounds like there is way too much money drama happening here.
posted by 41swans at 2:42 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is how she's always been, and for decades I've always told myself that her friendship is worth it.

Now your feelings are changing, and for good reason. People grow apart, especially when one or more of them doesn't outgrow the annoying behaviors/traits that were acceptable once but now are just selfish. It may be time to cut back significantly, or even cut her loose. That often happens naturally after everyone and their oldest friends are done standing up for each other at their respective weddings.

So I'm looking for suggestions on how I can focus on her wedding and not let on that I've been having negative feelings.

Explore the heck out of that destination city! Research its history, find some out-of-the-way dive or hike or market to check out, if at all possible stay an extra day after the wedding guests clear out to chill out a bit there.

I don't want her to have an inkling how I'm feeling.

She knows. She just doesn't care. But talk to her about everything else. The flowers, the weather, her dress, the way the light shines on the centerpieces, whether her great-aunt might need someone to walk with her to the loo, how happy you are for her, how much fun you and your spouse are having, etc. It sounds like you enjoy weddings, so enjoy the wedding. Knowing you are going to cut back or possibly cut her loose after this removes the need to walk on eggshells.
posted by headnsouth at 2:55 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe just write her an honest but kind e-mail:

Dear friend,

As you know, I have a really tight financial situation right now. I really can't afford to come to your wedding, but your friendship is very important to me. I want you to know that I want nothing more than to support you on your big day, and make sure my involvement isn't financially hard on you either. So to that end, I am going to save up and buy my own dress, and pay for tickets and the hotel on a credit card. I will stand next to you proudly on your wedding day. My husband and I have looked at our finances, and I know in advance that I won't be able to join in for other occasions like various restaurants, etc. I hope that this is okay. So excited! So much love! <3"

Optional text that might come across a bit snippy, but may be needed "If you really need a maid of honor that can throw you a fancy bachelerette party instead of a chillout session at the hotel, that I'll understand if you choose to have me there as a regular guest."

You may discover through this that she needs you for appearances more than for sincere reasons, in which case you have in a way, involved her in that hard decision and are free to not go without regrets.

Good luck!
posted by cacao at 3:11 PM on December 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

She can't use your attendance as the barometer of your friendship, and if she does then she doesn't deserve you to be present.

I'd strongly consider the scenario that you go into debt for this wedding, and one of two things happen - either your friendship goes south, or they get divorced. You end up even more resentful, and you're even more broke than you would have been if you didn't go. Those are obviously worst case scenarios, but they could happen (ask me how I know - they BOTH happened to me with a friend and a destination wedding). This is money spent that you cannot get back. How would you feel?

Of course you can't put a price on a friendship, but you can't put a price on the emotional toll of being burdened with debt either. Can you have a good time knowing that this event will cost you money you don't have? What feels like the right thing to do *for you* (not her) outside of the Wedding and Friendship obligation you feel? Let's say she was 100% supportive and understanding that you couldn't make it for financial reasons. Would that change your narrative of this situation?

If it were me, I might be inclined to tell her face to face that I simply can't afford it and send her the money back, assuring her that you are just as disappointed as she is, if not more. It sounds to me like your gut is telling you not to go but you're looking for validation to make that decision. You don't need validation - you need boundaries. It's perfectly fine to cancel attending a destination wedding for financial reasons. Shit happens. Even if you're the maid of honor.

The fact is - you love her but you're broke. Being broke is all the validation you need to not go, and if it pisses her off and she throws the "Well I guess you get married and find out who your friends REALLY are" then she's not your friend and she needs to grow up. Look - she's the one who planned a destination wedding. People don't make it. That's part of the deal.

I'm also universally opposed to spending godawful amounts of money on weddings, and spent less on my own wedding and honeymoon than most people spend on a photographer, so I'm biased.
posted by onecircleaday at 4:36 PM on December 21, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thank you all so much - every single answer was so kind and understanding and helpful.

Our flights are unrefundable, so we're going to go (I'd be miserable without my partner so that wouldn't work for me). I really like the ideas of drawing clear lines of what I can afford to spend and carving out some time away from wedding stuff. Thankfully there are things I'm looking forward to seeing and doing while I'm there, so that should help.

This does have me thinking that I may need to step back from giving her money in the future. I did it happily in the past, but I don't know if I could do so now. (I feel SO GUILTY saying that though. I guess money is weird between us.)

I think I have some contemplating to do about the give and take in our friendship, but with your suggestions I'll at least be able to put that aside until after the wedding. I'm going to just keep picturing her smiling in her dress on her actual wedding day and being able to be there with her. Since I'm going, I might as well make the best of it (frugally). Thanks to you all for helping me come to that place.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 6:03 PM on December 21, 2017 [7 favorites]

Don’t forget to practice beforehand using our favorite Meta phrase.

“Oh, that won’t be possible!”

No frown, no disappointment, no awkwardness. Just a big smile, and Add if necessary “we just can’t afford that!” and follow with a “let’s do this instead!”
posted by raisingsand at 5:39 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

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