Paying for bridesmaid dress for a wedding I'm not going to. What to do?
August 17, 2020 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I was supposed to be the bridesmaid for a casual friend. I accepted until I had some problems arise (medical; I need surgery) and financial (I haven’t been working since the Covid lockdown). My surgery is coming up in the same time frame as the wedding. Now the bride wants me to pay for the brand new/untouched/unaltered bridesmaid dress. Help!

I met the bride about 7 years ago as a friend via another friend. She has always been very nice, but we haven’t been the closest of friends; she lives in another city, about 8 hrs drive away, and we don’t interact very often. I was very surprised when she asked me to be a bridesmaid for her upcoming wedding (next weekend). In the beginning, I turned her down, and she later convinced me to participate, about in March/April of this year. However, I lost my job in the flurry of the Covid pandemic, and am still looking for a new opportunity (which has been difficult in the city I am in, which has been one of the hardest hit areas of the country).

Knowing my financial hardship, per phone conversations, she said that she could pay for the dress if I could pay for the alterations. We agreed. I planned on having the dress altered earlier, but it never happened because of a variety of medical issues I have been experiencing throughout this year.

As a consequence of my medical and financial issues, I backed out of the wedding. My surgery coincides with the timing of the wedding, and I told her I was backing out as soon as I found out that I needed to have surgery. The mounting costs of hair, makeup, spa days with the other bridesmaids, airline fares, hotel rates, wedding gift, dress alterations, etc. were proving to be too expensive for me. I was also concerned about the risk of Covid at the wedding, as there are several guests coming in from all over the country (without taking time to quarantine), and she has no plans for social distancing at the matrimonial festivities. She was extremely understanding and supportive of my need to drop out. No bad feelings were expressed whatsoever.

I immediately shipped the bridesmaid dress back to her in perfect, pristine condition (spotlessly clean, all tags on, UN-altered, and still in the original hanger bag it came in). She confirmed that she received it in said perfect condition.

For weeks, I thought everything was fine. As of yesterday, she wants me to pay for the dress, which is out of my financial capability at this time, a fact that she is well-aware of. The dress is in her possession. I am miffed at the prospect of being financially on the hook for a dress I will never wear for a wedding I am not attending.

She is claiming the dresses were all “final sale”, which I just found out from her via text message yesterday. I guess I have a hard time coming to terms with this, as the dress is brand new and in pristine condition (read: perfectly resellable).

Should I be held financially responsible for the bridesmaid dress, given my circumstances? Should I offer to compensate her for a portion of it when I am able to in the future? I am willing to write to the dress seller and explain the circumstances and have the bride's money refunded if necessary. What other suggestions does the Hive Mind have?
posted by chatelaine to Human Relations (58 answers total)
I don't have a lot of patience with people who spend all of their money on extravagant weddings while expecting their guests to make it up to them through pricey gifts or by shouldering the numerous expenditures you cite above. If you really want to contact the dress seller, you can. But retail has really tanked during the coronavirus, so the seller may be in a fix of her own at the moment.

I also really don't think you should offer to compensate her at some future date. You're having an operation FFS, and you returned the dress in pristine condition in a timely way. You don't need to cough up anything else. Instead, she needs to get a grip on her priorities, and try not to worry you at this time. That she couldn't pull that off is, to me, reprehensible, and not a huge endorsement for her character.
posted by Violet Blue at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2020 [37 favorites]

Best answer: "I'm sorry, that won't be possible. I am out of work and am getting surgery next week. There are no funds for the dress." And wash your hands of her.
posted by phunniemee at 1:15 PM on August 17, 2020 [126 favorites]

FWIW, final sale means an item can't be returned. She probably just found that out.

As hard as it might be to do, I would tell her exactly what you told us: it is beyond your financial capabilities at this time to reimburse her for the dress due to being out of work and having surgery next week.
posted by Kitchen Witch at 1:17 PM on August 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you want to salvage the relationship, pay for the dress (on a payment plan or something if necessary) and resell it yourself; if you don’t care just stick to telling her you can’t pay. It’s pretty unusual for bridesmaid dresses to be refundable. I suppose it couldn’t *hurt* to reach out to the seller but I would keep my expectations low.

She did say she would cover the cost of the dress - like, if you had *died* would she be going after your estate for the cost of the dress? But she’s in a stressful situation (partly of her own creation if she badgered you into bridesmaidery) a week out from her wedding (which is probably not going the way she wanted it to - even if she’s not making COVID concessions probably she’s lost a lot of her guest list). This is me cutting her *a lot* of slack, I think she’s wrong here. But if the relationship is important to you (sounds like it’s not, particularly), try to work with her.
posted by mskyle at 1:18 PM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

That's her problem. She said she'd pay for the dress. Case closed. Please don't feel guilty. She talked you into being a bridesmaid...She really should have offered to pay for everything.
posted by DixieBaby at 1:19 PM on August 17, 2020 [21 favorites]

She talked you into participating in a wedding you really couldn't afford at least partly by agreeing to share the costs with you. She incurred no additional costs by your backing out in a polite manner as soon as you knew you wouldn't be able to attend *because you were having surgery ffs*. It sucks, but there's nothing else you can do. Don't feel guilty.
posted by hollyholly at 1:20 PM on August 17, 2020 [17 favorites]

You have no moral or ethical responsibility to pay for the dress. Perhaps she has another friend who will fit the dress. If not, oh well. Worry about you. That's what she should be doing.
posted by anastasiav at 1:22 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Just a quick note that, as someone who got married not too long ago, the bridal stuff I looked at was almost always "final sale" (brand new stuff from David's Bridal and mainstream bridal boutiques). I think bridal stores have the concern that people will use it for their wedding and then return it, since they by definition only need it once. Also, since most wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses require alteration, and stores often don't take back altered clothing, that factors in as well. Also much of it has to be made in specific sizes after being ordered - it's not just a matter of buying what is needed off the rack at a store. I would be surprised if you had much if any traction trying to negotiate with the dress seller, especially this summer in particular (because the seller has likely been hard hit by the pandemic, since lots of people this summer are not going to be able to have the weddings they've planned and are going to want to return the dresses they were going to use).

The Metafilter opinion may differ, but I would respectfully ask you to consider paying for the dress. You have been very flaky to your friend (due to difficult circumstances for you, I understand). You had committed to be a bridesmaid (and, it sounds like, had agreed initially to pay for the dress). Then you said you could be a bridesmaid but couldn't pay for the dress, adding an unanticipated financial burden on the bride). Then you said that you couldn't pay for the dress, but agreed to be responsible for alterations. Then you backed out of the wedding entirely at what sounds like short notice. If I were in the bride's shoes, I'd be pretty upset with how you jerked me around. I'd be upset about the additional financial stress of covering your dress cost, and would more importantly feel that your constant changing of plans and deprioritizing your commitment to be in my wedding were a referendum on our friendship. The bride almost certainly can't get a refund on the dress, and also probably on your place at the dinner (typically $100+ just for the dinner seat). Due to you pulling out, she also likely has to do logistical rearranging of seating plans, processional plans during the ceremony, programs (that may already be printed), bouquets (probably still has to pay $50+ for yours), and possibly other things. I understand your hardship and the fact that you don't think you are close friends, but in my view, that doesn't justify your actions: the fact remains that you accepted her request to be in your wedding and you thus had an obligation. After pulling out at this point, I think that the least you can do is to pay for the dress. If you can't afford it all now, what about giving her $10/month? I think it would likely mean a lot to the bride as a gesture of apology, and your friendship may not be salvageable without some gesture on your part.
posted by ClaireBear at 1:24 PM on August 17, 2020 [33 favorites]

"If you have enough money to participate in the industrial wedding complex, you can eat that cost of one dress."

Seriously, you have one decision to make: Do you give a shit if you never speak to this person again? I know my answer based on your thorough post.
posted by terrapin at 1:24 PM on August 17, 2020 [20 favorites]

I would offer to pay for it in installments and tell her that is your wedding gift to her.
posted by AugustWest at 1:26 PM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'd think there is a sliding scale here where you can evaluate the hardship of paying, the circumstances, and this relationship in your life and make a choice somewhere from the range of "Sorry. You said you were going to pay for it before, right? I'd prefer not to have surgery and to be there, but here we are" to "Ok. I'll pay for it. Send my dress back to me!" In the middle there is going halfsies and she can keep the dress or whatever. Or, maybe trying to get her to find someone else to be a bridesmaid who can then pay for the dress and if that falls through, paying or spliting or whatnot.

I agree that ethically you fulfilled your obligations here. Any money you give is you being nice for a bride in a bad situation. Would you have bought them a gift? Maybe their gift is a dress now.
posted by cmm at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is incredibly difficult!

On the one hand, she agreed to pay for the dress in the beginning. So your dress IS part of her budget.

Then you backed out. And she said, dang, I spent that budget on nothing, maybe I can return the dress!

Then she couldn't return the dress. So unless she replaced you as a bridesmaid, she's more upset about having an unused dress, than having to pay anything more for it.

Also, part of this is on you! When you lost your job, but didn't immediately notify her, you must have been mentally budgeting for the wedding. When your health came into account, and that was a reason to back out of the wedding, especially given your overall financial burden. Were you also mentally budgeting for the hotel, plane, and gift?

So, in conclusion, I think you should pay her the value of the dress in cash as the wedding gift. I'd shoot her a note - I am so so sorry how this all worked out. I want the absolute best for you and Mr.. I'll reimburse you for the dress as my gift, as that's all I can afford right now - looking forward to meeting you guys in the future!
posted by bbqturtle at 1:34 PM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

I just think your financial security at this point has to take precedence. You aren't unemployed and having surgery at her, it sucks all around, but her financial outlay and stress (I'm a married person who threw a wedding, it's pretty stressful! but I took it on when I decided to throw a party) seem to me to be a lower priority than your safety and health.

Be as gentle with her as you can manage, and understand that you may no longer be friends, or at least that your friendship will almost certainly be affected.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 1:44 PM on August 17, 2020 [15 favorites]

You returned the dress she had agreed to pay for and she can find someone else to fill it (or not). It's cost is an agreed expense of her wedding. This person is not a close friend and you're going through hardships cause partly by a pandemic and she's pushing forward with a wedding ceremony?

I can’t see a single upside to paying anything towards this dress.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:46 PM on August 17, 2020 [16 favorites]

I'm rather horrified that the consensus is so strongly that the OP has no duty at all to the bride, and that the bride can eat shit.

Well, it certainly escalated from "The bride pays for the dress, the bridesmaid pays for the alterations" to "you owe me the cost of the whole dress" very quickly, and your "last minute" argument doesn't seem to hold a lot of water given the "For weeks, I thought everything was fine" part of Chatelaine's description.

Chatelaine, if it's within your means I would consider offering the same deal - if the bride can find somebody else to wear it, that you'd cover the cost of their alterations. But if that's out of reach, I'd simply send them an apology, and say that due to the costs associated with your surgery, the same one causing you to miss the event that you can't cover those costs.
posted by mhoye at 1:49 PM on August 17, 2020 [10 favorites]

Tell her you will pay her but ask her to please send it back to you as you will try to sell it online.
posted by jello at 1:53 PM on August 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Legit reasons not to pay for the dress:

- You can't pay for it
- She said she'd pay for it

Reasons you included here as though they have some bearing on your responsibility or lack thereof for the cost of the dress when in fact they do not:

- You originally said no
- You haven’t been close and don’t interact very often
- You didn't alter the dress
- The wedding also had other considerable costs
- You are concerned about COVID
- She is not social distancing
- The dress still has tags on it

These have nothing to do with you agreeing to be a bridesmaid and buying/wearing a particular dress.

I am miffed at the prospect of being financially on the hook for a dress I will never wear for a wedding I am not attending.

The only reason the dress exists in your lives is because of a commitment you made to be in the wedding. That you have changed your mind (regardless of the 100% understandable reasons) doesn't change that.

But, I mean, she said she'd pay for it. Remind her of that - "Remember when we talked? I was going to pay for alterations and you were going to pay for the dress? My circumstances haven't improved and I'm still not able to pay for the dress. I'm so sorry."

And if it ends the friendship, so be it. After all, you weren't that close to begin with.
posted by headnsouth at 1:55 PM on August 17, 2020 [44 favorites]

Should I be held financially responsible for the bridesmaid dress, given my circumstances?

Absolutely not, you're now jobless and having to undergo surgery. You have higher priorities at the moment and they're called taking care of you.

Should I offer to compensate her for a portion of it when I am able to in the future?

Absolutely not, she knows you're jobless and having surgery and financially strapped and she's demanding you pay for dress that you will never wear. This is not a friend and you under no obligation to pay for such a frivolous things while you're, you know, financially strapped and jobless while having to deal with surgery.

If she was your friend, she'd pay for the dress and send it back you with note saying something like "I'm sorry you can't be here on my happy day, but I want to you keep the dress and hope it brings you some happiness during this trying time for you. We'll link back up when things are better. I love you, take care"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2020 [17 favorites]

I don't think you're responsible for the crazy expectations around weddings and how much money participants are expected to pay so they can be in them.
posted by signal at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2020 [13 favorites]

I'm kind of stuck on the part where she said she'd pay for the dress. Now she doesn't want to, and you can't.

I think it would be generous of you to offer to pay for it, but on installment, like $10/month. That offer may placate her, or not, but maybe it will make her understand your extreme financial limitations.
posted by tuesdayschild at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

OP says: For weeks, I thought everything was fine. "Weeks" doesn't sound like backing out last minute to me - the bride could have found someone else to fill the role and to use the dress. Doesn't sound like they did, and are now one bridesmaid short and have one dress too many. The bride had already said that she would pay for the dress, and now wants you to pay for the whole thing? That's not what you agreed on.

It does suck all around, but I think that you don't have an obligation to pay for the dress, particularly given your circumstances. Personally, I would likely offer to pay some nominal amount (around the same as I would have paid for alterations, perhaps) towards the dress, given that I had agreed to participate and not doing so is breaking my promise to them. But prioritizing your own health and well being over what sounds like not a super close friendship would be totally understandable, IMO.
posted by gemmy at 2:03 PM on August 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

I agree this might be a more complicated conversation in order to maintain a friendship, but OP isn't even friends with the bride! She's an acquaintance. (Part of me wonders why acquaintances are getting tapped for the bridal party. I can infer some possible reasons that.)
posted by phunniemee at 2:04 PM on August 17, 2020 [24 favorites]

She agreed to pay for the dress and you agreed to pay for alterations. You have solid reasons to hold her at her word. Don’t bring up other reasons, they don’t matter. Just stick to this and say it’s not possible as your current circumstances will not allow you to pay for a dress you never agreed to pay for. It doesn’t sound like you value this friendship that much so just get comfortable with burning this bridge as it is not salvageable.
posted by like_neon at 2:15 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Mod note: please direct answers towards the OP and do not argue with other commenters.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:16 PM on August 17, 2020

OP was a last minute add to the bridal party.
She was only asked in March/April. Clearly she was only asked to fill in numbers because someone dropped or a groomsman was added. I don't think she dropped out too late.

I'm going to disagree with my earlier posting. You're unemployed. It's a scary time. Don't offer to repay or resell. She can post it online as easily as you can.
posted by jello at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2020 [10 favorites]

I think it comes down to, do you want to be technically in the right but kind of an asshole or do you want to be out 100$ in a difficult time but take responsibility for not being a great friend to this woman? For all the reasons Clairebear outlines, it is pretty hard when a bridesmaid backs out with a few weeks to go, even due to good reasons. You technically have the right to wash your hands of the situation if you like, but you're unlikely to be able to do it without leaving a very bad taste in this woman's mouth. I, for one, have found karma to be real. Your choice.
posted by namesarehard at 2:17 PM on August 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

If you care about this person and don't want to burn bridges, I'd be inclined to be like ok that's fine I'll pay for the dress, but it's going to take a while for me to find the funds, it probably won't be before [the end of the year / whenever]. Which is true, right! Presumably at some time in the future you'll get a new job and regain your financial footing and have comfortably expendable income, at which point you can send her dress money. But until that day comes, do not spend one more second of your time and energy worrying about this stupid dress. None of this $10/month crap, no, this is not a priority for you right now. It's a shitty situation, but it's not something anybody needs to feel guilty or angry or bitter about. Unless they choose to.
posted by gueneverey at 2:32 PM on August 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

OP, could you clarify how long ago you dropped out of the wedding? This would strongly influence my answer. From reading the question, it sounds to me like OP likely dropped out 1-2 months before the wedding (she thought everything was fine "for weeks" after she returned the dress until the bride was in touch, and the wedding is "next weekend"). If this reading is right, this to my mind is unacceptably short notice to drop out of a bridal party. 2-3 months is borderline. If it were more than 3 months ago, OP, I think it's okay.

Also, OP, could you clarify whether you had agreed to pay for the dress initially, and then you talked with the bride and she agreed to pay for the dress if you'd pay for alterations? Or had she offered to pay for the dress from the outset if you would pay for alterations?
posted by ClaireBear at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I think the mention of the wedding industrial complex above is relevant. The wedding experience(tm) seems to be this very big fragile supposed-to-be-perfect thing to some people, and then other people sort of opt out of that and just get married. Maybe within the proper universe of the wedding industrial complex you're supposed to pay for the dress as some consolation for having ruined her perfect wedding by needing to have surgery, but in the world of just...people being real with each other about what's going on in their lives, it's silly for you to pay for this and silly for her to demand it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 2:35 PM on August 17, 2020 [22 favorites]

Best answer: I think mhoye’s suggestion is a diplomatic one, and it’s as much as you owe this bride.

It’s tricky, because your willingness to be a bridesmaid was contingent on her paying for the dress, and her willingness to pay for the dress was contingent on your performance as a bridesmaid. In her mind, you had a contract, and you breached it. In your mind, that’s ridiculous, because the dress is worthless to you; you were doing this as a favour, and then circumstances beyond your control made the favour impossible.

For what it’s worth, I’m on your side, and I think any couple going through with a big wedding during COVID-19 better expect some letdowns anyway, from just about every angle. Reputable vendors who did have contracts could be noping out, along with any guests who have any sense.

I also suspect your dress is a relative drop in the overall cost bucket, but the couple might be expecting guests and attendants to absorb an unrealistic share of that cost. Not unheard of. Also not evidence of a very mature couple.

She seems willing to cast a pretty wide net for filling out her retinue. So, here’s hoping she can find someone who could reasonably fit the dress and doesn’t mind plague exposure. Picking up the alterations tab on behalf of that theoretical bridesmaid would be above-and-beyond gracious.

Refusing to do so would only cost you what sounds like an awkward long-distance friend-in-law. It would not make you “kind of an asshole.”

Under no circumstances should you be on the hook for the full price of the dress. (Thought exercise: Would she be asking this of someone whose friendship she valued?)
posted by armeowda at 2:48 PM on August 17, 2020 [9 favorites]

If you really do want to try and salvage this friendship (which I'm not certain it is), I'd reach out to the MOH and ask if she or any of the other bridesmaids are interested in trying to sell the dresses as a group sale. Whatever money you get from that I'd return to the bride.

I think it's weird in general to have to pay for a dress as a bridesmaid (though I know it's customary and have done it several times myself). I firmly believe that anything that is essential to me being a prop at your wedding you pay for (hair, make up, dress, shoes if they are specific ones, bouquet, getting ready robe or pajamas, etc)
posted by raccoon409 at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

"We had previously agreed that you would pay for the dress and I would pay for the alterations. We had subsequently discussed that I am unable to pay for the dress due to my current medical and financial situation. I am sorry, but I am still unable to pay for the dress as nothing has changed on my end since our last discussion."
posted by bile and syntax at 3:09 PM on August 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: There is a pandemic going on. It is irresponsible to be having a wedding right now. It is horrible of her to make someone having surgery feel bad about not being able to come to her COVID wedding. I hope no one gets sick at her wedding. You owe her nothing.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:25 PM on August 17, 2020 [47 favorites]

I don't think you shouldn't offer her anything. Asking you to pay shows such a lack of empathy on her part; by asking for money she knows you don't have, she's the one who made this weird.

I do think she asked you to pay because she's stressed and was blindsided by the return policy on the dress. Perhaps after the wedding she'll come to her senses, and you can continue to be long-distance friends. But if she decides to end the friendship, it won't be your fault.
posted by toastedcheese at 3:55 PM on August 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Having to have surgery while you're out of work during a pandemic is hard—like next-level difficult. And you had to do the extra hard thing of having to disappoint a friend. I don't see where you're at fault here whatsoever, even if you're not able to pay at all.

Whereas not being able to have a friend you're not even that close to by your side at a wedding (that probably shouldn't even be held in its original format, given the present circumstances) is not a significant hardship, not comparatively. I know people who have had to postpone their wedding outright and even that, I don't consider a hardship on the level of what you're facing. I understand times are hard all around, but all of the costs mentioned above, from the dress to meals to the floral arrangements, are sunk costs. So many of us are dealing with one disaster scenario or another right now, so many people are separated from one another, so many things are being canceled, and on the scale of disasters, that is not one. To me, what matters is that you're OK and you're alive and you can all eventually see each other again and celebrate. That's what should matter to your friend.

I mean, even considering hypothetical sunk costs like printing programs: One of my dear friends a decade ago got diagnosed with cancer a bit before I ended up getting engaged. Over the next year and a half of planning, I was hopeful at first that she might be able to attend, but as we got closer to the wedding, it became apparent that there was no way she'd be able to go. Ultimately, with everything going on, she didn't even RSVP to me herself, and instead had a mutual friend RSVP no to me. I didn't love that, and none of that was fun or my ideal outcome, but those were the circumstances. I still chose to give her a place of honor on my program. People don't have to be present in person or even in a good place personally to be dear to your heart and important to you.

Not that I wish this on anyone, but also just to provide some perspective: That friend and I eventually fell out of touch, in part because I soon found myself as a caregiver dealing with my now-ex's and now-deceased father's medical situations (it's super common, alas, for major medical events to drive wedges between people). Farther down the timeline of this story, my ex became, well, an ex, and of course his medical situation contributed to our situation. Things can change that none of us anticipate, especially medically, and a huge proportion of people will at some point experience a serious or even disabling medical event. You know what, though? None of that changes the fact that at the time I got married, I cared a lot about my friend and I wanted to acknowledge how important she was to me, and I never would have put her through what your friend is putting you through. Experiencing things like this gives you perspective that hopefully your friend won't have to earn the hard way. (Also, for what it's worth, I didn't require my bridesmaids to buy any particular kind of dress, because I respected their bodily autonomy and that they were very different people with very different bodies and very different situations and I left the choice of dress up to them. They looked beautiful.)

So back to the sunk costs: The bride would have had to pay these costs anyway, and you did your best to let her know your changed situation well ahead of time. I don't feel like it's right or appropriate of her to try to get any of those costs back with your present situation. As someone noted above, if, God forbid, you had died, would this friend be trying to get the cost of your dress back from your estate? If you had been seriously injured the day before the wedding and could no longer be in the wedding at that point, would they be trying to get the cost of your dress back? Probably not, right? Because that would be socially unacceptable due to circumstances dramatically beyond your control. Well, the current circumstances you're facing (and the world is facing too) are just as beyond your control. The fact that you were able to let her know a bit ahead of time doesn't change that, nor does it change your prior arrangement that she'd pay.

Sure, offer $10 a month or something if you're able to do so. Offer to pay in the future if you feel moved to do so. But I think it's inappropriate and a bit heartless (or maybe clueless?) of her to try to get you to pay for the cost of the dress at this point, even if she just found out she couldn't return it. Them's the breaks when you try to have a fancy wedding in the middle of a once-in-a-generation disaster scenario, all else aside.
posted by limeonaire at 4:09 PM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

I am of the strong opinion that you should never put the responsibility, financial or otherwise, of a wedding - which is an optional party - onto guests, friends, or family. Plus, she agreed that you shouldn't owe for the dress. She can attempt to sell the dress to recoup money or find someone of a similar size to wear it and cover some expense. But it was her choice to have a big party with purchased dresses, not yours.

The pandemic and surgery are extreme stressors including on money. I just spend thousands on my surgery even with insurance. If this person cannot understand that, then they don't seem like a compassionate acquaintance anyway. Including even having a wedding now.

Agreed with "I am sorry, but it's not possible for me to cover any cost of the dress. Best wishes."
posted by Crystalinne at 4:14 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I agree that you don’t have responsibility to pay for the dress. I paid for my bridesmaids’ dresses. And she’s being pretty narrow here. I’ll assume she’s not at her best.

That said, I think a middle ground would be to send her the equivalent of the alterations, which is a way to split it and remind her she’d said she’d pay for the dress. Whether you do that or not just really depends on how onerous that is and whether it will make you feel better.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:57 PM on August 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Since you and bride are both under a lot of stress right now, maybe you can punt the issue. Say, "bride, I understand where you're coming from but I don't have a job right now. I can pay you for the dress once I get settled in a new job. "

That makes you "even" and satisfies the bride's anxiety. She might write back, no, don't worry about it. Or she will ask for half. Either way it resolves the stress around the issue and keeps it from hanging over either of your heads.

As for the money, you're saving by not attending and paying for associated expenses, so paying for the dress ( when you have income again), is getting off cheaper than you originally expected.

I do think there are costs to be borne for cancelling, and while you have excellent reasons for doing so, you didn't want to say yes to being a bridesmaid in the first place and should have stuck to your initial answer. She shouldn't have cajoled you, but you are only responsible for you.

Good luck with your surgery!
posted by perdhapley at 4:59 PM on August 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: A few more very important details that came to mind as I thought about it more later on in the day:

She (the bride) knew I was out of work when she asked me about being a bridesmaid this past Spring. I initially told told her I wouldn't be able to participate for financial reasons, ergo her offering to pay for the dress herself (and that would I cover the alterations, of course). In spite of the expenses that would be involved, I agreed.

Then she cancelled the wedding, about about 2 weeks later. Her fiancee is a raging, screaming, abusive douchebag and she decided she didn’t want to go through with it. Everything was put on hold indefinitely.

Suddenly, without conversing with anyone in the wedding party (most of whom were aware of the abusive situation), the wedding invitations showed up in the mail at the end (the end!) of May… for an end of August wedding. When I messaged her about the wedding being back on, she gave the song and dance about how much he’s changed and is going to make it work, etc.

None of the other members of the wedding party knew when the big date was until the invitations showed up in the mail. It didn’t give ANYone, no matter how involved, much of a chance to make the appropriate preparations (less than 3 months to plan the entire thing). In other words, this is not the kind of wedding that’s taken years, or even many months, to prepare for. It wasn’t officially a thing until about 2 and a half months ago.

As far as my surgery, it is the second major procedure I will have done this year. I was in outpatient surgery at the end of June as well.

I have not received unemployment; family is helping me out in the interim, and the onus of paying for a wedding dress should not be on them, even in the short term.
posted by chatelaine at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2020 [16 favorites]

lol these bridezilla questions are always entertaining.

No, OP, you have no obligation to pay for the dress. You never said you would. And you have nothing to feel guilty for in regards to not performing as bridesmaid.

This woman probably had to ask you to be a bridesmaid because this nonsense is representative of how she treats her friends. Maybe she's just hoping you have the $$ to spare. But you don't. So just tell her sorry, you hope she can get someone else to fit it, and forget about this whole thing. (She'll probably strongarm someone else, she has the dress after all, and get them to pay for their alterations.)

And don't say yes to bridesmaiding for randos anymore.

And good luck with your surgery.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:32 PM on August 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

Yep, those are some relevant details!

Sounds like this friendship is no loss; you don't respect this woman, her partner, or her choices.

I'd stick with phunniemee's response ("I'm sorry, that won't be possible") and go with peace to your surgery.
posted by librarylis at 5:45 PM on August 17, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Came to say "anyone expecting people to get on a plane for non-essential reasons is incredibly selfish" and then read your follow-up. Yikes.

Listen: everyone I know has cancelled or downsized their wedding to a handful of people. Every. One.

Like, oh, EVERY OTHER INDUSTRY, the wedding industry is in a pause and will recover, somehow, sometime. That someone could not see this is beyond me, but she is probably in a world of (self-made, granted) hurt right now.

So, no, you're not an asshole. I would be suspicious of this wedding even without the surgery and unemployment.

I would send a sincere apology note on paper and offer to uphold your end of the bargain-- the cost of alterations-- as soon as it is financially possible for you to do so.

Good luck with the surgery and job hunt, you are amazingly together to be putting this fire out right now.
posted by athirstforsalt at 6:09 PM on August 17, 2020 [7 favorites]

Omg. Retracted. Don't offer to pay. Wipe your hands of this whole affair.
posted by perdhapley at 6:47 PM on August 17, 2020 [3 favorites]

You are unemployed and facing surgery. This person has no concern for you. DON'T agree to pay a dime. What if the pandemic doesn't 'just disappear'? What if you don't find employment? What if you run out of savings? What if there are complications with your surgery? You can bet if you agree to pay, this is the type of woman that would hold you to it, even to the point of pursuing legal fees.

This woman who apparently has plenty of money to throw a big bucks wedding and has zero concern for the Covid protocols. She doesn't have much empathy for individuals that she is supposedly friends with, or the rest of society, evidently. She told you she would pay for the dress. You had an agreement. Write a polite note, "I'm sorry, that reimbursement will not be possible. Best wishes."
posted by BlueHorse at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2020

It sounds like the bride wanted you to fill out the numbers as much as for your presence at this occasion. How expensive is the dress? Did bridesmaids have a say in selecting it? If the bride selected 'bridesmaid' dresses from a wedding supplier, they tend to be very expensive and hard to wear again. They make bridesmaids into a decorative backdrop. If it's a dress that that you picked from a fair selection, in a non-hideous color, could you consider wearing it again, unironically? didn't think so.

Your update, OMG. Trainwreck.

Realistically, you can't pay for the dress. You've got medical issues to deal with. Write an incredibly heartfelt note, on a card, not email. Send a check as a wedding gift, if you can, and explain that you simply can't pay for the dress because it's just not possible, and you feel bad, but you have medical expenses, and you wish it could be different but, Covid, and you wish her the very best and hope she can understand that you are in a difficult place.

Srsly, an actual friend would be organizing a gofundme for your health care and telling you not to worry about the dress, just get well. This is MeFi, we're your imaginary friends on the web - Don't worry about the dress, just get well.
posted by theora55 at 7:05 PM on August 17, 2020 [10 favorites]

If I may, you are so NTA on this one.
posted by signal at 7:31 PM on August 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Ok I have been thinking about you: I also want to say that no one would put a real friend through this ringer, so don't feel too bad about whatever her next moves are. They are not likely to be gracious or compassionate.

I suggested a paper note because she needs time to cool off. Hopefully after the wedding, she'll be more clear-headed. But I wanted to write back in and say that, based in what you write, I know this lady, and she is a drama llama. Do! not! let her steal your energy while you are recovering from surgery. You are obviously sensitive and kind, otherwise you wouldn't have posted this question. Which, I fear, might be precisely what is making you the target of her energy vampirism. This, I bet, is the root problem, which she will attempt to continue in another form once the dress money is settled. I sincerely hope not, though.
posted by athirstforsalt at 7:39 PM on August 17, 2020 [8 favorites]

This may be helpful or not but if you decide to buy the dress from her you can try to sell it on
posted by DixieBaby at 8:51 PM on August 17, 2020

Oh my lordt please make sure you include all relevant details next time! GOD NO do not pay her for this dress! You dodged a BULLET....
posted by tristeza at 9:32 PM on August 17, 2020

Best answer: I was coming in to say something and saw your additional info and just...yikes. YIKES. But I think it's still valid: this was a sunk cost. She was already purchasing the dress, the only thing you were purchasing was the cost of the alterations (and the other ridiculous bridezillian expectations). So it doesn't matter if you are there or not--she would have spent the money on the dress, regardless. In one scenario you go to the wedding and wear the dress; in this scenario you excuse yourself from the wedding and don't wear it. No one else is wearing the dress in either one.

If you're like me and tend to feel guilty about everything, you could always offer to give her the alterations cost at a later date, because you are having surgery and are unemployed right now. But to be honest, it might not be worth it, and you might feel guilty now but in a few months will have forgotten about it. It sounds like she just found out about the no return sale, and is trying to force the issue, and things are spiraling out of control for her. That's not your problem, you've got plenty of your own to deal with.

Take care of yourself, I wish you well in this and in your surgery.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 9:35 PM on August 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Don't argue, just don't pay. If you want to be passive-aggressive about it, tell her you need an installment plan because you can't sell plasma that often...
posted by 445supermag at 9:36 PM on August 17, 2020 [1 favorite]

Send her paperwork that shows your anxiety levels and heart rate are through the roof due to this and have contributed to your medical costs. The doctors say it’s due to all the wedding stress. Strangely, the medical bill for that is about the same as what an unworn bridesmaid’s dress costs. You can either call it even or if she continues to create stress about this, you’ll forward any future costs to her address.

Just kidding.

You get that this friendship is dead, regardless of what you do at this point, right? Just tell her that she offered to pay for the dress and you accepted. You’ve since returned it unworn, it’s no longer your dress, you hope her new bridesmaid will enjoy her brand new outfit and you’re sorry you can’t attend the wedding. But no, you won’t be paying.
posted by Jubey at 11:02 PM on August 17, 2020

After the update I have to double-underline my cosign of jello's theory that you were a last-minute add. She's acting like this in a pandemic year during which you've lost your job and had two major surgeries? After saying she'd pay for the dress? DUDE. These are not the actions of a friend, not even close. She has the dress she offered to pay for; your obligation to her is fulfilled. Walk away with a clean conscience and save your mental energy for surgery recovery.

(I would be willing to bet that the current dress shakedown coincides with the bride having reached the end of her list of potential alternate bridesmaids with no takers.)
posted by Vervain at 1:15 AM on August 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

I think everyone has you covered - but I came in just to say this: I would not want to put myself in a situation where any payment I made was deferred to some point in the future. Having this situation ongoing seems like the worst of all possible worlds - if it were me, whatever I decided to do would be done now. If I paid her something (I don’t think you should FWIW) I would view that as the price I would be prepared to pay for never having to think about her sorry mess of a wedding ever again. If I decided not to pay her anything (the right course in my view), then the decision would be made and the consequences can fall where they may.

Good luck with your surgery - here’s to a speedy recovery
posted by JJZByBffqU at 1:39 AM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Followup analysis: your friend can't control her shitty abusive fiance or the impact of the pandemic on her wedding, so she's nickel-and-diming you on wedding costs to regain her sense of control.

Take a moment to feel sorry for her, and if you have a mutual friend who's attending the wedding and can be trusted not to stir up drama, you should definitely schedule a call with them afterward to hear a blow-by-blow recap of this trainwreck of a wedding. Truly a bullet dodged.
posted by toastedcheese at 6:08 AM on August 18, 2020 [12 favorites]

I'm wondering if she was thinking of the price of the dress as money she was paying to have a bridesmaid, now that you're not attending she feels resentful about paying without getting a bridesmaid prop in return.

I'd message her and say, I'm sorry about falling ill at such an important time in your life. I really wanted to be there for you but I was not even at the best of times able to pay for the dress you ordered and with my current situation I'm even less able to contribute. I hope you understand.
posted by M. at 8:55 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Cut ties, block her number, mentally wish her well, and move on with focusing on your surgery. Your obligation was over when you mailed back the dress.
posted by topophilia at 5:07 PM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, that follow-up: Damn! I concur heartily with the analysis by toastedcheese a few comments up. She’s sunk all this expense and planning and love into an abusive jerk of a man, and so she’s trying to recoup those costs elsewhere by being a jerk to you.

I had a friend who got like this with our whole friend group after she got back together with the monster who threatened to kill her. She probably would have chopped us up and fed us to him as a smoothie if he’d asked her to. We could do no right, and the bullying she handed down to us ultimately turned into an abuse of its own. Even close, reciprocal friendships seldom survive this kind of dynamic. (Silver lining: she is still alive; cloud: the monster and the friendships are not. Long story.)

And yeah, we can feel sorry for the bride. I guarantee she’s alienating other people, and I hope for her sake that embarrassment and a quick divorce are the worst things that come of it. But the price of a gown can’t save her, and neither can you.

Focus on your own recovery. You sound like a good person and the world needs you.
posted by armeowda at 8:44 PM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

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