We don't let fuckups be bridesmaids in this wedding.
January 24, 2008 10:29 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with not asking a close friend to be in your wedding because you don't think she's responsible enough?

One of my best friends is incredibly unreliable. I always assumed she'd be in my wedding, but when it came time to actually decide who should be in it, I realized that she would almost certainly show up hours late if she made it at all. Even if she did manage to be on time, I'd spend the months leading up to the wedding worrying about whether we'd have to hold up the wedding for her, and my fiance would be pretty peeved as he thinks she's an unconscionable flake. I mean, I agree that she's very flaky and has let me down in small ways many times, but what can I say. I love her anyway once she does show up and usually I just plan around her - bring a book when I'm going to meet her, etc. I've learned not to let it bother me. It just doesn't really work that way with a band of dozens of friends and relatives waiting.

I don't know how to talk to her about it without saying "I don't want you to be in my wedding because I don't believe you won't screw it up and I don't want to put the pressure on both of us that comes with that disbelief"...but that's exactly what I'd be saying.

I know that this basically amounts to whether I trust her or not - and I'd trust her with my life in so many situations, I just don't trust her not to oversleep, forget, or have some kind of OCD episode that renders her unable to bring herself to leave the house for hours. You see what I'm contending with here.

I know this is something I need to actually talk about with her, but I feel so guilty and weird about it that I don't even know how to bring it up. For all I know, she may react with relief, but I think she'll definitely be hurt. Any ideas about how to deal with this delicate situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
See if you can find another important role she can do ahead of time, as you prepare for the wedding, that she can play a big part in. Does she have any kind of design or crafty skill? Maybe she can design invitations or favors or centerpieces. Maybe she can design a website for the wedding or if she's a bit of a photographer, she can document the whole wedding preparation process for you to put in an album. Whatever you think of, you can do a special thank you to her for at the reception and in the program.

I still think you need to talk to her. Is her tardiness/flakiness something she acknowledges? Is it something you may have joked about or even had a discussion about previously? That may be how you approach this with her.
posted by jerseygirl at 10:41 PM on January 24, 2008

If the issue is really just logistics, what if you arranged a sleepover beforehand with the ladies in the wedding party, so that you all dressed and went to the venue together?
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:43 PM on January 24, 2008

Next time she's flaky (skips a movie or whatever), don't get mad at her, even if she deserves it. Just be cool and hang out, soften her up. Then steer the conversation to bridesmaids and how it's a hassle (for instance, tell an anecdote about a made-up friend from work who's having a tough time being a bridesmaid). Then tell her you really want her to be involved in your wedding but you know sometimes she lives in her own timezone (think of a funny way to phrase this so it doesn't sting too much). Tell her you don't care, you love her anyway, and you want her to be a part of the day. Then ask how she'd like to be involved in the wedding. Maybe with the example of her most recent flake out right there, she'll be considerate and bow out of the time-sensitive jobs.

Examples of things she could do that won't be dependent on her flakiness:

Help you choose a seating plan, flowers, menu, design for invitations, bonbonieres, etc
Help you the day you send the invitations or thank you cards
Make the wedding day ipod playlist (give her a due date a couple weeks early)
Take advantage of her creativity- have her write a poem, make art, or something like that ahead of time, that you incorporate into the wedding without her having to be there- put the poem on the menus, or hang the art over the guestbook or something
Have her say grace before the meal (even if she's late, she'll be there in time for dinner).

Then make sure to thank her profusely, mention her lovingly in your speech, and draw attention to whatever she contributed.

My best girlfriend has a flakey hippie sister who skipped every single bridesmaid outing- even the shower- and it was a huge source of stress. On the wedding day, the sister said grace, and that became her main contribution- it was a good compromise. If you think even having to say grace will stress your friend out, drop it on her at the last second- like in the limo from the church to the hall, so she has 20 mins to prepare and not freak out about it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:43 PM on January 24, 2008

invite her to your wedding but do not delay anything in the ceremony or the dinner on her account.

whether we'd have to hold up the wedding for her no, no no - a thousand times no.

it is YOUR day. proceed according to your schedule - if she misses anything, it's her loss.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:48 PM on January 24, 2008

It's just a bridesmaid.... can't you invite her, and then start without her if she does flake out?
posted by pompomtom at 10:50 PM on January 24, 2008 [10 favorites]

What pompomtom said. It's not as if she's your maid of honour, and the whole symmetry thing is really overrated.
posted by Phire at 10:52 PM on January 24, 2008

I just told my best friend that I didn't want her as a bridesmaid for totally (like, night and day) different reasons. I was scared to death to do it, but she was totally understanding and also seemed relieved. This is your friend! On some level she probably knows this is a bad idea just as much as you do. If you have really "always" assumed she'd be in your wedding then you have known each other for long enough that she knows you and you know her and you both know why this is a bad idea. Especially if the OCD isn't an exaggeration.

I mean, maybe don't call this one a fuckup when you talk to her. And maybe she lacks self-knowledge and will completely lose it. People can be nuts about weddings, as I have learned.
posted by crinklebat at 10:55 PM on January 24, 2008

There's a lot of good advice already, but if it's feasible, I think LobsterMitten's solution is quite elegant.

If she manages to miss the sleepover, though, you'd have to be prepared to move on with the day without her.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:57 PM on January 24, 2008

If having her as a bridesmaid is too stressful, how about having her as an usher? That's the ultimate no-planning-needed anyone-can-substitute position.
posted by tkolar at 11:01 PM on January 24, 2008

We don't let fuckups be bridesmaids in this wedding.

is this really about convenience / etc, or do you want to make a point to her?
posted by mdn at 11:04 PM on January 24, 2008

I actually think what you've told us is basically okay to say. I think being direct is good because it gives her some feedback about what impact her actions have, as long as you can do it kindly.

You're one of my best friends, I always assumed you'd be in my wedding. *smile apologetically because you're about to say something kinda hard* We both know there have been many times where you didn't show up on time, or for some reason couldn't leave the house for hours, or you forgot to come. At times, it's been a bit frustrating on me, but what can I say. I love you anyway when you do show up, and I've learned not to let it bother me.

But it just doesn't really work that way at a wedding, with a band of dozens of friends and relatives waiting. I don't want you to be in my wedding party because I don't believe you won't screw it up would be too concerned that you wouldn't be there when I thought you would be. There have been times when you've followed through and things have gone just as I thought they would, and it's very possible that for this special event, you'd be there on time and everything would go smoothly. But I'd just be too worried that they might not. And I don't want to put the pressure on both of us that comes with that disbelief.

Instead, I was hoping you would _____. You are the perfect person to do this because ___. And it's a really important and meaningful part of the event because ___.

posted by salvia at 11:22 PM on January 24, 2008

Can you delicately assign the wrangling of your flaky friend to another friend/bridesmaid? As in "I would love to have X there with me and don't want to have to worry about the logistics of that. Can you manage that for me so I don't have to worry? I'm so grateful for your assistance and discretion with this, thanks!"
posted by judith at 11:34 PM on January 24, 2008

I have a group of girlfriends in Brisbane and one girl is just like your friend - she's perpetually late. We joke about it with her, so it's nothing malicious. The one time she was earlier than everyone else, it was a miracle.

Is there any way to sorta trick her into coming early - for example, giving her deadlines that are about a couple of hours earlier than everyone else's? (Though if she's anything like my delayed friend, she'd manage to be even later than usual!) Otherwise I would agree with everyone else who suggests giving her a different role that doesn't depend on timing.
posted by divabat at 12:22 AM on January 25, 2008

Why not get her to do a reading? And if she doesn't turn up, no harm is done... either it doesn't get read, or you ask someone else to read it who is also doing another reading.

Poor possums, unreliable friends are stressful for everyone involved.
posted by taff at 2:03 AM on January 25, 2008

Maybe it's just me, but if you already talk about her flakiness to her face (since she has a track record of being unreliable -- I mean really, you bring a book!?) then you should be able to say that you want her to attend, but it'll be too stressful to have her in a position that demands she show up on time and/or execute some important thing in a timely fashion.

If you don't already talk to her about this, however, you should -- and not just about your wedding. You love her "anyway", and presumably she loves you, but either she doesn't realize how inconsiderate she's being or she doesn't care. If it's the former, giving her a clue might help her change her ways in time to assist in the wedding, and if it's the latter...well, not sure what to say, other than "with friends like that..."

Incidentally, my sister's best friend's reception was delayed TWO HOURS because her selfish, attention-whore mother left the ceremony without telling anyone to "get ready" for the reception -- and her daughter was frantic trying to figure out where she'd gone, thinking her mother got lost on the way to the reception or had gotten upset and left. Phone calls to the house went unanswered, but finally a family member drove back to the mother's house and found her there, half-ready and not willing to leave the house, claiming to be upset about something she refused to describe. They practically had to drag her out, and when she arrived she pretended like nothing had happened...but her daughter was miserable.

So perhaps I'm projecting a bit, but I'd personally strive to avoid putting unreliable/flaky/disrespectful people in any position from which they might spoil my wedding.
posted by davejay at 2:15 AM on January 25, 2008

Could you make her your personal attendant? She'd still sort of be in the wedding party, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if she wasn't on time (assuming, of course, you weren't going to rely on a personal attendant).
posted by christinetheslp at 3:26 AM on January 25, 2008

If she's your friend and you truly are friends, let her be a part of your wedding. Whatever she does will add flavour to the day, excluding her may really hurt her feelings, and you'll (well if you were me) feel like a jerk for the rest of your life.

Grit your teeth and hope for the best.
posted by mattoxic at 3:32 AM on January 25, 2008

did she have any expectation of participating in your wedding, or is it just you assuming you would ask her?

i would say in a light tone, "so, i've decided to spare you the agony of being a bridesmaid, but i'd still love it if you could be there with us for the bachelorette party and while we get dressed."

that way she gets included in the fun stuff (as a friend should be) but won't ruin anything if she doesn't show up.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:38 AM on January 25, 2008

No insult to the OP, but IMO (and nobody agrees with me on this, lol), weddings are nothing more than a public and legal way to share your commitment to your SO. You've already made that commitment to each other, I mean, you're engaged, right? What's the incredibly big deal if she is late, or your symmetry is off? I honestly can't imagine "losing sleep for months" before your wedding because you thought someone might show up late. Also, there's a big difference between meeting for coffee and being a bridesmaid, you know?

If you care enough about her that you've always pictured her in your ceremony, then you're cheating yourself and her by not inviting her to do so. Many many many women I know who are bridesmaids get together 5 or 7 HOURS before the ceremony to make sure they're primped and primed in time, or they all go get their haaar did together, and then go eat lunch, or whatever. Get her to them waaaay early and let them herd her in the right direction. Hell, have a sleepover with her and another friend the night before. That's pretty common too.

In the mean time, calm down. If you believe in God, he's not going to be upset about a late service (you already made your commitment to him), and if someone else is going to be mad, SCREW 'EM---it's your day. If your schedule is so tight that 15 minutes is going to throw it off or a missing person is going to screw up the whole event, then maybe you should calm down on the planning a little bit. But then I'm weird and I don't see weddings as really *such* the big deal.
posted by TomMelee at 5:48 AM on January 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

If it would mean a lot to you to have her there and you haven't totally made up your mind to not include her:

I read in one of the wedding books that when you ask people, you're supposed to be frank about your expectations with them, so neither of you gets up in arms about offenses that you didn't realize you committed. You can ask her and say that your only expectation is that she show up at the salon at 10 a.m. with shoes, dress and jewelry (or whatever). Secretly, you should resolve with yourself that if she doesn't show, the "show" must go on regardless. I have been to at least two weddings where a member of the wedding party wasn't able to make it for some reason or another. The ceremony still occurred, the people still got married, everyone still danced. Life goes on.

The added bonus of a "meet at X for hair/makeup" is that, like LobsterMitten's suggestion, it gets her there far earlier than you actually need her. If you rely on her to show up at 5 for a 6 p.m. wedding, who knows what will happen.

I would hope that your friend will recognize that being late for a wedding she is a bridesmaid in is a little different than being late for dinner with you. Good luck, whatever road you take.
posted by ml98tu at 6:15 AM on January 25, 2008

I'm not really clear on why it would be such a big deal if she didn't show up on time. Just ask her to be a bridesmaid, tell her as clearly as possible that she has to be on time, and proceed without her if she doesn't show up. Don't "rely" on her -- if she's not there, just head up the aisle without her.
posted by footnote at 6:20 AM on January 25, 2008

Agree with TomMelee - being a bridesmaid is in a completely different category from meeting for coffee. I'm sure your friend has a similar POV. I'm 5-10 mins late for things like coffee more often than I'd like to admit, but I'm bang on time for everything else.

Just be honest with her. It's better she understands what you're feeling rather than wondering why you "meant" by not inviting her or by minimising her role completely. Ask her if she wants to be your bridesmaid, given you're already stressing a bit. She also probably knows she tends to run late. You won't be telling her something she doesn't already know.

She's your friend, so you owe her the chance to buck up. If she misses rehearsals and all the other million and one appointments she'd have to go to with you as part of the wedding party/planning, you'll know if she's really a hopeless flake or not. If so, you can have a talk with her about time commitments and ask her to do something different in the wedding. You don't need to be a bitch about it when and if you tell her.

But still, give her a chance. She's your friend, after all. If she is late to pre-wedding appointments and you tell her how its stressing you out, she'll feel terrible about it. She probably understands more than you realise.

Getting married is stressful enough without going through all the "white lie" subterfuges and the stress that can come off of them. You're going to need to get a stomach for telling people things they may not like to hear in a way that won't offend them - and that's just with people RSVPing guests at the reception!

Best of luck to you on your special day.
posted by Grrlscout at 6:37 AM on January 25, 2008

Definitely the nicest thing to do is to assign her something that is/sounds important, but can be easily replaced by someone else or not missed at all if she's late or not there. Maybe you can make her "one of several" photographers (if that's in line with her interests and personality)...tell her up front that you want to get every possible moment recorded, so you're having a couple different photographers, you know, one to catch all the normal formal shots, and so on, and you want her especially to look for the cute, candid moments, if she would be willing to do that for your wedding?

I would totally skip the talk about how you don't trust her to be on time, or mentioning that you thought she was going to be a bridesmaid but as it turns out no, there's no way to have that conversation without upsetting her, and I promise you that even having that conversation won't change her personality, so you'll have upset her and accomplished nothing...kind of a jerky thing to do. (Not saying that her not being on time is OK, but two wrongs != right.)
posted by anaelith at 6:41 AM on January 25, 2008

Is she the kind of person who can manage to be on time if it's really, really, really important?

You can tell her you want her to be in your wedding, but note that there's a lot of "seriously, I mean it" on-time stuff. As ml98tu reminded, be frank about your expectations. And have an alternate role ready to offer so that she can graciously pick a way that will be more comfortable for both of you without it sounding like an ultimatum or a consolation prize.

If she decides that she wants to be a bridesmaid and is still late to some stuff, you're going to need to remind yourself to chill out. Every time she does something a little flaky, remind yourself that one flaky bridesmaid is not going to stop you from getting married, it's not going to prevent a beautiful wedding, it's not going to "ruin" anything that is truly important.

And no, don't hold up the wedding for her if she's late. No-one remembers to care if there's a name in the program without a corresponding chick at the altar unless it's the bride.
posted by desuetude at 6:44 AM on January 25, 2008

Are you sure that she wants to be in the wedding? If she knows that she is always late and has trouble leaving the house, it might be just as stressful for her to think that she would absolutely have to show up on time or else ruin your special day, as it is for you.

Speaking personally, my best girl friend married a couple years ago, and we both knew that I would not want to be in the ceremony due to stress (on both sides). She did carefully bring it up with me, and I appreciated that she was thinking of me and concerned enough to ask about it, but glad that I could just watch and not be expected to do anything.

If you think she wants to participate, I would bring up your concerns gently but directly. If it is really OCD that keeps her from showing up on time, then she likely will be more stressed if you put more pressure on her. Tell her you would be delighted to have her in the wedding party, but also it would be great to have her just in the audience, and that your show will go on, on time, with or without her. And so if she shows up on time it will be wonderful, but if she is too late then it will be just as wonderful to see her at the reception. Don't make her role seem so important to her that she will definitely have an OCD episode trying to make herself perfect for your ceremony. I don't know what kind of person she is, but hopefully she will be just happy for you to have your day, with or without her in the party.
posted by veronitron at 6:52 AM on January 25, 2008

In short: What LobsterMitten said.

Long version: My wife had a very similar situation with one of her friends, but she decided to go ahead and ask her to be a bridesmaid, and they all had a "sleepover" at the maid-of-honor's house. (And by "sleepover" I mean they ordered pizza, bought an old copy of "Girl Talk" off eBay, etc. - there were junior bridesmaids there, too.)

Needless to say, said bridesmaid did show up late, but my wife's maid-of-honor rode her ass on my wife's behalf all the next day, making for an on-time wedding.

So, if you have a maid-of-honor who also happens to be your own version of Monica Gellar, that would be an extra bonus.
posted by po822000 at 7:03 AM on January 25, 2008

Had a similar situation at my wedding. Asked the kind of person described above to be maid of honor. The wedding was destination for close friends since I moved countries.

She did not book her tickets until a few weeks before. (I had given her an opportunity to gracefully bow out - if her life was too stressful, another friend could fill - no, of course she wanted to be there.)

She invited a random person I didn't know to the wedding a few days before her flight. No big deal.

We drove for 3 hours to pick her up from the airport, 2 days before the wedding, only to find her not there. We later found out they had rented a car and didn't bother telling us. Didn't know if she arrived or not. People kept asking us about her arrival when we returned from the airport and we just had to say we don't know.

She was supposed to be staying at our house but didn't. Happened to be staying at a hotel where other friends and relatives were staying and happened to run in to her a day later. she didn't call or email to let us know she was there.

I yelled at her for about 10 minutes. She didn't realize she had done anything wrong.

I told her about the girl's night out, which was the next time I saw her, the following morning she was also early/ on time for the morning of the wedding.

Another bridesmaid did anything required of a maid of honor. Ended up being fun, a great wedding and I even enjoyed her presence.

Lesson: Do not underestimate the ways in which such a person can f*ck up. You may not be creative enough to imagine it.

I don't really think there is a good way to not have them be in the wedding party unless you are willing to sever the friendship. Agree with above ideas about having someone else babysit the person and making pre-wedding stuff group events.

In the end, before I knew if she arrived / was arriving, I made peace with how events would turn out either way.
posted by terrortubby at 8:11 AM on January 25, 2008

Basically what a lot of people have said: ask her to do something else. But I wouldn't preface it by saying "this is why I don't want you to be a bridesmaid." Just leave the bridesmaid part out of it.

I do find it hard to believe, unless she has an alcohol or substance abuse problem, that she would be late or miss a *wedding she's participating in*, though. As others have suggested, you could have everyone stay in a hotel together the night before the wedding, or you could have the wedding-day show-up time be hours earlier than the wedding itself (which you'd probably do anyway).

Or you could not have the tribe of bridesmaids, and just have a maid/matron of honor. :) (That's the way I'll go if I ever go.) One maid of honor, one best man ... less fuss.
posted by iguanapolitico at 8:14 AM on January 25, 2008

One of my bridesmaids was exactly like this. I tried the sleepover idea. She called 4 hours after we had all agreed to meet for dinner to say that she was "running late" and would be sleeping at her boyfriend's house instead. I asked her to meet us for hair/makeup at 9 am (the actual appointment was at 10:30). When she hadn't shown up at 11, I started calling her, but her phone was turned off, no one answered at the boyfriend's house, and her mom didn't know where she was. She finally called at 4:00 to say that she had overslept and was "running late," but that she would do her own hair and makeup and be there on time for the wedding. Which was at 5:30. She actually showed up as we were lining up to go down the aisle. After the ceremony, she sat in the corner and made out with her boyfriend for the entire reception.

Wedding days are stressful, even if you're a pretty laid back bride. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't ask her to be in the wedding at all. I didn't care at all about symmetry or anything like that, but I still worried about her all damn day. People who are habitually hours late are fundamentally inconsiderate, and they don't really care if they ruin your day/event/plans/whatever. I wouldn't ask her and I wouldn't apologize for it.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:35 AM on January 25, 2008

iguanapolitico, if the OP was being serious about her friend having OCD, then it could be highly likely that she'd be late, depending on the type of OCD she had. Some people with OCD have to look perfect due to their disorder and spend hours adjusting to look -just so- before leaving the house. And so especially for an event like a wedding, that could make her very late. But I can't tell if the OCD comment was an aside, or serious.
posted by veronitron at 8:38 AM on January 25, 2008

I tend to think that it would be possible for her to be in the wedding, you'd just have to keep tabs on her.

In fact, you should talk to your friend and see if you can work out some kind of system.
posted by delmoi at 8:47 AM on January 25, 2008

In the future, do you want to look at your wedding photos and not have one of your "best friends" be in the photos. Can you talk to her about? Can you say, "Hey, I need you to commit to being on time for this event."

If you can't, then the be respectful enough to be honest with her. "My fiance thinks you're a flake and I think you're unreliable. I'm not willing to take a risk on you ruining my wedding." I'll leave it to your discretion whether you'd like to call her a fuckup to her face.

At first, she'll be hurt. Then she'll realize she dodged a bullet. She didn't have to waste time, energy and money on your wedding.
posted by 26.2 at 9:17 AM on January 25, 2008

My best friend de-bridesmaided me because she didn't think I was committed enough to the wedding (I was deeply engrossed in the first year of my PhD, had just moved to a new city, and was having a very hard time juggling my obligations). It really hurt me, I have to say. Many tearful conversations and recriminations later, I was re-bridesmaided (the only maids were me and her two sisters). Honestly, it was a wakeup call to me about how I had been selfish and needed to step up. The wedding was awesome, and I spent all my time with the bride (helped her get dressed, had our hair/makeup done together, spent two hours before the ceremony eating Tostito's in our formals and watching Pretty In Pink on TBS) and it was a really, really meaningful experience for our friendship.

Perhaps telling your friend your concerns will make her step up to the plate, perhaps it won't, but I would at least give her the opportunity. There is a big difference between meeting someone for dinner and being in a wedding ceremony.
posted by alicetiara at 9:53 AM on January 25, 2008

In a related (but non-wedding) scenario, I'm in a professional band, and we had one guy who was perpetually late. Rehearsals, meetings, gigs - no matter the location or the importance - he was always at least half an hour late, up to several HOURS late. We had talks, strategies, begging, pleading. [And please note that this was the most straight-laced guy you could ever meet, so please banish any stereotypes you may have about musicians in general being slackers. As a professional musician for YEARS, this has never been my experience.] But he claimed though he knew this was a massive problem that was affecting him personally and professionally, he had no control over it. Then we got a gig opening for The Persuasions. He showed up AFTER WE WERE TO HAVE TAKEN THE STAGE. The Persuasions went on because we couldn't perform without our missing guy.

Bottom line, and I didn't believe it until I lived it with this guy for a few years (after which we fired him for this very reason), is that some people seem to have a greater interest or impetus in doing whatever the hell they're doing than in being on time, NO MATTER THE IMPORTANCE OF THE EVENT. There seems to be no correlation, so saying "don't worry - she's knows how important it is and she'll show up" just may not be the case. It's wishful thinking, it's how thoughtful friends SHOULD behave, but some don't. So in order to spare the OP the agony of wondering whether or not she'll show up, I'm solidly in the camp of people who suggest the wedding be planned such that her presence or absence won't change anything.
posted by FlyByDay at 9:59 AM on January 25, 2008

I wouldn't let her do anything in the wedding that can't be done without. Seriously. You don't need to be worrying about her flaking, and it sounds 99% guaranteed that she will. Doesn't sound like she's capable of sucking it up, and others have pointed out how wonky these things can go. Friendship or not, that's too much stress to throw in on top of everything else, I think.

Is she the type who expects to be in the wedding and/or will be offended if she's not? If so, I'd explain it to her, or if she asks. If she doesn't, I wouldn't give her the "You're too late to be a bridesmaid" talk, I'd just say, "Hey, how's about you uh...babysit the guestbook?"
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:33 PM on January 25, 2008

We don't need to solve her; this is a one-time logistical issue.

Ask her to be a bridesmaid, but offer her a way out (like saying grace). Make it clear that it is important to you that she be on time.

If she accepts, discreetly explain the situation to a friend (ideally another member of the wedding party) and ask for her help in keeping tabs on your bridesmaid. Bonus if this person already knows your friend's habits.

Have a bridesmaid's sleepover the night before, and if possible, arrange for someone (ideally a friend of hers) to keep track of her the day before the wedding, pick her up and bring her to the sleepover. Once you have her with you, your friend should not have too much difficulty keeping her around on the wedding day.

If she somehow escapes from your clutches before the wedding, just go ahead without her. As noted above, it won't be a big deal. (If it helps ease your stress, presume that she won't make it, and you will need to go ahead without her - her presence will be a pleasant surprise.)
posted by Count Ziggurat at 12:36 PM on January 25, 2008

I'd say ask her to be a bridesmaid, but not one that has a big role to play, so if she doesn't show, there isn't a 'gap' in the ceremony.

Presumably (I have never been a bridesmaid but, to my shame, am a devotee of 'Bridezillas' and 'Rich Bride Poor Bride') there will need to be visits to the store or dressmaker where dresses are chosen/fitted, as well as rehearsals. Make it clear to her that if she doesn't show up to these events on time, she can't be a bridesmaid.

From what you say, it's unlikely she'd turn up either at the proper time or at all for anything, so you have an opportunity, early on, for an 'out' if she doesn't turn up for the preliminary preparations.
posted by essexjan at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2008

Ask her to be in your wedding, but give her an out. "I know you'll be busy around then, so I understand if you can't" - something like that. If she accepts, don't give her anything to do besides show up. I did that for a few of my bridesmaids - not because they're unreliable, but because they live far away and anything else wasn't practical. Above all, don't stress: if she's late, she's late. Don't hold up the wedding or anything; lots of people have uneven bridal parties and your guests probably won't think anything of it. It's easy to get bogged down in pre-wedding details, but really, at the end of the day what will matter to you is that you got to celebrate with people you care about.
posted by AV at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2008

I know I'm double-commenting, but I'm with AV. As long as you don't care about the number of bridesmaids you have, just don't rely on her for anything besides showing up. (The only time I was a bridesmaid that's all I had to do, because the wedding was out of state. Although I don't think the other bridesmaids had much to do, either.) If she really flakes out and doesn't get the dress in time or something like that, then that's that. Though if you really do care about symmetry, it'd be so less stressful to just ask her to be an usher or the person who greets people at the guest book table.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:10 PM on January 25, 2008

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