maid of honor

A Friendly Case of "Maid of Honor Abuse"

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QUESTION

I'm currently my best friend's maid of honor and the entire experience has been painful at best. I've been looking for some advice and support on how to deal with a friendship that's breaking apart due to a bride's behavior but the vast majority of blogs/websites focus on only bridesmaids ruining the wedding or friendship.

I've been friends with the bride for the past twenty years and over the past year of wedding planning, I am certain the friendship is over. In our circle of friends, everyone thought I would be the first to get married (I've been with my partner longer than she has, I’ve wanted to get married while she hasn't, and her proposal was a total surprise). I've put aside my feelings of jealousy and just been happy for my friend, but lately she's been complaining about how hard wedding planning is and it makes me feel like she is taking for granted something I would cherish.

She was never taught etiquette. She, her mother, and her sister are very "laid-back" people who don't care for social niceties. They have asked family and other wedding guests to bring the food; friends are paying for an open bar; they aren't inviting the officiant to the rehearsal because the bride “doesn't want her to say much." They have had one engagement party, a bachelorette weekend away, two bridal showers, and a stag and doe, and have a registry filled with high-priced items.  

At this point, I have paid more for this wedding than the bride and groom have! The mother-of-the-bride has hosted one bridal shower and the engagement party, and emailed invites to these events only days before hand to the bridal party. We all live in separate cities and has even confessed that she didn’t invite the bride's man (a male bridesmaid) until the day before because she doesn't really want him there.

The bride had originally asked me to be in charge of making sure the food gets prepared in time for the buffet dinner (in addition to my maid of honor duties, and making their wedding cake). I told her I thought she should find someone else because the food would need to go into the ovens during the ceremony and I wouldn't be able to do it as I would be standing with her.  

She flipped out and started crying and saying she should have just eloped.  Since then, no matter how much I offer to help she says she's doesn't need it, but she posts on Facebook how stressed she is and how she needs help. I believe she just likes people to feel bad for her. For as long as I've known her she has always played the victim in life and now I realize I just can't handle it anymore.  

I've always been a strong, confident person and just cannot respect this type of "poor me" behavior. I can't say anything because I have to walk on eggshells around her as she's the type to cry over every little confrontation. Over the past four months she hasn't called me and will only email about wedding issues, sometimes she'll add "How are you doing?" and when I reply telling her in about my life, she doesn't reply and the next email I receive is about the wedding.

I'm currently in the process of writing my speech and for the life of me cannot find any words to say, any that would be appropriate at least.
I'm sorry this email is so long and rambling! If you can offer me any advice as to how I can move forward, or how I can get through my speech it would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
One very tired maid of honor

ANSWER

Dear Very Tired Maid of Honor,

I’m so sorry to hear about your experience with your best friend. Brides often are self-absorbed but this one sounds over the top. I’m not sure how much of her narcissism is related to the wedding and how much is related to the bride’s personality and upbringing. It may be the combination of the two that is so punishing.

Accepting the role of maid of honor has put you in the position of witnessing many of your friend’s warts that you may have missed before. (Keep in mind that you may be feeling a bit more sensitive than usual too, because, as you admit, it would be nicer if you were the one walking down the aisle now.)

Please keep your justifiable anger under control, and just get through the wedding and be a very gracious maid of honor. Your speech can be a piece of cake if you talk about how you met, recall the good times you shared together during your long friendship, and wish her the best for the future.

After things have simmered down for both of you, you’ll need to determine whether the friendship is worth salvaging. Hope this is helpful.

Best,
Irene



 

Choosing one over another

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There are many times when girlfriends have to choose one friend over another (for example, you can only have one maid-of-honor)---and decisions like this aren't always easy.

Read Andrea Boyarsky's article in the Staten Island Advance, Delivering the Big Hurt, where she asks me and some other experts to weigh in on the issue...

 

For Better or For Worse: Weddings and Friendship

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Weddings can be taxing to any bride’s friendships. The ceremony and all the planning that leads up to it mark the beginning of an emotionally challenging life transition, and brides-to-be are often placed in the uncomfortable position of having to make choices that can hurt people’s feelings, including that of their closest friends. What are some ways to improve communication, to reduce tension, and to keep things in perspective?

These issues can be so volatile that they can make friendships implode. So I couldn’t think of a better person to talk to about them than my colleague, wedding expert Sharon Naylor). Sharon is the author of over 35 wedding books, including The Bride’s Survival Guide, and has been featured on Good Morning America, Lifetime, ABC News, The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet, and in InStyle Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides, Modern Bride, Southern Bride and many additional magazines. She is the iVillage Weddings expert and Planning in Peace blogger, as well as a top columnist for Bridal Guide.

This is the first in a two-part dialogue with Sharon about friendship and marriage.

What are some of the ways that planning and executing a wedding challenge female friendships?

When a bride invites her female friends to be in the bridal party, it’s a huge honor (“I’m one of the chosen ones!” thinks the bridesmaid, activating old memories of wanting to ‘fit in’ and be accepted as part of a group in junior high school). It’s a big validation both emotionally and publicly, since this bridesmaid will walk in an all-eyes-on-you processional as a Near-and-Dear friend.

Make no mistake. No matter how mature a bridesmaid is, there’s still the thrill of being chosen. But here’s where it gets tricky. Being in a bridal party has a service element to it. It changes the whole dynamic of the bride-bridesmaid relationship because there is now a list of responsibilities included in the title. And expenses. And a personality change in the bride, who – to some degree or other – may want more in the way of support from and control over said friend.

In many ways, the friendship takes on a Boss and Subordinate dynamic, depending on how power-hungry the bride gets. Some brides who have felt powerless in their lives before they get engaged take advantage of the All About Me nature of wedding-planning, and their bridesmaids feel the brunt of her neediness. And all Bridezilla behavior is just neediness. Bridesmaids entwined in a circle around a needy, pushy, controlling bride find that the friendship is tested because the bride is a different person while she’s in this role.

Many bridesmaids who have to deal with drama queen or bossy brides say, “If this was the person I met in high school/college, etc., would I have chosen to be friends with her?” When the bride is texting fifty times a day, yelling at friends, complaining about her groom, being disrespectful to her mother and other heinous actions, bridesmaids are often shocked and offended. Where did THIS person come from? It often makes enough of an impression that the bridesmaid not only questions the friendship but distances herself from it. And then the bride gets angrier, feeling entitled to behave any way she pleases, and a nice big wedge is inserted in the friendship.

You’ve addressed some of the ways that brides can become pathological over their great day, what can happen to bridesmaids?

To be fair, there are plenty of bridesmaids who get power-hungry and controlling in the circle of other bridesmaids, having a persona of being the Alpha Female or Queen Bee who immediately divides the bridal party into her In Group and the Out Group, causing all kinds of drama and hurt feelings, not to mention pressure on the bride. Some women just don’t grow out of a juvenile mindset, no matter what their chronological age. They’re troublemakers, and the bride knew it. But she felt she HAD to name her bully sister or best friend to a bridesmaid or maid of honor role, out of a sense of friendship or familial obligation.

A stressed-out bride often blames herself for being ‘a wimp’ and naming that steamroller friend to the bridal party when she wavered over doing so. It can become quite a mess when anyone from the bride to the maid of honor to the bridesmaids do not operate under the Golden Rule, when the circle of honored ladies turns into a rugby scrum for domination. It might be full warfare and social snubbing, or it might be a specific issue such as a power struggle over bridal shower plans.

How does money factor in---particularly in an economy like this one?


Another element of the friendship strain between brides and bridesmaids is the fact that money is now involved. Lots of money. It’s expensive to be a bridesmaid, especially if the bride has pricey tastes in potential gowns or is planning a destination wedding that requires airfare and lodging the couple isn’t covering. The honor of being in a bridal party can put quite a squeeze on your wallet. Especially now.

We’ve all read enough magazines to know that money is a loaded issue, the cause of many fights in relationships. The same is true for female friendships in wedding world. “But you should be willing to spend $300 on the dress I chose for your wedding!” says the bride, feeling entitled to anything she wants or in a misinterpreted comment because a $300 dress is actually on the lowest budget end for formal gowns at a place where alterations are included and accessories are half-priced. See how miscommunication can occur? When a bride requires a bridesmaid to spend hard-earned cash, there’s conflict afoot. With weddings, expenses mount up. It’s not just the bridal shower, the dress, the shoes, and the travel…there are gifts and additional expenses, such as a new dress to wear to the rehearsal dinner. When each unforeseen expense pops up, that bridesmaid may be simmering a fresh dose of resentment toward the bride and groom.

How can a bride minimize these problems (e.g. involving your friends in planning, choosing a maid-of-honor and bridesmaids, asking friends to pay for things they can't afford)?

The most important step a bride can take to minimize ALL of these problems is to remember who she is in her friendships, and be the same person. Realize that being the bride is not a Free Pass to be demanding or to get people to jump when you say so. That said, many brides don’t realize they’re being bossy or demanding. They have a ton of things to do, they’re stressed, they’re experiencing conflict with their parents or their in-laws…being a bride is very taxing, and even the most centered bride can lose focus out of sheer exhaustion.

So all of the bossy behaviors might spring from the fact that the bride is running on fumes, not intentionally treating anyone badly at all. So I suggest that the bride find a way to keep her stress in check, and nurture her friendships by planning regular girls’ get-togethers during which there will be NO wedding talk. If the bride and her friends have always gotten together for Friday post-work happy hour, keep that going as often as humanly possible. Make a note to e-mail your friends on a regular basis, just to say hello and ask what’s going on in their world. This simple step will comfort the bridesmaids, letting them know they haven’t ‘lost you,’ that you’re still in there, and that you care about them as friends, not just for what they can do for you as bridesmaids. The human element is ultra-important when you’re in wedding season with your bridesmaids.

Throughout the plans, make sure you’re taking every opportunity to keep your bridesmaids’ expenses low, searching for sales, letting them know about great outlet stores or craft stores you love. Give them plenty of time to get their tasks done, and when it comes to deadline tasks such as paying their gown deposits, set earlier-than-needed deadlines to allow stragglers to deliver without stressing everyone out.

At the same time, realize that there are some things you can’t control, such as a bridesmaid’s envy or bad behavior. So don’t add fuel to the fire by trying to change her. Just work around her. Communicate with her in the way you always have throughout your friendship, since you know how to handle her personality quirks. This might include saying directly to her, “I’d rather you didn’t criticize the other bridesmaids’ ideas. They don’t know you as well as I do, they don’t understand your sense of humor, and I’d hate for them to get the wrong idea about you. So please just rein it in a little bit when you’re planning with them, okay?”

Always focus on *your* preferences, avoiding saying ‘everyone’s hurt’ or ‘everyone’s mad at you.’ Keep the focus off of the group dynamic or her Outsider Status and just present what you do want from her. And do it as quickly as possible. To the others who may have a problem with her, just say “I’d rather you didn’t focus so much on (bridesmaid’s) attitude. I know she can be a bit blunt, but she’s a very good friend to me – as are you – and I’d love it if you can all just get along for this brief time that you’re working together.”

The bottom line: In all aspects of the wedding plans, think back to what YOU didn’t like about being someone’s bridesmaid, and vow to make the experience better for your friends.
 
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