Bridal parties can ruin friendships. Here’s why. – Share Sunshine Life
January 13, 2022
Deciding who to include in your bridal party is just one of the many decisions that come with an upcoming wedding – yet, often, it can be one of the most stressful. It’s one of those rare occasions when you have to officially declare which friends are part of your inner circle – and which ones aren’t.
Emma (her real name), who works at a salvage yard, is one such person who feels slighted by her friend’s choice of bridesmaids. She and her friend Dana (a pseudonym) were college roommates and they “became sisters instead of friends. When Dana set the date for her wedding, Emma was “very excited” and “looking forward” to what she saw as an inevitable bridesmaid role.
“I noticed that my best friend wasn’t talking to me about the wedding, which was unusual, and every time I broached the subject, she would fashionably change the subject,” she explains. “I felt hurt and confused, and I wondered what was going on, but I just decided not to jump to conclusions. I made excuses for her behavior, and I decided to just observe and see how things would play out.”
Ultimately, Emma was not chosen as a bridesmaid.
“The day came, and it’s one of the saddest memories I’ve ever had,” she says. “I was dressed normally like everyone else, and I sat in the back seat and cried out. I watched my best friend walk down the aisle with someone I didn’t know as her chief bridesmaid. I was frustrated, confused and hurt. What did I do wrong?”
Madison (her real name), who owns a tonic store, felt similarly when she was left out of her friend’s wedding party, especially considering they had been “talking about going to each other’s weddings.
“I was angry and frustrated with the whole situation,” she says. “When I talked to her, I didn’t mention that she hadn’t invited me to her wedding; I just wanted to be supportive and help her in any way I could. One day, we were talking to each other and she told me she had something to ask me. She said her maid of honor couldn’t make the wedding and asked me to be her maid of honor. Nothing beats a second choice. ……”
Brittany (a pseudonym), 26, had the opposite experience. She was asked to be a bridesmaid in a wedding by someone she didn’t consider a friend – and she felt “awkward” and “confused.
“When she texted me asking to be her maid of honor, I didn’t even have her phone number saved in my phone,” she admits.
Meanwhile, Jessica (her real name) felt pressured to agree to be a bridesmaid for a co-worker after she asked her in front of her relatives at her bridal shower.
“I didn’t really know what to think at the time because I was so likable, but in hindsight, I wish I had said no,” she recalls. “She also asked me to be a bridesmaid a year in advance. I ended up backing out of the wedding due to a family reunion outside of town, but I still felt so bad that I said yes and then told her no. In the end, it was for the best that I didn’t attend the wedding because I would have felt it would be weird to be so close to someone I wasn’t even close to.”
Why is choosing a bridesmaid so awkward? Laura Snyderman, founder of the upcoming friendship app Kindred, explains that tensions often arise in these situations when one person feels closer to another.
“I think there are a lot of reasons why some people feel they ‘should’ be a bridesmaid at a wedding, even if they’re not asked. One major reason may be that one person in a friendship is not on the same level of intimacy as the other,” she notes. “One person may consider another person to be a ‘best friend,’ while another person considers that person to be just one friend among many. This misalignment of intimacy can be due to too many things, some of which are differences in the total number of close friends, different definitions of ‘intimacy’ and prioritization of friendship history versus the connections you have now. “
That gap is something Friendship Coach Danielle Jackson, host of the Friends Forward podcast, talks about a lot with clients. In fact, she says women often come to her with a script and consider how to handle the awkward conversation of telling someone they didn’t work out.
“It’s tricky because it’s one of the only times you show your friends ranking,” Jackson notes. “We know that’s not true, but culturally, that’s what people think: you’re asking who you’re asking to be the top bridesmaid. We’re looking for confirmation.”
It’s understandable: If you feel like someone is your closest friend, but you weren’t chosen as one of the “top five” in their life, it’s easy to reassess your position.
“For some people, it reflects where I am in your life, which is why it’s so important in female friendships,” Jackson says. “I’ve had countless sessions with women about not being chosen as a bridesmaid, and they often apologize, like ‘I know it’s trivial, but ……’ but for some people it’s hard to look at this the same woman way: ‘How do we move forward in our friendship when you clearly don’t see me the way I see you?’”
So how do you handle telling a friend that she won’t be your maid of honor – or dealing with the bad feelings that come from not being chosen?
Sniderman says honesty is the best strategy-even if it’s difficult. Assuming the issue isn’t financial or logistical (maybe you want to include all four of your sisters in your bridal party and don’t have room for even your closest friends) Sniderman says it’s best to figure out the personal reasons you’re not including them, which means “having a deeper conversation about your relationship.
“I encourage you to start this conversation by asking them how they feel about the friendship,” she says. “If their response indicates they have expectations for a friendship you can’t meet, you can say, ‘I think you’re a really good friend, but based on what you’ve shared, I think you’re looking for something from me that I’m not capable of providing. I really care about you and our friendship, but I also don’t want you to feel that your needs are not being met. You can then share what you have to offer and let your friend respond from that clear place. They may still want more from you than you can offer, but at least you’re being honest.”