I agreed to be a bridesmaid, but now I’m dreading it - The Guardian 1

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The question I am due to be the bridesmaid at my friend’s wedding. She’s been engaged for five years. The whole thing has had to be rearranged twice due to the pandemic and now it’s on for 2022.
When she became engaged, I was one of her only mates. We had been teenage friends and used to go out drinking and partying. She started working and became sensible and ambitious, met her fiancé and settled down. I went to college, met a bunch of people I bonded with and we started to drift apart. She asked me to be her bridesmaid more than four years ago and I think it was because at that time there were not many other people she could ask.

Since then, our friendship has continued to diminish. She refuses ever to meet on week nights because of work and doesn’t like to go out on the weekend any more. I go to her house for a cuppa about twice a year. She talks wedding plans, we do a rudimentary catching up, and then I leave. We don’t speak for months at a time. We don’t share any interests, we don’t have any other friends in common. I haven’t even met her fiancé because she has told me that we won’t get on. Neither of us has really put any time or effort into our friendship. Unfortunately, she cares strongly about the perfect wedding, another thing which we don’t agree on. My dilemma is this: I am working a low-pay job and cannot afford a four-day hen do abroad. I want to get out of this responsibility. I do not want to go to the hen do, be a bridesmaid, or even go to the wedding. My friends tell me to grin and bear it, that it’s only a few days, but I have never wanted to escape a situation more.
Philippa’s answer You are reminding me of that Reba McEntire track, I’d Rather Ride Around With You, about a bridesmaid who jumps into a sports car with her boyfriend when she should have been at church holding the bouquet for her cousin, the bride. It’s a great story-song, have a listen.
You are expected to make good your promise. She wants the perfect wedding and you fit the perfect bridesmaid role. The bride even has a cup of tea with you twice a year (to be fair we have had lockdown) to keep you primed for this role.
It will be horrible to be the “bad person” in this and the extraction process will be unpleasant, but the relief of not having to go through this charade will make up for that.
What your friends haven’t realised is that it’s not just a few days of the hen do and the wedding that you lose if you go through with this, but all the days leading up to it as well. Your life at the moment seems to be tarnished with background dread. If you get yourself out of this situation, you will get back more than saved money and a few days, you’ll also free yourself from months of this trepidation.
How about sending her a letter: “Dear X, I am really sorry, I know I promised all those years ago to be your bridesmaid and a good person would keep good her promise. But as your wedding approaches I find myself not wanting to be a bridesmaid, not wanting to join the hen do and not even really wanting to go to the wedding. I realise by extracting myself I’m not being a great friend to you and I’m sorry. It’s not just that I can’t afford it and I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to be there. I can’t put on an act and I don’t want to spoil your day by not being enthusiastic. I hope you have a wonderful day and I’m sorry. Love from… PS Sometimes being authentic means I’m not as kind as I would wish to be, sorry.”
If you need permission to break your promise, I am giving it to you. And if you need an excuse to justify your actions to yourself, it seems she has only wanted to spend time with you lately on her terms and you have to come to her. But the thing that sticks in my throat more, is her not introducing you to her fiancé and saying you won’t get on. She obviously loves him because she’s chosen to spend her life with him, but what does it say about her regard for you, if she doesn’t want the two of you to meet? But you don’t need excuses, your dread is reason enough to go back on this promise.
Free yourself from dread. Release her from having a hostage at her wedding. There is a strong possibility she’ll not see it like that and be very hurt. But one of you will suffer – either you with the dread, or her with the hurt.
Now I’m playing Please Release Me, Let Me Go, by Engelbert Humperdinck, and one of the lines in that song is “to live a lie would be a sin”.
If you have a question, send a brief email to askphilippa@observer.co.uk

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