I’ve been in the position two times in the last few years where “friends” from high school ask me to be in their weddings and, after the weddings have taken place, I never hear from them again. The truth is, in the years before these marriages I didn’t hear much from these two girls either, so I wasn’t shocked when I didn’t hear from them post-wedding.
In the current case, I’m the only “friend” the bride has left having alienating every other female in her life. I see her maybe quarterly for coffee with no communication in between. She told me via text message she got engaged (a week after it happened). Committing to a wedding party takes a lot of time, energy, and money. When it comes to a destination wedding, this takes on an even greater commitment of time and money. It seems unfair to ask me to spend $1500+ and a week of my holiday time just to be a part of someone’s wedding whom I am no longer close with. I live on my own, work, pay my own bills, and get only three weeks of holiday time a year.
I’m currently in a long-term relationship where future planning discussions are taking place, so I hope I don’t come across as jealous. I’m very happy for all my friends who are settling down and more than happy to pitch in where needed when my real friends decide to get married. My female friendships are very important to me, and I work hard to balance my life accordingly. I don’t want to burn bridges, but I also don’t want to give in and be miserable (and broke) by agreeing to be a part of these events in the future. I’d appreciate any advice you can give me. I’m nearing 30, so I know I’m going to be facing this for many years to come. — Unwilling Bridesmaid
I’ll get to your main question in a minute, but first can we just talk about how you’re worried you’ll be “facing this [problem] for many years to come”? I assume by “this problem” you mean being asked to be in weddings of people you’re no longer friends with, which is sort of weird, right? I mean, how many former friends do you have who still feel that close to you even though you aren’t really in each other’s lives anymore? I could understand knowing one or two people like that, but to know so many that you’re worried about being harassed for years to come to be in weddings of people you no longer feel close to? That’s weird. I’m not saying you’re lying, but I wonder if you’re from a region where it’s normal to have “representatives,” so to speak, from different points of your live to stand up in your wedding. That might explain why you’ve been asked to represent the high school era for friends you no longer have relationships with.
Anyhow, I guess it doesn’t matter so much why you keep being asked to stand in these weddings; it’s more important how you can graciously say no. This is a question I get a lot this time of year, and let me say, definitively and for the record, to everyone who is reading this right now: there is nothing to feel guilty about in turning down an invitation to be a bridesmaid for someone whom you don’t like, whom don’t have a relationship with and/or who expects you to spend more than you can comfortably afford. If you are gracious in giving the message that you won’t be a bridesmaid and the bride is a bitch about it, that’s on her. If she doesn’t talk to you anymore or cuts you out of her life or whatever, then she wasn’t someone you’d want in your life anyway.
As for how to be gracious in delivering your message, the specific language depends on your reason — or the reason you want her to believe — that you won’t be in her wedding party, but generally this works well: “I’m so happy that you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, and I’m flattered that you’d honor me with such a special role in the wedding. Unfortunately, because of a limited budget and vacation time I won’t be able to accept your offer. I hope you understand.” If you follow that up with a nice gift, you should be in the clear. Again, if you aren’t — if the bride really holds it against you that you wouldn’t use your limited vacation time or break your budget to stand in a wedding for someone you hardly know anymore, who cares? It’s not like you were looking forward to a life-long, intimate friendship with her anyway.
So, say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and don’t waste another minute feeling bad about it.