“My Brother is Bailing on My Wedding!”

Last week, my dear brother called to wish me a happy birthday and then informed me that he couldn’t attend my wedding as he’d just realized the date was the same as his best friend, Ken’s, for whom he is going to be best man. He added that he couldn’t let my nieces down as they had been asked to be bridesmaids in his best friend’s wedding.

I feel so hurt by this; we were going to ask my nieces to be bridesmaids and now since I’d rather not have just my fiancés nieces (I’m not close to any of them), I will have no bridesmaids at all.

My brother has said he’ll try to pop into the evening reception, but I’m pig-headed and want to tell him not to bother. Am I over-reacting being hurt? I really don’t know how I’m meant to be around him when I see him. Isn’t blood meant to be thicker than water? — Bailed Bride

You’re not over-reacting being hurt that your brother (and only sibling?) has suddenly bailed on your wedding, but considering various details that aren’t included in your letter, it’s possible that your brother hasn’t behaved too unreasonably. For example, was Ken’s wedding date confirmed before yours? Did your brother agree to be in Ken’s wedding before he knew the date of your wedding? Have you sent out Save The Dates yet? If not, how was the date of your wedding shared with your brother? If your brother was already committed to Ken’s wedding and didn’t realize the date conflict because you hadn’t yet made an official confirmation of the date, I could better appreciate his position. But if STDs/ invitations to your wedding had been sent and he had already committed to attending your wedding, and THEN said yes to Ken… well, then that’s not cool.

But hurt feelings — which are totally understandable — aside, this isn’t worth a family estrangement. It sounds more than anything, this was a clumsy way of your brother communicating to you an oversight he made over a date conflict. He could have been much more graceful in talking to you about it, including being very apologetic and telling you he would make his best effort to be at your reception (not that he’ll “try to pop by”). But you know your brother and you’re probably already aware that he isn’t the most graceful or socially articulate person, right?

Forgive him for his oversight and clumsiness. Tell him you’re disappointed that he won’t be at your wedding and that you had been planning to ask his daughters to be your bridesmaids, but tell him you understand that of course he can’t back out on a commitment he made to be his friend’s best man and that he’ll be at your wedding in spirit, if not body though you would be thrilled if he could make at least some of the reception (this is called “modeling a gracious attitude”; maybe your brother will take notes).

As for “blood being thicker than water” — that’s a dumb cliché someone came up with to rank relationships not in order of true connections and meaning, which are subjective and hard to “prove,” but by a measure that’s completely without merit in the absence of love, respect, and forgiveness.


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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.


  1. Do you not have friends that you can ask to be bridesmaids? Why does have to be your nieces or no one?

    1. I thought that was funny, too. The fact that the letter writer hasn’t asked, yet, makes me wonder if they are still in the early stages of planning. I wonder if it’s possible to look for a different venue or change the date if it is important enough that her brother and his family can attend?

    2. Maybe she meant flower girls? Or she and her fiance both just happen to have nieces old enough to be bridesmaids? I kind of want to know ages just because this isn’t usually the norm.

      1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        When my sister-in-law was married in England she had a girl as a bridesmaid instead of a friend. I asked my husband why she had a girl who was maybe 8 or 10 at the time and he said that it was because the dress for a girl was much cheaper. I don’t know if that is the reason but the choice of children might be common where she lives or she might have nieces who are close to her in age.

      2. Good point. Not sure why I’m interested or fascinated by this, but I am.

      3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        I find it fascinating. To us a bridesmaid is automatically someone who has a close relationship, like a sister of a close friend. In other places the word bridesmaid can mean something else. We don’t realize that we have that understanding until we see it done in another way. When Prince William married Kate they had Pippa as maid of honor but the other four bridesmaids were girls. I think it is an English custom.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t get it. The moment I had a wedding date, I told my whole immediate family and there’s no way they would make other plans. So either you gave him the date after he had already committed to his friend’s wedding (that’s on you) or his friend announced his wedding date after you announced yours and he just blew you off (that’s on him) So if he did blow you off you have every reason to be angry and hurt but I would try to let it go (if you can) so that it doesn’t spoil this very happy time in your life. I would just try to make the best of the situation (and yes, consider having friends as bridesmaids)

  3. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    If he already promised to be the best man at his best friend’s wedding and the two weddings conflict then he is already committed to be there. He probably isn’t as wrapped up in wedding planning as you are and so some date well in the future seemed vague and at some point he realized the two dates were the same.
    Did you check to see if the people you most wanted to attend your wedding had conflicts on the date you wanted before choosing it? You can’t expect everyone to drop commitments that have already been made to attend your wedding. If you did and he said he was free then you should be disappointed, if not then you can be disappointed but also need to realize that you put him in this position.
    You should have some friends who could be bridesmaids. If not, it isn’t your brother’s job to supply bridesmaids, his daughters, for your wedding.
    If you haven’t locked in a venue could you change the date of your wedding?

    1. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      When you call him your dear brother the use of the word dear makes me think you don’t have much of a relationship with him. I don’t know anyone who calls their brother dear brother. No one. The word brother says it all with no need for dear out in front of it. When you feel the need to put dear in front of brother it feels fake and contrived.

      1. Hey! I refer to some of my old friendships as “dear”. Its true we don’t see each other as often as I would like, but I truly do feel deeply fond of them!

      2. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

        Would you ever call a brother dear brother? I know people who refer to old friends that are very close as a dear friend to show that they have had an especially close relationship. I’ve never known anyone who did the same with a sibling. It sounds like she is trying to make their relationship sound closer than it actually is.

      3. If the LW is British like others are speculating this would make a lot more sense.

      4. I would not generally call my brothers “dear”. But one of my SIL did refer to me as “dear” on a Facebook post. I hope it wasn’t contrived…

        I’m starting to think BGM may be right and its just sarcasm. Or perhaps British formality?

  4. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

    “Blood is Thicker Than Water” I am not sure if this is actually true, but I’ve heard that that is a shortened version of the original saying – ‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb’ meaning that the family you choose (friendships) is stronger than than the family you’re connected to by genetics.

    1. Avatar photo Dear Wendy says:

      This is so true, but if this LW doesn’t have any friends to ask to be her bridesmaids, counting instead on her nieces and her finances nieces to fill that role, that she probably has no real understanding how meaningful and special your “chosen family” can be.

    2. absurdfiction says:

      That is so interesting, Stonegypsy! I’ve never heard that before but it makes so much more sense than how I’ve always heard the shorter version used.

      1. Avatar photo Stonegypsy says:

        Yeah, that’s where I read that! Man I love Cracked.

  5. Avatar photo Addie Pray says:

    Can you change your wedding date? Sounds like the date is far enough away – (I say that because you haven’t arranged your bridesmaids yet) – that maybe you could change it?

  6. Wendy (not Wendy) says:

    I think this LW is from England, as I think some of the rest of you noticed, because of some particular word choices–my relatives there have all had child bridesmaids. LW, I hope if you can’t change the date (because as Addie says, it sounds like maybe you’re still early in planning?), you’ll reconsider having your fiance’s nieces. You may not know them well but they are part of your life going forward and it will be a special memory for all of you. Good luck.

  7. Yeah, there’s definitely some lacking information here. But totally agree that “blood is thicker than water” is crap. I love my family, don’t get me wrong, but I also love my very best friends. And while family you are stuck with due to genetics, my friends are people I have CHOSEN to have in my life.
    Obviously your brother and Ken are very close, as he is having your brother as best man and your nieces in the wedding, so I’d say if Ken picked his wedding date and wedding party first (and it sounds like he did, as your brother doesn’t even know you were wanting his kids in the wedding but does know that Ken is having them in his wedding) then your brother made a commitment to his best friend and is choosing to honor it.
    You can feel however you want to feel of course, and I can’t say I wouldn’t be upset if my brother couldn’t come to my wedding… but that doesn’t mean you should take it out on him. I remember wedding planning and I remember 2 things:
    1. Everything seems like the end of the world because emotions are heightened and there’s stress and all your family tensions bubble up. But a wedding is just another day and family relations don’t pretty themselves up just to make a wedding smoother.
    2. Some people can’t make your wedding, including some people you don’t expect. And that hurts. But at the end of the day, you’re married and that’s what matters.

  8. RedRoverRedRover says:

    If you really thought blood was thicker than water, why wouldn’t you include your husband’s nieces in your wedding? They’re just as related to him as yours are to you. And it’s his wedding just as much as it is yours.
    Kind of a tangent, but it really rubbed me the wrong way.

    1. Such a great point, RedRover! Maybe blood is only thicker than water on the LW’s terms.
      Also, what better way to start having a close relationship with these girls who will be your nieces too, than by having them in your wedding?

      1. bittergaymark says:

        This letter is odd. The LW is being deliberately vague or else is just plain obtuse… Oh, and she is clearly being quite sarcastic in her use of the word “dear”… But if your brother has previously committed to be the best man in another wedding — then all this drama is on YOU, LW. What are you trying to do? Upstage the best man? Lemme guess… Is he an EX of yours? Some unrequited crush…

      2. dinoceros says:

        Yeah, at most weddings I’ve been to, the bride or groom had bridesmaids or groomsmen who were in-laws-to-be, even if they weren’t close. Siblings, nieces, nephews, etc. I think because most brides and grooms realize they are marrying a family as well and can’t just make the wedding all about them and their family. In not too long, “his” nieces are going to become the LW’s nieces.

  9. wobster109 says:

    Think about what’s gained and lost from each choice. Your brother had to choose which wedding to attend. He choice means he misses your wedding, and he’s probably sad about it, and your feelings are hurt. In exchange, he’s there for his best friend, probably makes a best man’s toast, and your nieces get to be bridesmaids. (Remember, your brother doesn’t know you want to ask your nieces.) Is it a worthwhile tradeoff? You and your brother can disagree on that.
    Meanwhile, what’s the tradeoff in your choice to bar your brother from the reception? You won’t see him, he won’t be there for any of your big day, and you two will be angry with each other. In return, what do you gain? I’m not saying it’s always the wrong choice either. For example. if your brother routinely gets drunkenly rowdy, it would be a warning to him, and you’d presumably gain better behavior at future events. Think about what you hope to gain with that choice.
    Give up on having your nieces as bridesmaids. That is a separate issue. You haven’t even asked them! Now you want them to bail when they’ve already committed to Ken’s wedding. You know that sucks!

  10. dinoceros says:

    Seeing as how you haven’t even selected the wedding party yet, but you’re already becoming a Bridezilla, this is not promising. Sure, a lot of people would choose a family wedding over a friend one, but not if they’d already committed to being the best man in their friend’s wedding. It’s not OK to go back on your word on that one, especially when you’d apparently be taking a good chunk of the bride’s wedding party with you.
    When people use weddings as barometers for how much someone loves them, they are often disappointed and they often get really annoying. Other people have lives going on even when you have a wedding planned. You can still see your brother at another time (for example, if he comes to the reception). You can share photos or video with him. Besides the fact that you probably would barely spend any time with him at the wedding, weddings are not as important to other people as they are to the bride and groom. So, if you assume that him honoring a prior commitment over your wedding means that he’s an awful brother, you’re going to be seen as very self-absorbed.

    1. dinoceros says:

      Also, I know plenty of people who are closer to their best friend than they are to their siblings, FWIW. He would be letting someone down regardless. Just because it’s you doesn’t make it worse than someone else.

    2. All of that. I mean, how firmed up was everything if you hadn’t asked about the bridesmaids yet? Ken already had the date and the bridal party organised and locked in (especially since the bridal party is usually one of the earliest things sorted in planning), no wonder your brother said yes to him. At the moment all of this feels like a huge deal but I guarantee you LW afterwards you’ll wonder why you were so petty. It’s just one day. A big day, yes, but such a small thing in the long run.

    3. Seriously? Seriously! says:

      Before writing her off as a Bridezilla, let’s keep in mind that this is probably JUST happened and she wrote in so that she doesn’t act on her very fresh unfair-to-act-on -but justified-in-feeling feelings of wanting to tell her brother “you’ll SEE if you can POP BY? don’t bother!” She even calls herself “pigheaded” about it, meaning she knows that it isn’t what she really wants to do. Siblings have a way of bringing that feeling out more than other people; I can feel that way when my sibling is being annoying about meeting for dinner, better yet attending my wedding.

  11. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    This is one of those letters where I need more information. If his friend asked him to be his best man before you told him your wedding date, then, that’s not his fault. (as Wendy says.) And is there any possibility of inviting other friends to be bridesmaids? I can’t think that this is as dire as it sounds…

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