Dear Wendy: “Being A Bridesmaid Is Breaking My Budget!”

A friend of mine from high school asked me in December to be one of her bridesmaids in her July wedding. I was surprised she asked me, particularly because while we were close in our teens, she was usually too busy with her now-fiance´ to catch up or respond to me when I was visiting our hometown. We talk occasionally and I know she does not have many female friends and considering how close we once were, I said yes.

Well, fast forward to today and I really regret saying yes. Her older sister is the Matron of Honor and is an honest nightmare. The sister refuses to plan anything the way the bride requests and has threatened several times to not show up at the bachelorette party. The bride’s current best friend also went to high school with us and is a total flake … she hasn’t picked up the slack in planning a thing. The other two bridesmaids are her college friends and live a 6-hour drive away and are understandably not much help.

Now I am getting tearful calls from the bride since basically her entire support network is bailing on her and she has been asking me to plan the shower and bacherlorette. I am helping as much as I possibly can (I live well over two hours away and work long hours to pay for my grad school courses), but I am starting to reach my wit’s (and budget’s) end as this wedding is taking over my life and finances. One the one hand, I really want to be there for the bride as much as possible as it’s completely unfair how her family and closer friends are ignoring her wishes and even refuse to respond to any messages asking for help. On the other hand, I am honestly not that close with the bride anymore, will not likely hear from her for a year after the wedding, and cannot afford to invest the time and funds all on my own.

How do I survive until the end of July and keep as many people (including myself) as possible happy? — Disgruntled Bridesmaid

The best way to survive until the end of July with your mind — and wallet — in tact is to set boundaries. Repeat this mantra to yourself: “This is not my wedding, this is not my wedding, this is not my wedding.” If the bride wants to lose her mind or break her budget in planning her wedding, that’s her own business, but there’s absolutely no reason you — even as a bridesmaid — should be dragged along for the ride. So, let the bride know that while you are happy to pitch in with some bachelorette party and/or bridal shower plans, you have neither the funds nor the time to do the majority of planning.

Patiently remind the bride that you are in school, work long days and live two hours away, so your time and finances are limited, and suggest to her that it may be time to enlist the help of her mother or other close female relatives — especially when it comes to planning the shower (showers are typically thrown by aunts or mothers of the bride, anyway…). Choose 1-3 tasks you feel comfortable taking on — for example: choosing a venue for the bachelorette party and making reservations; ordering a cake; planning and paying for the transportation — and let the bride know you’ll take care of that thing/s, but you’re afraid that’s as far as you can extend your budget and time. This way, you’ve taken some responsibility but let the bride know it’s up to her to figure out how to fill in the remaining holes. She can continue to put pressure on her other bridesmaids to step up, she can ask her mother for help, or she can decide that since no one else is pitching in, maybe she should scale back her expectations and take over the planning reigns herself a little. In addition, I’d also recommend you decide what you can comfortably afford to spend on your remaining bridesmaid duties and not go over that amount. When you’re close to hitting that number, gently let the bride and the other bridesmaids know you’ve hit your budget and can’t take on any further expenses.

There’s no reason a bachelorette party can’t be a nice dinner and a few drinks afterward. How much planning does that really require? If the bride’s expecting much more than that, even after the response she’s gotten from everyone, you shouldn’t feel in any way obligated to make her dreams come true — especially since you don’t even plan to see her or hear from her too much after the wedding. It’s not your fault no one in her life is supporting her. If it were one of two people flaking, we could chalk that up to bad luck, but the fact that she has no one in her life to count on means she either hasn’t been a good friend to have good friends, or she’s been too busy with her relationship to invest much energy in fostering a strong social circle. Either way, it’s her problem, and not one you should spend your whole summer worrying about.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.