Bridesmaids (and Brides) Behaving Badly

Wedding etiquette is a divisive topic. I learned this when the comment section blew up after I wrote about gift-giving protocol. The ensuing conversation—about what is expected and what is courtesy—was really fascinating. I loved reading everyone’s opinions. (You can still chime in!)

I’ve got nuptials on the mind right now because a friend and coworker is getting married this summer. Today she showed me a five-page bachelorette party proposal that her bridesmaids put together for her. It was a collection of options at different price points and each listing had where to stay, what to do, and where to eat ideas. It was unbelievably thoughtful, and it clearly made my friend so happy that her BFFs would surprise her with such a project.

I’ve spoken before about the tradition of bridesmaids. It’s a fascinating ritual, as it’s the only time in adult life when a woman publicly names her best friends. If friendship bracelets were the BFF labels of childhood, inviting someone into your bridal party is the adult equivalent.

One would think—or at least, I always thought—the whole will-you-be-my-bridesmaid thing would be great for a friendship. Asking someone to be in your wedding is a way of telling them how important they are in your life.

And yet I’ve heard so many stories—in real life and on this blog—of bridesmaid drama ending relationships. In one case the bridesmaid hated the husband and bowed out of the wedding, in another a bridesmaid called a few days pre-ceremony to say she “couldn’t go through with it.”

On the flip side, some wedding attendants get fed up with their bride-to-be when she starts behaving like a high-maintenance bridezilla. See? It’s dicey.

Why do weddings get people so riled up? I think it’s partly that everyone has strong—and differing—opinions about what the celebration should entail. On top of that, if there are pre-existing issues in a friendship it certainly seems like the pressure of the “job”—especially the extra emphasis on how close and meaningful this relationship must be—forces them to the surface.

And yet I feel like being in someone’s wedding shouldn’t feel like “work.” Girls aren’t asked to be bridesmaids because they’re the most qualified applicant, they are asked because the bride wants to celebrate with them. She wants to stand next to these friends on her special day. Sure you may have to plan a bachelorette party or arrive extra early on the big day, but you’re happy to because she’s your BFF, right?

I’ve only been a bridesmaid once. I only had two bridesmaids of my own. I’m lucky in that both days went off without a hitch, so I’m just speculating here about the root of the bridesmaid drama. But man, it can get serious.

Have you ever seen a wedding end a friendship? What happened? Is this just a case of girls being crazy or are weddings the occasion where all underlying tensions come to a head?

20 Comments

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20 responses to “Bridesmaids (and Brides) Behaving Badly

  1. In our culture, family play all the important roles in a wedding. Friends are guests. This obviously has it’s pros and cons.

    Happy New Year.

  2. SAD!!

    It’s Sad When Some Women Can’t Act There Age As Grown Women When it Comes Down To Planning A Wedding. They Don’t Make That Much Fuss Planning A Funeral. I Watched The T.V. Show Bridezilla, My Heart Broke. I Couldn’t Believe That Grown Ass Women Can Really Be That [Dense] ‘N IMMATURE. If U Can’t Plan A Wedding Without Losing Your Mind, I Feel Sorry For Them When Kids Come. I Hope By Then Those Bridezillas Will Have Grown Up. Those Cinderalla’s Attitudes is Over The Top, Too Much. How U Treat Peoples Should Always Matter And A One Day Wedding Don’t Change That. PULL UP LADIES [ PLEASE] CONCETRATE ON THE VOWS THE MARRIAGE.

  3. Anonymous

    Actually a wedding, or two weddings, were the reason behind my recent “split” from a BFF. Her wedding was first, I was one of many bridesmaids, attended all the showers and parties, sat through numerous discussions of the big day elements and was even asked to make the wedding cake. I’d never made a wedding cake before, but I can bake. So I bought the expensive pans needed for the cakes she wanted, made the cakes, delivered the cakes. The wedding cake was certainly my wedding gift to her.
    A while later it was my turn to marry. I chose just family for bridesmaids, but I was sorely upset when my friend wasn’t “there” for me through my wedding event. There certainly wasn’t the same effort from her (I won’t go into the details, but visible absences were a big part of it) and I felt slighted and hurt. When time marched on, and my friend was expecting I couldn’t stomach the thought of going through her baby hooplah, and with a number of heated words our friendship ended.
    The loss of a friendship still makes me sad, but I think her lack of reciprocity toward my wedding showed me how we have very different versions of friendship.

  4. Jen

    I think it’s a combination of underlying tension mixing with crazy. I can’t say that I understand it myself (not that I’m not crazy, just that my crazy presents differently). I had three bridesmaids at my wedding: my BFF from undergrad/honorary sister who was the maid of honor, my now sister-in-law, and my cousin. I tried to keep the whole process as laid-back as possible, they were all fabulous, and it was a beautiful time.

    My BFF is getting married in May and the original plan that we made waaaay back before either of us met our prospective spouses was that we would be each other’s maid/matron of honor. Now that her baby sisters are legally adults, there’s been family pressure to name them as maids of honor, do things that are specific to her ethnic culture (of which I am not part), etc. She’s been so worried about all of this and I keep having to tell her that it’s just one day, they are her actual sisters, and no, I’m not offended at all not to be matron of honor. It doesn’t change our friendship. I’m honored to be a bridesmaid. And when I had a nervous breakdown due to health and grad school issues on the weekend that we were supposed to go bridesmaid dress shopping, her first instinct was to console me rather than stress about how everything would get done or berate me from backing out. My dress got ordered the following weekend, nothing was majorly delayed, and life went on. Both of us could have made big, messy deals about these things, but what good would that do?

  5. Anonymous

    I have been a bridesmaid 8 times… 4 of my siblings got married, 4 of my friends got married. I feel I am a professional bridesmaid now. I have seen a lot of great things and a lot of appalling things. Most of the wedding were wonderful and I was so touched to be included. But one wedding was just downright awful. I got verbally accosted for enjoying a glass of wine after dinner and was told ‘You need to be on the dance floor.’ It wasn’t because they were having a wedding party dance, she just thougth my ‘job’ was to be on the dance floor the entire time. But when she was a bridesmaid for our other friends, she did not dance AT ALL, so it was odd. I had every intention to dance, I just needed a break because there had been so much drama and tears, I wanted to relax for a bit and get away from it all. Wedding planning turned my friend into a pyscho. It didn’t end the relationship, but it forever changed the way I will view her…

    I think weddings bring out the best and worst in people… I think people lose focus of what is important – which to me is the ceremony and the fact that at the end of the day, you will be married to an amazing person (hopefully). But the focus instead seems to shift to the details that no one remembers. I probably sound callous saying that, I hope to have a nice wedding some day, but I vow to not get lost in the details and to keep my ‘eye on the prize’.

  6. Kate

    Aside from my own bridesmaid drama (in which one of my three bridesmaids emailed 5 days before to say she would not be attending), I’ve seen some crazy things go down! I was in a wedding last summer for a childhood friend. We hadn’t had much contact in recent years, but she still asked me and I was touched. But the high school dynamic of her closer group of friends hadn’t changed a bit. The bride(zilla) fired her matron of honor the DAY OF THE WEDDING. She felt this married mother of two-under-five had not been sufficiently involved. Even worse, the newly elected maid of honor delivered the news! I was appalled.

  7. Oh, bridesmaid drama. I strongly considered not having bridesmaids at all, but then one of my best friends voiced his opinion (oh yeah, he was my kick-ass bridesMAN, by the way) – that he would feel honored to be included (and a little sad if he had no official role). In the end, everything was a simple as possible: the bridal party’s duties included showing up at the rehearsal and wedding and giving a couple of toasts. That was about it – and it was lovely. I’m honored that they could all be there. (Oh, another thing: JCrew bridesmaid dresses in black are the way to go. Order, try on, exchange if it doesn’t fit. They’re simple and nice). I haven’t seen a wedding end a friendship, but I do have a friend who’s also become a “professional bridesmaid”…. and those are the stories that make me wish the whole concept didn’t exist.

  8. Jen2

    I wouldn’t have bridesmaids. It’s an outdated concept anyway. Actually, so is anything related to weddings.

  9. Colleen

    I read ur article in in touch i found it touching as at times i feel like my life is all about the bf and leaving me with few friends

    Hope everything works out for you

  10. Pingback: It's The Bride In Me – Bridesmaids (and Brides) Behaving Badly | MWF Seeking BFF

  11. Jewelybelle

    My story isn’t about ending a friendship between me and the bride but me and one of the other bridesmaids. This bridesmaid and I were best friends in high school but during and after college we just grew apart. I still considered her to be my best friend but she got a really close friend in college who she now considers her best friend. Fine, we don’t really have much in common anymore. But the way she treats is really hurtful sometimes. She has done some thoughtless things to the bride and the other bridesmaid in the past but I always stood up for her. Now she is leaving me out of plans and not caring about spending time with me, actually saying she would rather pack for a move in TWO WEEKS than have lunch or dinner with me while I was in town for only a week. Showed me her real priorities. Our friendship is over for all intents and purposes but we will both carry on being great bridesmaids. Or at least I will.

  12. Marcia

    No one has mentioned just how EXPENSIVE it is to be a bridesmaid — so many costs in addition to the dress, shoes, etc. — the bachelorette party (often an extravaganza involving hotel costs in addition to lots of food & drink), one or more showers, and an expensive wedding gift, to name a few. And who ever wears the dress again?

  13. I’m super late to this discussion (just discovered your blog yesterday and have been reading through the archives feverishly!) but my wedding ended my BFF friendship. My BFF was my maid of honour and decided to participate in a marathon 2 weeks before the wedding. I was living out of state but flying in 2.5 weeks before the wedding, while also trying to finish all the planning and my work at the same time. I had said I’d be there at the marathon but had to bail at the last minute due to wedding and work stuff and she refused to forgive me. As in, wouldn’t look at me or talk to me at all for 2 weeks before the wedding.

    I eventually told her not to come at all, after spending the entire time sobbing over the end of our friendship. We talked it over, she came to the wedding, sulked her way through it and we’ve barely talked in the year since. I miss the friendship we had but I realise now that it was based on her needs and not mine, so it’s probably for the best.

    • Oh no! That sounds horrible, and I don’t blame you for mourning the friendship. I’m so sorry that happened. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like for you, on your big day. Sounds like you are very mature and level-headed about it–I don’t know that I could do that, to be honest.

      Thanks so much for reading MWF Seeking BFF. Glad you are enjoying the blog!

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