Bitch, ditch or fix? The wedding attendant-saving flow chart

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Liz

Conventional wisdom is sometimes just as helpful to unconventional people.

Conventional wisdom suggests one should wait for the excitement to abate before inviting loved ones to join a wedding honor party. Unconventional wisdom concurs.

Conventional wisdom suggests certain roles and duties are attached to the titles we give these people. Unconventional wisdom suggests that even though we are planning unconventional nuptials, folks should know their damned roles and duties and fulfill them, often with the addition of offering their assistance unasked to help our DIY empires weddings, come to fruition.

Conventional wisdom suggests when you have a problem with a loved one, you should be a bigger person, invite them out to coffee and get down to the bottom of it with love and tact. Unconventional wisdom might substitute bubble tea, but also admits that sometimes relationships are just dysfunctional or outright broken, and that a cup of beverage isn't going to cause a 180 degree change — but it usually doesn't hurt to try.

I firmly believe that the best thing anyone can do, inside or outside of wedding planning, is to step back from the problem, reevaluate expectations and communicate them with clarity. I don't believe in assuming people know what you expect of them because you've offered them the title Maid of Honor, and even less so if you take the offbeat step to retitle Maid/Man of Awesome, etc.

Your wedding is a unique little butterfly, so to avoid the tsunami caused by fluttering wings the wrong way (okay, end crazy metaphor) by communicating your expectations thoroughly, clearly, confidently, and with the understanding that even though these are your expectations and you feel they are reasonable, not everyone will agree. You have to accept what people can offer you, too, meet them where they are, and know that sometimes, in a dysfunctional relationship, their best at that moment is their best at that moment, and move forward anyway.

With all this in mind I offer this flowchart as a guideline for how to consider your wedding party. Perhaps this might help forward this conversation in a more meaningful and less reactionary way.

I want to include the caveat that yes, of course there are reasons to end relationships with people you've invited to your wedding party — but where that is truly the case, you would/could/should be ending that relationship regardless of the fact you're planning a wedding, because it's toxic, not because they're not the ideal Maid/Made of Awesome.

This discussion is NOT about those situations.

This is about filtering through how your expectations are communicated and how the person you're communicating with is equipped to handle and/or meet your expectations, how/if/when to reevaluate your expectations, and how to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.

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Thanks for your attention, and please share your suggestions and comments.

  1. I really like the flowchart to help with these painful decisions. With my wedding, people came out of the woodwork to attend and participate. We didn't turn anyone down, which I think paid off in the end. There was no guilt on wedding day, and everything happened so fast that if there was any drama, we didn't notice.

  2. I just need to write: "…step back from the problem, reevaluate expectations and communicate them with clarity." on our bathroom mirror.
    This is the most sound advice I've ever gotten.

  3. My "best friend" fell off the face of the earth a few months months prior to my wedding, wouldn't return any correspondence at all, and then finally emailed me 3 weeks before the wedding to say he wasn't going to my wedding (let alone be in the wedding party as planned) without any explanation or apology. I never responded to the email, moved on and had an amazing wedding with wonderful friends and family. I may never know why it happened, and it makes me so sad to have lost a friend in the process of one of the most important events in my life.

  4. "Conventional wisdom suggests one should wait for the excitement to abate before inviting loved ones to join a wedding honor party."

    SO true. I did not do this and asked my cousin to be my MOH right away, partially since I was going to be her MOH at her wedding taking place a year before mine. Plenty of drama ensued around her wedding and after agonizing about it, my partner finally convinced me I had to ask her to step down. I "demoted" her to just a bridesmaid, citing a real but not *the* real reasons because a comprehensive discussion of my issues with her would require bringing up lots of family drama. Rather than seeing that their own lack of honesty was the problem, I would've end up being blamed by other family members for rocking the boat.

    I also asked a group of my high school girlfriends to be bridesmaids, as we had all been bridesmaids together at another one of the girls' weddings. While I'm close to them, they're not my closest friends. My closest friends are mostly guys and I shied away from having an entirely male bridal party because I felt like I needed help planning since my wedding is in my hometown where I don't live anymore. I'm not unhappy with my decision and everything is working out well (the wedding is next month!), but I sometimes still wonder if I made the right choice, which leads me to believe that I didn't.

    Pick the people you are closest to now. With wedding planning, there is plenty of drama to go around and it will only make your life easier to be able to speak with your wedding party honestly and unflinchingly. I chose some members of my bridal party based on history and nostalgia, which is not to say that those are bad reasons, but I kind of wish I had chosen based who I feel most comfortable calling out of the blue to discuss planning details, vent, or just shoot the shit.

  5. This is great. One of my maids has been, well, difficult … as a maid. However, it's not personal and a lot of it is stuff that I've gotten upset over in the past and have worked through and moved past because it's who she is and I love her anyway, and (per the flowchart), I just want her beside me that day.

    However, this is one of the main reasons I decided to expand the bridal party from 1:1 … I knew I was going to need additional support.

  6. I like the advice about "biting your tongue" and not choosing attendants too quickly. I chose my MoH before we even got engaged, and by the time I got married it had been a few years since I'd seen her and she was like a completely different person. I wished that I had thought it through a little more. It all worked out in the end but still, great advice 🙂

  7. I really disagree with the idea that bridal party members should be asked to be in a wedding because the bride (or whoever) expects that person to fulfill a certain function.

    I realize that there's a section of the chart that says that some couples choose attendants because they just want them there by their side. Which is awesome. But even leaving the option there that you can choose people based on the expectation of work/favors isn't sending the right message at all.

    Instead, for the section that asks if you expect your attendants to fulfill certain obligations, there should be a note saying that you OUGHT to be choosing them because they're your friends. Not because of what they can do for you. Leaving a friend out of one's wedding because (s)he can't fulfill some list of obligations is an incredibly hurtful thing to do.

    • Personally, I complete agree. However, it's a pretty short flow chart if it just says what we think should happen is the way to go.

      I think that there's been a huge rash of posts on the tribe recently of folks going so far as to "demote" attendants who "aren't pulling their weight" and that is what drove this conversation. It came to the point that if you are disappointed with not getting help you want from your friends, I believe you should ask, but understand that if they say no, they're still your friends, and redirect your thinking to remember that standing beside you is the biggest part.

      My goal in creating this chart was to challenge brides making the decision to choose people "because they could help with X" to examine that choice and really weigh its implications. Also to suggest that stepping back to take in the big picture is what should happen before entertaining the "I'll ask (person) to 'step down' to 'just a bridesmaid' because they aren't doing enough to help me with all my projects!"

      It's a difficult conversation to have objectively. My hope was that supplying a chart would help the tribe further the discussion without falling into a one-upmanship of "but you don't know how people have failed me!" stories.

      I hope that it helps folks just beginning their planning to consider the whole process before leaping into it.

      In short, I agree with your position, but argue that I'm not trying to send a message, but to open a conversation.

  8. We're only having a few attendants, but it never occurred to me to ask anyone for any reason except, to be with me for this experience.

  9. I think it's very important for attendants to be allowed to say "no" to a bride or groom without worrying that the engaged couple will take the no personally. A simple–"Can you do this for me? It's okay to say no" will let the attendants know you're not taking their work or presence for granted. Sometimes the bride asks for too many craft projects, or may not show awareness that the engagement party, bachelorette, shower, and wedding are a huge expense for the bridesmaids. Of course, there are bridesmaids who will be difficult no matter what, but I think the bride can set the right tone by staying flexible and appreciative.

  10. It's funny. I actually had to talk my best friend into being my maid of honor, because she was scared she'd disappoint me if she was unable to "fulfill her duties" with her own wedding two months after mine. She finally agreed after I assured her that there were no duties (not even a dress!) other than being my best friend and being the person who literally has my back while I get married. Silly goose told me I could still demote her to "just a bridesmaid" if she let me down and I changed my mind. "Just a bridesmaid." HA!

  11. I'm having a very simple wedding and didn't pick a MOH but my two sisters and best friend to be attendants-equal members of team bridesmaid. I tried to make my expectations clear from the beginning: they could wear whatever they wanted and the only thing I really wanted/needed from them was to come to the wedding the day before(for the rehersal) and be my moral support through the rest of the beautiful but stressful wedding weekend. I also said because we were trying to keep everything that had to do with our wedding simple I didn't need or particularly want any formal showers or bachelorettes. I said maybe we could get some of my girlfriends together for drinks the weekend before the wedding to hang out before the big day.
    But since I've been engaged my best friend has become another person. Every step of the way has been this huge drama-rama. She says she feels like my sisters are leaving her out of stuff (I'm not sure what) and that three is a really hard number. She has had agony over what to wear because she is worried I'll be disapointed in her choice and ruin the photos (I continue to remind her that as long as she likes it and feels comfortable she will look beautiful). And she has insisted on planning this huge, expensive, complicated shower which I told her wasn't necessary but she keeps saying 'it's her job.'Now is constantly complaining that no one will help her with it- though I've offered myself to help and suggested other friends who would be willing-and she is so stressed because she has so much to do for my party and so much to prepare for the wedding.
    Now, I'm in no way thinking of ending my relationship with this person and am hoping things go back to normal once we're married. I feel like a lot is written about Mama-drama out there in the bloggosphere. Has anyone had experiences with best friend drama? Will the body snatchers return my friend when this is all over? Any suggestions on how to deal with this in the final weeks coming up to my wedding?

  12. My bff is going to be my maid of honor, and while I genuinely want her by my side on my wedding day (we're practically twins), she's also going to be the Pagan presence in the ceremony and maneuver the cords for the handfasting. Sort of an un-ordained, unofficial Pagan celebrant. I've already talked this over with her – all she's gotta do besides wrapping the handfasting cords, is silently call down good vibes and 'keep the spiritual line open', as it were; she's totally cool with this, and she's already strongly Pagan to begin with.
    My bridesmaids are mostly moral support and possibly some crafting help, and also people who have been important in my life.
    Thank you for this. It really helps put into perspective the "roles" of the wedding party, (a.k.a. pick them 'cuz you love them!), plus I learned something and was better able to parse out my own reasons for choosing who I did.

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