Will I stay friends with my wedding party members after the wedding?

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Original photo by k8luvsmicrobes. Remixed under Creative Commons license.
How often do brides/grooms end up no longer particularly liking some friends from their bridal party?

Quite a few of my friends have gotten married in the past couple of years, myself included, and I'm wondering if I'm noticing a scary trend. I was talking to one friend, and she only talks to one of her bridesmaids now, and her bridal party was created from a very strong friend base for her. I'm still very close to most of my bridal party, with the exception of one person, and I was just wondering if anyone else has experienced this.

Is it common to drift apart from those we've been so close to? -Victoria

A few years after the wedding, I looked over at the photo of that guy I married with our bridal party, and asked the question that's been nagging at me for a while, “Do you think we can photoshop some of our wedding photos?” So, clearly, I DO have experience with this. Aw, sad face — I know. Out of the six people in our bridal party, we aren't that close to two of them anymore. But — yay for you — Ariel and I are here with some perspective, experiences, and even some advice on how you can mayyyyybe avoid this (and why it's actually not a bad thing if it happens).

MEGAN had a wedding party

Here are four things I wish someone had told me when I was planning my wedding party:

  1. Choose carefully. Seriously, sit with it for a while. I know you're probably excited and want to ask people right away to be your maid of honor, etc. But — duh time — the more you think about it, the better your choices will be.
  2. Don't pick the closest people to you RIGHT NOW, pick the closest of all time. We asked one of our band members to be in the wedding. I mean, we were in a freaking band together — spending HOURS every week in a small room, how could we not be super close? And that's all good and well… until the band breaks up and you realize… you never spend ANY time together anymore.
  3. If someone backs out, they don't necessarily NEED to be replaced. When one of Aaron's best friends couldn't make it to the wedding, we asked our bandmate to replace him. We could have easily had an uneven wedding party and it would've made NO difference. (Except there would have been one less pair of amazing plaid shorts present.)
  4. You can avoid ANY chance of having to photoshop your wedding party photos by just NOT having a wedding party at all!

Here's something else to keep in mind: when I told Aaron that Ariel and I were going to take on this phenomenon he responded with, “You know, I look at my mom and dad's wedding photos and I've NEVER met any of those people.” So it must be common that the people who were closest to you at one point don't always remain so.

Like I mentioned before, I had two people in my wedding party that I am no longer close to, but on the flip side, there's someone that Aaron and I are SO close to right now that it's unbelievable that she WASN'T in our wedding party.

So the thing is, it doesn't matter when or how you plan your wedding party — you still may have not even met your greatest friend, or your kids may never meet your man of honor. For more on this concept, here's Ariel…

ARIEL didn't have a wedding party

“Is it common to drift apart from those we've been so close to?” Yes. It totally is, and it's actually got nothing to do with weddings, and isn't at all a bad thing. Thankfully, people change and grow. Lives shift. Interests overlap and then diverge. Locations change. Friends are transient, and social spheres can flow and shift without popping like a bubble.

I didn't have a wedding party, but I did have a big ol' campout with 75 friends and family. And then, every year since then, we've had another camp-out for our anniversary. I look at pictures from our wedding, and while I see some of the same faces, there are a lot of faces missing — as in, people I adore who are crucial, close parts of my current life, who I simply didn't know yet. It's like our photos have these ghosts of people we hadn't met yet, waiting patiently in our future to be part of our lives.

And yeah, sure: I also see the very real faces of friends who I don't see as much any more, for all sorts of reasons. Some wonderful (my best man got an amazing research position at Columbia University) other less so — but it's all fine. I loved our community, and I'm so glad those important people were there with us on that day… even if they're not around much in our daily lives now.

I see this as a good thing: of COURSE your friend groups change and you're not friends with the same people … it can be an indication that your group of friends aren't stagnating. I love that my friends have moved into different spaces in their lives that make them happy, even if it means I don't see them as much. I'm selfish sometimes, but I'm not so selfish as to want, say, my sun-loving LA friends to move to Seattle to be closer to me. I'd rather see them happy once a year than Seasonally Affective Disordered once a week through a grey Seattle winter. (They watched me suffer through a bright, warm LA winter that almost did me in — TOO MUCH LIGHT! SHRIVELING!).

Release the fear that you'll regret something about your wedding because it reflects where you are now and not some sort of imaginary timeless “Perfect Time.” The dress will not always be stylish and not all the friends will be forever. Let it go. Life is a fluid, messy, sticky thing, and for me, I like that my 2004 wedding dress looks a little dated because you know what?! That was eight years ago. After almost a decade of living, I'd hope I'd learned a few things, shifted a few interests, and grown into a different place. That's called personal development, and it's not something to be afraid of — it's something to expect, embrace, and enjoy.

At this point in my life, I've got waves upon waves of social circles and friend groups who've come and gone and looped around and drifted away and reconciled. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, raver friends, hippie raver friends, aging raver friends, media colleagues, web nerds, burner friends, parent friends, family friends… everyone at all ages is shifting and growing and moving and breaking up and having kids and falling in love and getting new jobs and ditching old hobbies and it's just time and life and it doesn't have to be drama.

It doesn't have to be a tragedy when people find themselves heading on paths that diverge. Send postcards back and forth — how are things going down that path I didn't take with you? These communiques can be dispatches from a you who might have been. We don't have to agree all the time.

At our anniversary party this year, I looked around at my wonderful community of friends, and realized that very few of them were there with us at our wedding. In fact, there was only one friend who'd been there every single year. 2004 – 2011, he had not missed a single year of celebrating with us.

Was this my best man? No. Was this my cousin-in-law? No. This was a guy named Rob, who came to our wedding as the guest of an old friend. We'd hung out casually a few times and I knew he was a nice guy, but if you'd told me that seven years later, of ALL our 60+ friends who were with us at our wedding, Rob would be the ONLY ONE who was with us every year to celebrate!? I would have been shocked. (But yay, Rob!)

This is all to say, don't worry about it. Your life and the lives of your friends will shift in unpredictable ways. It's natural, it's awesome, and it means everything's proceeding along exactly as it should.

Gentle reminder to commenters: please be considerate about over-sharing interpersonal drama in the comments. We'll remove any comments that veer into “bitching about loved ones” territory. Here's why.

Comments on Will I stay friends with my wedding party members after the wedding?

  1. My bridal party consisted of 2 family members, 2 college roommates, and 2 best friends from high school. It’s almost a year later from when I got married, and my contact with those in my bridal party is about the same as it was when I asked them – Family is family, one college roommate is now my neighbor, the other I never talk to (but to be honest we didn’t talk that much after graduation anyway haha), and I still see my two high school friends about once a month.

    When I chose my party I didn’t focus too much on who I was close to RIGHT NOW (Megan’s #2 suggestion). The one friend that I hardly ever talk to is still just as important to me now as she was in college, we just never cross paths like we used to.

    Also, I think if I end up not being friends with some of my bridal party – it’s ok. Looking back at the pictures is a representation of who was important to me at that point in time. It’ll be a nice memory either way.

  2. Wow. This is super timely. I had a serious meltdown last night about people that are already getting distant since we announced our engagement a little over a month ago. Thanks for the post!

    • I’m having that same break down too. Since we got engaged a year ago, the people we thought we wanted to be in our wedding are barely a part of our lives. I’ve spent a year trying to get a small business going and some of those friends have been less than supportive. So now we’re wondering what we should do: keep these people who are pretty caustic in our wedding party because we’ve already asked them or find a delicate way to dis-invite them. Neither option seems like a good solution.

  3. One of my bridesmaids, who I thought was my best friend and would be for a very long time, quit talking to me the day after our wedding with no explanation of why. To this day (6 months later) I still have no idea why she “broke up” with me.

    • I’m dealing with the same thing. My bridesmaid disappeared after my wedding but felt it was okay to wish me a Happy Anniversary on Facebook a year later – adding, “So glad I could be a part of your special day!” Um, what?

  4. My fiance and I had a discussion about this not long after we became engaged. In the end, we decided to have uneven wedding parties for just this reason. He only wanted his brother as his best man, that was it. He chose not to add someone just for the sake of even numbers, and we were both okay with that.

    On my end, my cousin and I have been extremely close my entire life, and it was a no-brainer that she would be my maid of honor (or matron, technically… I was her maid of honor as well). But my best friend and I have known each other for nearly 15 years, and I very much wanted her to be a part of my wedding as well.

    We definitely went with the “closest of all time” criteria. We both chose people that we have known and been close to for many years, if they weren’t already family. Even if I drift apart from my best friend – which seems unlikely, since we’ve been close for over a decade and across continents (she has been in Japan for over a year, while I’m in the US) – our photos will still bring up happy memories of the many years we spent close to one another.

  5. On another note, Megan’s #3 hits very close to home. I was “kicked out” of another friend’s wedding party because one of the groomsmen who was in the military got deployed. The bride (whom I had known for about 10 years at that point) decided there were no other possible groomsmen and they absolutely could not have an uneven number on either side, so I was “demoted” from bridesmaid to usher.

    Even 5 years later, it still kind of stings, and I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that she chose appearances over having her friends by her side, or that out of 5 bridesmaids, I was the one that was deemed the least important. It was a turning point, and we have now become casual acquaintances – no longer nearly as close as we once were. I sometimes wonder if we would have drifted apart anyway, or if that was the key event that kind of broke our close friendship.

  6. A friend of mine got married last summer, and one of our mutual friends who was also a bridesmaid said she wished she could get married again because then she could have all of us in her wedding pictures 🙂 I don’t forsee this one being a problem for me because my whole wedding party is my sister, his brother, and our niece, but the sentiment was appreciated!

  7. My cousin got married last year, only three months after her sister had died. At her sister’s funeral, a very old friend of my cousin’s (and mine) showed up, which was incredibly sweet and appreciated. I asked my cousin if this friend was also invited to the wedding, and my cousin said that she wasn’t. She explained (in approximately these words), that “this funeral is to celebrate my sister’s life, and all the people who were a part of it; my wedding is a celebration of my life with my partner, which is new and a part of our lives now.”

    I really liked the way she put that, and it made a lot of sense to me. When looking forward to my own wedding, I’ve fluctuated between having three bridespeople (who have been the life-longers), or 8, which would include some people I’ve only become close with recently and who, honestly, may or may not be friends for life.

    I’m now leaning towards having a larger party — though the life-longers will get recognized a bit more in certain ways — largely just because I want to have a great group of friends to hang out with and party with as I prepare for and enjoy the Big Day. It will be a celebration of my life with my partner now, and I want to include the people who are so much a part of this stage of our lives, even if there are no guarantees that they’ll be around forever.

    Also — I plan on inviting one of my friends as a token of our friendship, which has struggled some here and there, but which I value very, very much. Regardless of the future, I want her to know that I love her now, and that I value what she has given me.

  8. Super good advice all around.

    To add an “or” to Megan’s number 2, I would say that it’s okay to pick folks close to you right now as long as you’re okay with the bridal party representing a snapshot in time.

    I have a picture from my highschool graduation, me and my friends, and I’m only barely pals with a few of them. The rest I almost never speak to. But I love that picture, I love seeing us together as we were, you know what I mean?

    I guess it helps that we drifted apart instead of fighting; we all wish each other well, we just moved on to different things. I only just got married, so I don’t know how I’ll feel when/if friend drift affects the wedding pictures, but I think I’ll be okay with it. The truth of how happy we were to have those people around us, the amount of love everyone showed for us on that day, that’s truth that can’t be erased, it happened.

    Even if we are separated by geography and interest/pursuit or even death, they were there with us and full of love that day. The picture will be great to me forever.

    • That is a wonderful way of thinking and looking at things. There are no guarantees regarding the relationships of the people in that bridal party photo, but one thing you hope is true that the love between you all is true and deep and real for that moment in time.

  9. I hear lots of folks talking about pictures — maybe the moral of the story is that we need to get better about capturing images of our friends and other loved ones OUTSIDE of weddings. 🙂

  10. Our wedding party is going to be my mom, dad, my two sisters, his mom, grandma, brother, and sister. It is really just who we have known our entire lives and lived with growing up. Basically, it’s my immediate family and his immediate family.

    I thought about including my sister’s husbands and kids and his sister’s husband, but really we didn’t grow up with them. So no matter how much I think of them as family now, they weren’t there holding my hand when I was a little kid.

    My best friend I have known since I was in seventh grade and she has been close with me and my fiance since we started dating 6 years ago. She is going to be our officiant, which is the perfect way for her to be a part of the wedding party without sort of mixing up our theme of immediate family only.

    I have a few other really close friends but I just don’t see including them because as much as they have done for me, they will never have the same significance to me as my family does. But I’m really glad they are coming, and I will spend as much time as I can with them at the wedding because they are important to me too.

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