Q. My good friend is getting married in July, and her closest childhood friend/bridesmaid just announced that she is due two weeks prior to the wedding date. The bridesmaid wants to buy the bridesmaid dress now and insists that she will road-trip 14 hours with her husband and newborn to attend the rehearsal dinner and wedding. This seems unrealistic!
My friend isn’t sure how to handle this, and as another bridesmaid I want to help. As a new mom and someone who has attended a bunch of weddings, what do you think is the best approach for the bride?
A. The short answer is that your friend’s friend is not going to be at that wedding. Unless she gives birth way early, and even then, she’s probably not going to be at that wedding.
But what you have here is a situation where both parties (let’s call your pregnant friend Jane, and your about-to-be-married friend Sarah) just want to honor an important moment in each other’s life, and that’s a lovely problem to have. The issue, however, is that both of these important moments are absolutely packed with uncertainties, and tend to create piles of stress for all involved. Weddings are notorious for generating heightened emotions, and…well, as I just discovered, having a baby can throw you for quite a loop. Put these two events together, and there is Perfect Storm-level potential for drama.
First, I’d emphasize that ultimately, the decision of whether or not to attend Sarah’s wedding is up to Jane. When I was pregnant (that’s actually me pregnant and in a bridesmaid’s dress on the far right in the above photo), I got lunatic-style pissed-off at anyone who dared to tell me what my body would and would not be capable of doing in the days after birth. Yes, I WILL be able to appear on TV three days later, thankyouverymuch. (Nope.) Host a show the very next week? Absolutely! (No again.)
It’s just very difficult for some women, myself included, to come to terms with the fact that they will simply have to physically slow down a bit after having a child - their bodies just won’t be capable of what they used to be capable of for awhile. And that’s not including the exhaustion, the extremely steep and stressful learning curve that a newborn forces on you, and the enormous emotional issues that can arise. And all this can be extremely distressing for the woman going through it, so sensitivity is a must.
But still: Jane’s been invited to the wedding, she’s been asked to be a bridesmaid, and it’s her decision to make if she wants to wrap herself in taffeta fourteen days (or less; first babies tend to be late) after giving birth. And who knows? Maybe she will be able to do it.
A lot of what to do from there depends on Sarah’s attitude. If she’s pretty relaxed about all things wedding-related, then what I’d suggest is that she let Jane do as she will (buy the dress, make travel arrangements, etc), but make very clear to her that she will understand completely if she ends up being unable to make it. And then she should make arrangements to accommodate Jane’s absence, because like I said: Jane will probably be absent. For example, she should plan her bridesmaid/groomsman pairings assuming Jane won’t be there…and ask the most chilled-out bridesmaid to be willing to make a solo trip down the aisle in the event that Jane shows up. Have two seating plans for the table(s) in question drawn up and given to the caterers. Stuff like that.
If, however, Sarah is a slightly more high-strung bride-to-be, she may not want to leave such things up to chance…and she is 100% within her rights to want to exercise control over the goings-on on her big day. If Jane’s absence would end up causing a big headache (or lots of time/effort/money on Sarah’s part), she should clearly state to Jane that she doesn’t want to put any additional pressure on her during this stressful time, and that in order to make the situation easier for everyone she’d like to honor her by having her do a reading (or something to that effect) if she’s able to attend. This is a task that requires minimal day-of effort, and can easily be passed off to someone else if it’s very important to the bride. Being a bridesmaid is pretty consuming, and despite Jane’s insistence that she wants to be in the wedding party, she may be relieved to be asked to participate in an equally important - but less overwhelming - way.