Part II: Should You Attend a Friend’s Wedding Even If Your Heart Says “No”?

Angry bride with bouquetIf you remember from last month, Ellen had to decide about attending her friend Robin’s wedding, to be held in a far away resort- it would be a lot of fun, but Ellen didn’t have enough money to go and couldn’t take time off from her new job, either- she was scared she might be fired- she liked the job a lot, and jobs can be hard to come by. On the other hand, even though Robin came from a big family and everyone planned to come, the most important people of all, Robin’s parents, had died several months earlier in a car crash and their absence felt like a giant hole in Robin’s world.

Ellen was torn- but mostly she felt like she should stay home and not put herself in financial jeopardy. Most people who wrote in to share their opinions about what they thought Ellen should do also believed that Ellen should stay home, and then celebrate privately with Robin later on. In fact, that’s what Ellen decided too; she spoke to Robin and apologized in advance that she wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding, mailed her a lovely gift, and some time later invited Robin to a picnic party to celebrate the wedding, but Robin was miffed and, even though she agreed to go to the party, she never showed up. Maybe the friendship is over, which is what Ellen was afraid of in the first place.

Robin more than wanted Ellen to come to her wedding, she saw it as a decree- Ellen MUST COME, but an invitation is not the same as an order, just as a desire is not the same as a necessity. Robin really wanted Ellen to be there, but did that mean that Ellen had to go? Missing the difference between desire and necessity caused lots of misery for everyone. Ellen felt bad about the broken friendship. Robin felt bad because she doubted that Ellen ever really liked her in the first place; everyone’s feelings were hurt.

Robin was getting married, and she was afraid and confused and happy and joyful and wanted her wedding to be perfect, or course, but how could her wedding be perfect when both her parents had died? How could she even get married without them? Robin was still in mourning. It’s possible that unconsciously having a perfect wedding was a way to try to make up in some small way for her parents’ deaths. Maybe a perfect wedding meant she would have a perfect life- except it doesn’t. Maybe a perfect wedding was a way of feeling in control at a time when she was very scared and feeling out of control.

This month, let’s look at Robin’s side of the dilemma. Here are some ideas to kick around:

1. Robin worked very hard putting together a once in a lifetime celebration. She wanted everybody to come and have a good time at her destination wedding. The celebrations would last for several days.
2. Robin’s parents had died, the two people she most wanted to be there for her. She needed to feel loved, but instead she felt like Ellen had rejected her.
3. Ellen and Robin weren’t best friends, but they had known each other for a long time and Ellen had helped Robin when her parents died. How could Ellen even think about not coming?
4. How could Ellen leave her in the lurch, knowing how she felt?
5. Maybe Ellen never was a real friend in the first place.
6. Wasn’t Ellen obligated to come? Didn’t she owe it to Robin to be there?
7. Maybe the wedding plans weren’t good after all.
8. Maybe Ellen was just plain jealous. After all, she didn’t have as much money as Robin, and she wasn’t married either, or even engaged.

Why look at Robin’s side of things? It’s an exercise in understanding somebody else, a way to develop empathy and become more fully alive citizens in the world. Part of growing is learning to feel our connections with others. Spiritually and psychologically we benefit when we see all that we have in common, rather than what separates us.

What do you think?

© Copyright 2011 by By Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Reagan

    August 11th, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    I can see both sides of the argument.
    But if I remember correctly from last month I was thinking that someone should not have to sacrifice their life savings or go into super debt to make this happen.
    A real friend would understand all of this and would not put so much pressure on you to come to the wedding even if your finances did not allow that kind of spending at this time.

  • Valerie Yaffe

    August 11th, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    I think Robin was an ungrateful witch quite frankly to be so demanding of Ellen who had already gave a lot of herself in so many ways to Robin. And not turning up to the party was just plain mean.

    Ellen’s better off without her. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 11th, 2011 at 6:24 PM

    Hi Reagan,
    That’s how I feel too. Thanks!

  • Andre P.

    August 11th, 2011 at 9:28 PM

    Not one of her reasons hold any water. How could she ask so much of someone who’d already been there for her at the toughest of times? Did she expect Ellen to risk giving up her dream job for her? Pathetic. She sounds like a spoiled brat and showed no consideration to Ellen’s situation. Find some new buddies, Ellen.

  • Clay Hall

    August 11th, 2011 at 9:54 PM

    She should have arranged a wedding closer to home if Ellen’s attendance meant that much to her. That would have removed a major obstacle. It was always the wedding first and Ellen (and no doubt every other guest) second. She can’t expect Ellen not to put herself first, just the same as she did.

    A big pat on the back to Ellen for not allowing herself to be dictated to!

  • Shannon

    August 11th, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    I can also see both sides as well…It seems to me that there is a lot more going on then what we see on the surface and too many assumptions being made by both women…I get a sense that Ellen’s absence at Robins wedding was a trigger that brought up Robins pain of not having her parents there which in turn brought up tons of thoughts in Robins mind about Ellens character and friendship…when deep down she was probably just feeling very hurt and Ellen’s decision not to come gave Robin a target subconciously to through her pain and hurt on…when in reality Robin was just feeling very sad and alone at her wedding without her parents…I think better communication would really help out in this situation…as well as both women allowing themselves to be a little more vulnearable and open…The way we think and react are very important and can dictate a situation and a friendship…

  • Lacey

    August 12th, 2011 at 4:45 AM

    Too many brides become this bridezilla monster and think that things have to go their way just because they are getting married. Hello! Just because you are getting married does not mean that you now have the right to treat everyone around you like crap and that they are supposed to simply stand by and take it. What I really think needs to happen is that some of the people around them need to stand their ground and say no, and these girls playing women need to grow up.

  • Matt Prior

    August 12th, 2011 at 5:04 AM

    I think Robin is being a little unaware here.She wanted her friend to be there so bad,then she should have sponsored the travel and other things.Its like you are rich enough to be able to afford to go to a particular place and are forcing your not-so-rich friend to go along with you.And when the friend says he or she can’t,you’re being upset about it!

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    Hi Valerie,
    I agree that not showing up the party was vindictive- a tit-for-tat I’ll show you that closes communication instead of opening it.
    Thanks for your thoughts,
    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:07 AM

    Andre, maybe Ellen should find new friends- do you think it’s hopeless for keep in touch with Robin?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    Clay, thanks for bringing up the destination wedding problem- it’s fun for some, a burden for others, especially at times when people are economizing.
    Maybe simpler is better. Who do you give the wedding part for- how much for yourself, how much for your guests?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:11 AM

    Shannon, your sensitive understanding gets at the heart of the matter- open communication and the willingness to be vulnerable- which comes with great strength of character.It’s hard to be in touch with your deepest feelings and also with the other person’s- but it’s the essence of relationship.
    thanks for your post.
    Robin was, of course, reminded of her parents’ death every time someone didn’t attend her wedding.
    Of course, a simpler wedding would have helped more people come.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 12:48 PM

    “Girls playing women”- nice line, Lacey. Sounds like you might know a bridezilla or two.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    It’s hard when friends have different sized wallets- the big buck person might be more aware of what that means to the littler buck person and make plans with that in mind. YOu’re right, Matt.

  • Danny

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:12 PM

    If I have all my near ones at my wedding and I’m still wanting my long-time friend to come,what is wrong with that?And I believe this is far more important for girls than us boys…Robin was not entirely wrong.After all,all that she wanted was her friend to be present on the most important day of her life.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 12th, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    Danny, yes, Robin was not entirely wrong- she missed her parents terribly, and wanted everyone else to be present to make up for their loss. Which is impossible, of course.
    What do others think- are wedding arrangements generally more important to the bride than to the groom?

  • robin pederson

    August 12th, 2011 at 11:18 PM

    Shame Robin thinks it’s worth losing a friend like that. Such great friends that are there for you when life’s very hard are worth their weight in gold. It’s easy to find fair weather friends that want to be around when the going’s good, but not ones like Ellen. I’d give my eye teeth to have such a fantastic friend! She doesn’t deserve you, Ellen.

    This has been a very interesting case study, Lynn. I hope we see many more articles in this style and I thank you for your hard work.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 13th, 2011 at 5:52 AM

    Hi Robin-
    Thanks for your kind words. I do like writing in this style, and I plan to keep it up- with your help.

    Your take on this is very interesting- you’re right- Robin is losing a friend who is there in bad weather. That’s a huge mistake.

  • Kollin

    August 13th, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    I answer to your question Lynn, I do think that the bride cares ALOT more about the actual wedding and the party than the groom does. But why? To me it is all a big waste of money when if you have the right person officiating, no matter where it happesns, you are all still married in the end. Personally if I come across a girl that wants to have some big show of a wedding, than I think that I am going to have to take a pass. Save the money and the headaches and go on a huge blow out of a honeymoon!

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 13th, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    Hi Kollin, thanks for your answer. I think it’s a bigger deal to the bride too. I wonder if anyone knows the history of how this all started? Was it ever part of dowry arrangements?

    OF course, as you say, the main act is personal- how the couple get along with each other and who helps make the commemoration of their love satisfying.

    It’s a matter of taste- some folks like big blow-outs, some don’t. But you clearly know what you want- I hope you find the right girl and take that honeymoon soon!

    Take care>

  • Andre P.

    August 13th, 2011 at 2:59 PM

    Lyn, in answer to your question I feel Ellen would be leaving herself vulnerable to more hurt further down the line if she remains friends with Robin. She’s the only one that can decide if it’s worth that. Since she’s going into it from now on with her eyes wide open if she continues the friendship, it would be good for her to decide in her own mind where the boundaries lie to prevent her being treated badly again by Robin.

    Ensuring the relationship falls within terms Ellen can live with comfortably, whatever that may be, means that all that’s gone before while she agonized over this decision isn’t for naught.

    I don’t imagine things will ever be the same again between them if they do reconcile. Ellen surely has no reason to want them to be anyway. I feel keeping Robin at arm’s length could well be a good thing.

    It’s sad but some friendships aren’t meant to be long term. Ellen’s grown and evolved during this and may not want to. Me, I’d put it down to a learning experience, be more cautious about who I allow to get close to me and move on.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 13th, 2011 at 6:07 PM

    Andre, interesting observation- “some friendships aren’t meant to be long term.” That is certainly true, painfully true sometimes.

    As you say, Ellen will have to decide where her boundaries are and if they can accommodate reconciling with Robin. Maybe there’s just not enough comfortable space to do that.

    Ellen is a long term relationship type person- maybe this is her learning experience about setting limits (as she did when she decided not to attend the wedding)and self protection.

    Thanks for writing.

  • Brianna Tyler

    August 13th, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    And what happens the next time she has an event Ellen can’t go to like a baptism? Will she get all huffy again? Ellen needs to look out for Ellen, not Robin.

    She shouldn’t let her manipulate her and I’m glad she didn’t. There’s much nicer people in the world that would be glad of her friendship.

  • David Dunn

    August 13th, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    I’m betting Robin would have no qualms about dropping Ellen in the blink of an eye if she felt like it later then too, were they to repair the friendship. So childish. I feel sorry for the husband. Poor guy’s going to have to live with that little tyrant. There are no MUST’s about attending a wedding, period.

  • John

    August 14th, 2011 at 4:53 AM

    Maybe these two women should just go their separate ways.

    Sounds like there are some more issues here than the two are willing to recognize or maybe have the time and neergy to work on at this time.

    It is ok to know when a freindship has run its course. And you never know- once one of them gets married she will then be in a different phase of her life and they may grow apart anyway.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 14th, 2011 at 6:02 AM

    Brianna, good thought, something like the wedding fiasco will happen again. Ellen could do better, you’re right.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 14th, 2011 at 6:04 AM

    David, your take is right on- I bet Robin would drop Ellen. In fact, she kind of did when she stood Ellen up at the picnic.

    I hope Robin’s husband doesn’t have to go through this kind of thing, but as you say, he probably will.

    And, yes, there are no attendance musts- an invitation is a request, not an order.
    thanks for reading and writing in.

  • Iris Clarke

    August 14th, 2011 at 3:50 PM

    Ellen doesn’t owe Robin jack. If Robin thinks that, then she is incredibly selfish and has the whole “I owe you one” concept completely backwards considering Ellen was the one that helped Robin when her parents died.

    I guess weddings tend to make all involved a little crazy at the best of times and in fairness it must have been very hard to not have her parents there. We don’t make our best decisions when we are extremely stressed. While I have a little sympathy for Robin because of that, I feel more for Ellen being put in such a predicament.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 14th, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    You know, John, you’re right- Ellen and Robin are going different ways, and the friendship might have been ending anyway. Good point.
    Thanks.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 14th, 2011 at 7:48 PM

    Hi Iris- you said it well- plain, clear and simple- and held the experiences of both Robin and Ellen in mind; or maybe in your heart. Good for you!

  • Jacqueline Cassidy

    August 17th, 2011 at 1:52 PM

    Also point #8, it says in black and white “she didn’t have as much money as Robin”. Yet she wants her to take several days off work to go somewhere she can’t afford? Ellen needs to find a less selfish friend who can say “I understand, don’t worry about it”. I honestly can’t put myself in Robin’s shoes and say hand on heart I’d have done the same thing because I just don’t see that happening. I guess that’s why we need therapists who can! :)

    My heart does go out to any bride whose parents can’t be there for the big day though. It’s what you dream about from being a little girl.

  • Rickie Wickham

    August 17th, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    I know what I would do. I would stand up at her wedding and say “I OBJECT!” at the right moment and see if she still thinks I was worth inviting hehe. ;)

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 17th, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Hi Jacqueline- It’s tough when you parents can’t be there for you at your wedding, but, you’re right, it’s wrong to expect others to make up for it by causing hurt to themselves. No one can make up for this in any case.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 17th, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Rickie- you’re a devil! ;>)

  • jackson m.

    August 19th, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    @Rickie Wickham-I think that would be a bit extreme. Such shenanigans should not be casually throw into the pot on their wedding day, despite you feeling Robin deserves it. There are some things that need to be said definitely between them, and there’s a time and a place for everything. The middle of a wedding ceremony is not it.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 19th, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Hi Jackson- I have a feeling Rickie was kidding. What do you think?

  • opal pierce

    August 19th, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    I’d be more sympathetic toward Robin had she came back at any point and apologized, even after standing Ellen up at the party. She hasn’t though so you know she’s the type that bears a grudge, justified or not, forever and has the daggers out for you after that.

    I can’t bring myself to feel the slightest twinge of sympathy at all. Sorry. Unless Ellen wants to spend the rest of her life as Robin’s whipping boy, she should dissolve the friendship.

    This has been a very interesting discussion, Lynn! Thanks for all your hard work you’ve put into this.

  • gabeallen

    August 20th, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    @Lynn-The only time an invitation is mandatory in my book is if the sender address is from the US Army Recruiting Office. Anyone who invites anyone to anything should be prepared to be told “No, I can’t make it” or “No, I don’t want to go.” and to accept that with a smile on their faces. There is absolutely nothing rude about turning down an invitation.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 20th, 2011 at 5:50 AM

    Opal, thank you for your imaginative comments- as you say- it’s significant that Robin does not apologize or, apparently, think she has any reason to.

    It’s surprising to me that few people feel any sympathy for Robin at all; I thought as the bride who had recently lost her parents, she was a sad figure, bus her tough behavior cancelled out everyone’s sympathy.

    I’m really enjoying the discussion. Thanks for taking part.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 20th, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Gabeallen- As you say, Robin’s invitation was a marching order- not a request.

    I’ve been in this situation myself- I’m sure we all have. Some people can’t hear “no thank you,” without taking it as a rejection- or maybe an insurrection!;>)

    Not everyone knows that friendship goes with equality; some folks need to control other people’s actions. Not much of a basis for friendship, is it?

  • Rosie Devlin

    August 20th, 2011 at 5:30 PM

    Lynn, you made me come out of lurk mode with your last comment LOL. :)

    I’m going to march to a different drum here and give Robin the benefit of the doubt that she really isn’t such a terrible person. I don’t believe any of us are deep down whether we think we are or not, but I digress. :)

    Her wedding must have brought home to her that she’ll never have her parents’ presence in any of her big life events-her wedding, any births, her childrens’ birthday parties, first days at school, graduations, house moves, new jobs etc…and it makes me very sad to imagine their missing all that (at least in the flesh anyway-I believe they will be watching from above). Her grief must have been compounded by that and laid raw all over again the closer the wedding got and the more she thought about what her new married life would be like.

    My heart goes out to her. I’ve been blessed with having both parents around all my life and they are in their eighties now. Just the thought of losing them makes me tear up and I know I would have been especially devastated to have done so at a relatively young age before I’d got married and had children and so on.

    Robin’s strange behavior makes me wonder if she’s unconsciously or perhaps consciously wanting to shield herself from more hurt and pain by alienating her nearest and dearest. “The more superficial your relationships, the less they can hurt you” kind of thinking. Although I’m not convinced that’s true, it could be how she’s looking at it.

    Does she feel angry at her parents, I wonder, and think that they let her down. I know last month Lynn your article last month said they died in an auto accident, so obviously their demise was sudden and shocking. It would be interesting to know if whoever was driving their car was at fault, say driving under the influence or on the phone while driving and distracted. Something like that would make you feel angry and bitter deep down for sure because it didn’t have to happen.

    So if you combine my ramblings and completely unsubstantiated theory on the accident there, perhaps her thinking could boil down to “The less people you let in, the less damage can be done when they eventually let you down. Because they will.” And in her mind, that’s exactly what Ellen did. And she could also be taking out her anger at her parents for leaving her-which I think it’s possible to feel irregardless of how much you love them or if they were at fault or not-on Ellen.

    Yes, no, maybe, possibly? :) Who knows. I don’t think Robin’s dealt with their death as much as she needs to and should be exploring her feelings in therapy herself.

  • ruby mitchell

    August 20th, 2011 at 10:16 PM

    No young bride should have to walk down the aisle without being on her father’s arm because of a tragedy. Show some compassion for the young lass, folks, even if that’s all you can manage in this situation to sympathize with her about.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 21st, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Rose, your beautiful and heart-felt response must mirror your compassionate soul. Thank you. I hope everyone takes the time to read and savor what you’ve had to say.

    I am so glad that you decided to come out of your “lurk.” Your thoughts and feelings are deeply needed.

    Thanks again.

  • Lynn Somerstein

    August 21st, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Ruby- thanks for showing your feeling self and speaking from your heart.

    Thich Nhat Hanh writes about “interbeing.” When we see how we’re all connected with what we have in common, the world becomes a bigger, safer, warmer place.

    Take care,
    Lynn

  • Jamie Saunders

    September 25th, 2011 at 4:52 PM

    This is a great debate of morality and I can’t what I would do in such a situation but I do know that both Ellen and Robin have reasonable arguments. But in this case I would suggest that Ellen doesn’t go to the wedding.

    If Robin is a good friend she will understand why you didn’t attend her wedding and she should, although being disappointed, not hold it against you. If she is upset with you after you explain yourself than you wouldn’t want to be friends with her anyway. True friends don’t get angry when you don’t spend your life savings to attend their wedding.

    I would really like to her the explanation of someone who sides with Robin.

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