The ques­tions to ask be­fore you make your choice

You and Your Wedding - - Contents -

Twelve years ago, when my school friend Kathryn got en­gaged, pick­ing brides­maids was easy – so easy, in fact, that she never ac­tu­ally asked me. One day, we sim­ply met in­side Deben­hams, in­stead of our usual meet­ing place out­side it, and headed to the Coast con­ces­sion. There, she ex­cit­edly thrust a dress my way. Given that it was pale pink, had a bow and wasn’t from Jane Nor­man (it was 2005), I pre­sumed it wasn’t meant for go­ing to the lo­cal All Bar One. And so, along with the bride’s two sis­ters and two close univer­sity friends, we be­came such an ob­vi­ous bri­dal quin­tet that no bookie would have given any odds oth­er­wise.

Fast-for­ward to last year when I got mar­ried, and my bri­dal party choices were any­one’s guess. I don’t have any sis­ters, and I don’t even live on the same con­ti­nent as my univer­sity room­mate. Kathryn and I were lead­ing dif­fer­ent lives. In short, I felt trapped be­tween my rock and a hard (friend­ship) place.

“In a per­fect world, we’d have a friend who has been with us for­ever, is close to us now, and whom we be­lieve we’ll still be close to in the fu­ture – but few of us have that friend in one per­son,” says Shasta Nel­son, CEO of the on­line women’s friend­ship net­work Girl­friend­cir­, and au­thor of Fri­en­ti­macy: How to Deepen Friend­ships for Life­long Health and Hap­pi­ness. “Re­search shows that we re­place half of our close friends ev­ery seven years, so chances are high that, if we pick ÀYH EULGHVPDLGV WZR RI WKHP ZRQ·W EH WKH SHRSOH ZH IHHO ab­so­lutely clos­est to seven years down the road.”


8QWLO QRZ WKH VXUH ÀUH UXOH RI SLFNLQJ D EULGDO SDUW\ ZDV to look to the past. Th­ese days, new friend­ships are play­ing in­creas­ingly piv­otal roles in our wed­dings. Thanks to so­cial me­dia, our twice-weekly barre class, and in­tense ca­reers where we even call our col­leagues ‘work wives’, there are sim­ply more op­por­tu­ni­ties to cement new bonds. “Th­ese friends might un­der­stand the bride’s cur­rent in­ter­ests bet­ter than an old friend she bonded with in the play­ground,” be­lieves wed­ding plan­ner Liesl La­mare (lamarelon­

“A few years ago, I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand it when peo­ple said they ‘met’ on Face­book or Instagram,” ad­mits Danielle, 32. “But now I use three Face­book groups to make friends – one for work, one for new mums and one for my lo­cal town – and I have a Twit­ter friend who I pri­vate-mes­sage and email weekly. Soon, we’re meet­ing IRU WKH ÀUVW WLPH DW KHU ZHGGLQJ μ

The sta­tus of the new BF is on the ULVH IURP LQYLWHH WR IXOO\ ÁHGJHG EULGDO party mem­ber. “My long-term friends were con­fused when I chose a work friend I’d only known for two years to be a brides­maid,” re­veals Emma, 33. “But we saw each other ev­ery day. I still talk to her ev­ery day, even though I’ve moved away. I also chose my best friend of 14 years, and we hardly speak now.”

In fact, the only time Shasta warns against in­cor­po­rat­ing a new friend is if the friend­ship is too new – for ex­am­ple, if you worry that ask­ing would be awk­ward and over­step­ping an un­writ­ten bound­ary. “If you haven’t al­ready done a lot to­gether out­side work, or what­ever com­mon­al­ity brought you to­gether, such as the gym, an evening class, or so­cial me­dia, then your wed­ding might be too soon,” she sug­gests. “Think of your wed­ding as the place to cel­e­brate friend­ships you’ve de­vel­oped. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily the place to start them or take them to the next level.”


Ar­guably, the big­gest hur­dle is tra­di­tion – the old knuckle-slap­per of con­ven­tion, ex­pec­ta­tion, and the fact that your moth­ers still have cof­fee to­gether.

Caro­line, 31, is re­cently en­gaged and caught in this emo­tional friend­ship trap. “I have a school friend and we’re in a wider, very tight group, who all as­sume she’ll be my maid of honour,” she says. “But we’ve drifted apart in the last cou­ple of years. A few years ago, I found be­ing her brides­maid a tricky af­fair, and the dy­nam­ics have changed. How­ever, it’s a change only per­cep­ti­ble to us. I worry how our mu­tual friends would in­ter­pret it if I didn’t choose her, but equally, I don’t think I ac­tu­ally want her in the bri­dal party.”

It’s this in­ter­nal wran­gling (or, rather, guilt) over friend­ship is­sues that’s mak­ing many brides take a fam­ily-only stance. “I’m notic­ing a move away from invit­ing old friends and uni mates into the bri­dal party,” says plan­ner Laura Celiz (rock­the­ “A re­cent bride only had her nephew and niece walk her down the aisle.”

“One bride had her brother as her best man in place of a maid of honour – and why not?” asks plan­ner Louise Hughes (on­estylish­ “He is the per­son she trusts im­plic­itly, who keeps her calm, knows her in­side out and with whom she has an ir­re­place­able bond. It was per­fect.”

If fam­ily isn’t an op­tion (or de­sir­able), Shasta boils down the ques­tion of who you should ask to three key traits in your friend­ship: con­sis­tency, pos­i­tiv­ity and vul­ner­a­bil­ity. “Our clos­est friends should be in our lives reg­u­larly (con­sis­tency), make us feel good (pos­i­tiv­ity), and see or hear our needs (vul­ner­a­bil­ity),” she ad­vises. “A friend­ship with a lack of con­sis­tency can leave you feel­ing like they don’t know you. Lack of pos­i­tiv­ity can leave you feel­ing like they’re catty. And a lack of vul­ner­a­bil­ity can leave you feel­ing like they’re just peo­ple from your so­cial life.”

As for the guilt of not re­cip­ro­cat­ing an of­fer of be­ing a brides­maid, Natalie Lovett, di­rec­tor of The Whitewed Direc­tory (whitewed.direc­tory), is quick to shut it down. “If you think, ‘Why do I want her as my brides­maid?’ and the over­rid­ing an­swer is, ‘Be­cause I was hers’ or ‘be­cause she ex­pects it’, she is the wrong choice,” she says. It’s tough love, but Natalie is right.


You’ve made the call not to in­clude an old friend, so what now? Tin­der­style ‘ghost­ing’ – sud­denly drop­ping off the planet – isn’t ad­vis­able, even if you’re dread­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

“If you want the friend­ship to stay healthy, al­ways err on the side of tak­ing any op­por­tu­nity to as­sure the per­son that you love them,” says 6KDVWD 6KH UHFRPPHQGV \RX DIÀUP the friend­ship, ex­plain why you chose who you did, ex­press grat­i­tude for your friend­ship, and of­fer what you can – a pri­vate lunch, an in­vi­ta­tion to read at the wed­ding, even an ex­pressed will­ing­ness to meet up soon.

Shasta ad­vises a con­ver­sa­tion that be­gins along the lines of, “I wanted to make sure I shared with you how I chose my brides­maids, be­cause it cer­tainly wasn’t about who I loved the most. I adore you, and I so hope you can come to the wed­ding. I ended up feel­ing like I wanted only a cou­ple of girls with me who I feel know [your part­ner] the best. My friend­ship with you means so much. You re­mem­ber me when we were kiss­ing boys in the play­ground, and if any­thing, this just re­minds me that I want to do a bet­ter job of stay­ing in touch with you.”

A year after my own wed­ding (my in­stinct was to choose my cousin and my part­ner-in-crime from my sin­gle years), I’m still sur­prised by friend­ships – by how much joy I’d feel see­ing the photo where I bearhugged a friend I’d known less than a year; by how lit­tle I’d see some of my old­est friends af­ter­wards; that I’m soon go­ing on a girls’ mini-break with four friends I didn’t even know when I got mar­ried. It seems that how we make and break friend­ships no longer fol­lows any rules.

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