Brides­maid can no longer af­ford cost of friend’s bal­loon­ing wed­ding plans

The Washington Post Sunday - - DIVERSIONS - Carolyn Hax

Hi, Carolyn: My friend is get­ting mar­ried. It started with the idea of hav­ing a small cer­e­mony in the park, go­ing to her place after­ward for din­ner. Later we would put our chil­dren to sleep un­der a baby sit­ter’s care and go out danc­ing to a club. Then it changed into some­thing big­ger — rus­tic set­ting with brides­maids but still a bit ca­sual. Now it has blown into a big fancy place with match­ing out­fits for brides­maids. All seven brides­maids have fam­i­lies with kids and are now re­quired to have same color dresses and pro­fes­sional makeup. My fam­ily is on one in­come, and the ex­penses come up to over $1,000. How can I get out of it with­out hurt­ing her feel­ings or break­ing my bank (or rob­bing a bank)? — M. M.: Peo­ple talk about “wed­ding markup” mostly with re­spect to ven­dors.

But the more sig­nif­i­cant wed­ding markup might ap­ply to the emo­tions sur­round­ing them.

What you de­scribe here is a sim­ple, fac­tual case of be­ing priced out of some­thing. “I could af­ford the orig­i­nal ver­sion of ____, but now with all the changes, it’s too ex­pen­sive for me.”

Maybe say­ing this wouldn’t be the most fun you’ve had all sum­mer, but you’d still prob­a­bly have no trou­ble say­ing it if ____ were, say, a day trip to an­other city.

That ____ is a wed­ding in­flates it to a mat­ter of fear, dread, guilt and hurt feel­ings.

You can, though, choose to de­flate your part of it and de­lib­er­ately treat it as a sim­ple, fac­tual case of be­ing priced out of an ac­tiv­ity.

Tell your friend you were hon­ored to be in­cluded and you sup­port her hav­ing the wed­ding she wants, in what­ever form it takes, but that you re­gret to say you can’t af­ford to be a brides­maid. Of­fer to help her in some other ca­pac­ity, of course, that al­lows you to be there just as a reg­u­lar guest.

If she takes of­fense at your not hav­ing a dis­pos­able $1,000 — and don’t call it any­thing else, be­cause that’s all that’s at stake here — then that’s on her, not you. Hi, Carolyn: I am a grand­mother to a lovely 8-year-old boy whose par­ents are about to sep­a­rate. I am sup­port­ive of both par­ents and want only the best for them and my lit­tle grand­son. It seems very am­i­ca­ble, and I know they will co-par­ent with only the best in­ter­ests of my grand­son at heart.

I never in­sert my­self into fam­ily mem­bers’ pri­vate busi­ness, but I do want to be sup­port­ive to my lit­tle grand­son, as he is the one I am most con­cerned about. I don’t re­ally know what to do though. They are two states away from me, and while I can call my grand­son, I don’t know what to say.

Do I just act like noth­ing is go­ing on and not ask lead­ing ques­tions? I re­mem­ber as a child that when I was up­set about adult is­sues or con­fused by my par­ents’ mar­riage, it never oc­curred to me to speak up and ask ques­tions. I sus­pect it’s prob­a­bly that way for many chil­dren.

Should I some­how let him know I will be there for him if he wants to talk to some­one other than his par­ents about this se­ri­ous up­heaval in his life? Any sug­ges­tions about what to do or not do? — A. A.: You’ve al­ready cov­ered so many of the im­por­tant points just by ask­ing this ques­tion. You care about the boy; un­der­stand how vul­ner­a­ble he is in this sit­u­a­tion; know he might not be able to ar­tic­u­late his feel­ings; know not to take sides; are mind­ful of your place; are not rush­ing in to the res­cue. While your grand­son is in­deed in a tough spot, he is also for­tu­nate to have as stead­fast an ally as he does in you.

My only sug­ges­tion is that you ex­tend your good sense from thoughts to ac­tions. Ap­ply your un­der­stand­ing of your grand­son’s po­si­tion by ex­plic­itly of­fer­ing him a place to talk, no judg­ing. Ap­ply your mind­ful­ness of bound­aries by men­tion­ing your in­ten­tions to the par­ents first, so they can trust you won’t usurp, un­der­mine or (fur­ther) di­vide them.

And ap­ply your nat­u­ral ret­i­cence by not forc­ing the is­sue beyond plain, gen­tle and in­fre­quent of­fers to lis­ten if he wants to talk. Your grand­son might need prompt­ing to “speak up and ask ques­tions,” yes — but he also might feel bet­ter with your re­main­ing as one small part of his fam­ily life that isn’t af­fected by his par­ents’ di­vorce.

Peo­ple who aren’t dead cer­tain what a per­son needs are some­times the first to rec­og­nize what some­one ac­tu­ally wants.

One caveat that might point to your course of ac­tion: Kids who start spend­ing time with their par­ents sep­a­rately some­times have less time to spend with their ex­tended fam­i­lies. There­fore, it might not mat­ter so much what you talk about when you call as it does that you call, pe­riod. If it main­tains the tie, then even the weather will do. Write to Carolyn Hax at

tellme@wash­post.com. Get her col­umn de­liv­ered to your in­box each morn­ing at wapo.st/hax­post. Join the dis­cus­sion live at noon Fri­days at wash­ing­ton­post.com/ con­ver­sa­tions.

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