The expectations of bridesmaids can be demanding. And the expectations of one’s maid of honor are particularly demanding. It’s such a big responsibility these days that one woman went from offering her services as a professional bridesmaid on Craigslist to running a lucrative bridesmaid-for-hire business.
I didn’t need a stranger though. I had real friends. But, it turned out, some of them just weren’t who I thought they’d be when it came to supporting me before and on my wedding day.
The day before my wedding, my friend from college, Henry*, traveled eight hours on a bus to surprise me. My cousin was with me in spirit all summer, listening to my every wedding-related complaint. My only bridesmaid besides my maid of honor, Cassie, came all the way from Atlanta, even though it meant leaving her sick mother in hospice. Even my mom, with whom I have a rocky relationship, was there for me on my big day.
In retrospect, I wish I had appreciated these people more, instead of focusing all my attention on my maid of honor, Kaitlin*.
Kaitlin and I had met three years earlier, when she’d been a student in a writing class I taught. She was charismatic and intelligent. I liked her writing and appreciated the comments she made in class discussion. Our friendship solidified during our walks together to the train after class. We bonded over stories about the losers we’d dated in the past, men we blamed for wasting our time. Kaitlin and I were a lot alike.
When I look back now, it’s easy to see that she was never that great a friend. Sure, when we’d both been single, we’d related. But after I got together with my now-husband, Andrew, our conversations—when they happened—became dominated by Kaitlin’s latest drama. Kaitlin had a warped point of view when it came to relationships. I began to notice the way she always blamed the men involved in her stories when, really, she was clearly at fault. Kaitlin also had a habit of making plans and not showing up. There was always an excuse: She was stuck at work, her car broke down, she wasn’t feeling well, something came up...She’d text three hours after she was supposed to have been there, "Babe, are you upset at me? LOL, don’t be mad!!"
After Andrew proposed, Kaitlin grew distant. When she and I talked, we avoided discussing the wedding. I felt sorry for her—I was getting exactly what we both wanted, but her life hadn’t changed at all. Still, there was no question that Kaitlin would be my maid of honor. After all, she was my best friend—she had been there through my last breakup, as well as when Andrew and I first met. She had witnessed the start of our relationship. And she wasn’t just my friend, I thought, but Andrew’s also.
But as I started planning my wedding, Kaitlin grew increasingly detached. When I asked her to come decorate cupcakes for the engagement party, she said she was busy. She showed little interest in helping me pick out my dress. It was typical Kaitlin behavior, but it hurt more now that I needed her. She wasn’t just my best friend anymore; she was my maid of honor. With that honor, I thought, came responsibility. I had the unrealistic hope that Kaitlin would eventually step up.
At my engagement party, Kaitlin appeared anxious and out of place. Three-quarters of the way through the night, she disappeared. She snuck off to one of the upstairs bedrooms, where she said she’d been reading a book. That was just a precursor of what was to come.
A day or two before our big day, Andrew and I wrote Kaitlin out of helping with the logistics of the wedding. She still had a part to read during the ceremony, but other than that, we reassigned her responsibilities to others. It wasn’t a punishment so much as out of fear she wouldn’t show up.
She was there at the wedding—at least for some of it. Throughout the day, Kaitlin disappeared at inopportune moments. When it was time to take pictures or when we sat down to eat, she was nowhere to be found. She wore enormous Beats headphones at the dinner table. I’d never seen this sort of behavior from her before. It was weird, and somewhat disturbing. But at that point, nothing surprised me. Other people raised eyebrows, but no one wanted to be rude and comment. And she offered no explanation for her behavior. By then, I didn’t have time or energy to ask ,I just tried to ignore her and enjoy my day anyway. Near the end of the reception—as my other bridesmaid, Cassie, was making her toast—Kaitlin had the nerve to confront me. "Why was I not asked to make a toast?" she demanded to know. It wasn’t worth explaining—not then, not ever. I’d had enough. I told her, "Just let it go."
Sometime after that, as the cake was being cut, Kaitlin left—with my cell phone and the key to our honeymoon suite in her purse. My husband and I spent the last hour of our wedding trying to track her down. By midnight, when she still hadn’t returned any of our calls, I was seriously worried. I was afraid that something terrible had happened; I worried, perhaps irrationally, that she’d hurt herself.
We found out later that Kaitlin had gone back uptown to meet up with one of the guys she was seeing. Cassie—who was staying at her apartment—walked in to find some guy fingering Kaitlin on the couch.
Karen retrieved my phone for me. Kaitlin dropped the key off to the hotel in the morning. She and I haven’t talked since. Two months later, I’ve thought of reaching out. After all, she had once been my best friend. She’s in all my wedding photos! I wanted closure. The whole situation felt so weird and still doesn’t sit right.
Then I thought better of it. I hear it’s not unusual for brides to lose friends after the wedding—and maybe that’s OK. Not all friendships, I’ve learned, are worth hanging on to.
*Names have been changed