Relationships

This Email From a Bride Firing a Bridesmaid Embodies Wedding-Season Schadenfreude

“I need to ask you to relinquish your duties as a bridesmaid.”

Stock art of four young women smiling and laughing while sitting on a hotel bed in matching robes, holding glasses of champagne.
Bridesmaids having a chill, stress-free time.
Thinkstock/jacoblund

There’s nothing like a dose of wedding drama to get people riled up. As one of our very own former Prudies, Emily Yoffe, used to frequently write, a little bit of low-key drama is actually good for a wedding itself—it gives guests something to remember as long as it’s not too serious. But we all know that a large portion of the drama takes place before the big day even arrives. And on Friday, a fired bridesmaid managed to up the drama quotient of some impending nuptials significantly with a single tweet.

Asking a bridesmaid to step down is such a potentially fraught situation that it makes breaking off an engagement look like a breeze. As seen in the tweet’s screenshot above, a woman named Alex took her chances on it anyway, and the email she wrote to the bridesmaid at hand, Courtney, who posted it, is a spectacular etiquette breach and one of the most passive aggressive documents of our time.

Why is this email public for us to analyze in the first place? Because Courtney screenshotted it and tweeted it at JetBlue, asking for the airline to refund her ticket. (The airline responded, and seemed receptive!) Let us now attempt to discern who is in the right and who is in the wrong in this modern farce of a situation where everyone seems sort of awful:

• There are pretty much no circumstances under which it’s OK to ask a bridesmaid to step down from her “duties.” Unless your bridesmaid ran away with your betrothed, in which case the wedding is probably off anyway, don’t do it. You may think you’re looking out for the sanctity of your big day, but in reality it is incredibly rude and will mar the occasion for both bride and bridesmaid.

• The above is especially true when the bridesmaid in question has already bought her outfit and booked her flight.

• Any “duties” required of a bridesmaid beyond wearing the specified outfit (/jumpsuit), being present and pleasant during the ceremony, and participating in photos should be strictly optional.

• If you must ask a bridesmaid to step down, you should not do it over email. It is a situation that requires the deftness—and lack of paper trail—of a phone call. If you are worried you may lack that deftness, refer back to Point No. 1.

• That said, brides should choose bridesmaids carefully from the beginning. Just guessing here, but was there possibly friction in Alex and Courtney’s friendship independent of the bridesmaid thing? Has Alex secretly thought this whole time that Courtney wasn’t up to the task? Or maybe Alex downplayed how much would be involved in being a bridesmaid in her wedding because she wanted to seem like a chill bride? It seems like these are two friends with wildly different expectations of what it means to be in a wedding, and this likely should have been discussed honestly before any jumpsuits were purchased.

• Come to think of it, should the bridesmaid jumpsuits have been the first red flag for Courtney?

• Imagine what the first draft of this email was.

• Frankly, though, this email could have been a lot worse. But that’s part of what makes it so tragic: It’s trying so hard to be nice while doing something that is definitely not nice. The sentence “I need to ask you to relinquish your duties as a bridesmaid” is, on its own, clear evidence that this sentiment never should have been committed to type. Consider, also, the implications behind, “[T]his is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to ask anyone.”

• The many reassurances that the bride isn’t mad and doesn’t feel let down make it very clear that the bride is mad and feels let down.

• Just the catastrophe of the subject line “Hey Court!”: devastating.

• If the bride absolutely had to ask a bridesmaid to step down, she should live with one less bridesmaid, even if it creates a disparity in the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. They’re already wearing jumpsuits, so tradition has gone out the window.

• Who is the Courtney-sized bridesmaid-in-waiting, anyway?

• Courtney should have just sucked it up and attended, bridesmaid or not. There’s a high possibility that Alex will be back to normal after the wedding is over.

• If the bride is insistent on full attendance to the bitter end, it’s tough to have the wedding on a Sunday night. That’s an inconvenient time to hold a party—people have work the next day. If it’s the Sunday of a holiday weekend, the bride should acknowledge that she is already asking people to devote one of their few holiday weekends to her celebration.)

• Courtney should not have tweeted this. The wedding, I take it, hasn’t happened yet. Was her friendship really worth setting on fire for a refund (and a viral tweet)?

• Courtney should not have @-ed JetBlue; @-ing an airline is thirsty and another thing that should almost never be done. Did she even try calling first?

• If JetBlue is going to respond to people’s airline problems on Twitter, should this really be its priority?

• OK, it kind of sucks that Courtney got this email on her birthday, but who really cares about birthdays?

Honestly, what Alex and Courtney both need is a little perspective. Maybe Courtney was being a genuinely bad bridesmaid, the one who kept flaking on the Google Hangouts and never opened the planning spreadsheet. If that was the case, why did Alex not address the problem earlier instead of letting it simmer for what was probably months? She could have given Courtney an out by posing it as a genuine question, something like, “Would you feel less stressed if you didn’t have all these bridesmaid responsibilities hanging over your head?”—provided Alex was accepting of whatever answer she got.

But the real reason Alex and Courtney’s expectations diverged so sharply here? Weddings turn people into monsters, whether it’s the bride trying to put on a highly produced pageant that society tells her is an intimate reflection of her value as a woman, or the guests, who have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for the privilege of watching an event turn their friends temporarily into lighting- and centerpiece-obsessed fools. Both Courtney and Alex would be fully within their rights to plead temporary insanity—the guiltiest party here is the wedding-industrial complex.