DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiance and I are getting married at the end of this year, and I’ve asked three of my dearest friends to be bridesmaids. Sadly, one of my bridesmaids, Rhonda, and her longtime boyfriend broke up shortly after we got engaged.
Rhonda was completely blindsided and devastated. She thought her boyfriend was getting ready to propose. We would talk on the phone for hours, or she would ask me to come over almost every day, and I would try to be there for her.
After about three months of this, she seemed to be getting past it. Rhonda asked if she could come with my mom and me to look for my wedding dress, and of course I was happy to have her there.
But about 20 minutes into the appointment, she completely broke down into tears and ran out of the store. I went after her (I had to change out of the dress I was in) trying to comfort her, and then I asked if it was too hard for her to be involved in the wedding planning. I didn’t want her to feel obligated to me if it was upsetting her so much. She took that as an insult and accused me of trying to kick her out of the bridal party.
Since then, the same thing has happened at my bridal shower (that Rhonda insisted on throwing) and my bachelorette party. Each time, I’ve ended up spending half the night consoling her.
I feel awful that she’s in so much pain, but I’m also a bit concerned that the same thing will happen on the day of our wedding. I’m so excited to marry my fiance and I want to be present and happy on that day. However, I suspect that Rhonda will be sobbing through the entire wedding, and not out of joy. What should I do?
GENTLE READER: Rhonda’s situation is unfortunate, but Miss Manners objects -- as do you -- to her misuse of both etiquette and friendship. Friendship involves a reciprocity of sympathy and support. You have shown enormous support for her. She was invited to participate in your wedding not because of any requirement of etiquette, but because you wanted and expected her to share in your happiness.
If this is not possible, then the polite thing for her to do is to withdraw regretfully. She is misusing etiquette by misbehaving -- and counting on the fact that you will not rudely withdraw an invitation. Her insistence on co-opting wedding-related events into her own recovery becomes, after a point, a misuse of your friendship.
You have Miss Manners’ blessing to forgo dealing with future outbursts so that you can focus your attention elsewhere. But there is another debt of friendship that you can ask one of those other dearest friends who is serving as a bridesmaid: Assign her to monitor Rhonda and keep her from becoming a burden, even, if necessary, gently turning aside with her during the ceremony.
(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)