It may have been a wedding fit for a princess. The problem was that the bridesmaid didn't have a royal treasury to help her pay the bills.
Two years ago, a bridesmaid wrote to A Practical Wedding, asking for advice with a very common source of bridal party tension — the bridesmaid dress.
As she explained, she and the bride had been friends for more than 15 years and were almost like sisters. But she didn't take into account the fact that her friend had champagne tastes and was about to indulge them.
Though they had both grown up as “working class poor,” the bride was marrying a very wealthy man. During a bridal party trip to check out dresses, the bridesmaid learned that the bride was looking at dresses that started at $7,000. And the bride's favorite dress was $15,000.
This was so far out of the bridesmaid's price range that she had to tell the bride. But it didn't go well. The bridesmaid wrote that she had started trying to save up as soon as the engagement was announced, but she wasn't prepared for this kind of expense:
I pulled her aside and told her that I would have to back out of being a bridesmaid, and I told her WHY (that I cannot afford the dress she chose, nor the shoes, the accessories, alterations, and more). I told her that I would be happy to participate in another way (perhaps do a reading), and if that wasn’t possible, then I would be content to be a guest. She was very, very upset with me, told me that I couldn’t back out, etc.
After the scene at the bridal shop, the bridesmaid tried to reach out to the bride, calling and sending texts, but got no response. Eventually, she sent a letter explaining that she couldn't afford the dress:
I finally wrote her a long letter, explaining that I valued her as a person and our friendship, and that I very much wanted to be a part of her wedding, but that unfortunately a $15,000 dress and even a $7,000 dress is completely out of my budget. I have a job but after rent, insurance, loans, and other expenses, I sometimes have to skip meals in order to save even a little for emergencies.
The reply she received indicated that she wasn't forgiven. In fact, she wasn't welcome at the wedding anymore:
[She] sent me a letter in return telling me how hurt she was that I backed out, that obviously I don’t value her or our long friendship because if I did, I would be there for her wedding. She said that none of the other bridesmaids nor the maid of honor backed out (maid of honor is her sister; other bridesmaids are her fiancé’s sisters, and her fiancé’s family is paying for their dresses, etc.) so that tells her that I don’t care about her. She said that I don’t deserve her and she is never talking to me again.
The bridesmaid went on to ask if she should have handled things differently and if the bride was wrong in not taking her budget into account while choosing a bridesmaid dress.
In response, columnist Liz Moorehead pointed out that brides and grooms generally don't ask about the bridal party budget, but that $15,000 is a lot for a dress, no matter what the standard:
It was your choice to spend that lump of cash or opt out, and it was her choice how to respond to the news. She decided to take it personally, and frankly, I don’t know what you could’ve done to avoid that. It sucks. It’s just not your fault. You couldn’t have foreseen a $15,000 dress, and you couldn’t just dig in the couch to find that money once it was proposed. Her hurt feelings suck, but they’re unfounded and not your responsibility.
Moorehead assured the bridesmaid that she'd done all that she could in informing the bride about her budget limitations. She also charitably suggested that the bride was just having trouble understanding how different people prioritize their money — though it didn't excuse the bride's over-the-top response.
The editors also included a postscript for readers who found it difficult to believe that a $15,000 wedding dress was destroying a friendship:
We know, we thought we were being trolled too… but we did some digging, and all we can say, is we give this [letter] a very high chance of being 100% real.
In her response to the bridesmaid, Moorehead suggested that the bride might come to her senses after the wedding was over. But two years later, it appears the friendship is broken for good.
The bridesmaid recently sent an update to A Practical Wedding, in which she explained that the bride did choose the $15,000 dress — which ended up closer to $20,000 once shoes, alterations, and accessories were included:
As the only non-family member of the original wedding party, her in-laws did not offer to pay for my dress, so I bowed out. The bride pitched a fit, told me that I was “uninvited” to her wedding since I obviously didn’t love her, and that was that. She had her big, bashy royal wedding, and I stayed home.
Several months later, the bridesmaid sent a card to the bride, saying she was sorry that she couldn't be in the wedding, and that she valued their friendship. The response let her know that she wasn't forgiven.
The bridesmaid is now philosophical about losing a friend over a dress she couldn't afford. (She adds that she couldn't justify spending that much on a one-day dress even if she had an extra $15,000.) She wrote:
I do miss her and her friendship, but I miss the old her, the person I grew up with and who was kind, funny, caring. I don’t miss the bride she turned into.
While she doesn't resent the bride's good fortune or the family's wealth, the bridesmaid now understands that her friend isn't a friend anymore.