Dear ESB: My MOH can’t make the wedding

Categories   Wedding Advice

Ughh. Sometimes planning a wedding isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, know what we’re saying? This is a really crappy situation, but you know, that’s what the wonderful world of wedding blogs is for! To get straight advice from our favorite advice-giver… East Side Bride.

Maybe some of you have been faced with a similar situation, and maybe this will make you feel better too.

Dear East Side Bride,

I need a maid of honor for my wedding. I am an only child and an only grandchild if that shows how tiny my family is. My FH has three brothers, two older and one younger. His #2 brother has a wife. Because I didn’t want a big wedding party and neither did he, FH chose his childhood friend to be his best man. His brothers are groomsmen. I chose a childhood friend as well and made the SIL the general VIP (complete with her own flowers).

My childhood friend now cannot attend the wedding, let alone be in it. It’s not her fault, it’s her work. I completely understand, but I’m left hanging. I have many friends, but no other close friend who “fits” what I imagine in a MOH – no one who has known me for a long time, who is still close to me and can 100% come. The others who have known me for a long time haven’t been close to me for years, the ones who are close to me literally just came into my life in the past year or so, and the ones who can 100% come are in the latter group of very new friends. Plus, I’m now gun-shy about asking anyone who has to travel as we’re getting married on January 7 and you never know when an ice storm can hit – it happened last year). I don’t want to really be left with no one.

I sort of knew this was inevitable and I’m really sad. I’m used to being on my own. I’ve traveled through six countries alone. I’ve done multiple degrees alone. I’ve moved to two different states alone. I am very excited to get married and not be alone. But, through no fault of her own, MOH has confirmed my worse fears – that I’ll be “alone” up at the front of that chapel.

Sure, I am marrying the man of my dreams. I love his family dearly, but they are his family and my future rather than my family or my past.

I think I need to just go ahead and ask my future SIL. She’s a great person, but we’re very different types of people and sometimes she makes me uncomfortable, mainly because I’m a sensitive snowflake. I know that she will do her best and that she’d be honored. It does solve her awkward previous role and I don’t think she’d hold it against me that I asked someone else first.

So how do I get over my sadness at the symbolism of being on my own at this last and most important occasion?

The Lonely Only


When I sent your question to Kristina, she said “srsly, shouldn’t her oldest friend just suck it up and COME?” Which, yes. But if she can’t make it a priority to be there, she’s not Maid of Honor material.

It is written nowhere that your MOH has to have known you forever. ASK ONE OF YOUR NEW FRIENDS.

You need an ally to giggle with (and complain to about your mother-in-law). It doesn’t have to be so loaded, lady.

Photo by Lissy Elle

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Robbie on Oct 21, 2011

I'm sorry you are going through this :( My fiance has a bazillion friends, and I don't. I had to talk him down from adding so many groomsmen, because he wanted the sides to be even, and I seriously had no one to ask. I'm still struggling because he wants 5... and I scrounged for 4, but am having trouble finding a 5th person. He thinks it's silly and I don't try hard enough to have friends sometimes, but my job makes it really difficult for me to meet new friends and maintain old relationships. After trying to figure things out, I've decided to ask a new friend. Because I thought "Who will I still talk to in 5 years?" And she came up. Because even though we are friends now, I know we will be super close later, because they are our closest married friends (the husband is in the wedding too). So yes she's a new friend, but I'll be able to talk to her for years about our wedding! Which will only make us closer!

Lindsie on Oct 21, 2011

I'm so sorry that you're going through this! I agree that a new friend could be great! It'll make you closer, like the commenter before said. And it will give you the opportunity to let loose. As to the East Side Bride: "But if she can’t make it a priority to be there, she’s not Maid of Honor material." Did you not read the entire letter? Sometimes things happen that prevent us from doing what we really want to do. If this lady's work is saying she can't not be there, is a wedding really worth risking getting fired? Supreme lack of empathy.

Meagan on Oct 21, 2011

I understand wanting to have even numbers while standing at the alter, but that part of the wedding is such a small part. I stressed over my bridesmaids as well, and rounded up 4 friends to match my now husband, but at the end of the day, the ceremony was about me and him. It didn't matter who was standing behind me or sitting next to me at the head table. My eyes were on him the whole time. Don't struggle to find a replacement if it's not in your heart. Take pride in being independent. I too am typically on my own and have since told my husband, if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't have had a bridal party. I hope January 7th is the magical day, I'm sure you're dreaming it to be...whether or not you have anyone standing behind you, you have the man you'll spend your life with in front of you.

alexis. on Oct 21, 2011

If your sister in law makes you uncomfortable, project to have an uncomfortable time being a bride. If your best friend, or the oldest friend you have, cannot be there under ANY circumstances, then that is what it is. It's hard to base friendships on things like this. Don't beat yourself up. If you have a friend that is willing to be there, who is a new friend, but someone you can imagine in your life years later with no qualms, ask her. Just because she's new shouldn't disqualify her. Don't fret. Your groom should understand, or try to, where you're coming from. It's supposed to be about you + him anyways. You're judicious it sounds in picking friends and relationships and accustomed to being the only one in things. Don't let that fail you now, but be open too!

MrsMooney on Oct 21, 2011

If it makes you feel better, why not ask your fiancee if his best man and groomsmen can sit down once you come down the aisle and the ceremony starts? Your officiant can say "You may all take a seat," meaning the audience AND your groomsmen/sister-in-law. Then instead of feeling alone, it will be you and your future husband as a team...which is how it will be for the rest of your lives! Congrats!! PS: Do you have any male friends, or are any of the groomsmen also *your* good friends? No one said bridesmaids have to be girls...

Rachael on Oct 21, 2011

I'm so nervous about picking bridesmaids! I have cousins, which is nice, but I also have a similar situation where I have some friends whom I was close with but have been out of touch with for a while, and others who I just met and won't have known for very long but see all the time. I feel like I want my 'maids to be people who I know will be there in 10 years. I don't know if the distance will keep growing with my old friends, or how long my new friends will be around, so I'll be struggling with this. Glad to know I'm not alone. But I definitely agree--I'd go with one of my new friends over someone who makes me uncomfortable!

Kirsty {a safe mooring} on Oct 21, 2011

Totally agree with esb (obvi). While it is gutting that your friend can't make it (you crazy Americans and your no holidays), your wedding is just a snapshot of a moment in time. It can never capture everything you've ever been, and everything you ever will be. One of my bridesmaids had only been a proper friend for a couple of years when we got engaged, but I'm so glad I did ask her - it has brought us so much closer and I know it meant a lot to her to be asked, even if she was a little surprised at first. She's now one of my best friends. I assume you're still young - you have a whole lifetime of friendships ahead of you that will come and go, so why not grab this chance to show someone they mean a lot to you. They might just surprise you. (Or, don't have anyone. It's not compulsory, and no one will think any less of you. You're the BRIDE.)

Ashley on Oct 21, 2011

What a huge letdown; I agree that your friend should have done more to be there for you on your big day! I also think that--even though-- you aren't as close with your other friends that you should ask one of them. Think of which one of those friends makes you feel the most "yourself" and ask her. Plan fun little outtings with her up until the wedding and it will be amazing.. Don't ask your SIL.

Katie on Oct 21, 2011

I was recently at a wedding and the groom had his father as his best man. Have you given any thought to having your mom as your maid/matron of honor? After all, she probably knows you better than anyone else. Either way, choose the person who will make you feel your best on your special day and keep the focus on you and your FH. That's what's important.

Nicole on Oct 21, 2011

this is totally lame. sorry you are having to worry about this! i totally agree, just ask one of your 'newer' friends. If they are close to you and love you and are excited about being there on your wedding day, then that's what's important. no worries about how long you've known them! good luck, i'm sure your wedding day will be beautiful and all you've dreamed of. and honestly, by the day of the wedding the only person standing up front with you that matters is your new husband!!

Sami on Oct 21, 2011

You didn't mention your parents so I don't know if this would work. But you could always ask your mom. Some women choose their mothers first as their MOH b/c they are that close. You wouldn't have to worry (I hope) about her not showing up. just a thought.

Erin on Oct 21, 2011

I agree with many of the comments that the response ESB made about your Maid of Honor isn't necessarily fair. I've been in a wedding where the MOH couldn't make some of the events leading up to the big day because her boss demanded her to attend a workshop on a Sat-Sun to discuss "work-life balance" (no joke). I'd recommend one of your new friends (new and old are the same if they are good friends), your mother is a nice suggestion, or if you have an aunt you may be close with (you said you are an only grandchild, but not sure if that means you don't have aunts). I also like the suggestion of the groomsmen stepping down once the ceremony starts, or maybe they only act as ushers, so it isn't noticed that there is that imbalance. Please don't stress - no matter what, come January you will have a wonderful day filled with people who want to share in your happiness. Take care.

Kristy on Oct 21, 2011

Sorry to sound a little smarmy (I figure that's okay when we're dealing with eastsidebride.... whom I adore) but screw 'em. I asked a girl I had only known for SIX MONTHS to be my MOH bypassing a sister-in-law and a childhood friend whom I never see anymore. When someone's a true friend, it doesn't matter how long you've known them. And she ROCKED it btw. We tried cakes together, sent each other inspiration together (lots of it from 100layercake!) and became even BETTER friends than we were before. Which is basically what MOHs are all about right? :) Good luck. Keeping my fingers crossed for you!

PNW bride on Oct 21, 2011

What an unfortunate situation! You have every right to feel hurt and alone. A few thoughts: 1. Do you have a brother? Perhaps he could stand in as the "man of honor." That would also fit with the theme of brothers in the bridal party. 2. What about nixing "maid of honor" and "best man" titles? My best friend did that because she did not want to choose between her closest friends, which would have resulted in hurt feelings. In this case, it would ease the pressure on you to choose one of these newer friends to step up as MOH. You could line up the bridesmaids in height order, alphabetically, or in the order of birthdays... Your guy could still place his best friend next to him. 3. Sister-in-law could be a gamble, I agree, but it could be an opportunity to grow closer to her. If she is the type of person who would be honored, perhaps she would make it her duty to ensure you have a great day? 4. I really like the idea of having everyone seated before you come down the aisle, the way folks do with their grandparents. That, too, might cut out the need to select an MOH from your current maidpack.

HiLLjO on Oct 21, 2011

Dear lonely only, I implore you to email me if you want to talk about this further. I'm an only child, too and I don't live and didn't get married in the state I was raised. I really feel for what you're going through; life situations just like this always remind us onlies of the familiar feelings that accompanied us through our childhoods. Much love, lady.

mobile crusher on Oct 21, 2011

I’m so sorry that you’re going through this! I agree that a new friend could be great! It’ll make you closer, like the commenter before said. And it will give you the opportunity to let loose.

Emily on Oct 22, 2011

Sorry ESB, but I don't think your spot on on this one. If your best friend is tied back by her work, she can't do much about it. Maybe you could have your new close friends as bridesmaids, without designating one to be MOH. Then nobody would "take her place" as I'm sure it would feel like, and you would still have support. I almost feel like I am in a similar situation (I'm not getting married but), with no best friend and only friends that I'm not closer with any one of them in particular. I truly hope you can come to a good solution that will make you happy!

Cathy on Oct 24, 2011

Hi Lonely (but not only!) This happened to me too. My MOH was my best friend for life and she couldn't make the wedding (her father was dying -enough said). I have lots of old friends but when I looked around at the people who had been most excited and involved with the planing/talking/helping about the wedding it was one of my newest friends that fit the bill. Sometimes we just know ourselves better in later life and make better friends?? Anyway I asked my new friend - who was thrilled - and was a fab MOH. So I think take the gamble. Besides your not on your own if your standing beside your man! Love C

Maggie on Oct 24, 2011

I think people are giving really good suggestions here, and I also agree that ESB is a little too glib here. Weddings are loaded with emotion, no matter which way you look at it--it's not abnormal or wrong to be feeling lonely and bummed out because your original MOH can't be there with you. It really sucks when work or life keep your loved ones from being able to attend your wedding, especially when they are dear to your heart. A good friend of mine was unable to be MOH in her sister's wedding (they're very close) because she was 8 months pregnant, and her doctor would not let her fly from the west coast to the New York area for the wedding. Both were devastated, but there was nothing they could do about it. You're certainly not the only bride who has experienced this disappointing scenario. In addition to the great suggestions above, you could also mix up your future husband's brothers, and have two of them stand on your side. There's no law that says the sides have to remain gender-segregated, or even by family. Having your SIL and one of your future BIL's on your side would a) give you people at your side so you don't feel so lonely, and b) could also be a really lovely symbolic act to show the new shape of the family, and your place in it as their sister-in-law.

Mackenzei on Oct 26, 2011

Ask someone you have fun with, who likes your fiance and who will be there. It's your maid of honor, not your soulmate. I am having a comically huge wedding party bc my fiance wanted all of his brothers and his friends comeina big group and .. yada yada... I asked a few girls that I wouldn't have asked if it had been a smaller party (obv) and their reactions were priceless -- tears, being SO excited, and being so involved/helpful/fun during the planning. You won't regret opening up to someone and don't just ask your sister in law, that's so lame.

Heldine on Oct 26, 2011

I agree - that's messed up that your MOH is making her work a priority before your wedding. She knew ahead of time when it would be to block it off for work. I think you should try to talk her into coming more and tell her about how she's the only one that "fits the bill".

JC on Oct 29, 2011

This posting hit a little close to home... i was THAT friend... who had the unfortunate position of having to turn down maid of honor duties and even attend the wedding because of work. I have no doubt this friend AGONIZED over the decision especially knowing that you would be left in the lurch... but there are jobs out there where one has no choice (i'm a surgery resident with at least 80 hour work weeks and my vacation schedule comes out a year in advance.) Bottom line... i tried to be there as much as i can for the bride getting married but in the end, i made the right decision. We are both sad that I couldn't be there physically for her but there are no feelings of regret or resentment which I've seen happen in situations where the maid of honor agreed to the job despite being unable to fulfill a lot of the duties involved. We are as close as ever.

Sarah on Nov 6, 2011

It is TOTALLY out of line to say the maid of honor isn't making enough of an effort. This is just the sort of thinking that gets people "bridezilla" reputations. Sometimes, you just don't have a choice. I'm a med student, and the Dean of Students does not grant us time off in the clinical years to frolic off to weddings unless it is an immediate family member, or our own weddings. We are responsible for our patients, and for our time at the hospital. It doesn't matter how much my friend means to me. I cannot shirk my responsibilities without getting in trouble with the Dean. It doesn't make me a bad friend.

Shavon on Nov 9, 2011

As a professional woman in a demanding career and a MOH later this year, I'd just like to put a word in for the judgement in this post. Women are getting married later in life these days, and that means that your attendants are going to be real women with real lives. This is not a small thing to ask someone to take on. Most of us are going to have some difficulty putting another persons needs in priority for a whole year. The implication that you are a bad friend if you can't drop everything for someone is frankly insulting. Yes, the other woman should have been clear about her obligations ahead of time, but the letter doesn't give you any of that context. Next time, your energy and expertise as an event planner would be much better spent advising someone on the issue at hand, and not making judgements.

Rietty on Dec 16, 2011

I've been going through similar situation. I've asked my best friend since I've been in Australia - 7 Years to be my made of Honour and of course she said yes. You know what happened? She disappeared, she doesn't answer my calls and don't want to talk to me any more. I think she took so much offence when she ask me for money and I couldn't lend her at the time. Also she is 38 and I'm much younger than her, she might be jealous as she never married. I haven't got anyone else here as a friend I would feel very comfortable. Most of my family and friends are overseas and not many would fly half way around the world to come in. Also, my fiancée doesn't want more than one person who doesn't speak English in the Bridal party. I have a Sister in law, his sister, but she's been trying for a baby, and if she is pregnant wouldn't be a good idea. My cousin from Brazil would come, she doesn't speak English, so would be one to fuss around and translate a bit through the party, but not more than one as I don't want to stress out translating all night. Than I have his best men girlfriend, which she is from overseas as well and is alone here, she is a new friend, not that close yet, I guess would be good and she would be in the party with her boyfriend and not seating by herself. So far I have to have 2 or 3. If only get 2 He will have to drop the third grooms man for a MC only during the party. See, independent women like us normally have this issues.

Summer on Jan 30, 2012

East Side Bride. I think that your advice to the bride could have been longer than one sentence. Not really sure how that counts as advice. The other people that commented on this letter gave better advice then you did and your the pro. Next time feel a little sympathy for the bride and give her more than 30 seconds of your time.

promstreet on Jul 14, 2012

I gave her a description of each of them, along with the dress each of the girls picked out for the wedding and she’s designing a set to match each dress AND personality!

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