Always a Bridesmaid: Just Say No

This weekend, I was sad to miss my good friend’s bridal shower in Ohio. Though she couldn’t be cooler about it—and the party certainly won’t be hurting in my absence—I was still just upset that I couldn’t be there to join in the fun. The combination of expenses, the day it was planned for, and travel logistics just didn’t work out for me. I cringed but I did it: I said no.

Wedding season has helped me target this personal weakness. “Sorry,” I’ll now say. “I have plans,” “I can’t afford it,” or “I gotta wash my hair.”

Seriously, though, it’s not that people often care if I say no. But I still hate saying it. I hate admitting I can’t handle it all. I hate feeling like I’ve let somebody down. I hate missing out on things that sound fun or interesting. Sometimes I actually have to convince myself that passing on one party isn’t like turning down tickets to see an Oprah taping. It’s not like the bartender at the bachelorette party is going to start giving away free cars.

Since moving to Washington from the Midwest just over two years ago, I’ve had to challenge my former do-it-all policy. I’ve always been a pretty busy, involved person, but moving here only threw more options and temptations into the pot. The great stories I want to write, the interesting people I want to spend time with, the endless museums and restaurants I want to go to—they’re like confections, and I’m stuck in Willy Wonka’s factory with no way out. It’s tough, with all the fun, to fit anything else in.

So my strategy for saying no has been to make a mental Venn diagram of where my responsibilities lie, where I most want to be, and what I can actually handle. Do I want to go to my alma mater’s 200-year Charter Day Ball, take a weekend trip to visit my friend in Boston, and see Wicked a second time with my boyfriend? Well, duh—yes! But I’m not slacking on my bridesmaid duties, letting down a friend in need, or giving up a one-time-only opportunity by saying no to those ideas for now. And while each of those things taken individually is not a big deal time- or expense-wise, all three together certainly are. So I turn those down in favor of a weekend trip to a shower in Raleigh—that one can go in the center of my Venn diagram—or a chance to see Miami University’s hockey team play at Verizon Center, in my alma mater’s first ever NCAA championship game.

It’s been a real struggle for me this year. It seems the older I get and the more people I meet, the more exciting things I have to turn down and the more compromises I have to make. But that’s okay—every Saturday night that I stay in and save money, I think about all the fun I’ll have at the bachelorette parties. I’m taking more vacation time than I’d like to this year and spending more money than I’d like, but I’ve saved for it. I may not catch the next Nationals game, but I definitely won’t be missing any of these girls’ weddings. Some opportunities will always be there waiting for you. But other things come about just once in a lifetime. And when it comes to those things, if at all possible, I just don’t want to say no.

Katie, a local bridesmaid-to-be, writes occasionally about planning for and being part of three (and counting) friends' weddings in one year. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.