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How to tell your friend to call off the wedding

It’s wedding season again. Or, for some, it’s “seriously, don’t marry that person” season.

For all the couples who appear meant to be, there are always a few that seem like they shouldn’t be sharing an Uber together, much less their lives.

So what’s a good friend to do? If you’re watching a friend head to the altar with someone awful, do you step in?calling off the wedding bridesmaid friendship runaway bride 4

M in Washington, DC, says no. “You don’t do it because it drives them closer together! It becomes ‘me and you against the world.’ ”

This, despite the fact that M tried to gently coax a friend away from a marriage. The friend ended up marrying, and then divorcing, but M still says you should never get involved. She adds, “People entering into bad marriages are in a place of temporary insanity,” so little can be done to sway them anyway.

It’s a delicate dance, of course, telling a friend that her potential spouse is all wrong for them. It’s hard to know what’s going on inside relationships anyway, and if your friend doesn’t see it for herself — and she likely doesn’t — odds are she won’t see the light when you point it out.


That’s not always true, though. Kathy in Brooklyn was engaged at 23 when her best friend said to her, “You know, you don’t have to marry him.” She realized her friend was right and called off the wedding. Kathy was already having doubts, but when her friend confronted her, she says she “felt relieved. Like I didn’t have to continue the charade.”

A recent study out of the University of Plymouth found that our meanest friends often have our best interests in mind. The study’s author wrote, “These findings shed light on social dynamics, helping us to understand, for instance, why we sometimes may try to make our loved ones feel bad if we perceive this emotion to be useful to achieve a goal.”

It certainly wouldn’t feel good to have a friend tell you to dump your betrothed, and you may find the intrusion into your relationship hurtful, but someone who says “get out before it’s too late” is probably a good friend.

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Rebecca in New Jersey has talked her friends out of bad potential nuptials in the past and says: “It’s a good rule of thumb that if your friends ask you to think a second time, you ought to.”

But what if your well-intentioned pleas are, well, wrong? Jamie in Connecticut was engaged when his fiancée’s best friend gave her “the talk.” Nine years later, the two are still happily married and the friend has been kicked to the curb.

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So is it worth the risk to the friendship? Sometimes two important friendship roles — being supportive and being honest — are in conflict.

A good rule of thumb: If you think your friend is making a marriage mistake, say so — but do it long before the wedding day.

In Brides magazine, psychologist Irene Levine says, “Ask your friend for an hour of her time,” during which you can “be specific about your concerns rather than using a broad brush to smear the guy or saying you don’t like him without an explanation.”

Tone matters — confrontational, forceful proclamations just look aggressive and provocative. Be prepared to be cut out of your friend’s life or be prepared to help them pick up the pieces if they realize you’re right.


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Levine also says you should check yourself first. Do you have any ulterior motives? Is your own love life in better need of your analytical energy? If you’re in a bad place yourself, reconsider trying to talk your friend out of it.

Marriage is forever, or should be, and if you see a train wreck on the horizon, try to help everyone involved avoid it. It won’t be easy, but a good friend is honest even at the risk of friendship.

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If your friend decides to go through with the nuptials despite your pleas, though, your role becomes to smile broadly, enjoy the wedding cake and wish her well.

Once you’ve made your case and had it rejected, accept the defeat and try to focus on the prospective spouse’s better qualities. And if the marriage goes ahead and crashes, be the kind of friend with vodka in the freezer.



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