Bridesmaid worries: Will groom be a no-show?

Dear Alice,

My sister-in-law is scheduled to be married this spring. At the church rehearsal last Saturday, the "groom-to-be" showed up an hour and 40 minutes late, and then did not want to practice. He has been making comments to his friends that he does not want to get married. Do you think he is just getting cold feet, or do you think it's more than that? We are afraid he just won't show up at the church. My sister-in-law seems oblivious to all of this, or else she tries to explain away his remarks. Should we be more forceful in trying to get them to sit down and really talk this out, or just show up at the church and hope for the best?

Signed, Anxious Bridesmaid

Dear Anxious Bridesmaid

You're in the unique and probably uncomfortable position of seeing more than just a "surface-level" view of this engagement. On one hand, you've noticed the groom seems reluctant about getting married. On the other hand, it sounds as though you've developed a pretty close relationship with your sister-in-law and don't want to see her get hurt. So, you've tried to check in with your sister-in-law, but she brushes it off, seemingly unfazed. What to do now? You have a number of different options, but at the end of the day, it is her relationship and only she can make the decision about what to do next. As for whether the groom will show, only he can know that. Everyone expresses nerves, excitement, or anxiety in different ways, and if he is feeling nervous about the wedding, it's possible this is his way of showing it. However, it's possible that it may be something else that's worth learning more about.

A good first step may be to gain a clearer sense of your goals before sitting down with either one or both of them, as the conversation is about more than just your sister-in-law being left at the altar. Are you invested in them staying together or invested in them breaking up? Do you simply want them to get clarity about their commitment to the relationship before getting married? And what do you see as your role in such a conversation? Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help you gain some clarity around your intentions before getting involved. Once you've done that, then you can sort through some options, such as:

  • What would it look like to talk to the groom? This depends largely on your relationship with him, how close you two are, and how comfortable you both feel having honest conversations about relationships. Additionally, you could ask him how he is feeling about getting married. Is he hesitating? Is he re-thinking the decision? What is the meaning behind these comments to his friends? Most critically, this could be an opportunity to let him know what impression he makes on you with his lateness and comments, if you think it would be helpful for him to know.
  • Another option may be to try to have more serious conversation with the bride. One tricky issue with this is that, if the groom is the one having doubts, talking with the bride may not serve much purpose beyond letting her know what you have observed and what your fears are. Perhaps you have already done this? If so, it may be useful to consider what may be behind her dismissiveness. Do you think she is "in denial" or might she have some reason for not taking his reluctance seriously?
  • A third option may be to consult with others. Do other people who know the couple share your fears that he may be a no-show? Are there other people who may also be in a good position to have a conversation with one or both of them? Talking with some others may give you a bit more insight to the situation. 
  • Lastly, the option of letting it go may also be on the table. Relationships often look very different to people from the outside than they do to the couple themselves. Perhaps your sister-in-law's nonchalant attitude is based on some "insider" knowledge about her fiancé's apparent ambivalence. After all, she is the one that has chosen to marry him. If that's the case, then letting go and stepping back from the situation may be an option.

While there is no way to predict what will happen, based on your relationship with both the soon-to-be bride and groom, you're ultimately in the best position to decide what type of intervention (if any) will work best to accomplish your goal. So, props to you for being such a caring sister-in-law.

Good luck,

Last updated May 27, 2022
Originally published Apr 01, 1994

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