Carolyn Hax is on leave. This column originally ran on Feb. 17, 2013.
Dear Carolyn: Last spring we attended the wedding of my husband’s best friend. When we visited the couple the year before, they threw out a couple of dates they were considering. When the fiancee mentioned the birthday date, my husband, the groom-to-be and I all said, “Oh, that’s Jason’s 40th.” My husband and I don’t know the bride very well.
So, months later I was surprised to receive a wedding invitation for … the birthday date. I feel they should’ve tried to secure a different date knowing the groom’s best friend of 25 years was turning 40 that day. My husband has a congenital illness, so the fact that he even reached 40 was a huge deal.
I knew my husband was hurt, but I tried to soften the situation by saying, “Look at it this way: All of your friends will be in one place on your birthday” and “Maybe that’s the only time they could get. Let’s make a fun trip out of it.”
Days before the wedding the groom asked my husband to give a toast. Jason gave a heartfelt, lovely toast but there was no acknowledgement, or a thank-you, or even something like, “By the way it’s his 40th! Happy birthday!” Actually, the groom did thank him, but the bride never said thank you or happy birthday.
So, on top of being (peeved) about the situation, Jason had to stress out all day on his 40th about giving a speech later that night. I think a “Thank you” from the bride would’ve been nice.
I’m still bitter about this whole thing, but my husband really can’t let it go. I just need an outside voice to tell me, “Yes, that was rude. And she was rude.”
What if the outside voice tells you the bride may have been preoccupied, understandably and forgivably so, on her wedding day? Or that not everyone considers an adult birthday to be as big a deal as you and your husband do?
I can speak only for myself, but it wouldn’t occur to me to avoid marrying on a friend’s birthday, and any friend who wants to get married on my birthday is welcome to (though if it’s my 50th, I request an open bar).
I get that his illness gives his birthdays tremendous significance for you both. That, too, is understandable. It’s also possible the bride is rude, possessive, self-absorbed.
In cases when you have reasonably strong feelings, though – or even unreasonably strong ones – it’s best to say that outright: “Jason’s 40th is a huge deal to us, so I hope you’ll be able to choose a different date.” Then you’d have had grounds to be all kinds of perturbed – not if the couple chose that date, but only if they didn’t explain or apologize for it. Wedding dates, after all, are too often hostage to the availability of venue, vendors, parents, siblings, Grandpa, vacation times, favorable honeymoon fares and weather, and any number of priorities that aren’t for us to deem legitimate.
And if you had seen this (theoretical) lack of apology or explanation as a grudge-worthy offense, then you and your husband would have owed it to his friendship to say something to the friend, before the event, to give him a chance to make it up to your husband somehow – or just know where the raw spots were.
The way it actually played out, it appears you’re both upset about this couple’s failure to show respect for feelings you never told them you had.
And that’s too bad, because this grudge appears already to have stomped on any budding affection you felt for the bride, which no doubt will weaken this quarter-century best-friendship, if it hasn’t already.
It’s time for your husband (and you, his echo chamber) to decide: Was the couple’s lapse really worth the price he’s asking this friendship to pay?
Or is there more to this? It’s hard to imagine bringing a best friendship to an abrupt and silent end over the failure to say, “Happy birthday.” Air it or drop it – whatever the true grievance is.
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