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Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I’m scheduled to be a bridesmaid in my friend “Claire’s” wedding. However, Claire and her fiance are having relationship issues and there is talk the wedding might be off. I heard this through the grapevine — friends who are closer to Claire than I am. I’m starting to stack up expenses for the wedding and I need to put in for vacation and so forth, so is it OK to ask Claire directly, even if it might be painful and if she clearly doesn’t want to talk to me about it?

— Bridesmaid Limbo

This seems reasonable on its face, but then we get to the details: What exactly are you going to say to Claire? “If you’re calling this thing off, would you please let me know ASAP so I can cut my financial losses?”

Claire has to decide about the rest of her life right now. She’s busy. And, I imagine, miserable.

And, the implications on everyone else are very real and no doubt weighing on her terribly, but they’re also the last thing that should have any influence on her thinking. Do you know how many rocky couples go on to get married just because it’s too awful to think about telling the wedding party and all those guests they can kiss their nonrefundables goodbye? I don’t, either, but I know it’s more than one and that one is already too many.

You won’t know anything useful until she knows for sure, and she won’t know for sure until ... she knows for sure.

It’s a tough break for you, for all of you who have rallied to support her. But there’s nothing you can do now except see how it plays out, and maybe make sure any arrangements you make from now on are changeable/refundable to the extent possible.

Re: Bridesmaid:

Why not go all-in? You can sell the dress and shoes online. Take the vacation time and go somewhere fun! (Or find a way to enjoy whatever the destination was if they were going off somewhere exotic.)

I don’t remember what other expenses I racked up as a bridesmaid — it’s been a loong time — but I don’t recall more than just those items.

I don’t mean you should dance on the ashes of a dead wedding, but it’s not shameful to take advantage of the time you’ve already set aside for it to do something for yourself.

— Anonymous

The expenses rival only sea levels in the terrifying rate at which they have risen in the past few decades, but, your point is still valid. And good, thank you.

I’ve also heard arguments for dropping all-out — as in, telling the bride she can’t be a bridesmaid after all. While she’s entitled to do that, and should do that in the event of financial hardship, I also think that’s more ... mercenary than I’m comfortable advising. A bridesmaid is supposed to represent a support network, not an if-this-gets-awkward-I’m-out network. Which is why, of course, saddling bridesmaids with huge expenses is also a dubious choice.

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