Friends don’t let friends marry total jerks. But what if speaking up about the engagement ends up costing you the friendship? Outside of being that person who shouts “I object!” mid-ceremony, it’s hard to know how to handle the situation. Is it ever OK to voice your reservations earlier on ― or is that bound to lead to a best friend breakup?
We’ve got answers for you. Below, friendship and etiquette experts share their best advice on broaching the subject before the Big Day.
1. Remember: Your friend is marrying this person, not you.
You may find your friend’s fiancé’s habit of mansplaning insufferable. She might chalk it up to him being opinionated, one of the the qualities that initially drew her to him.
The reality is, you’re not going to have to put up with this guy till death do you part (or until the divorce) ― your friend is. Keep that firmly in mind before speaking up, said Irene S. Levine, a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and the author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.
“What may not look good to you, as an outsider, might be very gratifying to your friend. Their needs and values may not be the same as yours,” she said. “Allow for the possibility that you’ve misjudged the partner. Give yourself and your friend the gift of time; try to get to know him better.”
Of course, it goes without saying that you need to say something if the relationship is a threat to your friend’s health or well-being for any reason.
2. Try to have the conversation as early as possible.
Timing is everything here. If you really feel compelled to voice your concerns, do so before any serious wedding planning is underway, etiquette expert Amber Harrison told HuffPost.
“An already difficult situation becomes nearly impossible once a venue has been booked, invitations mailed and a dress bought and altered,” she said. “Even better? If your friend is getting serious with someone you feel isn’t a good match and you think a proposal is imminent, have this conversation before the engagement.”
3. If your friend hints at having reservations, use that as a jumping off point for a conversation.
Ideally, your friend has voiced some concerns over the state of the relationship on their own. In that case, follow their lead and say you’ve noticed they’ve been stressed, said Anne Chertoff, a wedding trend expert at WeddingWire.
“Maybe they’ll tell you they’re having second thoughts,” Chertoff said. “But it’s important to ask an open-ended question to get them talking. If a friend is voicing their own concerns, indirectly or directly, it’s your job to let them know you’re there for them.”
4. Don’t come at them with a laundry list of reasons they shouldn’t get married.
If you do move forward with the conversation, have a very short list of reasons why their fiancé is wrong for them, Harrison said.
“I’d say have one to three points, the more specific the better,” she said. “Your concerns won’t be heard if you unload a laundry list of complaints about their partner. Stay on topic and remember that the things you say can’t be unsaid.”
5. Don’t bash the other person during the conversation.
Choose your words carefully. Harshly criticizing the relationship or your friend’s partner is going to put your friend on the defensive, Chertoff said.
“Again, the best approach to take is saying you’ve noticed their behavior has changed and want to know if everything’s OK or if something is bothering them,” she said. “Make it clear that you are there to listen and be supportive.”
6. Accept that your friendship may take a hit.
If your friend knows that you think their soon-to-be-spouse isn’t up to par, they may distance themselves from you, especially once they’re married, Harrison said.
“Unfortunately, this conversation goes wrong more often than it goes right, and the friendship almost always suffers,” she said. “Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to love and support your friend unconditionally, especially if you believe they have a hard road ahead. They are going to need you!”
7. Above all else, listen to your friend.
Give your friend some credit: There’s a high chance they’ve already considered and worked through the issues you plan to bring up. In the end, this should be a two-way conversation, not a chance for you to lecture your friend on their faulty decision-making.
“Don’t assume your friend is thinking or feeling the same things you are about this upcoming marriage,” Chertoff said. “If you bring it up and they disagree with what you’re saying and still plan to walk down the aisle, you need to accept it. If you don’t, it may negatively affect your relationship forever.”