I was recently asked to be a bridesmaid in a wedding. I think it would be disingenuous to be part of the wedding party. I was close to the bride-to-be during high school over 10 years ago, but then realized she was selfish and manipulative, and would only reach out when she needed something. We had a falling out about 5 years ago. Since then, I have been civil with her in social settings but do not go out of my way to communicate. She is well aware of my misgivings and has even recently stated that due to our history, while she knows I do not consider her to be a good friend or confidant, she considers me to be one of her closest friends. It seems like most people have also grown tired of her ways and now that she lacks true close friends, she is now desperate to find people to fill out the wedding party. I find it impossible that she actually thinks of me as a “best friend” while she knows NOTHING of what’s going on in my life aside from what I post on Facebook (if she even checks that), and doesn’t make an effort to maintain a relationship. I don’t mind making the trip to attend the wedding which is out of the country, since some of my friends and family members will also be in attendance & c’mon, who doesn’t love weddings and foreign adventures?! How do I decline the bridesmaid invite?
Tell her you don’t want to do it and tell her the reasons you stated in your question. Well, don’t tell her she is a manipulative, desperate, friendless weirdo, but tell her the rest. After you tell her your very legitimate reasons why you don’t want to be her bridesmaid, primarily that you aren’t friends, listen carefully to her response. If she repeats the same old, “Well I consider you a friend,” stick to your guns and say no. That answer indicates either that 1) she is likely the person you described her as and is simply attempting to persuade a stranger from her past to be her bridesmaid as a fill-in or 2) she is a selfish ninny (I can write like Ann Landers) who is inconsiderate of your feelings, a situation that is just as bad, if not worse, than the former option. Firmly say, “No, and I understand if you don’t want me at your wedding anymore,” and mean it. Even though she is selfish, you should still be the bigger person and respect that this is her wedding. After you shoot her down, your presence might be uncomfortable for her. But, if she gives a reason that seems thoughtful and well meaning, beyond a shallow attempt to get a pretty face to hand out gifts and balance out the wedding party, consider it. Maybe she thinks you were close friends a decade ago, and you represent a time in her life which would be a reasonable reason to ask you. Maybe she thinks the wedding wouldn’t be the same without you because of that time you did XYZ for her. Who knows? Listen to the reason for her rejection and respond appropriately. She might not be the person you expect. Get a clearer view of the situation and respond. Lastly, you might consider just doing it if you can regardless of this other stuff. It would de-stress an old friend, you will get the adventure and travel you seek, and afterward you can go back to simply ignoring each other. This option isn’t honest but you both get what you want without having to acknowledge you probably don’t really mean anything to each other. It sounds like she only needs a bridesmaid, and you want to go to a wedding with family and friends regardless of who is getting married. Plus, with this last option, you can help relieve a ghost from the past of her loneliness, temporarily, before the final goodbye. I’m not good at giving best man speeches, but I’ll prepare for hours, have some structure, wit, and candor, and all I ask in return is your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org