Dear Kate and Allen,
When is it okay to drop out of a wedding? My best friend is getting married in a couple months, and I’m the best man. It was nice to be asked, at least at first, but he’s been a complete Groomzilla basically since he and the bride got engaged.
At first, it was just little things that bugged me, like the fact that they both insisted on having a destination wedding six hours away even though it was inconvenient to literally everyone in the wedding party. Or the $500 that the other groomsmen and I had to spend on the special suit jackets he wanted us to wear for the ceremony. Planning-wise, he’s generally been pretty demanding without giving us many ideas to work with. Some sample texts, for example:
Me: Anything in particular you want for your bachelors?
Him: Nah just make it good.
Me: What do you think of [this specific bar] to start the night?
Him: I don’t like that, come up with something else.
It was only minorly annoying until he finally did insist on something: a huge blow-out weekend in New York City for his bachelor party, which a lot of us struggled to afford. The first night, he got so drunk he punched another groomsman in the face.
Now, he and the bride want to rent a house for a whole week before the ceremony, which is going to require the wedding party to split the cost of at least three or four extra nights. A lot of us can’t even make it up there so far in advance. At this point, I’m extremely annoyed and ready to call it quits on the whole thing. My friend has never acted like this before, but it’s like he’s become a completely different person. Would it be unethical if I dropped out so soon before the ceremony?
Allen: This is the friend you chose. Deal with it. Pick better friends next time.
It’s not OK to drop out of wedding parties you agreed to be in. You should have stood up to him from the jump and said that ridiculous party would be hard to afford and if it was that important to him, he could go but you wouldn’t. Groomzilla or not, best friends usually understand.
If he wants to get that house the week before the wedding, so be it. Again, tell him you can’t go. You’ll be there the night before so you can make the rehearsal, and you’ll be there on his big day. That’s your obligation as best man.
Marriage/engagements change people sometimes. Maybe this is who your friend is. Maybe he’s always been a doofus and this is just the first time you’re noticing.
Regardless, don’t spend time around people who drunkenly punch their friends in the face. It’s a good way to get punched in the face.
Kate: Yeah. I do think it would be unethical and very not okay for you to drop out of the wedding mere weeks before the ceremony. I’m not saying I disagree with the overarching substance of your letter, which makes your self-described “best friend” sound very much like an a-hole (as an aside, I really, really wish I could have witnessed his bachelor party). But I also wonder if you’ve made any effort to really sit down with him since this sudden and unexpected change in character.
If all those Dave Barry books I read as a teenager are correct, it seems like a lot of men do this weird thing where they just ... don’t talk to each other? About what’s bothering them? This is strange to me. If you two are close, it seems like you’re long overdue for a tête-à-tête over what might be causing his behavior. If the Holmes-Rahe inventory is to be believed, marriage is one of the top 10 most stressful life events. Wedding planning is so notoriously demanding that it’s become a rom-com trope. I’d guess that your friend is so consumed in the process that he’s completely lost sight of how his actions are affecting his closest friends. It sounds like he and his fiancee are trapped in a bit of a folie à deux with a single-minded focus on their impending nuptials.
What I’m saying is, try to see things from his perspective. If I were you, I’d stage a good, old-fashioned, tough-love intervention for your friend, backed by the rest of the groomsmen. Explain that you love and care about him, but his demands are putting stress on his friendships and making it hard for you all to fully participate in the wedding. Explain that it’s not feasible for you to split the cost of a rental house for an entire week before the ceremony. But I’d also ask how he’s been holding up, and gently probe the reasoning behind some of his demands. As Voltaire once said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” It sounds like your friend is so focused on having a perfect wedding that he’s forgotten how to have fun with it.
Hopefully, this conversation will go well and this temporary rift in your friendship will soon become a distant memory. If it doesn’t ... well, I still don’t think you should drop out of the wedding. Yeah, it would suck, and it would probably feel more imminently satisfying to take the pettier path. But you’ve already bought the suit. You’ve already paid for the bachelor party. You don’t ever have to talk to the guy again. I’m just not callous enough to suggest that you leave him high and dry weeks before he ties the knot.
Dear Kate and Allen,
I’m in a bind at work, and I’m not sure what to do. A few months ago, I got a new job as a salesperson at a company that requires employees to start meeting sales quotas after their first couple months. If they can’t, they’re let go.
My boss and co-workers really like me, but I didn’t end up meeting my quotas, so I’m about to be fired, too. However, my manager gave me a choice. He told me that if I’m fired, company policy dictates that he won’t be able to write me a recommendation letter after I leave. If I quit, he can write a recommendation for any job I apply for in the future. But — and this is a big but — I won’t get severance pay if I quit. Whereas, if I was fired, they would give me three weeks of pay that I could use as I look for new jobs.
I’m really torn on what to do. On one hand, I could use the money. On the other hand, I worry that it would be worse not to have a recommendation letter, especially because I don’t have a lot of other job experience. What do you think I should do?
Kate: I was actually really surprised to hear about your company’s policy. To me, it seems pretty sneaky and exploitative to incentivize employees to forgo severance pay by holding a recommendation letter over their heads. But I checked with a friend who’s a human resources professional, and it’s apparently legal (“legal but not ethical” is the phrase she used). Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily clarify the advice I’m going to give you.
I think your next move really depends on your financial situation. If you can survive without the extra three weeks of pay while you’re looking for another job, I would recommend that you quit and accept the referral. In that scenario, there’s no record of you being fired, and a nice recommendation letter might help you find work faster.
If you absolutely need the money, though, the situation becomes pretty straightforward. You should take the severance pay. Having a reference always helps, but I don’t think it would ruin your job prospects completely if you didn’t have one. It sounds like you’re young and relatively new to the workforce, so a lack of references shouldn’t be completely unexpected to any future employers. If you have the option, ask for other recommendations — from a college professor, say, or even a coworker who could vouch for your efforts.
I did some research, and it’s apparently getting more common for companies to adopt general “no reference” policies. But a number of sites pointed out that under those policies, managers are usually only prohibited from issuing “official” corporate recommendations. If your manager likes you — and only if he really, really likes you — I think it’s worth asking if he could write a personal recommendation letter for you off the clock, or if you could give out his cell phone number for companies to call after work. That way, you might just be able to get a referral without sacrificing your severance.
Be careful, though. I would only take the latter route if you feel very confident in your relationship with your manager. As with most things in life, follow your gut.
Allen: You work for an awful company and I wouldn’t want their recommendation for any job anyway, so take the money and start looking for new gigs.
That’s an awful policy. Legal or not. It shows an incredible lack of value and empathy for other humans.
If you’re as well liked by these awful humans as you say, there’s probably some other moral humans you can get recommendations from. Use those instead. Sure, you’ll have to deal with the record of being fired, but to me it’d be pretty easy to explain that one away. So long as they don’t also have a sales quota rule in which you get fired for coming up short.