Being a bridesmaid in a close friend’s wedding can be an exciting (if sometimes drama-filled) rite of passage. Being a bridesmaid during the COVID-19 outbreak — not so much. Here, the awkward and kind of unbelievable story about a young woman who dropped out of her friend’s wedding because she was worried about her safety, and the friendship that won’t be repairing itself any time soon.
When my friend Carrie* asked me to be her bridesmaid, I was excited. We met 10 years ago when we were still in school. I had never been in a wedding party before and I was super excited to do all the things. I found the bridesmaid dresses online — dresses that were actually nice! The other bridesmaids and I — there were four of us — threw her a shower back in January. I was in charge of games. It was about two weeks later that I first started reading about the coronavirus; I'm a big current events junkie. I'm also a second-generation Asian-Canadian, and our close family friends had recently come back to Canada from Hong Kong and went into a two-week quarantine. So I understood how seriously people were taking it.
It was shortly after the shower that Carrie mentioned there was a family on her guest list coming from China. I told her that was going to be tough unless they were planning on arriving two weeks early. She was super dismissive, like, Yeah right. I tried to get her to understand how serious this could get — maybe it was a good idea to politely tell the guests not to attend — but she said I was overreacting. Part of the problem, what makes this whole story so crazy, is that she is a health-care worker. She told me that she was very aware of everything going on with the coronavirus and that they were going to have hand sanitizer at the wedding. Basically: Butt out.
Things were tense from there on in. The other bridesmaids didn't get it either. They felt like it was the bride's decision to decide who was coming and that I needed to respect that. I had to accept the fact that I couldn’t control what Carrie was going to do, but I could control my own actions. About a month before the wedding, I sent her a text saying that I was really sorry, but that I just wouldn't feel comfortable being in an enclosed space with people who were not observing quarantine recommendations, especially because I live with my parents who are at higher risk because of their age. Everything was still really uncertain, but I figured that if I dropped out now, she would have time to find someone else. Like, if she was worried about having an equal number of bridesmaids and groomsmen for pictures.
She texted back and said she was sorry I felt that I had to drop out, but that she respected my decision. It was awkward, but at that point, I didn't think I was breaking up our friendship. I figured we would give each other a little space and things would eventually go back to normal. That's not what happened.
I didn't speak with Carrie for a couple of weeks, and a lot changed. Many airlines had suspended flights from China and there were travel advisories, so those guests who were supposed to attend obviously were no longer an issue. Then on March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and Prime Minister Trudeau went into isolation. Like everyone else, I was glued to the news and couldn't believe how quickly everything was changing. When I found out Carrie was still going ahead with the wedding, I honestly couldn't believe it. On the one hand, I felt like I should just stay out of it, but I couldn't stop thinking about how dangerous they were being, gathering in a group of over 100, being in close proximity — basically everything the public health departments were telling us to avoid in order to prevent the spread of the virus and to be socially responsible citizens. I figured I didn't really have anything to lose so I sent a text encouraging Carrie to reschedule. And that's when the shit really hit the fan. She called me selfish, a terrible friend. Her fiancé texted me and said that if I was so sure, maybe I wanted to cover all the expenses that would have come with changing the date.
Look, I get it. I was supposed to be going on a trip to Asia next month. I was so excited and canceling totally sucked. But it was the only decision. Given how much so many people are sacrificing, you'd think people would be able to put their own hardships in context and do what's best.
The reality is so many people everywhere just don’t understand how important it is to stay home and avoid social contact.
Carrie and her fiancé, now her husband, went ahead with the wedding on Saturday, March 14. What's even crazier is that a lot of the guests came from the States and obviously didn't observe the two-week quarantine recommendation. From what I hear, the dance floor was packed. In Canada, we see all of the young people on the beaches in Florida for spring break and think, how could they be so careless? But the reality is so many people everywhere just don't understand how important it is to stay home and avoid social contact. They think it’s being overblown or that if they do get sick they’ll get better.
It's not that I don't feel bad. I do. People talk about Bridezilla mode where the only thing you think about is your big day, and I guess Carrie had the bad luck to go through this while the rest of the world is going through a global health crisis. I think she will ultimately look back on her wedding and feel like she made a bad choice, which is not something people want to feel about their wedding.
I still have my dress — it's just hanging in my closet. I think I'm going to get it shortened. Who knows how long it will be until we can finally go out and be social again, but at least I’ll have something to wear when the time comes.
* This story was told to Courtney Shea and edited for length and clarity. Names and certain identifying details have been changed for privacy.
COVID-19 has been declared a global pandemic. Go to the CDC website for the latest information on symptoms, prevention, and other resources.