One of my best friends is a bridesmaid in my wedding. She is making this engagement a living nightmare, complaining about the dress she has to wear, the people that are going to be attending my wedding, and who she has to walk down the aisle with at the ceremony. How can I tell her I don’t want her in my wedding anymore? Would it be proper to tell her that? I know she is going to be my ONLY headache during this joyous time for me.

Your wedding date is still a long way off, so I’m guessing offhand that none of the arrangements have yet been set in stone. There’s still plenty of time to find another dress that the two of you can agree on, and to reshuffle the processional so that she can strut down the aisle with someone she finds at least tolerable. I’d draw the line at rewriting the guest list for her, though. The question you need to ask yourself is “Is this whiner really worth the effort?” You did like her enough at one point to ask her to be in your wedding (heaven forfend you asked her for a silly reason like wanting to have an exactly equal number of maids and ushers), so the answer may be a grudging Yes.

It may happen, though, that you have your heart set on the arrangements as they are for whatever reason, and are prepared to dig in your heels and tell your errant maid to like it or lump it. Unfortunately, the only time one can ask a bridesmaid to step down without fear of repercussions is if the friendship is irreparably severed between the time you assign her the job and your wedding date. If you want to keep the friend, you have to keep the bridesmaid. Or at least the appearance of wanting to keep the bridesmaid. Otherwise, you’ll have a conversation that goes like this:

“Lisa, I don’t want you in the wedding anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Because you complain incessantly and you’re making my engagement a waking nightmare. Why do you have to be such a pill? It’s my wedding and I’ll do it the way I wish. My way or the highway, baby!”

Few friendships can survive such frankness.

However, there is a sneaky means of defusing the situation with a rather high success rate. Make it sound as if you’re doing her a favor by being considerate of her stress level, rather than your own.

“Lisa, you’ve been so unhappy since I asked you to be in my wedding. I really didn’t mean to cause you to be so upset by putting you in a dress you don’t like and pairing you with a guy you’d cross a busy street to avoid. I hate seeing you troubled over all these wedding arrangements. It’s supposed to be fun for us! I’m worried that you only agreed to stand up for me because you felt pressured or you didn’t know how to say no. But I want to make sure you know that you being in the wedding party is totally optional. If you’re unhappy, I’ll be unhappy too.”

And if she wails, “Don’t you WANT me there?” you can honestly respond, “Of course I want you there—you’re one of my best friends. But I need to know that you want to be there. If you don’t, I’ll feel so guilty for pushing you into this.”

Now, isn’t that kind of you? Are you a swell friend or what? Putting your pal’s feelings over yours! Well, let’s hope she appreciates your selflessness.

One of two things will happen at this point. Either she’ll say, “You’re right, I’m not at all sure whether or not I want to do this,” and you can soothe her with, “I want you to be at the wedding even if you’re not in the wedding—I promise I won’t hold it against you if you dislike being in the party enough to want out.” Or she’ll protest that she loves the idea of standing up for you and you’ll be stuck with her.

Either way, your problem is most likely solved. If she claims to want to stick around and then starts mewling again, just heave a deep, sorrowful sigh every time she acts up. Brush a tear from your eye if you can do so in a faux-surreptitious manner that’s not too forced. Say, “Oh, Lisa, I always imagined on my wedding day I’d be surrounded by joyful friends, and it’s just not working out that way. I don’t know what to do!” After a few rounds of this she’ll realize that she’s wrecking your festive mood and will learn to shut her big mouth, if she is indeed your friend. Friends are generally racked with guilt over such things.

Bridal attendants freak out in droves. Common reasons include feeling envious of your committed relationship or being afraid of losing you as a friend once you’re married. Maybe if you act concerned and understanding enough, she’ll let you know about what’s really gotten under her skin. (Or maybe your dresses really are hideous. They’re not pink taffeta, are they?)

One thing you absolutely can’t do is blow a spaz at her, no matter how tempting or justified such a spaz might be. Otherwise, word will get around that planning your wedding has turned you into a hideously wicked princess with no regard for the feelings of others. People have a way of remembering when and how others have been mean to them, long after the memory of their provoking that meanness has slipped their minds entirely.