my friend is getting married on my company’s biggest weekend

by Ask a Manager on October 26, 2011

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A reader writes:

I just began a new job and I love it. Unfortunately, I have a case of bad timing. One of my best friends is getting married the same weekend as the biggest event for my company, in which everyone is required to work as an all hands on deck event. In fact employees from my company are not allowed to take vacation at all in this month.

The event for my company lasts all weekend and I’m involved professionally as a head programmer. Changing my responsibilities now to attend the wedding would seem negligent, arrogant, and would get people talking about my lack of dedication, even though it is months away.

If it was a perfect world, I would want to be at both events. I love weddings and I love planning programs. My fear is that many people I know have lost friends due to not attending a wedding, and I don’t want that to happen to me. My plan is to talk to my friend and gauge her reaction, but I know she will be polite despite her true feelings. What should I do?

I should probably disclose up-front that you’re talking to someone who’s not at all a fan of the wedding hysteria that’s grown exponentially in recent years — the “it’s my special day so I get to make demands on people” attitude that many brides have (and maybe some grooms, although for some reason I never see that); the offense that some couples take if someone can’t use vacation days, travel long distances, or spend a ton of money to attend; the expectation that people will attend entire wedding weekends rather than one event lasting a few hours; and so forth. I’m really not a fan. (Although for some reason, I am a fan of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” show, where brides spend thousands of dollars on wedding dresses and often throw temper tantrums in the process.)

So there’s the disclaimer about my perspective on all things wedding-related. With that out of the way, here’s my take on your situation:

You have a new job that you love.  This weekend is your company’s largest event and they’ve made it clear that everyone is expected to be working. No one is allowed to take any time off that whole month because of this event. Given all that, it sounds as if attending the wedding would — at a minimum — jeopardize the way your new manager and coworkers see you. It also sounds like it’s not even a possibility — that they’d simply tell you no if you asked, and that you might look bad for even asking, given how clear they’ve made the importance of the weekend. In sum, it sounds like attending the wedding would have a significantly negative impact on your experience at this company, in this job that you love.

Now, your friend. In my opinion, a close friend who would expect you to jeopardize your professional standing or a job that you love in order to be present at her wedding — or who would hold it against you in any way that you couldn’t be — shouldn’t necessarily be a close friend.  The wedding is one day. Your job is your livelihood.

There are ways that you can show support for your friend and her marriage without attending the wedding: You could throw a shower or an engagement party, help her with planning or logistics in whatever way that she’d welcome, have your friend and her husband to dinner soon after the honeymoon, send an especially thoughtful card and gift … and probably lots of other stuff too. And you can tell her very clearly how much she means to you, how much you’d love to be with her on her wedding day, and how much you regret that you can’t be.

But that’s my take on it. Ultimately this comes down to a choice that only you can make: Is attending the wedding important enough to you to jeopardize your standing at your new job? It’s certainly a perfectly legitimate choice if you decide that it is — you just need to be clear on the possible consequences.

Want to read an update to this post? The reader’s update several months later is here.

{ 105 comments }

Monique C. October 26, 2011 at 3:00 pm

I agree with AAM. If your job was jeopardized as a result of missing work to attend the wedding, would your friend support you and pay your expenses until you find another job? It seems like your position is of a nature that would require you to be at work that weekend. Why not simply send the wedding couple a gift and make your excuses?

grace October 26, 2011 at 3:08 pm

I love Say Yes to the Dress but HATE wedding hysteria too.

Wilton Businessman October 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Sorry, all hands on deck is all hands on deck. Help with anything she needs help with, invite the newlyweds to your city for a weekend at your expense, or send a big check that reflects how much you love the person and are sorry you missed the wedding.

class factotum October 27, 2011 at 10:59 am

I don’t agree that the OP should have to send a big check or otherwise spend a lot of money. I also don’t agree that your degree of love is reflected in the size of the check. If she’s really a good friend, she will understand. Period. If she gets pissy about it, then she wasn’t that good a friend.

NicoleW October 26, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Are these events at least in the same general metro area? I understand wanting to share at least part of the “big day” with your friend. Perhaps after the work event is over for the day, you could join the festivities? I have some friends that went to a bar or similar after the reception, to be able to spend more time with guests.
Hopefully you can be at the shower and help out with other pre-wedding duties.

Erin October 26, 2011 at 4:07 pm

It sounds like you are pretty happy with the job and even these specific responsibilities, so I agree with others’ suggestions of ways to participate in your friend’s big day even if you can’t make it in person. It’s pretty unfortunate that both events fall at the same time, which is indeed rotten timing and also unlikely to happen again.

However, I would make sure this isn’t indicative of other red flags or lack of flexibility when there are things for which you *do* want/need to take off for life events or personal emergencies. Do you have any say in when this work event takes place? How far in advance did you know about it? Were you told when you took/interviewed for the job were you told of this month being a bad time to take vacation or even make weekend plans?

Personally, I wouldn’t want a job so demanding that I couldn’t make plans on a single weekend day months in advance. My job doesn’t often require weekend work and I’ve had to say no more than one to random Saturday work events due to prearranged plans, which luckily I don’t think reflects poorly on me. I wouldn’t want to work at a place where I would be considered un-dedicated because I had a close friend whose wedding I wanted to attend, especially if I notified people months in advance, made alternate arrangements to get my responsibilities covered, and didn’t regularly put others in a bind this way.

But again it sounds like you’re happy so good luck figuring it out!

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Several years ago my mom asked me what I was doing on a particular Saturday nearly 9 months away. I said Oh well Big Huge Event Of Awesome that I plan and run. It was the date she’d finally set for her wedding.

I did all of the work in the run up to the event. (I’d been with the org for 4 years and run the event for 3 at that point.) I made sure everything would flow without me and I went to my mom’s wedding. The event went out not without a hitch but as smoothly as I could have hoped and my mom’s wedding was lovely. It was, however, my mom and I was in the wedding, and I’d been there for years and I had some great people in place to make everything go well. In your case I think that seeing if there is anything you can do to attend the reception, throw a shower, etc. Would be the way to go. Make sure that your friend knows that you care and you want to be there. I vote don’t buy a big extravagant gift. Do something extremely thoughtful for the bride and groom.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

If it’s your company’s biggest weekend, all hands on deck, with a huge buildup to it… It would be insane to miss it. I’m getting the vibe it would be similar to a corporate income tax accountant taking vacation April 13-15. It just wouldn’t happen, or it would have severe repercussions.

I also agree with AAM. Weddings are overrated and a gigantic waste of money. What does it say about your priorities when you start out your marriage life by blowing $26,000 (Average cost of a wedding) on a single night. That money could be put to such better uses, it makes me sick.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm

I think the company was very honest and upfront about the schedule. I am sure your friend will understand. I would expect her to be upset – hey I would be upset if my best friend had to miss my wedding – but I would also expect her to get over it and move on. I also think she’s going to be very proud and happy for you. You both are moving into new phases of your life and you will get to share them together.

re: not wanting to work where you couldn’t plan a weekend off – it’s entirely reasonable. We have a major fundraising month each year and it is all hands on deck. That doesn’t mean we can’t handle staff emergencies but we wouldn’t be able to if others were on vacation. Sometimes work is work!

That HR girl October 27, 2011 at 1:12 pm

“You both are moving into new phases of your life and you will get to share them together.”

Very well said. This would be a great thing to share during the conversation.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 4:58 pm

I thought I’d weigh in here as a newlywed. If one of my best friends had had a work conflict for “my big day” (tongue firmly in cheek, there), would I have been sad? Of course – my wedding was about celebrating with my favorite people. Would I have held a grudge? Of course not! I like the advice I’m seeing above – make sure your friend knows you care (a card, a shower, assistance) and knows that you wish you could be there. And RSVP early!

Stacy October 27, 2011 at 11:07 am

This really is a situation where it’s about how you make your friend feel. If they feel loved and cared for even if you missed the wedding, the friendship isn’t going to be negatively affected. Whereas, someone could attend their wedding and act all put-out about it and as though they were doing the person a favor just by showing up, (which is how some guests feel given the cost of attending a wedding), and that’s likely to result in negative feelings.

Sometimes in life, “just showing up” is important, (for instance, attending the funeral of a person you don’t even know because your sad friend who has no one else to go with asked you to join her), but it doesn’t sound like this wedding is one of those things. Focus on making your friend feel good about the occation.

curious October 26, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Your plan to talk to her is a good one and your friend will get over it. The whole wedding thing is so expensive, she’ll appreciate an early heads up if you can’t make it for planning purposes. My best girlfriend couldn’t make our wedding. I had a million other things to distract me from her absence on the day, like, getting married so it was no big deal. And she’s still my best girlfriend.

Harry October 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Looks like I’m a minority here. I can’t get this from the OP but was the wedding set prior to you taking the job? Any instance to receive a new employee, one of the things I honor are plans and vacations which has been previously approved prior. I would expect the same courtesy when a new applicant comes in. If the date was set, I would not see an issue with taking the time off that weekend but prepare your team and do your part for your absence. It sounds like you have more than a month’s time to prepare. If you, your team, and company cannot plan for your absence for one weekend / day, then that is a whole another issue. Also with most IT companies, you should be able to get access to your network via VPN to allow you to work when there are no wedding events.

I would never miss my best friend’s wedding due to work. How many companies withheld laying off employees because of important dates or events? None.

Jaime October 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I would agree IF the new employee alerted her new employers of the date during the hiring process or very shortly after and they agreed to make an accomodation. When someone is looking for a new job and has some important engagements to keep (their own wedding, parent’s 50th, whatever), then I feel it’s their responsibility to give the company a head’s up. I would even tell the company if the date was several month’s in the future; it all depends on how important it is that you attend.

I would not blame a company or think less of them to refuse to approve time off after the employee began working there and was told about the importance of a certain timeframe for the company’s business. Though, I also think that if there are times of the year when the company is particularly busy (like enrollment/buyback for college bookstores) that they also need to communicate that during interviews. Of course, that is a good question for any candidate to inquire about as well.

Ornery PR October 26, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I agree. I think we forget to appreciate life’s great events, and prioritize our lives in ways we later regret. Would your CEO miss her best friend’s wedding because of a company event? Doubtful. That being said, I used to work for this little yearly film festival in the Utah mountains. The entire year is speant preparing for this ten-day event. My friends and family knew that during the month of the event, (and pretty much the 3 months before) I was unavailable and taking work off was not really an option. When a friend’s husband unexpectedly died, my boss didn’t even question my asking for time off to attend the funeral, even though it was during the week of the festival. Some life events should not be missed, and work should always take a back seat to those. Just my opinion.

Piper October 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Agreed. I’m not much for wedding craziness, either.

Here’s my story- I got married at the JP, had dinner with family, and then went to a nice bar/lounge with friends afterward. My very best friend was supposed to be with us the whole day (she’s like a sister to me). She was supposed to be at the JP, come to dinner, and then come out to the bar. She had taken the day off work (it was a Thursday). But early that morning, she called to let me know that two of the employees where she works had been killed in a car crash in the company car that morning and since she was the HR manager, she had to go into work and deal with this horrific event. She missed the JP and dinner, but did get herself to the bar event.

The point? Sometimes work is work and things can’t be avoided, and what happened to my friend was unexpected and I don’t have any hard feelings about it. However, if the OP told the company of her planned event when she was hired or very shortly thereafter, I can’t understand how this is a problem. As long as she manages to get everything arranged and cover for herself that day, she should go to the wedding (or at least part of it).

Yes, sometimes work is work and you have to suck it up, but for pre-planned events and even some that are unplanned (like funerals), you just have to put people before work. Because at the end of the day, it’s the people in your life who matter most.

Nichole October 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I think you have a fair point, but I’m not sure it applies here. In your situation you absolutely did the right thing by putting your friend’s needs at a horrific time before work, but the OP can be part of the celebration of her friend’s marriage without dropping everything in her own life. It’s very romantic and noble to say that work should never come first, but in practice for most people if you don’t work, you don’t eat, and most people don’t love their job, so that makes this particular event a dealbreaker. For a job you hate that can be easily replaced, sure, tell them you have plans and let the chips fall. But here, she loves her new job and would rather not commit career hari kari by backing out when they’ve told her they need her. The wedding is just a big fancy day, it’s the marriage that matters, and a good bride (and a good friend) understands that. I had a bridesmaid back out on me because she and her husband were closing on their first home that week. She gave me plenty of notice and was able to attend the wedding, just not participate in all of the events as a bridesmaid. Her replacement became one of my closest friends (she was a longtime friend of my husband’s, but I didn’t really know her at the time) and the dropout is still one of the people I would run into a burning building for. One of the groomsmen dropped out a week before the wedding because he didn’t have tux money…and said no thanks when we offered to pay for it. Haven’t seen him in a while. Moral of the story: The wedding is months away, she’ll get over it, but what she would never get over is the feeling that you knew all along that you weren’t going to make it (I thought your letter gave some pretty clear hints that you already know that being at the work event is what’s right for you) and at the last second didn’t show. Have the talk with her, it will make you feel so much better.

Piper October 27, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I didn’t actually say that work should never come first. But if it always comes first, then that’s a problem and that’s when you’re work/life balance is seriously off.

What I did say is that sometimes you have to suck it up for work and sometimes you have to put people first because people and relationships are really, really what matters. Work to live, don’t live to work. Just wanted to clarify what I was saying since you misinterpreted it a bit.

Piper October 27, 2011 at 3:56 pm

erm..*your work/life balance

Suz October 26, 2011 at 5:19 pm

My brother-in-law ran into a sijmilar situation recently. He and my sister were planning a vacation to Europe with several friends. Several months in advance he asked his manager to confirm the date of his company’s big annual event. Unfortunately his manager made a mistake and told him the wrong dates. My BIL didn’t find out about the error until after the entire group had already made their reservations and booked their flights for the same week. He understood what a huge deal this was for the company so he didn’t go on the vacation.

ImpassionedPlatypi October 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm

That’s ridiculous! Unless I could get full refund on the flight and hotel through where ever I’d booked them, or the company I was working for was willing to reimburse me, there’s no way I’m skipping something that huge that I’d planned months in advance. If the company event was really so important, perhaps his manager should have double and triple checked before giving him the dates. Seriously, that is ALL the employer’s fault and your BIL shouldn’t have had to cancel his trip.

Suz October 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I don’t know if he was reimbursed for the airfare or not. He’s in sales. I’m sure he’d have lost more in commissions by not attending than the price of the airfare. My sister went on the trip without him so they still had to pay for the hotel whether he went or not.

It was an honest mistake. It’s not like the company was deliberately trying to screw him.

Mike C. October 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

No, your brother was too much of a coward to stand up for himself and his family. He did everything right and still had to give up the kind of vacation many Americans can never afford?

He’s not setting some moral example by “understanding what a huge deal this was for the company”, he was being taken advantage of and did nothing to stop it.

KellyK October 28, 2011 at 9:50 am

I wouldn’t call him a coward, because it’s a crappy situation all around. I would say that since it’s the company’s mistake, that they absolutely should have reimbursed him fully if they absolutely needed him to attend.

Piper October 27, 2011 at 3:35 pm

Yeah, that’s insane. I would never give up a huge vacation that I couldn’t get a refund for a mistake my company made! No way.

This is what’s wrong with corporate America. People think work comes first all the time and that’s why we have such a twisted mentality and feel guilty about taking a vacation. It’s messed up and it’s not okay.

Ornery PR October 27, 2011 at 4:20 pm

Agreed!!

Laurie October 26, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Definitely a tricky situation. Perhaps the you might be able to approach your manager and say something along the lines of, “hey i’m committed to this event and i totally want to be here, but any chance I can listen over the phone / watch this video feed since my best friend is getting married and i’m picking you over her?”, and approach the bridge/groom to see if one of the attendees might be willing to arrange a phone / video feed of the event? All of this would be in addition to any bridal showers etc that you might attend to placate your friend. I do agree with the other commenters that ‘all hands on deck’ is a pretty clear message, and since your employment and your relationship with your employers may be contingent on this event, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to not attend the event.

Laurie October 26, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Holy cow. Attack of the spelling mistakes.
‘approach the bride* / groom’.

Nathan A. October 26, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Take her out on another month so you can celebrate your friendship in another way that is personal for you both. If you hated your job, I’d say go to the wedding, but it’s clear that you love what you do.

You love your friend – there’s a thousand ways to demonstrate that. Attending her wedding is just one.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Just curious: what time is the wedding? Any chance you can still work and then high-tail it out of there in time?

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 9:28 pm

The bride and groom have the luxury of picking a date that works best for them. They wouldn’t schedule their wedding on a date that their employer required all employees to be at work. If they hold a grudge because a guest is unable to attend their wedding due to a conflict with the date then they are not a true friend. Its not like the OP has a conflict with their bowling night…and any reasonable person should see it that way.

Disagree October 26, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I completely disagree with this advice! Choose work over your close friend’s wedding?! Work is work, some things – family, friends, your PERSONAL LIFE – are much more important. Really, if you work your butt off and make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare/help your company lead up to this, I’m sure they can work this event without you. Even offer to work that morning as late as you can…then get out of there and attend the wedding. I don’t know anyone in my family/group of friends that would choose work over life. Work-life balance, people!

Good luck!

Ask a Manager October 26, 2011 at 10:57 pm

It doesn’t sound like she’ll be allowed to attend; the company has made it clear that no one can take time off that month. She can still attend, of course, but she’d need to accept the consequences that she might be sacrificing a job she loves to do so. Like I said at the end of the post, either choice is legitimate — she just needs to be clear on what the trade-offs are.

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

But the fundamental question is….does the company have the ethical right to limit people’s EARNED vacation time and when they can take it, and demand weekend work? NO NO NO NO!

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Uh, yeah, actually they do. Most vacation policies are clear that the company has the right to approve/deny the specific days off that you request. Otherwise you could have every employee taking the same day off, or a key employee on vacation on a key day for her project.

That HR girl October 27, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Exactly. They also have the right to terminate her for missing said event. (if at will state).

A lot of people have been bringing up the whole “but if you tell them during the interview, they have to honor it!” thing… What they are missing is, if you tell them during the interview that you absolutely cannot work a certain weekend, and it happends to be the busiest/most important weekend for the company, they are allowed to reject you or rescind their offer.

Mike C. October 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

You guys are conflating legal issues with moral ones.

jmkenrick October 27, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Yeah, but it’s not immoral for a company to have certain events that they require employees be present at. That’s just life.

Part of my last job, for example, was organizing/running a convention. The company was small (only 4 people) so it was all hands on deck for the convention. They made it clear during the interview that this was not an optional event. If I’m not at the event, I’m literally not doing a big part of what I was hired to do & the company would have been smart to let me go.

I agree that overall, work/life balance should be respected. It just doesn’t sound like that’s the issue here. It sounds like there’s one big event – not an overall pattern of never being able to take time off.

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yeah, I would agree completely that a company that never allowed employees to take time off was run by jerks. But I don’t see a moral or ethical issue with a company requiring all hands on decks at a particular time or a particular weekend, when it’s a particularly important time for them. That’s pretty normal and most people understand that it happens occasionally.

I feel like there’s sometimes a knee-jerk reaction that if a company is taking a firm stand on something that inconveniences some employees, then the company must be in the wrong, but it’s just not always the case. Sometimes it is, and we’ve talked about plenty of those situations here. But christ, sometimes the company is actually right and you don’t need to give up your workers-rights card to acknowledge that.

Harry October 29, 2011 at 12:08 am

They do but in my opinion they are poorly managed. If any company with a reasonable number of employees cannot support a single employee taking a weekend off during a project which lasts for months is a joke.

clobbered October 26, 2011 at 11:01 pm

It’s not like she needs to be there to donate a kidney to her friend or to bail her out of jail. It’s a wedding – a social event. Anybody whose presence is required should be consulted prior to the selection of the date (from the letter it sounds like the OP was not aware of the date prior to applying for the job).

Work-life balance needs to work both ways. If this is her company’s biggest weekend of the year, the balance tips to the company on that one.

In the spirit of honesty, I’d tell the friend as early as possible (i.e. now) that you are expected to work that weekend. The longer you leave it, the worse it will be.

And young people: By now I can barely remember which friends made it to my wedding and which didn’t come. When your friends stick with you through decades of thick and thin, it doesn’t matter whether they turned up in their party frock at a church one day.

Ask a Manager October 26, 2011 at 11:04 pm

“Work-life balance needs to work both ways. If this is her company’s biggest weekend of the year, the balance tips to the company on that one. ”

I like this. Well said.

Sarah G October 27, 2011 at 1:04 am

Alison and “clobbered” — that IS well-put and resonated with me as well. This is NOT choosing work over friendship — it’s choosing a hugely important work event (as a new employee) over a celebration that will go off without a hitch whether the OP is there or not. Any bride who holds a grudge over something like this is just too self-focused.

Anonymous October 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

The operative word here, though, is “weekend”. I’m not denying that companies have important events that need all workers; but they do NOT have a right to steal people’s weekends!!!

Ask a Manager October 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

Weekends aren’t sacred; lots of businesses operate on weekends.

Stacy October 27, 2011 at 11:15 am

My dad missed one of his best friend’s weddings 40 years ago, (he was a farmer… talk about people that don’t get to choose their schedule…), and he’s never forgotten that he missed it. Recently, the couple that married way back then threw a huge aniversary party. You better believe my dad was there and really happy that he got another chance to celebrate.

My long-winded point… If they stay together, there will hopefully be opportunities to celebrate their union in the future, too. :)

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 10:38 pm

My wife and I have missed about 3 weddings that we really wanted to attend for various reasons. We spent the money that we would have spent on flights, rental car and hotel on a gift for the couples. It was our way to let the couple know that we really did want to be there and it was money we would have spent anyway.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 11:36 pm

In my expereience, “all hands on deck” doesn’t really mean ALL hands on deck.

What are the chances that something will come up such that the CEO or a VP or the controller or a favored employee or someone with a good excuse won’t be able to attend the AHOD event – 100%? 1000%? Do you think they’ll forgo their personal priorities in favor of the company’s demands? Maybe yes, maybe no. And, how will that make you feel?

Depending upon the circumstances, I might remember the sacrifice I had been called upon to make for a VERY long time? If in the end, it turned out the same sacrifices weren’t asked of everyone (as the company is saying it will require), it would a) communicate something about its commitment to its employees and b) cause me to reconsider how much I really loved the job.

Just saying …

jmkenrick October 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

In defense of the executive staff at my company, I’m going to say that depends on where you’re working – I’ve never witnessed them slack off while the rest of us are ‘all hands on’. If that’s the overall culture at the company, though, I think her best option is still to attend the event & work hard so she’s in a position to move to a place where favored employees and ‘regular’ employees both have to be present for the important events.

Katie October 27, 2011 at 2:23 pm

When I’ve encountered this situation in the past, all high level employees were there right along with the grunts. Bad executives and managers might skip out, but the good ones don’t. Either way, other people behaving badly is never an excuse for you to do the same. I find this sort of rationale to be extremely petty and immature.

Lesley October 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm

All the executives at my company probably give up more time with their families and friends than the rest of us. It comes with having more responsibility.

Anonymous October 26, 2011 at 11:40 pm

OP wrote: “My fear is that many people I know have lost friends due to not attending a wedding, and I don’t want that to happen to me. ”

I understand how you are feeling. I, too, had to miss a close friend’s wedding due to work. Did I feel like crap for missing her wedding? Yes. Was my friend disappointed that I could not attend? Yes. Did she dump me because of it? NO! I sent a nice gift, and when she got back from her honeymoon, I took her and and her husband out for a post-wedding celebratory dinner.

If your friend holds this against you, then she 1 – needs to grow up and 2 – isn’t such a good friend and you’re probably better off.

Dana October 27, 2011 at 7:33 am

Sorry, but I totally disagree. I think op should at least ask. I hate weddings but I can’t imagine missing my best friends wedding without even asking if it was an option to take off ONE of the all hands on deck anyway. Is this all hands on deck thing really all day and night ao that you can’t at least get some time at the wedding?

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 8:41 am

I think this advice is severely affected by the stance on weddings. It’s a big deal, a major life event for this close friend, and saying that “the wedding is one day” is dismissive and a little disrespectful. The OP admitted that she would like to be at both events. She is not saying that she doesn’t care about her friend getting married because it is just one day in her friend’s life, and the way you framed your answer makes it sound like that should be her reasoning.

Am I the only person who thinks it is common courtesy to go to something as major as a wedding over a company event? Your job might be your livelihood, but it shouldn’t cause you to miss important events in the lives of those you love.

If it were one of my best friends, I would want to share the event with them.

Nikki October 27, 2011 at 9:25 am

Yes, your job is your livelihood. I wouldn’t WANT to miss my best friend’s wedding, but sometimes, as an adult, you have to do what you have to do.

I could go to my friend’s wedding, and risk being unemployed, or I can keep my job and my friend.

It is just one day, the friendship is for a lifetime. There will be many more chances to spend time with that friend. The bride probably won’t notice the absence in the whirlwind of activity. I say be there as much as you can in the planning phase, that’s when friends are needed to do legwork.

Jamie October 27, 2011 at 10:51 am

I agree – and I would take it a step further to say that beyond just being an adult…when you have a position in a company where you have a level of responsibility that comes with rewards, and also obligations.

The timing is bad for you – but there’s a reason that people getting married don’t poll all their guests before setting a date. They pick one that works for them and people can either make it or not.

If your company is like most asking will be remembered, missing the event will certainly be remembered…and people can’t always recover from those things.

Besides, you sound really excited about the project itself and as you’re new it’s a chance for you to really come out swinging at your new job. You can really make an awesome impact, and it’s really hard to quantify what you’d be throwing away by missing it.

And lets face it, as much as it would mean for your friend to have you there – if she’s a good friend she wouldn’t want you to roadblock your career so you can be one of the million people she sees that day.

Laura October 27, 2011 at 11:40 am

Your job might be your livelihood

Yeah and as someone who was unemployed for two years until this past May (although 1 of those years was spent in grad school) I’d rather have a job than become unemployed for missing a wedding.

Sorry, but my friends won’t support me if I lose my job.

Plus, if someone is so mad at you for missing their wedding that they stop being your friend, they suck as a friend.

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Doesn’t it go both ways? Don’t you suck as a friend for missing something so important in your friend’s life because of work? Don’t you suck as a parent for missing a child’s recital because of work?

My friends are like my family. I wouldn’t miss something that important to them.

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Out of curiosity, would you attend a friend’s wedding if it meant you were going to lose your job for not completing a work obligation?

And would you hold it against a friend who chose her job security over your wedding, assuming that friend was being supportive of you and your marriage in other ways?

jmkenrick October 27, 2011 at 1:48 pm

My parents had to miss a lot of my performances as a child to work. That does not mean they suck. That means they worked hard to ensure a good income so I would be well taken care of.

fposte October 27, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Seriously. And parents don’t suck for understanding that children don’t always take precedence, and that you don’t have to be present at every single aspect of your child’s life. The soccer game will go on without you, and it doesn’t mean your family isn’t an overall priority.

There’s no simple formula to identify when a friend would have precedence over a job, or family over a friend, or anything over anything. However, the approach Anonymous suggests there means that work would *never* have precedence, and at that point you’d really need to be self-employed, because then you can’t be a reliable member of the team if you’re going to be absent every time someone you care for has a wedding, school play, shower, etc. (unless you’re a single orphaned misanthrope).

Only the OP knows which tradeoff works best for her here, but a sane friend is going to understand whichever decision she makes.

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 5:38 pm

Really? “Don’t you suck as a friend for missing something so important…”

Not if the reason is legitimate and having to attend a work event that is “required of everyone” is legitimate…and the OP is the “head programmer” for this not the person who is just there without an important role to play.

Would your friends suck if you missed this event and they end up like the 50% of married couples who end up divorced? (not wishing that on this couple btw).

jmkenrick October 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm

That’s partially cultural. My family (esp. the not-American side) regards weddings as kind of NBD – they’re generally casual & it’s not an insult if you miss it. You’re right that the advice is affected by the stance on weddings, but you don’t know the bride’s stance on weddings. Maybe she’s like my parents, who married in city hall, and then hosted a backyard BBQ.

And, at the end of the day, lots of big events are just one day in a person’s life. My grandparents missed both my gradations to attend my cousin’s graduations (we’re the same age) but the reason they prioritized those over mine is because I lived only half a mile away and they were much more present in my day-to-day life than my cousin’s.

Honestly? I think my cousins got the short end of the stick. :)

OP October 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

Hey all- First thanks to AAM for the advice and also to all of the helpful posts!
1) The wedding is across the county , and the event from work is a Saturday/Sunday commitment.
2) I don’t mind that the job requires us not to take vacation in a certain month, but I did not know the date of the wedding before taking the job
3) I mentioned to a colleague at work of the issue, and she said at this early date we could potentially make changes to my job duties (program planning responsibilities for the big weekend event) but I LOVE planning programs and don’t want to lose those responsibilities. She mentioned also that although people aren’t always keeping tabs on us, that missing this weekend would be viewed in a negative light by other co-workers. So it is not impossible for me to choose the wedding over the work event, but in my first year in this job, it is not the best choice. She advised talking to my supervisor, but I don’t want to appear as if I am not a team player…
4) I plan to talk to my friend this weekend and tell her what’s going on. I will plan to attend her shower and still plan her bachelorette party (only the sister is in the wedding party) and then take a weekend trip to visit the couple to make up for missing the event, the month after the big work event!
5) The thing that upsets me about this situation is that although I really do love my job and am picking my job in this instance, that in 10 years I will still have this friend, but in 10 years I won’t still have this job, so in that sense it seems silly to pick work but I am.

Thanks again!
OP

Nikki October 27, 2011 at 9:28 am

In 10 years you won’t have this job. But because of this job, you might have a better one!

I’m sorry you’ll miss the wedding and I hope you have a great time when you meet up with the newlyweds.

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

“In 10 years you won’t have this job. But because of this job, you might have a better one!” –well said,@Nikki.

And if your friend is the type of friend who would dump you over not jeopardizing your job and missing the wedding; she may not be the type of friend you will still have in 10 years. Sadly, not all best friends are forever. (If your friend is the more understanding type who would be disappointed, but not dump you over it, you may disregard the above).

khilde November 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Anon & Nikki – both of you have excellent points here! The work you do at this event for your company is laying the foundation for the career it sounds like you hope to continue and grow. On the other hand, friends do grow apart . You sounds like you might be relatively young, and it’s hard to believe that when you’re in your early 20s that you won’t be friends forever, but life circumstances happen and people grow and change differently and they just grow apart. But the experiences you have and take advantage of in terms of your career can’t be taken from you and can only help in the future.

Lesley October 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

If it’s a cross-country wedding and she has a lot of people coming, you probably won’t get to see her anyway. I took time off work and went to California last year for a wedding, and while I was glad to see my friend’s big day, I think the time and money would have been better spent coming to visit after the wedding–when I could actually spend time with the bride and the groom. It’s about sharing in the special day, but you really do have to share. Maybe you could take a trip out when they get back from their honeymoon and spend time with them then.

Laura October 27, 2011 at 11:42 am

“you probably won’t get to see her anyway”

OMG, this! Unless you’re in the wedding party, you only get to see the couple for a very brief time during the wedding.

I was recently in the wedding of two close friends from high school and, even though I hated the planning leading up to it, I was so glad to be in their party because I got to spend much more time with them (especially with the bride) than I would have otherwise.

That HR girl October 27, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Completely agree!!

Katie October 27, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Totally agree. I was even in the wedding party at my BFF’s wedding (and it was just her sister and me!), and I barely spoke 3 words to her the whole time. Weddings are so hectic, and the bride and groom have obligations to so many other people, it’s really not the best time to get in quality time with your friend.

Piper October 27, 2011 at 3:44 pm

Given that you did not know about this event prior to taking the job and therefore weren’t able to discuss it at your interview or shortly thereafter, then I would do the same thing you’re doing.

Despite my opinion that work isn’t the be all and end all of everything and there are many, many, many circumstances where people come first, this doesn’t really seem to be one of them after hearing more about your situation. The only other alternative would be to try to get to a portion of your friend’s day (but it doesn’t seem like that is even an option for you).

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 9:51 am

I think I look at this differently than everyone else is.

Is your job worth losing your best friend over?

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 10:11 am

What friend worth keeping would end a friendship over this? There are lots of ways the OP can support her friend without being there on the actual day of the wedding. I’d love to hear from someone who really would punish a friend for this, with your reasoning.

anon October 27, 2011 at 1:33 pm

People are spending months if not years trying to find employment. Yes, a job is worth losing a friend over. Especially a fiend who would be so self-centered as to dump you for not wanting to save your career.

anon October 27, 2011 at 1:36 pm

“friend” not “fiend” – freudian slip :-)

JT October 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

People take wedding way too seriously. Marriage is an important thing. A wedding is just a day.

kristin October 27, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I recently had to miss a close friend’s wedding because I had been unemployed for a few months prior and couldn’t afford to travel (I live several states away, don’t have a car, and don’t have anyone I could stay with in the city she was getting married in).

She was disappointed when I told her I couldn’t go, but she understood. She and her new husband are coming to visit me in a few weeks, and I’m excited that I’ll get to spend much more time with them than I would have during their wedding weekend.

To the OP- I’m sure your friend will understand if you have to miss the wedding. Just make plans to do something special with her/her husband sometime after the wedding.

That HR girl October 27, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Take it from someone who is getting married in 6 weeks… On the big day, she won’t even have time or energy to be upset that you’re not there. I was barely able to talk to everyone at my bridal shower for more than 5 minutes each.

She will have so many people to talk to, hug, entertain, amuse, etc., not to mention all the rituals the day entails, that (as long as she is a typically sane person) will not be too hurt by your absence.

Especially if you do some of things AAM suggests – send a thoughtful gift, invite newlyweds to dinner soon after, etc. and if she is a very close friend, asking her out for coffee or a drink so you can tell her this in person, that way there is no chance of misunderstanding or hiding feelings over the phone.

fposte October 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The OP can be the person who actually wants to watch the wedding videos with them :-).

Sandrine October 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

If someone is upset that I can’t attend their wedding because of work, then I might as well as them to pay my rent and other bills while I am unemployed if I get fired.

Let’s get serious here. Weddings do not pay bills or rent, mortgage, insurance, gas, groceries…

That friend who’d be mad you’re missing (general you) his or her wedding, will he or she be there when you attend the wedding and get fired ? Will that person compensate you for the huge loss of earnings ?

Why can’t people see that ? The economy is hard enough as is, we don’t need to add to it by jeopardizing jobs left and right because brides and grooms could potentially be mad at their friends for not being there.

Besides, an invitation, no matter which, is NOT a summons.

Katie October 27, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Frankly, if anyone stops being your friend because you didn’t attend their wedding for a serious reason, you’re not missing out on much of a friendship. How self-centered do you have to be to expect someone to risk their job/financial security to come to your wedding?

The summer before grad school, I moved back home to live with my parents and started working at a department store to save money for school. I knew when I started that one weekend in July due to inventory absolutely no one was allowed to take off work. A couple of weeks after I took the job, one of my closest friends sent out their wedding invitations. The wedding was the same weekend as inventory. Even though it wasn’t a job I loved or that was going to make my career, I 1) had made a commitment to be there when I took the job, and 2) needed the money and couldn’t risk losing the income to attend a wedding. I skipped the wedding. (The event took place 400 miles from where I was living, so going late was not an option.) My friend completely understood. Why? Because there are more important things in a friendship than whether you can show up to a single event.

I think there are also some serious misconceptions here about what constitutes work-life balance. It doesn’t mean your personal life wins out any time there is a conflict. It means that there is a *balance*. Sometimes your personal life takes a hit. It’s only if it loses out all the time that you actually have a problem.

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 3:01 pm

Love your last paragraph here.

Joey October 27, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Sorry, but I just can’t stand the phrase work life balance. What does that actually mean anyways. To me it insinuates that your happiness depends on equally “balancing” the time you spend at work and away from work. Like they’re in competition with each other. But that is completely false. If you’re happy in all areas of your life it doesn’t matter whether you work 20 hours per week or your work is your whole life.

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I agree completely. And what the right balance is for you will shift over different periods of your life.

Anonymous October 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Did you tell your manager before you sarted your new job that you had a conflict or negotiated for time off. If the conflict was not known at the time you started your new job, have you spoken with your Manager about getting the time off? If you are your own Manager your’e screwed. Sounds like you work for a real unforgiving company, maybe you should look for another job. And yes I am a Manager

Ask a Manager October 27, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I’m sorry, but this is ludicrous. She should leave a job she loves because the company has one weekend a year that everyone is required to attend?

Anonymous October 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

Um, yeah, some people might make that call. The company does not have the ethical right to demand unpaid weekend work. Period.

Ask a Manager October 28, 2011 at 9:47 am

Based on what? Unless the company promises you at the outset of your employment that they’ll never require any work on weekends, most people know that occasionally that might happen. There’s no ethical issue here.

And you know that plenty of businesses operate on the weekends, right? Have you noticed all those employees in the stores, restaurants, etc. that you probably go in on weekends?

Anonymous October 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Let me clarify then….the above statement applied to 40-hour-a-week office jobs that are during the week. The increasing sense of entitlement that has employers believing that they own the employee’s weekends as well as their weeks is atrocious. One sign of how dysfunctional American work culture is is that “advice” givers like yourself have normalized it and pretend like nothing’s wrong. Compared to Europeans, we Americans have seen our sick leave, vacation time, evenings, and weekends persistently eroded by jackbooted employers. When is enough enough?

clobbered October 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm

People are making value judgements on the OP’s job, even though we know nothing about it.

Say the OP’s job was to help organise the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. She busts her gut for four years and then – oh dear, BFF is getting married on the same day. Would anyone argue that she should let down her work, her team members, her organisation and her country to go to the wedding ?

So when people say “Wedding! Friends always come first!” what you are doing is passing a value judgement on the OP’s job (“hey, it’s not like she’s organising the Olympics”) – when the only thing that matters is what value *she* places on her work.

And something else that has been bothering me greatly about this thread: did it cross anybody’s mind even for one millisecond that a guy wrote that letter? If not, think about why that is.

jmkenrick October 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

@Clobbered: I take your point, but ‘she’ tends to be the default pronoun on Ask a Manager…Alison even has a post about it somewhere in the archives.

Sandrine October 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm

In reply to the comment starting with : Let me clarify then….the above statement applied to 40-hour-a-week office jobs that are during the week.
=====================

Wait, what ?

I’ll give you an example of Europe. France.

We’re considered quite lazy by many people in the world. 35 hours a week, 25 vacation days a year (but the “year” goes from May to June AND sometimes it’s a battle between who gets time off in the summer, or in December around school holidays) .

You speak of weekends. Ha. I just started a new job. In fact, the main part of training ended today. In November, out of 4 Saturdays and 4 Sundays, I will be working… 3 Saturdays and 2 Sundays. I was even initially scheduled for all Saturdays. Some days 9-5pm, some during the week 7:30-3:30pm.

At first I was not too happy, but I am not going to die over it. I will just have to be careful while planning my social engagements and my friends will just have to get over it. I was out of work for over a year, I sure as heck will not jeopardize a brand new job for my friends (especially considering I just got paid today and got more than I even expected) .

Oh, and for the weekends… if people stopped going to the stores on weekends, stopped going to the hairdresser, stopped needing plumbers, stopped needing to call Customer Service for their internet connexion, stopped needing car maintenance, stopped needing (or “needing”) clothes shopping… then maybe just maybe people wouldn’t be working on weekends so much.

Lesley October 28, 2011 at 5:07 pm

How do we know that she’s not getting paid for working the weekend?
I used to work an annual conference as an exempt employee, and while we weren’t paid extra for the time, we were given time off the next week to make up for the extra time and effort we put in. I considered this totally fair. (My company was also totally flexible about when exactly you attended–you just had to work with your coworkers to ensure coverage.) Non-exempt employees usually got overtime and PTO.

That HR Girl October 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Good point!! I didn’t think of that. I think we were all assuming the person was exempt.

jmkenrick October 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm

1st off, the OP doesn’t specify that she works a 40-hour-a-week office job. 2nd, even if she does, it’s not unreasonable for a company to expect an employee to work a few weekends if that’ s the nature of the job.

For example, my past position required organizing a conference that I had to attend myself to make sure that everything ran smoothly. I knew about this when I was hired, and it is one of the main responsibilities. If I wasn’t willing to allocate weekends, that’ s fair, but then I shouldn’t accept a job where that is part of the package.

Incidentally, I was paid for my work at the conference, and I don’t think there’s anything in the letter to indicate that the OP won’t be paid for her weekend work. Also, my company gave us a comp. day after working the conference, which I think is a fairly standard practice.

That HR Girl October 31, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Uhh… Hi… it’s called FLSA Exempt status??

And I know this is hard to believe, but some actual businesses operate and make money on weekends… Hotels, convention centers, airlines, retail businesses, (ironically) wedding caterers…

I think some of you are assuming this person works in an office doing a 9-5 job.

That HR Girl October 31, 2011 at 12:15 pm

…I should have read more replies as you have all very astutely covered most of these things :)

KellyK October 28, 2011 at 10:01 am

I think that it sucks a lot, but missing the wedding is the right call. If you’d known beforehand and mentioned it when you were offered the job, I think the company would be ethically obligated to honor that. But you didn’t know, so they didn’t have a heads-up, so now you’re stuck.

When I got married, my maid of honor had to cancel on me because she had double booked herself. There was a big deal conference that she volunteered to attend for work, and by the time she rechecked her calendar and went “Oh, crap, that’s Kelly’s wedding!” it was too late for her to back out. I was really upset, but I didn’t stop speaking to her or anything. And once I realized that she had tried to get out of it, and she really couldn’t without major career repurcussions, I was okay with it. Not happy, but c’est la vie. It certainly didn’t ruin the wedding or anything like that.

A good friend will forgive you for missing their wedding even if it *is* your screw-up, and in this case, it’s not. You didn’t know or have any control over either date when the conflict came up, and it’s not worth rearranging your whole job description over.

Vicki October 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

I’m afrad that it;s obvious you can;t attend the wedding.

What _I’m_ wondering is why your company’s “biggest event” is an “all-hands-on-deck” weekend thing.

What kind of company is this?

Mander November 1, 2011 at 7:15 pm

When I was an undergraduate, I worked for a big box retail store as a part-time job. They always scheduled their big inventory-taking week during the same week as final exams, even though half their staff were in college or high school. Every single employee, including the upper level management, was required to be in the store every night from closing (at 10 pm) until however long it took to finish that night’s inventory tasks (usually 3 am and sometimes later). Nobody was allowed to take time off that week or leave early, regardless of whether they had an exam the following morning, were scheduled for the opening shift the next day, or had worked all day the day of the inventory. It was a long time ago, so I’m not sure of just how this all jived with labor laws, but they must have covered their bases because it happened twice a year.

Granted, I hated that job, but it was otherwise a pretty good deal for me at the time. So I put up with it. It was grounds for immediate dismissal to refuse to work inventory. I never tried to take time off for a wedding, but if they wouldn’t give students time off the night before exams, I’m sure they wouldn’t have allowed time off for other events.

At any rate, if your friend is going to hold your absence against you in these circumstances, then they can’t be a very good friend. If it happened to me I would have been a bit sad, mostly because my friend missed the fun, but I would never hold it against them.

TeamRickiAmora June 20, 2012 at 8:26 pm

So what happened? Did you go to the wedding? Did you miss is? Are you still friends?

Tuker March 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Seriously you just sound jealous, a true friend takes the effort no matter what. I have two close friends having weddings interstate this year and yes it’s a bit of a hit financially with two mortgages but they are my closest friends and I feel honoured to be included in one of the most important days in there lives. I too have a great job and I’m sure if I took a day off to get there even if it was the most busy time of the year, my employers wouldn’t blink because they respect the fact I’m great at and dedicated to my job but guess what I’m also a human being and have a life outside of work. At the end of the day life’s not about work, work, work, it’s about your loved ones. I’m not buying your excuse for not going to your friends wedding, your really just jealous it’s not you because you think your “better” than and that your the one that deserves to get married. I hope you lost her as a friend as you don’t deserve her.

Nicole August 11, 2013 at 4:50 am

This comment cracked me up. Clearly you are nuts.

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