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.