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The question

A year before our wedding, I asked one of our guests, who is my dear friend, and who is often hired to sing at weddings, to sing at our ceremony. She agreed. But less than 48 hours before our wedding, she texted me to cancel. She got an assignment at work that was going to take up the whole weekend. My husband and I were left scrambling: reprinting our wedding programs, trying to connect a sound system at our outdoor ceremony site (she was going to sing a cappella). My friend and I are both articling at law firms, so I understand how unpredictable work can be. Despite this, I feel I would never break such a commitment. I'm just not sure if our friendship can recover. Since the wedding, she has reached out to me to hear about the big day. How do you think I should proceed?

The answer

Normally, in this column, I tend to counsel forgiveness, reconciliation, extending olive branches, encourage everyone (metaphorically) to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, roast marshmallows and weenies over a communal fire, drink chardonnay together, laugh in the sunshine.

Because it's easy to get mad at people, cause rifts, split up, flip the bird in traffic, call people nasty names online and so on. What's tough is to make amends, to forgive and seek forgiveness, to humbly admit your wrongdoings – that whole class of behaviours.

In this case, though, you have my permission to flip out on your friend. I remember once I needed a suit for a wedding and ordered a (discounted) Hugo Boss 48 X-Long from my local haberdasher. Two days before the wedding, I popped in: "Got my suit?"

And they were like something out of a good news/bad news joke. In effect: "The bad news is: no. The good news is: Another huge dude rolled in right after the suit arrived and he bought it!"

Like you, I then had to scramble. I was furious, and never set foot in that store again. And that was just over a suit, just as a guest.

In your shoes, I'd be livid.

Freak out on your friend, I say, to save the friendship. Because, otherwise, I predict a poisonous stew of splenetic resentment will gurgle and simmer in your innards indefinitely.

Or look at it this way: Do it for her sake. One thing I've noticed over the years is that people mostly forgive themselves way too easily, if they even see they've done wrong in the first place. They need their malfeasance pointed out to them.

It certainly sounds like your friend does. She bails as your wedding singer with two days' notice, via text, then is all, like, "Hey, how'd it go?"

Fuhgedaboudit. Sit her down. Angrily pour chardonnay into her glass, maybe splashing some on the table or her lap (okay, bad advice), and give it to her straight: Tell her how you had to scramble, how disappointed and let down you felt.

Here's another way to think about it: Have the respect for her to make the effort to chew her out. It might seem counterintuitive, but a reprimand, while negative, is actually an investment in the future relationship.

A friend of my family's is a school teacher and has a technique with his kids I love, and which he says works like a charm. If a kid misbehaves, he says: "That's really not like you, [name of kid here]." I love it because it implies the kid is better than whatever he or she did.

Lay some version of that on your friend: "I didn't think that was the type of thing you'd do," etc.

Now, you might not get your apology on the spot. She might become defensive and shirty. After all, from her point of view, she's thinking: "What could I do? I had to work." At least that's her excuse.

But she does owe you an apology. For one thing, I don't believe she couldn't have taken a couple of hours off on a weekend and still gotten her work done. Second – as an articling lawyer, she knows this – saying she would sing at your wedding is a form of contract. And contracts like that are not something we, in polite society, should take, or break, lightly. But even if she refuses to apologize, I still think (Kum-bay-a, my Lord, Kum-bay-a) your friendship can survive. It's not a deal-breaker. Your wedding went forward, after all, and part of the fun of weddings is handling the problems. Good preparation for married life.

And the fact you and your about-to-be/fresh-minted husband were, it sounds like, able to work together, as a team, to deal with this last-minute curve-ball augurs well for the future. Mazel tov. Whether she apologizes, at least you'll have let her know how you feel.

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