I’m a lawyer too, and I missed my friend’s wedding (3000 miles away) because it was the same summer as the bar exam. She just missed mine because she didn’t want to take time off when she had just started a new job. I have no hard feelings, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t either.
My other friend, who lives an hour away, also missed my wedding because it was a week and a half before the bar exam. He’s not a super super close friend, either, but yeah, I was disappointed. I also totally understood and honestly I can’t say I wouldn’t have missed his wedding if it had been a week and a half before the bar. It makes people crazy, and the bar is all they care about, as I’m sure you know. Missing even one evening that close to the exam can seem like a really big deal.
If I were in your position, I would definitely not agree to do anything for the wedding at all. As far as just going as a guest goes, I think it depends on your circumstances and how prepared for the exam you feel. Honestly, 3 days before the freaking BAR EXAM is really tough. If this were your first time I would say, well, that sucks but I definitely wouldn’t go. Hopefully she’ll understand. This being your second time makes it less intense. I’ve never been in your position, but my mom has and I don’t think she stressed out too much about taking it the second time around. Plus you don’t have to take the MBE so it’s really not as bad. You might also want to factor in how difficult the bar is in the state you’re moving to. If you’re moving to CA or NY or something, having taken the CA bar I honestly wouldn’t feel ok missing studying the weekend before, even if I were only doing the state-specific portion. But if you’re going to a state where you know the bar is a lot easier than the one you’ve already taken, it might be ok.
Two more things: 1. Is her date final? I absolutely agree with the other posters that you should be honest with her. If she’s a good friend, you should be able to tell her your situation, and if you’ve decided that you just can’t do it 3 days before the bar, maybe there could be a possibility that she could change her date? Obviously this might be impossible if she’s already booked venues and such, but if she hasn’t gotten to that stage, and if it’s important enough to her that you be there, maybe she could move it to the weekend after. And 2. Don’t beat yourself up about not going, if that’s what you decide. I’m sure that your good friend will understand that this test, while not life or death, really is a big deal! Failing it would put your new job in jeopardy, and it would probably cost a lot of money to have to take it again. And the bar exam is really difficult. Sometimes life turns out where we have to make hard choices, and this is one, but it’s ok to choose to focus on this important test rather than be at your friend’s wedding. You can be there for her in other ways, at other times. Good luck!