If you are in a committed relationship and you want to decline being asked by your friend to be their bridesmaid, will this hurt the friendship?
The answer may depend on the history of your friendship. For example, some companies might not survive if one person declines such an honour, while others might not even notice or care.
It's essential to consider both sides before deciding this. If you've ever walked down the aisle yourself, you know that choosing your bridesmaids is a significant undertaking.
There are many feelings involved, and even the most courteous brides know they're asking a lot of their closest friends.
If you've ever been a bridesmaid before (or have just heard stories), you know it can tap into your reserve of time, energy, and funds.
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If your BFF popped the question, but you're not sure you want to say "yes," don't force yourself!
There are all sorts of obligations involved—and we're not talking about the matching dresses here—and it's not always the right time.
Table of Contents
- 1 How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid
- 1.1 First of All, You're Not a Bad Friend for Declining an Offer to Be a Bridesmaid
- 1.2 Make Your Decision
- 1.3 …and Stick to It
- 1.4 Be Honest About Your Reasons
- 1.5 But Be Kind
- 1.6 Have the Conversation in Person and as Soon as Possible
- 1.7 Whatever You Do, Don't Lie or Blame the Couple for Having an Expensive Wedding
- 2 Times It's OK to Turn Down Being a Bridesmaid
- 2.1 You and the Bride Are No Longer Close
- 2.2 You're Seriously Strapped for Cash
- 2.3 You Have Prior Commitments
- 2.4 You Know the Bride Will Be Extremely Difficult
- 2.5 You Just Landed Your Dream Job
- 2.6 You've Had a Recent Major Life Event.
- 2.7 You're Planning Your Wedding
- 2.8 You're Pregnant or Planning to Start a Family
- 2.9 You Don't Need to Go Into Detail About Your Financial Situation.
- 2.10 You Might Want to Suggest Other Ways You Might Be Able to Help the Couple Prepare for Their Wedding
- 3 What to Do If the Couple Takes Your Decision Badly
How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid
Here's how to turn down her invitation without breaking up your friendship—and still score an invite to the wedding.
First of All, You're Not a Bad Friend for Declining an Offer to Be a Bridesmaid
Participating in a wedding is an exciting experience and can bring you closer than ever to the bride or groom.
Needing to prioritize your financial wellbeing over joining the wedding party doesn't mean you're a lousy friend, however.
And you certainly shouldn't feel that you need to go into debt to prove your affection for the couple.
If you're in a tight financial situation, don't ever feel obligated or forced into accepting a bridal party invitation.
Chances are, if you're receiving the invitation, then the couple knows you well, and there's a close bond present – meaning that they'll understand if bridesmaid expenses just aren't feasible.
Make Your Decision
Whether you can say no to being a bridesmaid is one of the most common questions in online community forums.
If you're ambivalent but feeling pressure to say "yes," approach it as a decision you're making, not an obligation you have no way to decline.
If your initial inclination is toward "no," she says you're wise to stall and take a beat to think about it—as long as you do it considerately.
Validate how meaningful it is to be asked, express how grateful you are for your friendship, and then let them know that you need some time to think about it. Make sure you give them a reason, so they're not left personalizing the experience as rejection.
…and Stick to It
Saying yes because you feel pressured and then changing your mind is bad form.
It's better to delay your response rather than committing when you have no intention of following through.
If you're asked in a high-pressure group setting—which is becoming more and more popular with brides pulling elaborate pop-the-question proposals—join in the celebratory fun but avoid confirming your answer at the moment.
Leave your response for another time. If you're singled out for your decision, just say: "I'm thrilled to be asked but let's meet for coffee next week to go over the details."
Be Honest About Your Reasons
If you intend to preserve the friendship, honesty will go a long way.
Be specific. Let them know your decision has little to do with your friends and more to do with external factors.
Highlight that you still want to be involved and find another way to celebrate with them, like planning the bachelorette, helping curate a Pinterest board or going dress shopping with them.
When it comes to turning down an offer to be a bridesmaid, etiquette experts and wedding planners agree: You need to be honest.
If you can't participate in the wedding due to money constraints, that's what you should tell the couple.
The best way to decline is by being sincere, honest and in-person; it's entirely OK to keep it short and sweet without going into too much detail.
The big thing is just to avoid being too vague. Otherwise, feelings may be unnecessarily hurt.
You may say something like,
"I'm extremely honoured that you have asked me to participate as a bridesmaid, but it's just not doable with my budget at this time. I'm so sorry to disappoint you. However, I still want to do everything I can to support you or help in other ways and, of course, attend the wedding."
Someone's honesty should not ruin a good friendship in acknowledging their inability to do the job expected.
It's OK to turn down being a bridesmaid for just about any reason, ranging from being unwilling to take on the financial burden to not having the time for it.
But Be Kind
Sometimes your reason for saying no to being a bridesmaid might have to do with the bride herself, whether it's a cousin you can't stand or a friend you no longer feel close to.
In those cases, it's better not to be brutally honest. If your reason for declining has to do with your friend, avoid blaming them.
It is not necessary to go into lengthy explanations. And the bride-to-be should respect that: "It's rude to insist on [a reason]".
Have the Conversation in Person and as Soon as Possible
Don't text them saying "no." Unless you live very far from the couple, this is one conversation that you should have face-to-face.
If you can't have an in-person conversation, opt for a video call or phone call rather than sending a text.
Declining the invitation over text or an e-mail, and at the very last minute. This almost guarantees that the bride will be offended and hurt.
It's essential to get in touch with the couple about your decision as soon as possible.
They may want to ask someone else to join the wedding party in your stead, and dropping out at the last minute is sure to strain your relationship with the couple.
And just in case you need reminding, personal conversations like this one should be conducted privately.
Involving social media in any way is a huge 'no'. Declining the invitation to be a bridal party member is strictly between you and the couple, not for all of your friends to see.
Whatever You Do, Don't Lie or Blame the Couple for Having an Expensive Wedding
Financial limitations can be challenging to talk about, even with close friends or family. As tempting as it may be to obscure the real reason behind your refusal to be a bridesmaid, experts say it's never a good idea.
The worst way to decline an offer to be a bridesmaid is to be dishonest or give an insincere reason, such as having something significant to do on the same day.
Making up a sudden family illness or work commitment might seem convenient, but your relationship with the couple will be damaged if the truth ever comes out.
It's also vital that you never guilt-trip the couple for your financial woes. That will only put a massive strain on your relationship with them, and it puts everyone in an uncomfortable position.
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Times It's OK to Turn Down Being a Bridesmaid
Here are the scenarios where wedding planners say it's OK to say no to being a bridesmaid.
You and the Bride Are No Longer Close
You might have grown up next door to each other or spent weeks away during the summers at camp together, but if you hardly ever hang out or talk in the current day, it's more than acceptable to say no to being a bridesmaid.
You're bound to feel awkward at some point, mainly because you have no idea what the bride has been up to (before and during the engagement and planning process).
You may also feel left out when the rest of the bridal party shares inside jokes or conversations about situations or people that you have not been part of."
You're Seriously Strapped for Cash
Considering that the majority of your friends' weddings will likely happen during your 20s, a decade when most of your salary goes straight to pay for things like student loans, car payments, city rent, etc.,
The prospect of shelling out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars all to be a bridesmaid might have you feeling shaky.
If you don't have the means, experts agree that it's OK to decline the opportunity if and when a bride offers you a spot on her A-list.
By declining the invitation to serve as a bridesmaid, you're respecting your financial boundaries and can instead focus on giving a meaningful wedding gift.
It might not sound like a lot, but a bridesmaid dress, accessories, hair and makeup, gifts, and travel to and from the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and wedding can add up fast, and that might be money you don't have to spend.
You'll have to be a little vulnerable here to make sure your best friend doesn't think you're implying that she'd make things expensive on purpose.
Let her know about your financial situation, whether you're saving up for a down payment or didn't get the raise you'd been expecting.
Let her know that you want to make sure you've saved up enough to be there on her big day and that the cost of being a bridesmaid just won't fit in your budget.
Hey, we're all adults here, and financial responsibility should be admired!
You Have Prior Commitments
Hey, the bride's not the only one with significant events coming up! You might be jumping into a massive project at work, planning your family reunion, or hearing wedding bells of your own.
Remember that your time is valuable, too, and let those commitments you already have determine whether you can devote extra time to being a part of your friend's bridal party.
Of course, make sure she knows you'll do your best to make time for any pre-wedding events she might invite you to (and that you have her wedding date blocked out!).
Before you say yes to being a bridesmaid, the first thing you want to do is check your calendar to make sure you can attend all important events such as the shower, bachelorette party and, of course, the wedding.
If you have something else scheduled for your friend's wedding day, you will need to consider which is more important.
It is hardly ever a good idea to plan for two events in one day, especially when you're asked to be part of a bridal party.
Don't forget that bridesmaids duties take up serious time and commitment, so you don't want to give a resounding "yes" unless you can play the part.
You Know the Bride Will Be Extremely Difficult
One of the most significant responsibilities of a bridesmaid is being there for the bride during the good and the bad.
In other words, along with the fun experiences like helping her pick out her wedding gown, you'll need to be available when she needs to vent about the frustration involved with wedding planning.
Emotions always run high, especially as it gets closer to the wedding, so, if you have engaged in complex conversations, or if she hasn't been a good friend or tends to yell at or talk down to you—it will probably happen at some point before the wedding, just worse than ever before.
If you go through with it, you'll just regret your decision and add unwanted stress to your already busy life.
You Just Landed Your Dream Job
As a new employee, you have everything to prove. That's why starting a new job gives you the green light to say no to being a bridesmaid.
With a new job comes limited vacation and flexibility. Your time and energy need to be spent focused on fulfilling your professional commitment without distraction.
Limit as many additional commitments as possible, including being a bridesmaid. Of course, you can still attend the wedding, but not having the extra pressure and expenses that come along with planning and following the bachelorette party and shower goes a long way.
You've Had a Recent Major Life Event.
Whether it's a death in the family, a recent divorce or an injury that prevents you from carrying on with your usual activities, we can't control when and how life events occur.
What we can do, however, is limit our commitments to accommodate these events.
Readjusting after such an event takes time, and during this transition, it's optimal to focus on mission-critical priorities, reset your life, and focus on self-care.
It's completely OK to say no to being a bridesmaid if you've had a major life-changing event occur—the engaged couple will understand.
You're Planning Your Wedding
Planning a wedding at the same time as one of your best friends sounds fun, but it means you've both got loaded calendars, stretched budgets, and a mile-long to-do list.
While you might love the idea of being bridesmaids at one another's weddings, think about it carefully before you make your decision.
Should your checklist insist that being a bridesmaid and a bride just won't work, let your friend know ASAP.
As a bride herself, she should understand that you've got a lot on your plate. And hey, if you can squeeze her wedding day into your schedule, she should be happy!
You're Pregnant or Planning to Start a Family
Pregnancy can be very challenging for bridesmaids to find the right dress or feel comfortable in the clothing chosen for them once your belly begins to pop!
If you're trying to get pregnant, you just never know how long it will take to become pregnant or if your due date will be close to the wedding day.
Those are just a few reasons why she says it's never a good idea to be due with a new baby the week of a wedding (or even close to it). But, of course, travelling while pregnant could also be an issue, and then there's always morning sickness!
Pregnancy is an inspiring time in your life, but it can seriously interfere with being a bridesmaid.
If you're trying to get pregnant and will be in the first trimester during your friend's wedding, morning sickness and general discomfort will not make you a happy camper. Further along?
Alterations will be complex, as will standing through a ceremony.
There's so much you can't plan for with a pregnancy, so piling on the responsibilities of being a bridesmaid could be overwhelming.
Be honest with your friend and let her know what's on your mind. Then, she'll be happy to have you comfortable and seated at the ceremony, even if your champagne flute is filled with ginger ale.
You Don't Need to Go Into Detail About Your Financial Situation.
You are allowed to keep some information private. Even if you're declining the offer of being a bridesmaid for money reasons, you don't need to expose your entire financial life to the couple.
Refrain from feeling you need to give a laundry list of financial reasons to validate why you're declining, however valid they may be.
All you need to say is that being a bridesmaid is just not feasible within your current budget, but that you're honoured to be asked.
Getting into the gritty details of your credit card bills, upcoming home payments, or vacation savings plan isn't necessary, even if you feel pressured to justify your choice.
You Might Want to Suggest Other Ways You Might Be Able to Help the Couple Prepare for Their Wedding
Just because you can't be part of the wedding party doesn't mean you can't help the couple prepare for their big day.
It's appropriate to offer other means of support, and if anything, it means you genuinely care about being there for the couple in what capacity you can.
Don't go beyond your means, but anything from running errands to assisting with more minor planning details will mean a lot.
You can offer to decorate table centrepieces, research local accommodation for out-of-town attendees, or bring healthy snacks for the bridal party before the ceremony.
You can also offer to arrange flower bouquets or sending invitations as cost-free ways to help out with wedding preparations.
What to Do If the Couple Takes Your Decision Badly
As much as you hope your friend or family member won't be offended by your decision not to be their bridesmaid, a combination of wedding jitters and bruised feelings might lead to an adverse reaction. In this case, all you can do is take a step back and wait for the dust to settle.
Unfortunately, couples responding negatively to a declined bridal party invitation does happen, but it's best to give the team their space to cool down and process.
Their negativity is likely due to wedding stress and probably has nothing to do with your decision.
It's not unusual for couples' emotions to be heightened as the wedding approaches and that this can result in more intense feelings of disappointment.
The bride-to-be especially has many emotions going on and may feel hurt and rejected by your response.
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Assure them that your decision has nothing to do with the level of your friendship. And then, give it some time. A little time helps heal hurts and disappointments.