When it comes to weddings, trust us when we say things don't always go as planned. Maybe it rains, maybe the wedding photos aren't exactly what you wanted—or maybe your top choice for maid of honor says no. And if that person is your sister, it can certainly feel disappointing and confusing. But if your sister doesn't want to be your maid of honor, it's not the end of the world, and there are plenty of ways to ensure your wedding is still one of the happiest days of your life.
"Having a sister decline the role of being your maid of honor or having them share they can't show up for you in all the ways you want can be disappointing, but it does happen," says Jen Glantz, founder of Bridesmaid for Hire. "Try not to take it personally, get to the root of their why, see if you can adjust the role and expectations for them, and in the end, realize that support can come in many different ways," she says. It's all about remaining open and honest.
If you find yourself in this situation, we're here to help. Ahead, Glantz advises about how to handle this nuanced situation—and how to process any feelings of disappointment.
Meet the Expert
Jen Glantz is the founder of Bridesmaid for Hire and creator of The Newlywed Card Game.
Have an Honest Conversation
Before jumping in and asking your sister if she will be your maid of honor, Glantz recommends beginning by just having a conversation about the role and what your vision is. "What being a maid of honor entails differs between every single wedding. Just simply asking someone to take on the role without sharing exactly what you hope they will do for you and with you can be intimidating and overwhelming," she says. "It should also be a two-way conversation so find out what the other person has the time to help with and what they simply can't take on. If you do this and your sister still declines, take a step back and realize that the role isn't something everyone can say yes to, even someone who might care a lot about you."
After having this conversation, ask your sister to share why she declined, because once you understand her reasoning, you can either just accept it and move forward, or you can think about revising what you had in mind for the role and see if she's open to saying yes to that, instead, suggests Glantz.
Consider Alternative Roles
Maybe your sister is going through a very busy or stressful time and doesn't feel like she can accept the role of maid of honor. Or, maybe she's nervous—which is totally understandable. If she's not feeling comfortable fulfilling the role for your wedding, Glantz recommends talking about alternative roles she can fill that are still special or honorary, without the pressure of holding the maid of honor title. You can always create a role just for her—after all, this is your wedding and your vision!
"Ask her what she's open to, whether it's being your maid of honor without taking on any planning responsibilities or just being a bridesmaid and showing up for you with support and love when she can," Glantz says. "Think outside the box or what titles mean within a bridal party so you can include something who means a lot to you but might have a lot going on in their own life."
Don't Focus On the Labels
When it comes down to it, what matters is that you and your sister discuss why it's important to you that she be included in your wedding in a special way. Glantz advises that the best approach is to just take the pressure off of her. "Instead of labeling them as a bridesmaid or maid of honor, simply share that you want them beside you on your big day," she explains. "Anything else they want to help with is extra and a bonus."
Be Clear About Expectations
If all your sister can manage is to be at your wedding, without a special role, make sure you tell them that's enough. "However," says Glantz, "if you don't mean that and expect more of them, be honest so you don't end up resenting them during or after the wedding process." This is a delicate matter, and communicating throughout the process while conveying your feelings honestly will ensure that you're both on the same page, setting you up for a successful and happy wedding day.