It’s your wedding and you make the rules. Without a doubt, one of the biggest decisions you face when you’ve said 'yes' is who you want to share the limelight with. Chances are, you’ve been making this list—and checking it twice—for the best part of a lifetime.
"For brides and bridesmaids, they have likely been planning to be in each others’ wedding parties for years, often dreaming of the day together since childhood or college," Emilie Dulles, etiquette and wedding invitations expert tells Brides.
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"Being a bridesmaid has its share of responsibilities, and all bridesmaids should be up and fit for the task, quick and elegant in their duties, and on their best behavior for many months leading up to [the] wedding. The minute your save the dates go into the mail, your bridesmaids now have an elegant mission to accomplish."
But what if you make a mistake? What if, in between asking your besties that all-important question and taking those first steps down the aisle, you have a change of heart? Can you really ask your friend to throw in her bouquet and not be your bridesmaid? Well, maybe.
"Given my decades of experience, I can tell you all wedding plans experience revised decisions and relationship setbacks to some extent, especially during the final weeks and months leading up to the day," explains Dulles. Ahead, Dulles shares when it may be appropriate to fire a bridesmaid and how to do it.
When to Fire a Bridesmaid
Asking your friend to step down from this honor is a drastic measure and not one that you ought to take lightly. It’s not just about asking them to give up their place in your wedding party. The move speaks volumes about how you view your relationship with your friend.
Time doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder. "COVID-19, changes to social distancing protocols, travel bans, and guest limitations have all affected wedding party line-ups as well," says Dulles. It may have been a year or two since your big day was supposed to take place. Over that time, it’s natural that you’ve grown apart from some friends.
However, in Dulles' opinion, de-bridesmaiding a friend simply because you’re less close than you once were is not the way to go. "You should only rescind a bridesmaid ask in unfixable situations involving wrongdoing, or if a bizarre twist of fate befalls your wedding date for the both of you simultaneously," she explains.
"In my experience, the most common instigation for a bridesmaid being removed from any wedding party is when some unsavory or deviant behavior, nastiness, or bitter betrayal of their doing unfolds during the final stages of your wedding plan, and the person becomes no longer welcome."
How to Fire a Bridesmaid
Ready to take the plunge and ask your friend not to be your bridesmaid? Okay, take a few deep breaths. You’ve got this. While there’s no perfect way to un-pop the question, there are some tips that will help you get through this somewhat unscathed.
Consider how this will affect your friendships.
Before you grab your phone and dial her up, think about how this move could affect your wider friendship group and family. "Your friendship may be in jeopardy after the conversation takes place and reverberates socially, so be prepared for all possible outcomes when you decide to ask someone to no longer be a member of your wedding's inner circle," says Dulles.
Be clear in your decision.
There are no ifs, buts, or maybes here. You have made the decision and that is final. "Explain how much your friendship means to you, yet you want to make sure that everyone at your wedding has the best time possible—especially your fiancé and you included—and that's why you feel the need to rescind the ask. The key is to be clear and remain firm in your decision," Dulles offers.
Ask a friend to be present.
Gossip spreads like wildfire. If you’re concerned that your friend will be sharing a remix of how you let them down, make sure you have a witness. Dulles explains, "If the person is prone to getting upset or retaliating socially, having a witness present with you as a third party observer is a good idea."
Avoid using tired cliches.
You may be tempted to go with the old 'it’s not me, it’s you' excuse but don’t do it. "Try to avoid cliches or cop-outs, and definitely do not rehash all the details or open up a new court case over the matter. You must phrase the conversation as a case-closed communication, not something that's up for negotiation or entreaties. Be fair, be clear, and be honest."
Give her some time and space.
This news may come as a shock to your friend. "Give them the space to react whilst you remain as calm as possible," says Dulles. "Once you’ve explained your position, there's no need to argue or delve into more reasons why she's disinvited from your bridal party. The phrase: 'I'm sorry, yet I'm making this decision for myself, my future spouse, and our families' is all you need to say."
Try to salvage the friendship.
Last but not least, try to save the friendship (if you can!). "The first sign of anyone taking responsibility for their actions or transgressions is to try and make amends, accept the disinvitation elegantly, and move past the unpleasantness like mature adults," says Dulles. "If she reaches out her hand in apology and sees the decision as a good idea, then the friendship is surely salvageable."