How (and When) to Say “No” to Being a Bridesmaid

Sometimes not being a bridesmaid is okay, we promise

Updated 02/08/18

Photo by Amber Gress Photography

If you’ve ever walked down the aisle yourself, you know that choosing your bridesmaids is a major undertaking. There are lots of feelings involved, and even the most courteous of brides knows she’s asking a lot of her closest friends. And if you’ve ever been a bridesmaid before (or have just heard horror stories), you know it can really tap into your reserve of time, energy, and funds. 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.

Here’s how to turn down her invitation without breaking up your friendship, and still score an invite to the wedding as a guest.

If You Need to Think About It

When your partner proposes, there’s a pretty good chance the two of you have already discussed your future together, so while the moment might be a surprise, the sentiment and implications aren’t. Proposing to a bridesmaid, however, isn’t usually preceded by a conversation about whether you’re interested in maybe, one day, standing by your bestie’s side at the altar. Don’t feel pressured to answer right in the moment. If your first instinct is to say no (or check your bank account!), let the bride know that you are so incredibly flattered that she is asking, and ask if she can give you a few days to make sure you’ll be able to be the best bridesmaid possible.

Set a firm deadline (i.e. “Let’s get drinks after work on Friday and I’ll let you know what I’ve decided”) so you’re not dragging her along, then actually think about it. Take a look at what you’ve got going on over the next six to nine months and make an educated decision from there.

If You’re Unable to Commit

Hey, the bride’s not the only one with big events coming up! You might be jumping into a huge project or a new position at work, could be busy planning your family reunion, or may be 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. If you can’t, be honest. Let her know that you have a lot on your plate, and that you don’t want all of the things on your schedule to detract from her celebration.

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!).

If You’re Low on Cash

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 bestie 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!

If You’re Expecting

Pregnancy is a totally exciting 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 difficult, 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 totally overwhelming.

Be honest with your friend and let her know what’s on your mind. She’ll be happy to have you comfortable and seated at the ceremony, even if your champagne flute is actually filled with ginger ale.

If You’re Planning Your Own 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 in 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!

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