Eek! What to Do When a Bridesmaid Drops Out Last Minute

Katelyn James Photography

With weeks or days to go until your wedding, your friend approaches with bad news: She can't continue on as your bridesmaid. Talk about a nightmare scenario! And while your instinct to freak out is totally understandable, there's a better, expert-approved action plan.

"When a trusted friend declines to fulfill her duties as a bridesmaid, it is natural for a bride to be upset," says Amy Nichols, owner of San Francisco-based Amy Nichols Special Events. But the planner says it's important to keep in mind that "she might have good reasons, such as a financial burden or a family emergency" that caused her to make an uncomfortable call.

With that in mind, you "should handle your reaction calmly and with composure and grace," says Michelle Wright, owner of Michelle Wright Events in Greensboro, North Carolina. "After all, no matter the wedding party, the real focus is celebrating the love you have with your significant other. All sorts of unexpected things can happen — so don't let any of those changes cause you to lose focus of the big picture!"

See More: 8 Annoying Things (Some) Bridesmaids Are Guilty of Doing

Then ask yourself if you're comfortable with the easiest solution to your problem: Leaving your bridal party one member short, and moving on as-is. "There's no rule that your male and female attendants have to be an even number," Nichols points out. Plus, "adding someone at the last minute may make that friend feel like a Plan B, and if you have coordinated bridesmaids dresses, it may be very difficult to get a dress that fits the new 'maid."

In fact, this is the only plan Wright advocates. "You may be initially inclined to find a back-up bridesmaid, but resist the urge," she says. "At that stage of the game, it is bad form — both to the bridesmaid bowing out and whomever you are planning to ask to fill in."

If you do choose to find a replacement — as brides with only one bridesmaid might feel they need to do — choose your new attendant with care. Think: "Someone who is special to you and will understand the urgency of the last-minute need, and is someone who will be supportive and not rock the boat," describes Nichols.

No matter what, it's important to talk your plan through with your former 'maid. You'll need to "come up with a plan of how to address the drop out," says Wright, who points out "her absence may be obvious to your guests and you want to make sure you are prepared to handle questions in a suitable fashion before you are wearing white, trying to celebrate your wedding."

And in your scramble to find a solution, don't lose sight of your friendship. "Whether she is dealing with an unexpected illness, the birth of a child, a breakup, a death in the family, whatever, chances are it was a big deal for her to drop out so unexpectedly from participating in your big day," says Wright. "Pay some attention to her and provide her the love and support she needs."

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