How to (politely) say NO to being a bridesmaid
We are living in an age where wedding related events seem to get more expensive by the season as the newly engaged find their inspiration on Instagram, Etsy and Pinterest for unique ideas. However, it isn't just the happy couple and their families who are paying the price for the big day...there are so many satellite events such as the engagement party, bridal shower, bachelor and bachelorette parties, travel expenses, attire, hair and makeup, and of course, the gifts that go with each of these events...in the end, it can unfairly target friends and loved ones time and wallets. It certainly makes it understandable that someone might consider turning down the option to be a bridesmaid, however, how does one go about doing that without risking the loss of a relationship with a close friend?
Declining with one of those "Will You Be My Bridesmaid?" gifts in hand can be nearly as difficult as turning down an actual proposal. Ok, maybe not quite that difficult, but difficult nonetheless. So, if you get the sense that a bridesmaid invitation may be coming your way and you know that nothing, outside of winning Powerball, will be able to sway you to want to take that role, you have to prepare your reply. Because as costly and as time consuming as that job may be, your friend wants you to be by her side because she loves you. Tricky, huh?
Be upfront and honest. She is your friend, after all. Ask how much it will all cost. It's okay. If this is someone you are close enough to hold up her wedding dress while she pees then she should be able to give you an honest guesstimate on the expected financial burden you would be agreeing to. She should also be understanding if the bridesmaid dress of her dreams, at $400 a pop, and the weekend trip to Cabo is a financial deal breaker for you and your bank account.
Always be kind so you don’t have to rewind. Saying no is okay. Just be gentle and always provide a good reason. If you immediately get defensive about why you can’t be her bridesmaid she will become defensive as well and it will all end up going south pretty quickly. Be calm, thoughtful, and measured, carefully presenting your reasons for being unable to fulfill the commitment in the manner the bride wants and deserves is always the better option. Because whether or not you personally agree with her preferences or not, it is her day.
If you know from the get-go that you cannot be in the wedding, then just say no—and soon. It’s understandable if you say yes initially. It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of things, but, due to more pressing, unforeseen issues requiring your time and money, you may find that you have to switch your answer. We can’t predict the future, and a true friend will not hold that against you. However, if you know from day one that you simply cannot swing the financial commitment or the time burden required for bring a bridesmaid, don't try to make it work because all parties involved will end up suffering and dealing with resentments. Just be honest and tell the bride upfront and early on instead of letting her know at the last minute.
How to play the money card? Be honest.
Good news first. If you were asked to be a bridesmaid for a destination wedding, due to the additional costs on top of all the usual bridesmaid costs, you have an easy out. You’re certainly not obligated to spend your vacation days this way if you don’t see fit. Instead, offer to take them for a nice dinner and drinks, or find some other, local way to celebrate their love with them.
If you recently lost your job, or straight up can’t afford those exorbitant bridal party costs, this situation becomes a bit more complicated. The average cost of being a bridesmaid is about $2,000. Given that more than half of America lives paycheck-to-paycheck it is completely understandable if you don’t have a couple of thousand dollars (per bridesmaid request from friends) to spare. In this case, just be upfront and honest about things. Let them know that you do not want to be a burden or add any additional undue stress. If your friend contends it’s not a big deal, she gets it, and still wants you to take the role? Share your limitations: Explain that you likely will not be able to attend satellite wedding events and let her know that you can only spend so much in total—including your dress and shoes. As with all conflicts, clear communication is key.
Here is one way to explain your situation if you just lost your job...
“Madison, I am so honored that you asked me to be in your wedding. This isn’t easy for me to say, but I’m unable to accept your gracious invitation. You’re a close friend and I would love to have a role of some sort in your big day, but I just lost my job and I haven’t even had the nerve to tell anyone...not even my family. With the stress of no future income, I can’t possibly take on all the costs associated with being a bridesmaid. I hope you understand. Your friendship means the world to me, but the last thing you need is to feel my stress during one of the happiest times in your life."
Slightly trickier, but if you are starting a demanding job, working on a side hustle while balancing a demanding job, in the middle of some kind of crisis, or navigating any other serious situation that requires your devoted attention, your desire to say no makes sense. It may be work, family obligations or a life event, but regardless, you will not be able to fully partake in the festivities. Or, if you are already in four weddings during that time frame because your friends decided that nobody will have a free weekend this October, there is just no way it will work out. So, now you just have to deliver the news.
Here is one way to explain your situation if you have a demanding job...
"Madison, I am thrilled you and Gavin are tying the knot. You two were made for each other. Being part of a wedding involves a big time commitment, but my new position will involve extensive travel. I’m not even sure I will be in town for your wedding or shower. I hope that you understand. I value our friendship and you can always count on my support.”
If you simply do not want to be a bridesmaid...
Suck it up buttercup. No one wants to do it. But even Samantha Jones put on a chic gown and supported Carrie Bradshaw in that ill-fated wedding. Otherwise, you could always try to phone it in using intel from above to soften the blow, I suppose. But, seriously, if your friendship is at all legit, it’ll get past this.