The bride-to-be typically chooses her bridesmaids carefully. She picks people she loves, trusts, and feels honored to have in her life and by her side on her special day. The idea of saying no to the request—which feels so personal to begin with—can seem incredibly scary. You fear letting her down, making her feel like you don’t appreciate the friendship you share, and even more unappreciative of the very distinct request. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not a requirement to say yes to being a bridesmaid. (Take a look at some of the most fascinating wedding traditions around the world.)
Reasons to Say No
There are many factors that might make you want to say no. Being a bridesmaid can be expensive From the dress, accessories, hair and makeup, travel, and a hotel, it can prove to be a $1,000-plus commitment. If it’s your sister, or your absolute best friend, it’s a given you’ll accept the offer, but what about when it’s just a friend you haven’t seen IRL in years? Being a bridesmaid is supposed to be an honor, but can feel much more like a job, so you have to feel comfortable putting in the time and effort because of love first and foremost. If you don’t feel the bond between you and the bride-to-be is particularly strong, saying no is your right.
But How Do You Say No?
It’s hard to be face-to-face with the bride-to-be and tell them you decline such a big honor. It’s much easier to make up a lie, saying you have a prior commitment of some sorts. But lying is never the way to go. So your option is to be honest. But before you open your mouth, you have to take into consideration how your words will come off. Being so honest that you say you don’t feel close enough to the bride-to-be, that you can’t dish out the cash expected of a bridesmaid, or that you simply don’t feel interested in having so much of your time eaten up by the commitment is harsh.
If you don’t want to say “I do” to your friend, you can tactfully decline without dissolving the friendship. Though the truth is the route to take, collecting your thoughts will help you find the words you need to let her down easy.
“I think the most important thing is to be honest with the bride about why you can’t accept her offer,” says Anne Chertoff, WeddingWire trend expert. “If she’s asking you to be her bridesmaid, then you’re one of her closest friends and she should understand.”
Think of why you are saying no before you tell her. Lead with that, but follow with ways you can still support her to make her feel heard and acknowledged.
“Tell her no and tell her why you’re saying no, and that you still want to support her in some other way—by going dress shopping with her or to bridal shows or making favors and being at the wedding,” Chertoff says. “If it’s a money issue and you can’t afford to be a bridesmaid, tell her that. The bride may be able to help with some of the costs. It’s not uncommon for a bride to help a bridesmaid with the cost of a dress or for a mom to host the bridal shower, but the bridesmaids still plan it,” Chertoff recommends. (This is why bridesmaids all wear the same color.)
Saying no to being a bridesmaid is an incredibly hard thing to do, but saying yes when you know it’s not right proves even more difficult in the long run.