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So You Don’t Want to Be a Bridesmaid—Now What?

Turn Her Down Nicely

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You adore your friend and love her fiancé. But when she asks you if you want to be a bridesmaid, you’re not quite sure you want to say "I do." Maybe it’s the expense. Maybe it’s the fact you don’t really know her other friends. Or maybe it’s just because your life is way too hectic these days to be able to commit to the bridal shower, the bachelorette, and the wedding weekend. Whatever the reason, experts agree that you can turn down a “will you be my bridesmaid?” request—as long as you follow these five rules. [Tweet this!]

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Remember It’s a 2-Way Street

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If she was in your wedding, then you should try as hard as possible to be there for her on her big day, says Candice Hilse, an event planner and wedding etiquette expert based in Charleston, SC. And be honest about what might be holding you back: Are you worried about the expense? Not sure your new work schedule will let you swing enough time off? “By talking through expectations, you’ll avoid misunderstandings and may be able to come up with a compromise,” says Hilse. For example, she may be fine with you skipping the bachelorette if she knows ahead of time it’ll be a hardship on your end.

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Don’t Lie

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“I can’t afford it,” may seem like the perfect excuse to get out of bridesmaid duties, but that puts you in a tough spot if she offers to spot your dress and other essentials. “If you think you may be asked to be in the bridal party, come up with the precise reason you can’t,” suggests Eimear Lynch, author of the upcoming book The Bridesmaids: True Tales of Love, Envy, Loyalty...and Terrible Dresses. If you simply aren’t up to it, saying something like, “I’m so flattered you thought of me, but I just can’t dedicate the quality or quantity of time I believe a bridesmaid should” is fine, says Akilah Easter, creator of EtiquetteFemme, a Chicago-based etiquette-consulting firm.

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Show Your Support in Other Ways

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This definitely isn’t a conversation you should have over text, reminds Mindy Lockard, a Portland, OR,-based etiquette consultant. And if you’re going to forgo bridesmaid duties, taking her out to lunch, springing for champagne, and maybe even giving her a small gift will go a long way to proving you have nothing against her or her big day, says Lynch.

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Tell Her What You Can Do

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Don’t say, “I’ll help in any other way” if one of the reasons you’re saying no is lack of time. Instead, Lynch recommends being specific in what you can do—for example, let her know you’d love to do a reading or assist the official bridesmaids in behind-the-scenes shower duties.

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Be an Amazing Guest

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Give a great present, be the first on the dance floor, and talk to her weird uncle, suggests Lynch. Even though you don’t have any official jobs on her big day, seeing that guests have the time of their lives is exactly what the bride wants.

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