Picture this: Your friend just got engaged to the person of her dreams. She's thrilled, and practically overflowing with excitement. And so are you! You're so happy she gets to spend the rest of her life with someone she loves. And then, boom! She asks you to be a bridesmaid. You immediately picture dollar signs, hours spent wedding planning, and forced smiles at her bridal shower. Your bank account really just can't swing it right now, but you don't think you can let her down. Seriously, can you say no to being a bridesmaid? Like, is that even allowed? Honestly, you can, but it's important to do so in a timely and respectful manner.
Being a bridesmaid can sound fun and glamorous, but it's not all cake and tulle. Serious costs and time commitments can come with saying yes. "Some people would rather be a guest and enjoy the wedding from the cheap seats," relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily. "Having to wear the chosen bridesmaid clothing, show up for photos, attend all the events from before they begin to just after they end, is a burden that cuts into the fun for many guests," she says. "They’d rather show up when they want, leave when they want, wear what they want, and have the freedom of a guest, without the responsibility that comes with being a wedding party member."
If that's you, or if you're stressed about finances and not having enough time to do all the expected bridesmaid duties, don't worry. You can say no to being a bridesmaid, but you should do so tactfully, as Masini says.
Masini stresses the importance of being "timely and be graceful." Whatever your reasons for not being all in, it's crucial that you let your friend know as soon as possible so they can choose someone else if necessary. "If you say yes and change your mind, promptly call your friend and tell her that you won’t be able to do this. It’s just good manners to let your bride-friend know quickly that you cannot be a bridesmaid so that she can ask someone else."
Additionally, Masini says to be clear about why you are saying no. "Give a real reason for not accepting the bridesmaid offer," she recommends. "Don’t be ashamed if it’s money or relationship problems. This is the time to put ego aside because you will be dealing a blow to your friend. Tell her that you can’t afford it, or that this isn’t a good time in your relationship to be taking on this kind of responsibility. Tell her that your work, or your family obligations are too hefty at this time for you to accept her offer." Honesty is always the best policy, but especially when you're telling your friend you can't stand beside them on their special day.
Finally, remember that it's normal for your friend to be a little hurt at you saying no. The best thing you can do in that case is to be understanding of her hurt feelings. "If she’s mad — or even furious — because you’re best, best friends, or you’re a sister or sister-in-law — be gracious and don’t engage in fighting," Masini says. It might be hard, but do try to be the bigger person, as she's already probably dealing with a lot of stress. "Apologize. Buy a nice gift. And keep your side of the road clean. Brides are often under stress, and your saying no to her offer to be a bridesmaid, may hit her harder than you think. So prepare yourself for your best etiquette and be strong, but kind when you say no."
Declining a friend's offer to be a bridesmaid can be a really tough call, but if you know that's what's best for you, don't be afraid to say so. Try to be truthful, kind, and understanding. You both deserve to be happy and enjoy the wedding, even if it's as a guest.