How to Politely Refuse to Be Someone's Bridesmaid

A few pointers when you need to say "no" – without lying.

Whether you have a scheduling conflict or you don't feel comfortable being a member of the wedding party, discover tips on how to make sure you're honest with your friend without making things more awkward than they need to be.

Photo: Elisabeth Millay Photography

There are times when being in someone’s wedding isn’t a feasible option for you – whether it’s because your work schedule is flooded, you have too many prior engagements on the horizon, or you simply don’t feel comfortable joining the bridal party.

Being a good bridesmaid takes a lot of effort. You have to be willing to invest the finances, time, and energy into making your friend’s day into the vision for which she’s striving. While it's of course an honor to be asked to be someone's bridesmaid, it's not always the best decision depending on your circumstances.

If you have conflicts – or reservations about playing that kind of role – there are ways to refuse cordially. If you received a bridesmaid box for your bridesmaid proposal, you may feel even more awkward declining; however, your friend will understand! Consider these tips should you need to politely decline to be in the wedding party:

Photo by Jason and Rebecca Walker for Ira Lippke Studios; Planning & Design by Mindy Weiss Party Consultants; From Real Wedding: Beautiful Destination Beach Wedding in Turks & Caicos

Speak the Truth

Or at least a nicer version of it depending on the real reason. If you have two other weddings you’re already involved in and joining this one wouldn’t be feasible for the timing or your personal budget, let the bride know. If you have work commitments that might prevent you from attending important appointments often attended by bridesmaids – fittings, the bachelorette party, etc. – then tell her.

Even if the two of you are very close, she likely doesn’t desire a bridesmaid that can’t perform to the fullest extent. However, if by chance you don’t particularly like this woman for one reason or another, we recommend letting her know that you don’t feel comfortable being in the bridal party in the nicest way possible to avoid her trying to get you to say yes. Honesty, within reason, is the best policy.

Be Definitive

Don’t beat around the bush or give her a bunch of “maybes.” If you’ve ever planned a wedding or a large event, you’ll understand how frustrating – and, in some cases, destructive – a “possibly” bridesmaid or honor attendant can be. It may sound more harsh to say “no” right off the bat, but in the long run, it’ll make things much easier on the bride and the rest of the wedding party. She can find another friend right away – or distribute tasks amongst her other ladies if needed.

Go Face to FaceTime

In today’s “connected” age, we’re getting better and better at planning weddings from a distance; so, there’s a chance your engaged gal pal lives elsewhere and had a plan to make things work. If you’re unable to speak to her in person, try to get her on Skype to explain your reasoning. Avoid a long-winded text message and similar methods of communication: if she honored you with the inquiry, she deserves more than a quick email on your lunch break. Be kind, and she'll understand – eventually!

Don’t Treat It Like a Scarlet Letter

Whatever you do, don’t let this occurrence deter you from your friendship with this bride-to-be. You shouldn’t be expected to grovel at her feet because of scheduling conflicts, but don't make things any more awkward than they need to be. If your friendship is strong, she will understand that not everyone can accomplish the duties involved. If you’re able – and willing – be sure to attend her affair with a positive countenance and a helpful attitude. You can be there for her on the day of the celebration (and maybe even help to get guests on the dance floor), and we think that’s a lovely way to show your support.

Opening photo by Elisabeth Millay Photography; From Real Wedding: Alfresco Ceremony and Reception at Central California Vineyard