What to Do When a Bridesmaid Drops Out of Your Wedding

Steps to take when a friend no longer wants to stand beside you at the ceremony.

The loss of a bridesmaid can be quite problematic. Ahead, we’ve laid out several situations why a bridesmaid might drop out and paired with tips on how you should handle such a situation.

Photo: McCune Photography

A troubling trend in the world of weddings is the flaking out of the bridal party. While more brides choose to “propose” to their prospective bridesmaids, many of these women are returning the favor by accepting, only later to say they can no longer perform their bridesmaid duties. Sometimes it’s due to a true emergency, or even because of an extreme bridezilla where most people would agree the lapsed bridesmaid is justified in standing up for herself. However, there are also times where a bridesmaid's reasoning may seem less than valid to the bride.

No matter the motive, it almost always leads to hurt feelings and oftentimes, tension in the friendship after the wedding. While the effects of the Covid pandemic have complicated matters recently – especially in regards to destination weddings, we’ve laid out several situations why a bridesmaid might drop out otherwise, paired with tips on how you should handle the situation for your wedding day, below.

pretty bridesmaids carrying flowers by eddie zaratsian lifestyle and design

Photo by Rene Zadori Photography; Floral Design by Eddie Zaratsian Lifestyle and Design; From Real Wedding: Opulent Wedding with Classic Winter White Color Scheme

Reasons Why a Bridesmaid Might Drop Out of Your Wedding

If she backs out with more than six months to go before the wedding:

As long as you haven’t already purchased your bridesmaid dresses and you haven’t posted about your bridesmaid and wedding party selections on social media, you can ask someone else to take the spot without making them feel like they were a second choice.

If she quits at the last minute, a few months before the wedding:

Unfortunately, this is past the point where you can or should replace her in the wedding party in order to avoid any issues or even hurt feelings with the would-be bridesmaid who would be replacing your friend who dropped out. Luckily, uneven bridal parties are much more common nowadays, so it won’t be that big of a deal in terms of aesthetics. Of course, you know your friendship, so there may be some circumstances where this is okay.

If a bridesmaid drops out due to finances:

Consider helping with some of the costs associated with being a bridesmaid, particularly the dress and travel expenses. She may have other reasons too, but offering to help may make everything a bit easier for her. Part of accepting the role of being a bridesmaid is choosing to accept the responsibility and cost that comes with it, but it may have been more than she expected. Be kind as the bride, and if you really want her to be part of your big day, make it happen!

bride with bridesmaids in velvet dresses and bridesman male attendant

Photo by Emma Hopp Photography; Planning and Design by Tessa Lyn Events; From Real Wedding: A Classic Wedding with Modern & Mexican Details in California

If she says she’s too busy:

Make it clear that your bridesmaids are not required to do anything outside the wedding weekend. Sure, it’s nice if your pals can help stuff envelopes and plan bridal showers, but as long as everyone can stand with you on your big day, that’s all that truly matters, right? If she can't attend the wedding even as one of the guests, that's a different story.

If she can’t attend the wedding due to an understandable schedule conflict:

Even if you’ve been friends since kindergarten, sometimes there really are situations that have to take precedent over your wedding day, including, but not limited to, her due date being that week, a family member getting married the same day, or even a business trip she can’t get out of. In this situation, be kind and understanding. Be sure to include her in pre-wedding events, such as the bridal shower and bachelorette party, since she would have been one of the bridesmaids if her schedule allowed. She probably hates that she can’t be part of your big day.

If she backed out because of a fight you two had:

First, look back over your interactions from her perspective. Were you asking too much? Expecting her to help plan the wedding and pay for an expensive bachelorette party? It might be you who needs to apologize, and make it clear that the only thing she needs to do at your nuptials is stand beside you. If that's not the case; however, and she's just not being a good friend to you, then you might have to cut your losses and stop pursuing this friendship after the wedding.

If she cancels last minute due to a family emergency:

This situation can be a bride's absolute worst nightmare. While wedding planning, a lot of things can go wrong – as is true in life – but no one wants to learn the day of (or the days leading up to) the wedding that someone – especially one of the bridesmaids – can't attend due to an unforeseen event like a family emergency. If she offers a reason, that's wonderful; however, if she doesn't, it's not polite to ask a million questions. One way or another, things in life can get in the way and there can be many reasons – be respectful and understanding. Before being a bride, you're first a friend.

For more advice, learn how to handle disagreements between your bridesmaids and find out if it's ever acceptable for you to drop a bridesmaid.