For a week, Stacy avoided her former college roommate, Anne, who lived in the same town. The word was out among mutual friends that Anne, 26, was about to ask Stacy to be one of her bridesmaids–maybe even her maid of honor. Stacy was certain she wanted to decline but didn’t know the steps she needed to take without causing a rift in the friendship.
Women have lots of reasons to avoid being a bridesmaid. Many of them track to the fact that weddings continue to get bigger and cost more. According to a 2009 survey conducted by The Knot, weddings are now often multiple-day events. Counting all the associated parties, three days is now the average duration. And if there is such a thing as an average wedding, it includes five bridesmaids, each of which will have multiple outlays of time and money as far as clothing, a gift and entertainment for the bride.
Is it any wonder that a prospective attendant might want to decline what was meant to be an honor? If you’re in this category, here are seven steps you should take to put a damper on potentially hurt feelings.
Speak Up Right Away
As soon as you can, let the bride know that you can’t fulfill her request. Today’s weddings sometimes involve two years of planning. The worst possible situation is avoiding the bride or mutual friends for months after you’ve been asked to fill the role of bridesmaid, particularly as maid or matron of honor.
Decline in Person
Sometimes geography makes this impossible. However, if the bride is local, make a point to say no in person. You might decline be as soon as she asks you. If you said you needed some time to consider, it will obviously be later. When you’re not living, working or going to school in the same area, make a point of speaking to her on the phone instead of just sending an email. The best situation in that case would be a call followed by an email to show that you care about her feelings.
Give a Specific Reason
There are lots of valid reasons to decline accepting the role of a bridesmaid. The Board Magazine cites some of the major ones as time, finances and bridal expectations. If you think your friend’s plans are beyond your budget, explain that you’re unable to spend more than a specified amount and that you know that cost of your dress, shoes, travel and other expenses will exceed that amount.
Once you decline to become a bridesmaid and give the bride a specific reason, you need to stick to your guns. Don’t act as though you might reconsider if, for example, after you cite time constraints, she says, “Oh, it won’t take that much time!” Your answer in that case should be a validation that you do have time issues and care enough about her to give her the chance to find someone else who doesn’t have a constraint.
Offer to Do Something Else
Show that you really do care about her, her fiancé and their wedding by offering to serve in another role. NYCweddings.com suggests that diplomacy is the order of the day. Make a point of showing up at the functions to which you’re invited and offer to take on a more minor role, perhaps lending a hand with corsages or tricky lacing on the day of the wedding. If she has a wedding planner, offer to be that individual’s helper for the day.
Be a Gracious Guest
Attend the wedding if you possibly can. Be pleasant and enjoy the day. If you’re not able to go, at least send a meaningful gift. Then follow up with a phone call after the couple’s honeymoon.
Avoid Badmouthing a Bridezilla
If the bride didn’t take your news well, avoid reciprocating with any negative comments. Declining to become a bridesmaid is one time when the old adage of not saying anything if you can’t say something positive definitely applies.