How to say ‘no’ to being a bridesmaid

A best friend’s wedding is magical  – and it’s even more special if you’ve been selected as one of the bridesmaids. 

But what should be an exciting and happy experience is becoming an anxiety-inducing worry for lots of people at the moment – mainly down to the current cost of living crisis.

While being a bridesmaid is an incredibly rewarding experience, it can definitely add up in terms of cost: there’s the hen do (and all the decorations/food/fun that comes with it), sorting your bridesmaid dress (if the bride isn’t paying for it), and contributing to hair and makeup on the day.

Not to mention all the other parts that all wedding guests are expected to pay for: gifts, travel, accommodation, drinks, outfits etc.

It all adds up and, quite frankly, it’s a luxury that lots of people cannot afford right now.

But declining this invitation might not even be money-related – perhaps you don’t want the responsibility and pressure, or simply don’t have the time?

‘The sheer amount of time, planning, communicating and ever-expanding financial implications can cause so much stress. And this is before the cost of living crisis is even considered,’ explains Maria Houston-Moore, counsellor from wedding planning site Brideplan.

So how can you say ‘no’ to a bridesmaid offer sensitively, while maintaining a great relationship with the bride?

Experts have shared some things to keep in mind.

Remember saying ‘no’ is OK

‘Many of us avoid conflict and confrontation as our experience may tell us that conflict is unhealthy, negative, or hurtful. It doesn’t need to be,’ explains Maria.

‘The healthy boundaries we can set for ourselves are for our own wellbeing, not something we do to others.’

While saying ‘no’ might feel like the most uncomfortable thing in the world, sometimes, it needs to be said – with open, sensitive, empathic, honest, authentic communication, explains Maria.

She adds: ‘Saying no on its own would not cut it. However, with context – “no” can be offered with heartfelt appreciation and honesty.’

Don’t delay

It’s natural for your brain to be telling you to avoid, delay and find excuses – but try to resist these urges.

‘Your flight or fight responses will be firing. That is normal. You are under stress and want the easiest outcome,’ says Maria.

‘But the sooner you say no, the better – for everyone. Then the bride has time to process this decision and find other potential candidates.’

As a result it’s better to try and tell the bride as soon as possible, as delaying your response might cause more harm than good. 

Barbara Santini, a psychologist and sex advisor at Peaches and Screams, explains: ‘This way, they can find other options if need be. Perhaps you earlier said yes, but something else urgently came up, limiting your chances of fulfilling the promise, it is best to inform as soon as possible.’

Be honest

Honesty is always best policy in friendships. So be honest about your reason for declining – especially if it comes down to money.

Barbara adds: ‘The best thing is coming out clear about it. This is your friend and you should not be ashamed of informing about your low financial abilities, making you unable to accommodate their wish. 

‘Be frank about your unpaid bills, loans, or family obligation that cannot allow you to accept the offer.’

Stress you appreciate the offer

It’s important to let the bride know how thankful you are that they asked you to be a bridesmaid.

Alicia Currie, a wedding expert from Hen Weekends, says: ‘Being asked to be a bridesmaid is a big deal. Even if you do say no, and is a definite sign of a strong, everlasting connection between the two of you.’

Share other ways you want to support

If you can’t currently take on the full responsibilities of being a bridesmaid, you can still be there for them and celebrate as a best friend, explains Alicia.

She adds: ‘Make sure to assure the bride that you’re still going to be there for her big day, and that you’d still love to be involved in any pre-wedding events, such as the hen do.

‘One of the main reasons you’re asked to be a bridesmaid is because the bride wants you more involved in her special day.’

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