How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid

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Having to bow out of being a wedding attendant after you already agreed to do it is never ideal. The etiquette pros from The Emily Post Institute say that backing out for any other reason than a serious economic, health or family crisis, is a “risky move.” But there’s a protocol you can follow to ensure your mea culpa is as minimally distressing as possible.

Most importantly, you should speak with the bride or groom as soon as possible, says Elise Mac Adam, author of “Something New: Wedding Etiquette for Rule Breakers, Traditionalists, and Everyone In Between” (Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2008). You want your friend to have a chance to replace you in the wedding party if necessary.

When imparting the bad news, be sure to talk in person or over the phone; never pass it along in an email, text or voicemail, Mac Adam says.

You’ll also want to provide a diplomatic reason for your exit. Hopefully, it’s very early in the planning process, but anytime that conditions (be it money or time issues, a clash with the bride, or anything else) require you to remove yourself from the bridal party, Sharon Naylor, author of “Bridesmaid on a Budget: How to Be a Brilliant Bridesmaid without Breaking the Bank” (Seal Press, 2010), advises saying “I’m sorry, but due to (money issues, pregnancy, surgery, etc.), I need to step out of the bridal party. I hate to have to do this, and I’ve given it a ton of thought. But I can’t do the great job you deserve. I’m very sorry.”

From there, ask the bride or groom what you can do to help in other ways. Unless you did indeed clash (in which case the asker may be as relieved as you!), chances are she or he is going to be upset. “But,” says Naylor, “when you offer to smooth the transition, it eases the sting of what feels like rejection.” 

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