It should be an immense honor, but receiving an invitation to be a bridesmaid or groomsman can sometimes feel like an immense burden. A well-meaning invitation can put a friend in the position of choosing between friendship and going into debt.
Accepting the honor can cost several thousand dollars, depending on the extravagance of the wedding. Even if the cost isn’t prohibitive, out-of-town friends can’t always take the time off of work to plan and attend a series of pre-wedding parties.
If you do have the time and money to be a member of the wedding party, accepting the invitation is probably the easiest course of action. You won’t risk hurting anyone’s feelings, and you’ll be able to give your friend the gift of your enthusiastic participation. However, what do you do if you simply can’t accept? There are a few approaches.
Assess your friendship with the bride or groom
Are you very close to the bride or groom? If you haven’t seen your friend since high school and you no longer live in the same town, your friendship might not be as strong as it once was. How often do you still have deep talks? Is this friend still the first person you call when you have big news? If you’ve slid into skimming each other’s Facebook updates as the main form of staying in touch, you don’t have to suffer too much anguish over declining the invitation.
Simply thank your friend for the honor and explain that you don’t have the resources to be a part of the wedding party right now. Emphasize the “it’s not you; it’s me” angle. Since you don’t have the time or finances, you don’t think you’ll make the kind of bridesmaid or groomsman the wedding deserves. Emphasize that you will, however, be thrilled to attend the wedding as a guest.
Examine your reasons for not attending the wedding
Some would-be bridesmaids and groomsmen find themselves confronting a dilemma because they want to support their friend, but do not approve of the marriage taking place. If this discomfort is your main reason for wanting to avoid the ceremony, your best bet is to politely decline without getting into a long, complicated discussion of your reasons.
The time for expressing your disapproval over a friend’s relationship is during the dating stage. If the wedding has already been planned, saying something now will only damage your friendship. Stick to practical reasons, such as a lack of time or money, for your refusal.
Offer an alternative to your attendance at the wedding
If you would truly love to be a part of the wedding, but you just can’t make the time or money commitment necessary for being a bridesmaid or groomsman, let your friend know how eager you are to help out. There may be other ways you can contribute to the wedding that are more realistic for your situation.
Ask if there will be a place in the ceremony for readings, and whether you can prepare something meaningful to read. Offer any skills you have, such as playing music or arranging flowers, as a way to contribute to your friend’s special day. Even seemingly small jobs, such as stuffing invitation envelopes, can be a lovely way to contribute and take some of the load off of your friend’s shoulders.
Arrange a time to speak to your friend and honestly communicate your regret that you’re unable to be a member of the wedding party. Let your friend know your limitations, and emphasize that you still want to help out in any way that you can. Ultimately, you will be much more of a help if you stay within your comfort zone. That way, you won’t stretch yourself too thin and add to the stress level of the wedding preparations. Ideally, you will be able to remain a calm and cheerful shoulder for your friend to lean upon.
Plan something unavoidable
Are you dead-set on avoiding the wedding at all costs? If you really want to get out of being in the wedding party, and can’t even stand the thought of attending, it’s time to create a date conflict. The conflict has to be something truly monumental and unavoidable. Run through your mental list of close relatives who are having babies or suffering from severe illnesses in other parts of the country.
When making excuses, think big. Start a new job. Move to a new country. Enlist in the armed forces. Your excuse has to be so grandiose that no one can ever question your priorities. Sound ludicrous? That’s because it is. After all, it’s probably easier to just be honest and explain to your friend that you can’t be a part of the wedding party.
Be considerate of your friends and their invitation to their wedding
Ultimately, the most important thing isn’t whether or not you’re a part of your friend’s wedding party; it’s how your actions affect your friend’s wedding experience. If you know you have to decline the invitation, tell your friend as soon as possible. That way, your friend can find a replacement with plenty of time to spare, and your indecision won’t interfere with the wedding planning.
Remember, you can play a supportive role without being a bridesmaid or groomsman. Regardless of your official title, you are still a trusted friend and any contribution you make to the wedding will be heartfelt and meaningful.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.