How to say no

For Brides: How to Tactfully Say No

Your milestone day should reveal your tastes; not those of your mother, soon-to-be mother-in-law, sister, friend, or aunt. Depending on your family dynamic and relationship with your friends, this may be easier said than done.

Saying no may be difficult, especially when others are excited, well meaning, and just genuinely want to help, but it sure beats the alternative — taking part in a wedding in which you take no ownership, and, for all intents and purposes, don’t particularly like.

For some tactful ways to decline those salmon colored bridesmaids’ gowns or your great aunt’s repeated offers to sing the Wedding March as you make your way down the aisle, take some cues from the following tips.

Above all Else, be Tactful

At the risk of sounding trite, if you truly must refuse a friend or family member’s offer to help plan your wedding, remember the Golden Rule — to treat those closest to you as you would want to be treated. When all else fails, you may have to tell them directly that you don’t need their help. Finding the proper time and place to discuss this is key, and remember that so much lies in the how of you break this news. If you need some more time to think about the situation, kindly tell them you appreciate the offer and will get back in touch.

Channel Your Strengths

When your former sorority sister volunteers to select the entire color scheme — roses, dresses, linens and all — and you find yourself cringing in horror, reminiscing on the beige-on-beige dress and shoe combo she selected for her own wedding, start thinking about the aspects of her tastes or personality that stand out to you in a positive way.

Perhaps she’s really approachable and able to make people feel instantly at ease. With that in mind, she may be good at welcoming out-of-town guests in the days leading up to the wedding. Perhaps she could bring care packages to them upon check-in at their hotels.

A simple “That part of the wedding is covered, but because you are so great at …” should diffuse any offers that don’t quite work for you, while still making the person feel appreciated and special. The key is to let your loved ones stay involved, but in ways that play to their strengths.

Delegate to the Wedding Party

Having an involved family and large circle of friends who live nearby means you get the opportunity to be surrounded by those who love you.. However, when planning your wedding, this could also result in a swarm of suggestions and advice at every coffee meeting or happy hour rendezvous. Even phone conversations with your aunt three states away can be a bit awkward when she’s constantly reminds you of the readings she’s selected for your ceremony.

One way to handle these awkward encounters is to delegate important tasks to your wedding party. It’s quite likely that among your bridesmaids, attendants, and even groomsman, that most details are already being addressed anyway. Delegating specific tasks in advance not only helps keep you organized — it gives you an acceptable explanation when you must turn down offers for help.

Remember … Contributions Count

When you’re tempted to say no to another’s suggestion, whether it’s a polite offer to help or a statement of something they plan to add to the wedding (a groom’s cake, or videographer, for example) consider whether the individual has contributed financially to the wedding, such as with fronting the cost for a plated dinner. If your future in-laws have made it possible to have a sit-down dinner, but you don’t like their idea to serve prime rib, you may want to think twice before saying no to their menu suggestions.

However, if your mother-in-law offers to peruse area bakeries for additional dessert offerings the week before the wedding, with no intention of purchasing them, you can politely tell her that while you like the idea, you actually have a lot to address that last week, and would love her help with other wedding details or that the dessert requirement has been met.

Saying no to offers for help when planning a wedding can be a difficult thing. It creates the potential for awkward pauses and even hurt feelings. Being armed with the right arsenal of suggestions and ideas can help ensure that you and your loved ones will feel wanted, needed, and best of all, happy on your big day. 


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.