I Said No To Being A Bridesmaid

It was late afternoon one day in January of 2010 when I got the call from my recently-engaged friend Marie*. I was sitting on my couch, probably in my pajamas, because I had just launched a freelance career so why wear pants?

I answered the phone and settled in for a nice chat. And a nice chat it was, for the first ten minutes or so. We caught up, filled one another in on mutual friends, made a plan or two.

But then, out of left field, Marie got her serious voice on:

“I wanted to ask,” she said, “if you would be a bridesmaid in my wedding.”

I hadn’t seen it coming. Marie and I were what I would call close acquaintances; we probably got together once every other month, and talked on the phone about as frequently. Besides, it wasn’t the first time I had been blindsided by a bridesmaid request; at the age of 30, I had stood up for friends no fewer than four times. I was kind of over it.

My face morphed from a real smile to a pained grimace. But I might have gone with it, things might have turned out differently, if Marie had not followed up her otherwise lovely request with this:

“I just need another person.”

I just need another person.

Just so we’re all on the same page here, what she meant was that in order to have an even number of people on the bride’s side and the groom’s side during the ceremony, she needed another warm body.

I had to give her credit for not bullshitting me by saying something like, “I’ve always considered you such a good friend,” or “All I want is for my closest friends to stand up with me on this, the most special day of my life, and I can’t imagine doing that without you,” but at the same time, it seemed like maybe she owed me some bullshit, given that she was essentially asking me to drop upward of $1,000 so that photos on her future mantle would be symmetrical.

Now, you might be asking yourself at this juncture why I didn’t just say no right away. I asked myself that very same question for many weeks. But whenever I get asked to be a bridesmaid, the same thing always happens: The wedding industry, which has apparently burrowed its way deep into my psyche, rears its white taffeta head.

First of all, I think to myself, women are supposed to love weddings. We’re supposed to love planning bridal showers and bachelorette parties and catching bouquets.

Not only that, but being asked to be a bridesmaid is supposed to be an honor. We’re supposed to want to help our friend, to be there as she hands her maidenhood over, knowing that one day – if we’re lucky! – the favor will be returned.

So whenever bridesmaidery comes up, and I immediately think “Dear God, not again,” I also immediately wonder why I’m not better at being a woman. “A good woman would do this!” I reprimand myself. “A good woman would be excited!” Or at the very least: “A good friend would feel nothing but honor and joy to stand up there with her friend, on this, the day of her wedding, no matter in how shitty a manner the question was posed.”

And so with all that guilt in my mind, I said yes.

It would be a lie to say that I felt anything short of immediate regret. First of all, as previously noted, I had just embarked on a freelance writing career, so I was legit broke. I also didn’t know if, come her wedding, I’d be in school or working or curled up in the fetal position on my parent’s couch. Second of all, I didn’t know Marie’s other friends that well, but what I did know was that they drank a lot, clubbed a lot, and spent a lot of time at a local beach bar that catered to ex-frat boys and the hairdressers that loved them. I wasn’t necessarily keen on spending my evenings and weekends with them selecting gowns and penis straws.

For the next two weeks, I obsessed about my quandary. I talked to anyone who would listen about the couth-ness or lack thereof of saying no to being a bridesmaid. And I got a variety of responses.

The first girlfriend that I asked was deeply offended that I would even consider saying no. “I’ve never been asked to be a bridesmaid,” she said. “You should be happy that she wants you in the wedding.”

Still more determined that the manner in which I was asked gave me the green light to bail.

But mostly, what I heard was this: “Are you prepared to sacrifice the friendship?”

Truth be told, I was not prepared to sacrifice the friendship. But not sacrificing the friendship had led me to walk down the aisle in a cupcake gown plenty of other times, when I would have preferred to stay in the audience.

At the end of the day, this is what I decided: If Marie was going to be so blunt with me as to reveal the real reason that she wanted me in her wedding, I would be blunt back with her and tell her I didn’t want to do it. I even held out hope that we had entered into some sort of higher plane of consciousness as it pertains to the bride/bridesmaid relationship, in which conversations trade in honesty rather than guilt, in reality rather than unicorns and happily-ever-after fantasies.

And once I told her, I believed for a brief period that I was right.

I put it as simply and straightforwardly as I could. Given the uncertainty of my work situation, it wasn’t the greatest time for me to make such a big commitment. I was so flattered that she had asked me, and I was sorry to say it, but I would have to decline.

She was fine with it. She didn’t sound hurt at all. In fact, what she said was: “It’s OK. I have someone else I can ask.”

We were being so brutally honest!!! We were going to be the two women who proved the you-can’t-be-friends-again myth wrong. We were such fucking grown-ups.

Except for that’s not what happened. Instead, what happened was this: I went to her bridal shower, and her bachelorette party, assuming that everything was cool. As we got closer and closer to her wedding date, she spent more and more time at wedding-related functions talking exclusively to her wedding party. I was on the outside.

And to get sentimental here for a moment, it kind of sucked. From the outside, it seems awfully cozy to be part of the wedding in-crowd. Suddenly it seemed that I had always been so focused on my ugly dress and the demands on my time that I took for granted the warm fuzzies of being in a bridal party. Phony, temporary friendships are forged, and during that forgery, sometimes you have moments where it all seems real.

Anyway, by the time the wedding rolled around, Marie and I barely talked to each other, and that was two years ago. I haven’t seen her since. I heard via Facebook that she got knocked up, and got an invite to the baby shower that I declined due to time constraints.

Would it have been different if I had been in her wedding party? I think it might have.

At this point, I’ll probably never know.

*Name has been changed

Share This Post:
    • Amy

      You did the right thing. The underlying resentment you would have if you said yes would have poisoned the friendship anyways. Yay for courage and honesty!

    • Cindy

      While I salute you for being honest and declining the invitation which would have made you miserable and broke, I have to be honest – it sounds like you ostracized yourself. You were still invited to all of the wedding events, and even to a baby shower later. You weren’t in the wedding in-crowd by your own choice, but I don’t see any signs that she dropped your friendship, when you admit you were “close acquaintances” to begin with. Give her a call. It’s probably not too late to be friends again.

    • Anne

      I would say good riddance. If a friendship is broken that easily, it wasn’t much of a friendship to begin with. And the way she asked you was definitely a good reason to decline. So Yay for you indeed!

    • grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

      good for you. that’s not friendship at all, “i just need another person.” that just pissed me off right there.

      By the by, I had 10 bridesmaids at my wedding all of whom I love and adore and desperately wanted by my side…my hubby had 7. I told him NOT to invite 3 more b/c seriously who gives a fat flying cow that the pictures weren’t symmetrical??? What’s beautiful to me about my wedding pics is that every single person who loves us, and who we love was up there with us. to hell with numbers. I’m just mad at that chick now. grrr.

    • Kimberly @ Twen-Teen

      I wasn’t necessarily keen on spending my evenings and weekends with them selecting gowns and penis straws.

      This alone is reason enough to be glad you said no. :)

    • Katie

      Being a bridesmaid put a heavy strain on my friendship with my best friend of 14 years. Putting up with the Marrieds vs Singletons drama, missing events because I was the only one who lived out of state and the angst-filled phone calls were almost enough make me wish she really had just eloped.

      Watching her marry a great guy and being part of that was worth even more than the (insane) amount of money I spent and BS I endured.

      All that being equal? I’d never do all this for someone I was not completely attached to. Good for you for saying no.

    • Sabrina

      I knew someone who asked a friend who lived out of state to be in the wedding. The friend could not afford it, and was honest about it. The bride told her they were no longer friends and that she wasn’t even invited to the wedding. This alone is the reason why I’m pretty much against weddings and all the bull shit that comes with it. I don’t see why the same five people have to buy bridal shower, bridesmaids, and wedding gifts all within a month. If I ever get married, there is no way I am asking that of my friends… although the only motivation to do so will be because I’ve done it all for them :)

      • M

        The bride who did that was not the girl’s friend to begin with – you don’t reject someone because she can’t afford to buy a dress. I knew one of my friends couldn’t afford her dress so I paid for it, and I made sure that the dresses weren’t terribly expensive to begin with. However, now that twenty years have gone by and I’m getting divorced and the dresses look hideously ugly even to me, I regret the whole business and wish we had eloped, or better yet, never met in the first place.

    • Kate

      I was a bridesmaid… it was pretty easy. All I had to do was show up the day before for the rehearsal and buy a gown. I used shoes I had worn to prom in high school, did my own makeup and hair, and paid for transportation, that was it. The bride paid for my accommodations, she didn’t want a bachelorette party because she was trying to get pregnant, and it was all fairly painless (save for the required hideous bridesmaid dress which I will never again wear). IDK why people stress about being a bridesmaid, it’s not that hard.

      the only thing I think you did wrong was not to be upfront from the get-go, but that’s a forgivable sin as there’s a lot of pressure on women to say yes to things like this.

      • danielle

        Sounds like you were super lucky. Many brides have specific shoes they want you to wear, require you to go to a salon and pay for group updos, mani/pedi, and make-up, and you pay for your own accomodations as well as helping to throw the (multiple) showers and bachelorette party. I just served as a bridesmaid myself for the 4th time and I am DONE!

      • Lisa

        This is a good point. You should really talk to the bride about her expectations before declining to be a bridesmaid. Some brides are not demanding at all and for you to use that as an excuse to not participate is not fair to her. Having the conversation would be more considerate than just excusing yourself. I’m sure if she spoke to the bride before backing out she would have felt as though she atleast tried to accommodate, and then friendship wouldn’t have been as negatively affected.

    • TR

      Being that my wedding is in September, I prefer that people tell me upfront that they can’t come/be in the wedding than dragging it out for weeks (or months in my case). Granted, she just wanted to even out her numbers – that was rubbish even presenting it to you like that. BUT! going for two weeks when you knew your weren’t going to do it, but still going to all the related events, expecting to be treated like a bridesmaid, without all the bridesmaid trapping was just naive.

      • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

        I don’t think I ever said that I expected to be treated like a bridesmaid. I realized that there were parts of being a bridesmaid that I missed while I was attending the events. I would call that human, not naive.

    • Annie Kelleher

      So what if your friendship ended? Don’t you have other friends now, hopefully more like you than this person who asked you “just” so she could have a warm body? I may be the only woman in the world who feels this way but I can’t stand weddings. I think they are a ridiculous waste of time and money and I encourage all my children – I have four,including three daughters – to elope, or at least keep things simple. I eloped for my second marriage and it was much more fun than my first.

    • Haboo

      Your article reeks of self-serving angst and the profanity and crude comments underscore your crudeness and lack of civility. Saying No was the best gift you could have given the bride and if your article is a reflection of who you are . . . . . who would want to continue a relationship? This article reveals more about your issues than the bride’s.

    • Jill

      Courage and honesty? Did you ever consider the reason that your friendship has cooled is because you said yes then reversed course? From the time your friend asked you to be in the wedding, you knew you didn’t have the funds, didn’t have the time, didn’t really want to do it, and felt the request was only offered to even out the wedding party.

      So, why did you feel compelled to say yes? This is a good question that a lot of women need to look into why we say yes when we want to say no. Too often women are afraid of not seeming “nice” so we give in to activities that we cannot and do no want to do. I think you would feel better about the entire situation if you had stood your ground from the start. Establish boundaries and keep them and do not feel responsible for the other person’s response.

      • Jessica Pauline Ogilvie

        You’re right, I probably would have felt better if I had said no up front. But to your question, I actually spent several paragraphs addressing the reasons I felt compelled to say yes, which is exactly what you’re suggesting we women all do.

    • Hugh Jarce

      The author really doesn’t sound like a nice person, and when I got to the “F” bomb it confirmed my suspicions about what kind of person was on the other end of the keyboard.

      She sounds bitter, judgemental, and angry – a happy marriage is certainly not in HER future, no guy is going to tolerate that for long.

      • Avodah

        That was pretty nasty. The bride said that she “needed another person”, and the author didn’t want to be a fill-in (a costly endeavor).

        I agree with the author of the article, and I think she did the right thing.

    • danielle

      I think you made the right decision. $1,000 dollars worth feeling like a part of the in-group with a bunch of people you’ll never see again? Not worth it. Probably even if you had been in the wedding you wouldn’t be close now – people’s lives change alot after they marry. I’ve been a bridesmaid 4 times and am only still in touch with half of the brides.

      Have to say, I’m impressed with the bride for taking it well – I declined one friend’s invitation to be a bridesmaid and she did stop talking me – didn’t even invite me to the wedding!

    • Editor-in-Chief at theBrideScoop.com

      Hi Jessica! LOVE LOVE LOVE this article!!!

      We would like to share with our readers at theBrideScoop.com ~ please let me know if you are okay with that! We would give author credit, title credit, link back to original and thank website for repost.

      You can tweet at us @theBrideScoop or email me directly at the email provided above. Thank you in advance for consideration of this request!

      Cheers!
      Claudia
      Editor-in-Chief
      theBrideScoop.com

    • Avodah

      I don’t understand why people are so offended by the author’s choice. She was asked to be a “fill-in” (NOT because of a valued and meaningful friendship), and it seems like she simply couldn’t afford it.

      If I were the bride I would never ask somebody to just “fill-in” so the picture s look nice. Further, I would understand if for financial, personal, health, family or whatever reasons my friend couldn’t be in my wedding.

    • girlabroad

      I just got married a few months ago. No bridesmaids, no nothing. Just me, him, and about eight family members,. We were at home. It was perfect. As a woman, I do think I understand why women want this stuff, but for me, it’s kind of vain. My husband’s lucky because he married a simple woman that not’s caught up in keeping up with the joneses or all the other crazy, conventional stuff people say you should do. We signed papers, and then life went on.

      Marriage is not about the wedding.

      If people would think about being married and what that means like they think about planning a wedding, maybe more couples would stay married.

    • Jane

      Great story. Thanks for sharing! People don’t realize they can respectfully decline a bride’s REQUEST for you to be a bridesmaid and take on the duties until they’ve have to be a bridesmaid before. These are things out moms should’ve warned us about. Haha! But it’s true- in the end, the experience might have been worth it and you might end up feeling “left out”.

    • Clara

      I am glad that you said no. I am in a wedding party right now and I wish I could get out. It is such a strain. I didn’t know being apart of this wedding party was going to be this much drama. If I would have known before hand all the money (wasted) and drama. I would have respectively said no. It has become everything revolves around this wedding. It makes me sick already. I have no desire to go the the bachelorette party or really anything because they made it unbearable.

    • Lisa

      If you are going to decline an request to be a bridesmaid, sadly, you really do have to be prepared to end the friendship. Mainly because you don’t know how the bride will take it. I am planning my wedding now, and my once close friend declined to be a bridesmaid, even though we have been talking about it for years before I was even engaged! It hurts a lot, and I understand why your friendship went cold. She asked you to partake in her special day, and you said yes….and then you said no. There is nothing more disappointing and annoying! I am not surprised you didn’t get the welcome mat at the wedding, the invitation was probably out of courtesy. There is nothing convenient about being in a wedding, but people who truly care about you will make the sacrifice, you excused yourself from that duty and she heard the message loud and clear: “She wasn’t worth the trouble.” Every decision has consequences. I’m glad you shared your story, hopefully it will shed some light on how these things play out in real life, rather than people just googling ” How to decline a bridesmaid invitation” on eHow and getting tips from there. (by the way its really obvious, lol)