How to say no when asked to be a bridesmaid – it’s ok to go against tradition

Recently, I was chatting with a fellow mom who expressed worry about a newly engaged friend potentially asking her to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. She was hoping she would not be asked, but felt if she was asked to be a bridesmaid, she would be obligated to say yes to avoid hurting the bride’s feelings.  This is how to say no when asked to be a bridesmaid.

Listening to her describe the situation I had a flashback to my younger self where I crossed my fingers and hoped to be a bridesmaid for my friends. After a handful of bridal party experiences, the glitter and magic faded away to dread and dollar signs. I had been a bridesmaid and maid of honor a number of times, and then I put a moratorium on bridesmaid activities. It just wasn’t for me anymore. At the time, I told my close girlfriends (who were not yet married), “When you get engaged, please do not ask me to be a bridesmaid because I will say no. I love you and I will support you in any way you need, but I do not want to be in the bridal party.” To be honest, I don’t know what my friends thought of this proclamation, but it was good to tell them how I felt.

To give you a bit of background – I had a super small wedding where only immediate family was invited; parents and siblings (not even my closest girlfriends). Including me and my groom, there was nine of us and it was lovely. Even so, to this day, I still tell my husband I would have full-on eloped. Once he proposed, I had visions of it just being me, him and a Rabbi in City Hall. I am not the kind of girl who dreamt about a big splashy wedding.  Here are the reasons why I wanted to elope.

No shock here: I am a long-term planner and I wanted to take the money we would have spent on a wedding and use it towards a down payment on a house and this is exactly what we did. Instead of planning on having a wedding, I planned on having a single-family home and having babies. Instead of day-dreaming about a wedding gown and flowers, I dreamt about my future husband, the kind of marriage we would have, the babies we would raise together and (this may make you vomit a little bit in your mouth) my reality is better than any of my imaginings ever were. I’m incredibly lucky to call the man of my dreams my best friend and husband. (<<insert barf sound here>>)

But I digress – even though I said no thanks to being a bridesmaid, I was totally on board with planning the bachelorette party/weekend, I was happy to spend the pre-wedding night in the bridal suite, then help prep the bride the day of the wedding, and give a toast. I even became ordained online to officiate the wedding of one of my besties, then conducted the Jewish wedding ceremony for another close friend and his partner a few years later. These are honestly some of my very favorite memories of all time. I love weddings, I love participating in weddings (in obviously nontraditional ways), I love attending weddings, but I simply do not need or want the bridesmaid title.

Anecdotally speaking, I have noticed brides end up losing touch with at least one of her bridesmaids as time marches on. So being a bridesmaid does not guarantee friendship for life.

Back to the present day, the mom I was talking to asked, “Do you think I can say no and we’ll still be friends?” Well, you may already have guessed my answer to this question. As the name of this blog insinuates, I have the most phenomenal girlfriends I could ever EVER hope to have and despite not being involved in my wedding at all, they came together to plan and throw the most amazing surprise bachelorette weekend for me.

Bachelorette weekend activity: pole dancing lesson
Bachelorette weekend activity: pole dancing lesson
Dancing the night away with my ladies
Dancing the night away with my ladies

Despite the lack of formal involvement in their weddings (and vice versa) I feel a million times closer to my girlfriends now. If a woman stops being friends with someone because they decline being a bridesmaid, perhaps she’s not the best friend to have in one’s life. Ending a friendship over something like this seems very trivial and more drama than it is worth. If being a bridesmaid is so important, find out why and support your friend during her wedding day in a way you feel comfortable. We should do what makes us happy, not what we feel obligated or “guilted” into doing.

Furthermore, we are older now; we have husbands, homes, careers, and children. We do not have time to fret over these sorts of things and plan yet another wedding extravaganza unless we really truly honestly want to put the time and energy into it.

As an aside, I would like to formally and publicly thank my girlfriends for not making me feel horrible for not being in their weddings, moreover they did not make me feel horrible for not even being invited to attend my wedding (forget about being a part of it!). I love you. Thank you for not being bridezillas.

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