How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid—Or Yes With Conditions

You can borrow her explanation: “I’m doing this because I love you. I would resent you if I said yes and then was super stressed about money.”

Then, reassure the bride or groom. Sacks suggests, “Let’s just find a different way for me to be part of your big day.” Aynesworth offers the phrasing, “What can I do on a lesser scale to still be involved?”

“It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it,” Aynesworth says. “Plain, hard truth is such a hard thing to swallow sometimes.” Instead, focus on “speaking a loving truth, a gentle truth, that has empathy for yourself and honors the other person.”

Gurner took that tack with her friend. “I said that I loved her and would be happy to help or contribute in some other way,” she said. She made her care for her friend clear while making her limits clear too.

How to tactfully ask about expectations

If you want to be in the wedding but feel wary about your budget and schedule, set expectations before you commit.

“The first thing is really just knowing your number,” says Sacks. You can say, “‘Oh, I would love to be part of this, but this is how much I can spend,’” she says. “Be super clear about that going into it.”

If the bachelorette party is a destination experience, you might use Aynesworth’s script: “I really want to be a part of it and I will be there for you on your day, and I will stand next to you. You may have to leave me out of the bachelorette party because I am paying off a lot of college debt” (or whatever explanation you are willing to share).

You’re not obligated to share your whole financial history. Don’t overexplain, says Sacks. Just communicate.

Design by Alexandra Folino / Photo: Getty Images

How should the bride respond?

“A real friend will listen to you and accept, not expect,” says Aynesworth.

Sacks agrees: “Your relationship should be strong enough to withstand this boundary.”

Can brides do anything to avoid these difficult situations?

“A gracious bride would be up-front and communicate obligations,” says Aynesworth. “It’s very presumptuous to assume all bridesmaids can pay the equivalent of a month’s—or two—rent to be in someone’s wedding.”

Sacks’s advice for brides: “Paying for as much as you can on your own is really good, if you can do that.” She suggests footing the bill for day-of hair and makeup, as well as anything you can cover related to the bachelorette party.

Cutting costs while wedding planning is famously difficult, but it’s worth it if you frame it as “How can I make my friends’ lives easier?” Sacks recommends considering what really has value for you.

“So much of the shit that people buy is just good for an Instagram post, and then you want to throw it away the next time you Marie Kondo,” she says. “Like, ‘Okay, maybe I don’t need another tote bag with my name on it.’”

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