5 things to do when your best friend said no to being in the wedding

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Cartoon version of me and my bestie, by Ali Vee
Cartoon version of me and my bestie, by Ali Vee

About three days after getting engaged, I texted my best friend to quickly confirm that he would, indeed, be in my wedding party. Okay, in hindsight, that probably wasn't the best way to go about it. But I was…

1. 100% sure he would say “yes.”
2. In a rush to make a wedding-related appointment that I wanted him to accompany me to.
3. Was in another country at the time, and didn't want to make an international call.
4. Impatient.

His response was… not what I was expecting. Basically, he quickly turned me down, but suggested that we meet up to talk about it when I get back in town.

In a sadness tailspin, I reached out to my future husband, but he was in the midst of a two-hour work meeting. So I reached out to my ex-husband, who knows my relationship with my best friend the best of anyone. And he had some awesome advice for anyone who has a best friend that said no to being in your wedding party…

1. Calm down

My initial thought was, “what did I do to make him hate me?” Or, “maybe he was NEVER my best friend.” And also, “fuck that guy!”

When I cried to my ex, and told him that I no longer had a best friend, Aaron laughed and said, “now you're just being stupid. I know you guys — you are the best of friends, and have been for years. There's something going on with him that you don't know about. You need to talk before you freak out.”

“Ugh, fine.” So I calmed down. Texted my friend that I was mega-butt-hurt, but even more surprised, and that I'd love to meet up with him to talk about it.

2. Own your shit

Turns out, wedding party proposals can be viewed as a “big thing” to some people. I admitted that I was insensitive in just casually texting him to do something as important and, let's face it, heavily weighted as being a bridesmaid.

I apologized for being so casual about asking. In turn, he apologized being so causal in his brush off. Now we could start talking.

3. Be inquisitive

The best advice Aaron gave to me: Be inquisitive. Something's going on with your friend, and it's not that they all-of-a-sudden don't love you anymore.

When we sat down to talk it over, I repeated Step 2, and apologized again for texting and assuming. And then I asked him what was going on with him.

Turns out, the reasons for a friend not wanting to be in your wedding party can totally not be about you

Sometimes your wedding and/or engagement happens at really shitty times for others. It could be that they're going through a rough break-up, and not really feeling like celebrating love. It could be that their ex just got engaged, and they're having feels. It could that they've recently lost their job, or a family member, or a pet, and don't want to drag you down with their bad energy. It could be that they got a promotion at work, or are tackling a big and awesome personal project, and don't have the time. There are a lot of reasons that have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with you, that would make someone close to you just wouldn't be able to handle being a part of your wedding.

And the parts that do have to do with you are great opportunities to get closer

The conversation that this whole thing sparked, turned out to be really great for my relationship with my bestie. It was one of those “time to re-evaluate our friendship” things. Much like in marriage, a relationship spanning years and years is going to ebb and flow and/or change completely. All long-term relationships need tune-ups. Take this as an tune-up opportunity!

4. Re-frame your request outside of the wedding

But… all the cards being on the table, and being valid and understandable, didn't change the fact that I wanted my best friend in my freaking wedding party!

So I said, “Well, let's think about like this: I want to spend more time with you. And I will be spending a lot of time on wedding stuff this next year. If you're willing to be involved, all those activities can just be an excuse to hang out more! What I'm saying is, I want you to be in my wedding so that I can hang out with you as much as possible.”

Re-framing it as “let's hang out a lot” and not “I need help with wedding stuff” seemed to put it into a different perspective from him, alleviated some of that ingrained bridesmaid pressure, and made him more willing to re-consider being “in the wedding.”

5. Be willing to compromise

Not being so “yay, rah-rah weddings” at the moment, he's still not agreeing to be a bridesman. But he is into the idea of hanging out more. He has agreed to go on some wedding-related missions with me, but not necessarily as an official part of the wedding. Hell, I'll take any amount of best friend time that I can get — wedding-related or not. And maybe, once he sees that being a bridesman isn't all that scary, he'll be more open to making it official?

But no matter what, I made him promise to absolutely attend the wedding. And that's good enough for me (right now).

Have you had a friend refuse to be in your wedding party? What is your best advice for others going through that?

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Comments on 5 things to do when your best friend said no to being in the wedding

  1. I’ve been on the other side and refused to be in a friend’s wedding. Most of my friends also know I have a blanket no bridesmaid rule. Not because I don’t love my friends or want to celebrate or help them. I go to weddings, do anything I can do to help out before and during them, and am mega happy for my friends, but the idea of being a bridesmaid REALLY puts me off. Like…I hate it. I hate the whole concept. I don’t want my own if I get married, I don’t want to be one, I don’t want to be asked to be one….no. But that has NOTHING to do with my friend(s) and I’m more than happy to help them out with wedding projects…because that’s what friends do! So, you’re right, there really are loads of reasons that aren’t about you or your friendship. In addition to the things you mentioned it’s sometimes a lot simpler. Some people just aren’t into it.

    • Hilariously, my best girl friend has told me on and on and on about how much she hates bridesmaids — she doesn’t like being one, and she didn’t have them in her own wedding. And yet, when I said, “So, let me just make sure of this: you do NOT want to be a bridesmaid in my wedding, correct?” Her reply: “Oh, I will freak out if you don’t make me a bridesmaid in your wedding. I don’t like it, but there’s no way I’m not going to be one.” HUH? 😉

  2. One of my oldest and closest friends declined at first and I was crushed, but we talked through it. Turns out she didn’t initially like the idea of bridesmaid-ing because, as someone who embraces her androgyny and has only worn men’s clothing for the past 15+ years, she hadn’t wanted to “scandalize” my husband’s uber-conservative family and “ruin” the wedding photos (her words). She was also worried that I might ask her to wear a dress in the wedding….which she would have been deeply uncomfortable with. It had never occurred to me to ask her to do that – I had just assumed she would wear a tux or a suit. Once we realized we were on the same page, she was happy to be part of things. And, I might add, she rocked the hell out of that tux and looked amazing. Not that there was ever any question about that!

    Also, congrats, Megan! I’m totally one of those Offbeat Bride/Offbeat Life groupies who feels like I know all of you really well, thanks to my years of stalking this site (and maybe possibly your own blog from time to time). Looking forward to following along on what is sure to be the most kick-ass wedding of the decade (besides my own, naturally)!

    • Thanks, Aly! I can’t say it will be the most kick-ass wedding of the decade (because CLEARLY yours will be!!!), but I will say it won’t suck. 😉

  3. I’m trying to figure out a way to tell my best friend, “Hey, I’m not sure it’s feasible for me to come to your wedding.” They’re married, this is a wedding-ing. It’s being held in our home state all the way across the country, in a town two hours away from a tiny airport that you can’t fly direct to, on a weekend during the final few weeks of my degree. I’m also a broke college student and my partner supports both of us. I’d really love to be there … if I could teleport for free.

  4. Aww, first I’m sorry it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. Don’t feel like you jumped the gun on asking him though because I did the same thing to my Maid of Terror. I texted her an hour after getting engaged and said “We’re getting married and I will accept no other maid of honor than my best friend.” Thankfully, she said yes!
    I did have one bridesmaid that … I don’t want to say she needed convincing but before she agreed she had a lot of questions. All pertaining to the financial and time contributions that would be expected of her which I totally understood because she doesn’t make a ton, she supports a family of 4, and she has a young son. Once I told her what I expected (which was apparently minimal compared to a lot of brides?) she agreed and we had a great time. Not sure if it was part of the conversation already but perhaps letting him know what the financial, time, and any travel commitment would be to becoming a bridesman it could help sway him.

    • He had a LOT of questions about what would be expected of him. I’m like, “bro! I just got engaged! I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. But it’s not going to be anything crazy, and if you don’t feel comfortable at ANY TIME, just let me know, and you’re off the hook for any and all ‘hell naw’ activities.” That DID help. Still not saying “yes.” But I think as the time goes on and he sees this won’t cost him anything (except the gas to get there), that will definitely help.

  5. I tried to opt out of my brother’s wedding. My 2-year-old daughter was already their flower girl, so I felt we’d already been included. We didn’t have a lot of money or time back then, and I knew it was going to be a big commitment of both — though as a close family member I still expected to be heavily involved (and happily so). They already had 7 other bridesmaids, so I kind of figured I was doing him a favour, like don’t feel you have to include me, because I’m good. My family’s pretty low-key about traditions and weddings (I’ve been engaged for 7 years–though we’re taking the plunge this year!), but my sister-in-law had a wedding binder before they were even together. In the end, I was happy to be a part of the day, but I probably would have been just as happy wrangling my daughter and celebrating their wedding from the front row.

  6. I’ve said no, myself. When a newer friend asked me, 2 years, I felt I had to say no – we’d known her fiancé first, and at this point, I didn’t even know her last name, & she was asking me to be her matron of honour! Which was super kind, but – I had no ‘…oh remember WHEN…?!’ stories I could’ve used in a speech or toast. I could not have even gone on for 5 minutes about her awesome qualities (which she does have! I just didn’t know much about them, then!). Also, I was about 20 years older than the other bridesmaids, and was feeling chunky & frumpy in comparison, & frankly, the strapless orange satin short dresses she’d already chosen for them, which were cute on them – were NOT, not in a million years, going to do anything for me! I know, it’s not about me, it’s about her – but there were already some good reasons for me to decline, and those figure hugging ‘young’ looking dresses, were the proverbial icing on the (wedding) cake. My reasons, as I told her, were that I was super awe struck & teary-eyed to be asked, but that I was owning my discomfort and felt she would regret her wedding pix in years to come, seeing super cute/blonde, super cute/brunette, and….much older frumpster, all in a row. I was sorry if that was disappointing, but I felt I just wouldn’t do the awesomely cute dress, and therefore the over-all hawtness look of her big day, any justice. She was actually very nice about it, said she hadn’t thought of it that way, but of course she didn’t want me to feel out of place, if that’s how I felt about it. Whew.

  7. As someone who lost any connection with my best friend over a wedding, I’d say its good when your friend is upfront about not wanting to be in the wedding. When I got engaged and asked my friend to be my Maid of Honor she said yes. It was rather a symbolical gesture, all she had to do was to find a steampunk themed dress, show up and maybe provide some psychological support during my crazy planning days. And everything was somewhat fine until 2(!) days before the wedding. One minute she wonders if my stylist can help her with her hair, the next she is not answering my calls and goes AWOL. Some time after my mom finds out from her mom (what kindergarden behavior anyway!) that she supposedly is sick and has fever. She never called me once before or after to congratulate us or just plain ask how everything went. She did send a polite congrats text. At that point we left for our honeymoon and I still wanted to hope this is some big misunderstanding, she was my best and oldest friend, we’ve been through so much together!Its been over a month and still not a call or anything. I swallowed my pride and contacted her asking if we could meet and talk about this. She said she’d like to and will get back to me to set it up. It’s been almost 2 years now, I guess she just couldn’t deside on that date… I’m still pretty hurt about this whole thing and just can’t understand what happened and why.

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