“The dog ate my dress”: 4 ways to get out of being a bridesmaid

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4 ways to get out of being a bridesmaid
Yep, it may not seem like it, but this is actually optional… Photo via Universal

Engagement season is upon us, friends. Have you been asked to be a bridesmaid? Declining to be in a wedding party or worse, backing out after you've already committed, can be a delicate maneuver. But sometimes it has to be done for logistical reasons or just for your own self-care. Bridesmaid duties (and money commitment!) can vary widely depending on the bride's needs and temperament. Hell, we've even seen it from the bride's perspective here.

Sometimes it's financial, sometimes it's too much of a time commitment, and sometimes there are just personal or emotional reasons that you can't commit. Only you can know whether it's right for you to stick it out.

Here are four ways to get out of being a bridesmaid if you've found that it's not in the cards for you. TIP: Don't wait around after you've decided to make the break official. The sooner you let her (or him or them) know, the sooner they can round up a replacement or move your duties over to someone else.

Explain your financial woes

The financial burden is often a really legit reason to decline being in a wedding party. Between the dress/outfit, gifts, multiple party hosting, travel, etc. it can run upwards of $1000-$1500 for the average U.S. bridesmaid. This is a non-personal way to un-commit if you need to.

Have a backup plan in case she offers to help pay your way, though. Continue to decline (thanking profusely) and offer to celebrate in other ways after the wedding when you're feeling more financially stable.

Scapegoat the time commitment

This one is especially harrowing if you're traveling a longer distance for the festivities. Being in a wedding party often means committing to lots of time crafting, hosting parties, shopping for wedding outfits and supplies, and generally being available for long periods of time at any time. If you're heading into a more busy time in your life, let her know what you've got going on. If it's school, work, personal obligations, all of these can serve to soften the blow.

Blame your crappy planning skills

If you're not great at organization or planning, you can use this as your way out of the wedding party. This won't work if the bride or groom already knows you're good at it, but if you're actually not, you can say you'd be more of a hindrance than a help. Maybe offer to help in a smaller way that better caters to your skills and leave the heavier lifting to other wedding party members.

Explain that you're not emotionally ready for it

Life happens, even around weddings and if you've recently gone through a divorce or break-up, are grieving, aren't in a great place being single, have a physical or mental issue with which to deal, etc., these are all real reasons that it might be hard to be very invested in a wedding or not get everyone bummed out. This one might be the hardest to explain, but if you make sure it's not about that person, but about your ability to cope well during the planning, it will be more understandable.

Are you trying to find a way out of a wedding party? What are your tips?

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Comments on “The dog ate my dress”: 4 ways to get out of being a bridesmaid

  1. A word of caution regarding the money excuse: only use this if it really is your only reason not to accept.

    In my early twenties, one of my aunts asked if I would be a bridesmaid for her daughter, my cousin. Previous to that phone call, I had never spoken to that aunt. Or that cousin. Her father apparently didn’t like our side of the family and decreed that we never see them. ( If he sounds like a domineering abusive dickhead, it’s only because he was. ) The only time I had seen them was accidentally, when we both showed up at the same time at our grandmother’s house …in Greece. ( We both live in the US.) Apparently her father did such a great job isolating them, she had no one else to call on as a bridesmaid. ( I’m not sure if that was really true or that was just additional pressure for me — but it’s what I was lead to believe at any rate. )

    Not only did I not want to be a bridesmaid, I didn’t even want to go to the wedding. I didn’t have the money and I didn’t want to spend my few precious days off to fly halfway across the country… to pretend to know a girl I didn’t. So I explained that I just didn’t have the money for airline tickets and hotels and fancy dresses. This was not well received. At first I think my aunt was flummoxed because … wouldn’t my father pay for this, since I wasn’t yet married? LOL!! Um, no, I was out of the house already, thankyouverymuch. Then she boldly stepped into the breach: SHE would pay for everything.


    I think at that point in the conversation I blacked out because I honestly have no memory of what followed. I know I couldn’t say “Look, I don’t want to attend the wedding at all. I’m not interested in spending my vacation time traveling to make it seem like your daughter has some of her cousins from her mother’s side of the family there.” I think I just keep repeating that I couldn’t take her money. If there wasn’t a rift in the family before, you can be sure there was one now.

    If you’re in a similar position — if you don’t want to participate in the wedding because you don’t feel close enough to the bride to make the sacrifice — then I wish you the very best of luck extricating yourself from this horrible social nightmare. I would rather fart in front of a live audience than go through that again.

    • It sounds as though there’s no way that scenario could have ended well, no matter what you did or said. 

  2. I had to decline being a bridesmaid once, and thankfully it ended up not being a big deal! I was planning my wonderful, sweet, low-budget wedding at the time, and counting every penny. My friend was planning her big-budget wedding with all the frills when she asked me to be part of it. I asked her what her expectations were, and she listed things that I’d nixed from my own wedding for budget reasons! I had to point this out and tell her I loved her but I just couldn’t manage. Looking back, I’m so grateful we both communicated so frankly. It saved us both a lot of stress, and we got to enjoy being guests at each other’s fun weddings!

  3. I have been in two weddings and the first one I absolutely, undoubtedly, REGRETFULLY, should have declined to be in. But I didn’t know any better. Now almost 10 years later, I am getting married myself and am doing my damnedest to make sure there is zero pressure (emotional, financial, time, etc) on my 3 bridesmaids. I want them to be excited and remember this day with me fondly, not dread it and be relieved when it’s over.

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