As awkward conversations go, this is one of the worst.
It should be a glorious moment. Your best friend asks to stand beside you on the best day of her life, you both cry and drink champagne, then look at dresses. It’s perfect and magical. And whilst you know that it’ll involve helping her get her dress up over her head so she can have a wee, it’s going to be a magical journey, and you’re just glad that you get to take it with her.
But what if it’s nothing like that? What if you’re looking down the barrel of being at the beck and call of someone you’re not quite that close to? Because, whilst there’s a small handful of friends who you’d love to plan a hen for and would seriously consider wearing puce taffeta for, that doesn’t go for all of your friends. The reality is, you’ve got to be pretty close to someone to want to become their handmaiden for the duration of their wedding planning.
Saying no, despite being incredibly hard, can sometimes be the right thing to do. Being a bridesmaid isn’t easy. It’s time consuming, it’s expensive and it’s all about someone else. So doing it for your BFF is fine, but if you’re asked to do it for someone you’re not close to, it’s going to end up being a burden. If you’re smart, you’ll nip it in the bud straight away, before you’ve spent half your pay cheque on clothes you dont’ want to wear, trips you didn’t want to go on and fawning on someone who you worked with for a couple of years back in the late 00’s.
If you’re going to say no, you need to be really truly sure. That means not getting sad and jealous when you’re not standing up there on the day or it turns out that the bride bought all the ‘maids Louboutins as thank-you gifts. Saying no is a big statement, however tastefully and delicately you do it.
Tell her first
It can be tempting to seek advice on the turn down from your mutual friends, but for the love of God don’t do that. If it gets back to the bride that you’re going to turn her down she’ll be mortified and furious.
Pick your moment
How you tell someone something is often more important than what you actually say. You know the bride (hopefully at least a bit if she’s asked you to be a bridesmaid) so you’ll know whether she’s better with face-to-face, or over the phone. If she’s likely to be hurt or embarrassed, it can be better to allow her some space. She might not want to sit with you over a glass of wine after you’ve broken the news.
Understand why she asked you
People pick their bridesmaids differently. Maybe you were extremely close as kids, but you’ve grown apart? If that’s the case, it’s worth being clear that nothing takes away the childhood you shared, but that you don’t feel you’re the right person any more because you have separate lives.
If you’re really close friends but you’re unwilling to take on the responsibility of maiding because you’ve got young kids or a super demanding work schedule then hopefully your friend will understand and might even be expecting it.
The best case scenario is that she asked you because she felt obliged, particularly likely if you’re family but don’t spend much time together. If this does happen, it’s probably good practice that you both at least pretend to be miffed.
There’s no point telling the soon-to-be Mrs that you don’t want any part in her nuptials because you’re madly busy at work if you’re working three days a week and finding time to Instagram your brunch. Again, there’s no point in saying it’s about being broke if you’re going to be rocking a new outfit every time you see her. Honesty with a sprinkling of tact is the best way forward.
Let her be hurt
She’s probably going to be a bit upset. It’s par for the course. Just keep checking in and being the great friend you’ve always been to her. And you’ll probably have to get her a really nice wedding present.