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Can You Say No to Being a Bridesmaid? How to (Politely!) Opt Out of the Wedding Party

It's okay to not want to be a bridesmaid or maid of honour... We repeat, it's OKAY! Not everyone dreams of the day they become a bridesmaid and here's how to deal with saying no...

A bride holding a bouquet in front of her bridesmaid and maid of honour
Pexels / Melike Benli

A bride holding a bouquet in front of her bridesmaid and maid of honour
Pexels / Melike Benli

It's always such a joyous occasion when one of your best friends or a sibling gets engaged, but the question, "Will you be my bridesmaid?" doesn't always bring equal amounts of joy. Can you say no to being a bridesmaid? Is that even a thing? 

It's important to understand that taking on a bridesmaid role or being a maid of honour isn't a dream job for everyone. For some, it's the moment they've been waiting for for years and years, they have the spreadsheets ready to go and the hen party planning is practically done. And good for those people! But what about the folk out there who don't want to be a bridesmaid or maid of honour?

Traditionally, the maid of honour and bridesmaid roles are the most coveted in the wedding party and a highlight of your friendship. But half of UK adults don’t want to be their friend’s maid of honour or bridesmaid simply because they don’t want to organise the stag do or hen party, according to a survey of Brits.

Can You Say No to Being a Bridesmaid? How to (Politely!) Opt Out of the Wedding Party

The biggest bugbears that caused people to say no to being a bridesmaid were the responsibility of organising the party travel plans, people dropping out last-minute and feeling like a debt-collector when trying to re-coup the cash spent co-ordinating your friend’s final night of freedom.

In fact, 38% of stag and hen do planners will be left £57 out of pocket for their trouble - which is one of the things people hate the most about hen parties

It’s no surprise then that almost 1 in 5 people have tried to back out of being maid of honour or best man after accepting the role because of the pressure of planning their friend’s send-off, found a poll by personal fundraising platform

If you're feeling the pain and anguish of figuring out how to say no to being a bridesmaid, or how to decline a maid of honour job, you're not alone as 19% of Brits want to turn it down too. Our guide explains how you can say no to being a bridesmaid and also explores the main reasons why some people don't want to be part of the wedding party.

If you are an engaged couple and are wondering why your closest pals aren't excited about their new job, knowing the reasons why some people find it stressful may help you to realise it's probably nothing to do with you and everything to do with how they feel. 

Can You Say No to Being a Bridesmaid or Maid of Honour?

The short answer to this is yes. You can absolutely say no to being a bridesmaid, maid of honour, best man or any other wedding party role. It's always your decision as to whether or not you accept the job of bridesmaid, but don't be surprised if the person who asked you is a little upset or taken aback.

No one asks someone to be a bridesmaid, maid of honour or best man and expects the answer to be no. In fact, no one asks someone to be a part of their wedding party expecting anything other than joy and gratitude - but this shouldn't make you feel guilty. If being someone's bridesmaid or being part of a wedding party is going to effect your life or mental health negatively, it's okay to say no. 

To ensure your relationship with the nearlywed is maintained, we have some excellent tips which outline how to say no to being a bridesmaid and how to turn down being maid of honour.

Can I Change My Mind About Being a Bridesmaid or Maid of Honour?

A bride smiling next to her bridesmaid
Pexels / l%u2019amourart

Again, you can change your mind about being a bridesmaid or maid of honour - the decision always lies with you. It's important to remember, however, that the longer you part of someone's wedding party, the more disappointed and upset they are going to be if you change your mind.

It's also very much dependent on how close the wedding is. Unless you absolutely cannot face it, changing your mind about being a bridesmaid or maid of honour just before the wedding day could have a really negative effect on both your friendship and the person's wedding day.

No one should ever feel forced to accept a role within a wedding party, and you're not legally bound to fulfil it, but there are certain factors that should influence your decision. 

Reasons People Say No to Being a Bridesmaid or Maid of Honour

There are really legitimate reasons to say no to being a maid of honour or bridesmaid. These include planning your own wedding the same year, expecting a baby around the time of the wedding, anxiety issues, not having time due to a job change or house move, and not being able to attend the wedding date.

Then there are other reasons that require you to have a sit-down conversation (or at least over the phone) with the couple to explain your reasoning. We'd always advise that this is done as close to them asking as possible to avoid any unnecessary disappointment. Here are some of the main reasons you might say no to being in the wedding party. 

READ MORE: The 15 Things You Should *Never* Say to a Bridesmaid

1. You Don’t Have The Money

Budget concerns are probably the number one factor in whether or not you agree to being part of the bridal party because it's is expensive, even if your bridesmaid dress is paid for. There’s the cost of the hen party, wedding gifts, travel, hotels, plus the financial burden of organising the hen party (you’ll be putting down deposits and need to co-ordinate people paying you back).

Expectations are sky-high these days and you need to think carefully about whether taking on the role will cause you undue stress. Your best bet is a “it’s not you, it’s me” line – say you want to support them but you can’t take the lead.

READ MORE: Hen Party Ideas for Under £100pp

2. You  Don’t Have The Time

Lack of time is a major consideration, not just if you’ve got a job with ridiculous hours. There’s lots of miscellaneous tasks you need to do as a maid of honour or bridesmaid that’ll put a real drain on your spare time, from making DIY wedding decorations and contacting wedding suppliers to attending the dress or suit fittings and .

Be honest with the couple about whether you’ll be able to devote as much time as needed to their wedding. Most people don’t want a stressed-out friend who feels like they’ve only done half the job. This way you can make out that it’s for their benefit too – they deserve the best and you are sorry but you can’t give your 100% right now.

3. You're a Bad Planner

It’s a planning role so if you’re bad at planning then step aside and let that friend who runs their life on Excel spreadsheets take over. You’d be expected to make group decisions that not everyone will like, be in control of a group chat, organise the hen/stag do and hassle the late-payers for money.

If this doesn’t seem like your forte, you’re more than allowed to suggest an alternative person with a better skill set. Offer to take on a more low-maintenance role for yourself like a reading during the ceremony that shows you want to be part of the day, but can’t be in charge of the pre-wedding plans.

READ MORE: Beautiful Bridesmaid Dresses Under £100

4. You've Drifted Apart

You just aren’t that into the friendship anymore. It happens, people drift, life gets in the way. Would you reciprocate the maid of honour offer? If not, then suggest being a bridesmaid rather than maid of honour or extricate yourself entirely if that feels more appropriate.

This is tricky as you don’t want to reject that person and lose their friendship all together. Using one of the other excuses – time or bad planning skills, for example – will be the kindest option, even if not exactly the truth. The couple are likely to already be emotional so being blunt here is not the right approach. Go gently and you’ll both walk away with your friendship intact.

5. You Just Don’t Want To

It’s totally legitimate to just not want the maid of honour or bridesmaid role or be into being part of a marriage ceremony.

This isn’t about your friendship, so the best approach to this is to celebrate one-on-one with the couple and make sure they know how much you value them and are happy for their marriage. Explain clearly that it’s just not a task you can take on and that someone else might be more suitable for the role.

READ MORE: The 13 Things That *Really* Annoy Bridesmaids

How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid or Maid of Honour

A bride looking at her bridesmaid with red lipstick
Pexels / Misho Chachanidze

So, is there a way to say no to being maid of honour, bridesmaid or best man without ruining your friendship or being uninvited to the wedding entirely? Yes, but it (almost always) requires complete honesty and an appropriate, kind tone.

Reasons why you don't want to be a bridesmaid or maid of honour are just one part of the discussion. How you deliver this information is the other piece of the puzzle and arguable, the more important one. We have some tips on how to say no to being a bridesmaid or maid of honour that you should consider taking on board.

Be Clear With Your Reasons

It's really important that you communicate your reason for not wanting to be a bridesmaid really clearly. If the reason is that you're fresh out of heartbreak and really can't be involved in a wedding right now, or that money is seriously tight and you can't afford to do the job, you need to be honest. 

If the issue is not related to your friendship, your friend needs to know that to avoid them spiralling and wondering if they've done something wrong to upset you and make you turn down the role. It's not them, it's you and you need to own it. 

READ MORE: 17 Things Guests Hate About Weddings

Be Kind and Sympathetic

If they are upset or disappointed, you need to ensure their feelings are validated. An "I just don't want to do it, sorry" to a really good friend just isn't empathetic enough. There is nothing wrong with declining being a bridesmaid or maid of honour, but keeping kindness at the heart of your conversation is an absolute must. 

Offer Another Role or Service

It's easy for this to feel like a complete rejection for your friend. To avoid it seeming like a hard 'no', consider other wedding roles or planning jobs you'd be happy to be involved in as an alternative. If someone has asked you to be their bridesmaid or maid of honour, you are clearly important to them and offering to still be involved, but not to a wedding party extent, is a nice olive branch. 

If you're on the other end of this dilemma and are experiencing some bridesmaid problems, check out our article on how to fire your bridesmaid (with minimal awkwardness...)

READ MORE: Maid of Honour Speech Examples You’ll Love

If you do decide to take on a role, do it right. Here’s how to be a brilliant bridesmaid and how to give a great best man’s speech – from funny introductions to excellent endings.