How to tell a friend you can't afford to be their bridesmaid

DreamWorks/IMDbThere’s no denying that being a bridesmaid is pricey.
  • Being a bridesmaid is an honour, but it can also be expensive.
  • You should be direct and honest when declining to be a bridesmaid for financial reasons.
  • If a couple reacts badly, give them space but don’t question your decision.

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is an immense honour. It’s also a big responsibility that requires a combination of time, energy and money. Between paying for a new dress, participating in pre-wedding festivities, and taking time off work for the big event, being a bridesmaid can really drain your bank account.

If you just can’t make the financial commitment that being a bridesmaid entails, it’s important to let the couple know in a way that keeps your friendship intact.

To help you handle this delicate situation, INSIDER consulted with wedding planners and etiquette experts to find out the best way to decline an invitation to be a bridesmaid because of financial reasons.

First of all, you’re not a bad friend for declining an offer to be a bridesmaid

Women TalkingDodokat/ShutterstockIt’s OK to prioritise your own wellbeing.

Participating in a wedding is an exciting experience and can bring you closer than ever to the bride or groom. Needing to prioritise your financial wellbeing over joining the wedding party doesn’t mean you’re a bad friend, however. And you certainly shouldn’t feel that you need to go into debt to prove your affection for the couple.

“If you’re in a tight financial situation, don’t ever feel obligated or forced into accepting a bridal party invitation. Chances are if you’re receiving the invitation, then the couple knows you well and there’s a close bond present – meaning that they will understand if bridesmaid expenses just aren’t feasible,” Kylie Carlson, CEO of The International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning, told INSIDER.

The best way to decline being a bridesmaid is to be direct and honest

Women arguingGaretsworkshop/ShutterstockIt might be difficult but you should be honest with your friend.

When it comes to turning down an offer to be a bridesmaid, etiquette experts and wedding planners agree: You need to be honest. If you can’t participate in the wedding due to money constraints, that’s what you should tell the couple.

“The best way to decline is by being sincere, honest and in-person; it’s completely ok to keep it short and sweet without going into too much detail. The big thing is to just avoid being too vague. Otherwise, feelings may be unnecessarily hurt,” Carlson advised.

“You may say something like, ‘I’m extremely honored that you have asked me to participate as a bridesmaid, but it’s just not doable with my budget at this time. I’m so sorry to disappoint you. However, I still want to do everything I can to support you or help in other ways and, of course, attend the wedding,'” suggested Rachel Wagner, licensed business etiquette consultant and owner of the business etiquette firm Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol.

Have the conversation in person and as soon as possible

TextingFlickr.com/AdamFagenDefinitely don’t text them saying ‘no.’

Unless you live very far from the couple, this is one conversation that you should really have face-to-face. If you can’t have an in-person conversation, opt for a video call or phone call rather than sending a text.

“Declining the invitation over text or an email, and in the very last minute. This almost guarantees that the bride will be offended and hurt,”business and social etiquette consultant Maryanne Parker told INSIDER.

It’s extremely important to get in touch with the couple about your decision as soon as possible. They may want to ask someone else to join the wedding party in your stead and dropping out at the last minute is sure to strain your relationship with the couple.

And just in case you need reminding, personal conversations like this one should really be conducted privately.

“Involving social media in any way is a huge ‘no’. Declining the invitation to be a bridal party member is strictly between you and the couple, not for all of your friends to see,” said Carlson.

Whatever you do, don’t lie or blame the couple for having an expensive wedding

Wedding confettiSolStock/Getty ImagesDon’t make the couple feel guilty for wanting an extravagant wedding.

Financial limitations can be difficult to talk about, even with close friends or family. As tempting as it may be to obscure the real reason behind your refusal to be a bridesmaid, experts say it’s never a good idea.

“The worst way to decline an offer to be a bridesmaid is to be dishonest or give an insincere reason, such as having something very important to do on the same day,” cautioned Parker.

Making up a sudden family illness or work commitment might seem convenient, but your relationship with the couple will be damaged if the truth ever comes out.

“It’s also important that you never guilt-trip the couple for your financial woes. That will only put a massive strain on your relationship with them, and it puts everyone in an uncomfortable position,” Wagner added.

You don’t need to go into detail about your financial situation

Talking talk conversation friends speakStrelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/FlickrYou are allowed to keep some information private.

Even if you’re declining the offer of being a bridesmaid for money reasons, you don’t need to expose your entire financial life to the couple.

“Refrain from feeling you need to give a laundry list of financial reasons to validate why you’re declining, however valid they may be,” advised Wagner.

All you need to say is that being a bridesmaid is just not feasible within your current budget, but that you’re honored to be asked.

Getting into the gritty details of your credit card bills, upcoming home payments, or vacation savings plan isn’t necessary, even if you feel pressured to justify your choice.

You might want to suggest other ways you might be able to help the couple prepare for their wedding

Wedding tablePX HereConsider asking to help decorate.

Just because you can’t be part of the wedding party doesn’t mean you can’t help the couple prepare for their big day.

“It’s absolutely appropriate to offer other means of support, and if anything, it means you truly care about being there for the couple in what capacity you can. Don’t go beyond your means, but anything from running errands to assisting with smaller planning details will definitely mean a lot.”

You can offer to decorate table centerpieces, research local accommodation for out-of-town attendees, or bring healthy snacks for the bridal party before the ceremony. Parker also suggested arranging flower bouquets or sending invitations as cost-free ways to help out with wedding preparations.

What to do if the couple takes your decision badly

Bride WarsFoxRecognise it might be pre-wedding stress.

As much as you hope your friend or family member won’t be offended by your decision not to be their bridesmaid, a combination of wedding jitters and bruised feelings might lead to a negative reaction. In this case, all you can do is take a step back and wait for the dust to settle.

“Unfortunately, couples responding negatively to a declined bridal party invitation does happen, but it’s best to give the couple their space to cool down and process. More than likely, their negativity is due to wedding stress and probably has nothing to do with your decision,” Carlson said.

Wager added that it’s not unusual for couples’ emotions to be heightened as the wedding approaches and that this can result in more intense feelings of disappointment.

“The bride-to-be especially has a lot of emotions going on and may feel hurt and rejected by your response. Assure them that your decision has nothing to do with the level of your friendship. And then, give it some time. A little time helps heal hurts and disappointments,” she told INSIDER.

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