Opinion

Wedding talk: Can you say no to being a bridesmaid?

Being a bridesmaid takes up extra time and can often cost extra money - but can you tell a bride you just don't fancy being her maid without damaging your relationship?

Being a bridesmaid is a great honour.

Of course it is.

Your friend, the bride-to-be traditionally, has chosen you out of all the people in her life to help her find a big white dress to wear and then awkwardly hold as she goes for a pee on her special day.

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You'll wear a lovely dress of your own, too, which will be finally decided upon after what feels like weeks of back and forth WhatsApps about whether or not it's purple 'enough' and if you don't mind trying it on, again, but this time with four inch heels instead of two.

You'll more than likely not only be asked about your own clothes, accessories, hair and make-up either. You'll also be a soundboard for a whole host of puzzling - and pressing - issues you, as someone who has not been married and has no interest in getting married for the time being anyway, know nothing about.

There's also the extra costs attributed to being a bridesmaid that, had you simply been a guest at the wedding, you may not have forked out for.

And while traditionally Irish bridesmaids have their dress, hair and make-up paid for by the couple, all those extra 'bits and pieces' you buy for the hen party and don't collect for, the engagement gifts and the 'little extras' you fork out for as a bridesmaid, all add up.

For the most part of course, 'best women' - as seems to be the new term for traditional maids -  are indeed more than happy, nay honoured, to be asked to stand by their top guy or gal as they take the plunge like so many before them. Sure all they've to do is say yes to a couple of hen party plans, and turn up on the day looking lovely in a gúna all bought and paid for?!

But what if, while you love your partner in crime to the Grand Canyon and back, you just know that being her bridesmaid is going to take up more time than you have, and more attention than you currently care to give?

Many of us have friends who, while we admire their perfectionism and 'can do' attitude, we wouldn't want to work for - which is what being a bridesmaid for their 'dream wedding day' may just end up being exactly like.

So, can you say no?

Turning down the position of bridesmaid, without giving any concrete reason, is tricky. It's just not the 'done thing' in polite society and while there are guides out there on 'how to fire your bridesmaid' (see? work!) there are few on saying no to being part of the bridal party from the get-go.

The problem is, most of the time an 'offer' of a bridesmaid position when it comes from a close friend or sister is an unquestionable 'yes', but it's when you're blindsided by say, a soon-to-be sister-in-law or a pal you just considered yourself a little more down the list of besties, that the position becomes untenable.

With the current trend of 'popping the question' to bridesmaids - which includes everything from post-meal surprise fortune cookies to mini hampers filled with bottles of Champagne, individually framed photos and handwritten books detailing 'friendship highlights' up to this exact moment - barking a flat-out 'no thanks' in front of a group of similarly saccharine-soaked girlfriends is no doubt going to cause a few raised eyebrows.

There are other factors at play too - perhaps you're currently trying for a baby and maybe don't want to discuss family planning with the girls yet, or maybe you just don't want to have someone decide what you'll wear or how your hair will be done on a day you're guaranteed to be bumping into your ex?!

How to say no to being a bridesmaid without ruining your relationship

If being a bridesmaid doesn't float your boat, there are a few good excuses that shouldn't cause too much of a ruction. Things like - already being a bridesmaid for more than one wedding around the same time or being pregnant or having just welcomed a child  are both more than fair reasons to turn down the offer and with a little honest and truthful conversation should be completely understood by the eager bride to be.

Excuses that might require a little more finessing are: if you don't feel you've enough time to give over to being a bridesmaid because you're busy in work or at the gym; if you're currently planning your own wedding (nuptial overload); or, if you won't be in the country for the months leading up to the big day. These may need a little thrashing out lest you look like you simply don't want to be part of the big day until the day itself.

What you want to avoid is saying you just don't think you've the time full stop or that you're too busy to be a bridesmaid, as this could sound as though you think the bride is going to be a nightmare on the run up to the big day.

Whatever excuse you want to make, buffer it with some kind words - explain that you're honoured to be asked, you're very much looking forward to the day and offer to 'unofficially' help out in another way for the big day - whether it's by planning the hen, or helping to choose the dress, or doing a song or reading at the ceremony.

Who knows, you might just end up being the best bridesmaid who never was.