Ask Team Practical: I Don’t Want To Be A Bridesmaid

When do you suck it up, and when do you sit it out?

Q: A close friend of mine is getting engaged in the very near future, and I’m over the moon for her and her fiancé-to-be! There’s just one catch: I don’t want to be her bridesmaid. Actually, I don’t want to be anyone’s bridesmaid.

Around the time of her wedding, I’ll probably quit my job to go back to school and will quite possibly be planning and saving for my own wedding. Things wouldn’t be dire, but I can’t get excited about coughing up hundreds (let’s be realistic) to be a bridesmaid. Even if I were filthy rich, I’m still not sure I’d be excited because I like to choose how my money and time is spent, rather than feeling like I’ve spent it on a package deal. I don’t want to be judged for not spending $200 and two vacation days for a bachelorette party, and instead using it for a nice apartment/taking vacation/things that I want to do and buy. I don’t want “can” spend $300 for a kickass bachelorette to become “should” or “must.” No one has the right to presume upon my money. There won’t be a way to gracefully decline the pre-wedding event invitations either because we live in the same town (which I now fear means I have to buy her three gifts no matter what). Even if we have a budget talk, there will be other financial demands coming from sources other than the bride, and I don’t want to be cast out for not pulling my weight.

Is there any way I can decline bridesmaidship without irreparably damaging our friendship? Or should I suck it up and try to meet her expectations? I am worried that if I say no, she will be very hurt, even if I assure her I’m there for her—I do truly want to be a friend for her and help her out. On the other hand, if I say yes, I fear I will end up the one who’s hurt and resentful, but with no socially acceptable way to pare snowballing costs and bear the whole ranking-the-friends ritual.

Maybe it’s just a fact of life that we have to sacrifice money and time to do things we don’t believe in for the sake of peace, but all advice is welcome.

—(Nonsensical Or Not?) Making An Important Decision

A: Dear (NON)MAID,

One thing that strikes me about your letter is that it seems like your making a lot of assumptions. Is she going to ask you to be a bridesmaid? Will a bachelorette party really cost all that much?

That aside, sure. It’s your money. It’s your time. It’s your friendship. If being a bridesmaid will just make you resentful, definitely do not do it. You’re a grown-up in charge of all of those things, and “Will you be my bridesmaid?” is a request, not a demand. You’re allowed to answer, “No.” But don’t tell her the exact reasons why. There’s a small chance she’ll still be hurt if you vaguely say, “It’s not a good time for me,” or some other general, glossing reason. But she’ll for sure, definitely be hurt if you say, “I’d rather spend my money on a vacation than on throwing you a party.” If she does ask you, tell her you won’t be able to be her bridesmaid. Think of some other ways you can be supportive and helpful as she plans her wedding, and offer to do one of those instead.

But, meanwhile, I’m going to try to convince you to look at bridesmaiding a little differently in the future.

Toward the end there you ask if we all must “sacrifice money and time to do things we don’t believe in.” It makes me wonderwhat is it you don’t believe in? Sure, a wild night at a bar wearing a hot pink “bridesmaid!” sash might not be top priority in your life. Maybe not your first choice for how you’d spend your cash. But supporting your friend? You believe in that, right? That’s worth a few bucks that you’d otherwise rather spend elsewhere, even if syrupy cosmos are not.

Perhaps you’re not picking the dress and color, or the bachelorette party venue and price. But you’re chalking these funds up to “friend support.” I may not be happy about wearing yet another shiny polyester dress, but I can be pretty thrilled to know I’m wearing that ugly-ass cocktail dress as a way of loving on my friend. It might be easy to consider these little things as “frivolous” or “unnecessary” or something, but they’re the trappings (social, cultural, alright maybe even WIC-imposed) of a really big super significant event. Maddie offered that being asked to be a bridesmaid is like being asked to be the godparent of a relationship. That’s big!

Granted, maybe this isn’t your way of loving on your friend. Yes, yes, like I saiddon’t be a bridesmaid. But there are often times in friendship where you don’t get to pick and choose how your friend needs to be supported. Sometimes it’s a middle-of-the-night phone call, when all you really need is sleep before your early alarm. Other times it might be a garish dress and setting aside some vacation plans. It can be important to support your friends the way they ask you, instead of the ways you’d prefer.

Team Practical, when do you suck it up and lay out the cash to be in a friends’ wedding, and when do you say “not thanks,” and sit it out?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • Pileofstix

    Possibly something else to consider. The letter-writer states that she may very well be planning her own wedding soon (congrats!). Do you intend to ask people to be in your bridal party or otherwise help with your wedding (maybe that awesome florist friend can get help you with your DIY arrangements or your super organized buddy who would make a great day-of coordinator)? Weddings are about the couple, sure, but they are also about the people who helped that couple along the way. Creating an event with the help and love and support of all those people can (hopefully) serve as a joyus metaphor for the life you have created, with the help of these same people. And while the world and our relationships certainly aren’t a tit-for-tat exchange, it might give pause to the people whose help or presence or support you may need in the future if potentionally they don’t feel like that has been or will be reciprocated.

    • nonmaid

      Actually, I am thinking more along the lines of this. :-) That’s actually where my signoff came from and why I used the phrasing “don’t believe in”. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of traditional bridesmaids for personal reasons. This is APW, so I assume we’re all reasonable people with different priorities and experiences. I merely want to question the assumption that bridesmaids are something you must have rather than something you choose to have because it’s important to you.

      I’m also just bothered by the notion that it doesn’t seem like I CAN give enough as a normal friend. I would be ALL OVER the DIY, free engagement photos, a listening ear, but I feel I’ll never live up to the girl who says yes to bridesmaidship. I get it now, though. That’s because you’re allowing your friend to honor you, and you’re honoring your friend by being there in your peach tulle concoction.

      One last note…it made me super anxious to observe the many ups and downs of brides with their bridesmaids. I’ve only been one for family before, so I’ve had some immunity to that. Miscommunication and misinterpretation can be positively rampant. Feelings are everywhere. (Pesky feelings.) There are lots of expectations. It can be a minefield. So…it makes me nervous to think about navigating that (ever).

      • rys

        For what it’s worth, I think being a rock for your friend (in all the “normal friend” ways you’ve listed) is worth way more than being a pebble in peach tulle. Stonehenge has lasted a really long time. (<– my brain may be a little thursday-afternoon happy/nutty, but I hope you get the point.)

      • LaikaCatMeow

        I was actually really happy to see this response (and your original post)! I feel like an outlier on sites like this. (Not engaged yet, so pre-engaged? But partner and I are having serious discussions about what he and I envision our wedding to be, because we feel it’s important to lay that groundwork now so there’s no surprises.) One of the things I know I will not have are bridesmaids — mostly because it’s nothing I’ve felt compelled to do, but also because I would feel extremely embarrassed and ashamed of expecting people to shell out money just to wear a colorful dress for several hours. Maybe it’s also related to the fact I don’t have a ton of female friends / “a bestie” — I mostly have acquaintances or casual female friends, and that’s how it’s always been. Would make the whole bridesmaid financial aspect even more awkward; not cool to ask someone you only know tangentially to spend a ton of money on your party.

        Problem is, I don’t see the “no bridesmaid” thing offered up as an alternative very much. In fact, so much of what I’ve seen lately on progressive wedding sites has been all about how wonderful and cool bridesmaids can be. It kinda makes me feel really bad, like I’ve failed as a woman in some way by not having or wanting friends who could fill that role. So yeah, just wanted to say thanks for giving a voice to those of us who find the hwole practice to be a bit odd and uncomfortable. (For what it’s worth, I’d prefer to spend my money on a trip, too. But htat’s because I’m a Taurus. We’re notoriously frugal…hehe.)

        • JDrives

          Have you seen this post?

          We decided early on to forgo a wedding party and just have our siblings standing up with us. But to honor my close group of friends without (hopefully!!) any pressure or stress, I borrowed the “Something Blue” idea. My friends said they were all honored and they honored me by agreeing, and all they have to do is show up the day of in a blue dress (or blazer! or pantsuit!) of their choosing/price range.

          • LaikaCatMeow

            I hadn’t seen that! And I actually know one half of the first couple featured! Small world — and thanks!

          • JDrives

            APW can be small world-y sometimes! I met a lovely couple at a wedding last year, and a few weeks later, their NYC elopement was featured on APW. Exciting stuff, seeing familiar faces in the far reaches of the interwebs :)

  • vegankitchendiaries

    SPOT ON, Liz!! I’ve been slightly aggrivated being a bridesmaid before (for the some of the reasons the letter-writer states, and some others she doesn’t mention) but it’s overwhelmingly awesome to be able to support your friend and, especially on the day, you actually feel pretty humbled…

  • EAO

    Two cents from a recent bride: I loved having my friends around me prepping for and on the Best Day. BUT, there were a few occasions I’d rather have had someone gracefully declined my invitation. As people say around here, my wedding was not an inconvenience. Treating it at all that way was not appreciated and really, was. not. ok.

    If you are unable to perk up, smile, be gracious, and attend many of the things (Note: no one expects you to show up at all the things, crap, as the bride I didn’t want to show up at all the things), just say no thank you.

    • MC

      Agreed. If I thought that either of my bridesmaids were feeling the way the OP does about being a bridesmaid, I would absolutely want them to decline gracefully, for their sanity and mine.

    • Meg

      Same! My MOH seemed to resent the expectations that I had for her role. It would have been easier for us both if she’d just come as a guest.

    • Allison

      i completely agree with EAO. if she asks you to be a bridesmaid and you feel like you cannot do it respectfully in the way your friend needs/wants you to, please just say no.

      now. i also believe you should know that you can’t have it both ways. that a person you choose as a bridesmaid may feel the exact same way about YOUR wedding – that it is not worth the expense, effort, etc to stand up for you. how does that make you feel? how would you want them to approach the situation.

    • Sarah

      I definitely agree. It doesn’t help anyone (especially not the bride) to have maids who don’t want to be there (for any of many legitimate reasons).

  • Heather

    If she does ask you to be a bridesmaid, maybe you could let her know your future plans, how your budget will be tight, and ask what her expectations are. The two times I’ve been a bridesmaid, my obligations have included a $150 dress and to show up at the wedding. Everything else was strictly optional. Now that I’m getting married, my bridesmaids don’t even have to buy a new dress. Everyone is different though, it could be a tricky conversation, but you know your friend! I don’t think she’ll turn into someone completely different after getting engaged!

    • ardenelise

      I literally just told my bridesmaids those same two obligations! Direct quote from an email: “I promise that the only requirements are getting a dress and showing up in Nashville the first weekend of August. After the dress thing is taken care of you’re already halfway done!”

  • APracticalLaura

    I agree with the sentiment behind the advice, but it may be worth probing further with your friend to see exactly what she’s expecting from her bridesmaids. I, for one, did not expect (or want) a bachelorette party OR a bridal shower. Nor did I impose a certain taffeta expensive dress on my bridesmaids that they would not wear again. Perhaps your friend is of the same mindset.

    If this is a truly good friend of yours, it is completely reasonable for you to probe further about her expectations of you being a bridesmaid and if you cannot commit financially, then I think that’s fair to explain. As Liz put it, not “I’d rather spend my money on a vacation” – but rather, “I don’t think I’m in a financial situation that would enable me to contribute to these events in the way that I’d like to, but I’d very much like to be there for you in other ways.” Give concrete examples of what you CAN do.

    If this friendship is worth something to you, then while it’s completely within your rights to decline the honor (because let’s face it, it is one) of being asked to be a bridesmaids – you may want to consider what you WOULD feel comfortable doing to support your friend during this milestone in her life.

    Good luck!!

  • rys

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the traditional/typical ways of being a bridesmaid (required dress, throwing certain gatherings, etc) do not mesh with my understanding of friendship. As a result, I have a blanket* policy of not being a bridesmaid (if it includes those obligations), something all of my friends know because I’ve stated it for years. I do a lot of other things for friends and their weddings — I’ve made chuppahs, crafted guest books, done readings, set up and take down decorations, etc — all of which make sense to me as meaningful signs of deep and abiding friendship and all of which I offer to my friends upfront. So I don’t think anyone has to be a bridesmaid and I don’t think declining means you don’t love and support your friends.

    That said, it’s a lot easier to pull off when it’s overarching and well known, rather than targeted and unmentioned. And I have zero expectations of ever having a bridal party myself, so I think it’s a consistent approach (that fits what a good friend, whose bridesmaid invite I declined, calls my iconoclastic and idiosyncratic tendencies).

    *except for my sister since my mom insisted I take on this role and sometimes you break rules to make your mother happy.

    • Anabel

      Totally agree with rys
      The one other thing I have learned after being a bridesmaid several times in the past, is that sometimes it’s not the bride that has expectations of the bridesmaids. Other bridesmaids, maid/matron of honor, mother of the bride, etc…may all have their own ideas as to what bridesmaids should do, what they should pay for. In almost every wedding I have been in, I struggled with the expectations of these others and what I could afford. “Let’s go away for a Bachelorette weekend, let’s all chip in for a big huge shower gift, let’s all get our hair/makeup/jewelry, etc”. I feel like if you as your own woman feel as if you would be put out by any of the potential expectations or obligations, you have absolutely every right in the world to say to your friend “I love you, but I can not be your bridesmaid”. I also do not think that you need to give any reason at all, you don’t always have to explain yourself in life, but she’s your friend and she may understand if you simply tell her that you prefer if she asked someone else that could really participate more in the events. Your friend can then ask someone that is just dying to be a bridesmaid instead of someone that would prefer to not have to do it.
      I have been in this position and it’s very awkward to set restrictions on what you can afford and can pay for and can attend. Even if you are ok with the reaction you may get from everyone else, which in some cases, were not very nice, personally it all just made me feel terrible.I couldn’t afford that much money and felt inferior to her other friends that could. It didn’t mean I loved the bride any less, but everyone’s situations are different and no matter what the plans and promises start out as, sometimes others take over showers or bachelorette parties and it’s hard to then explain to all those other people your financial situation…and I don’t feel like you SHOULD have to explain your financial situation to anyone. You have every right to decline and attend the wedding and celebrate and love your friend as a wedding guest and I believe can be more than enough.

      • THIS.

        Also, it’s not always about finances, which people really don’t seem to understand. (It also may not be OBVIOUS how/why it’s about finances to, say, the other bridesmaids who don’t know you well enough to know why you could afford some thing in your personal life but not the bachelorette party.) So then you have to explain your finances or the other reasons you may have for not wanting to participate. But there are plenty of other valid reasons one might not want to participate that are no one’s business (and are not treated as “good” reasons) and that pressure to explain/justify can make things even more stressful. If this bothers you, the right thing to do is simply say no but offer to support in other ways you feel comfortable with.

        • anon

          “good reasons”

          Amen, Rachel. Because even here, the examples seem to be, “Well, my one friend couldn’t make it to the party and it’s because she’s in school and she’s broke! I totally understood!” I don’t really think this makes you exceptional, though. This makes you a human being.

          It’s funny that finances are almost ALWAYS super personal, except apparently, in the case of weddings. We have to justify why we’re not having 150 people (standard for my area and circle of friends), why we are sewing our dress when we can afford one, why we don’t want to upgrade to the hotel suite for the bachelorette party – it’s only $100 more! Give a GOOD REASON. And it better not be that you just spent $50 on a sushi dinner and are saving another $50 per month towards your retirement.

          I feel like there’s a huge double-standard here; I just can’t put my finger on what it is.

  • KM

    I’ve been a bridesmaid on a number of occasions and these have included several pre-wedding events and/or dresses that were varying degrees of not my style or preferred way to spend my time/money. But I sucked it up in the moment(s) and was always glad to be able to support my friend and her partner in a happy way. I’ve also had conversations in some of these occasions about keeping it more affordable and more universally enjoyable in style or substance – I won some and lost some of those issues.

    I did decline one invitation to be a bridesmaid for two reasons, (1) I honestly assessed our friendship and believed she was including me in her bridesmaids more because of our mutual (small) group of school friends than because either of us felt a super close bond, and (2) I could not commit to her wedding date at the time she asked me because of my partner’s international travel schedule and our own limited time to be together. I was honest and upfront about number (2) and told her that I would absolutely do everything I could to be at all her events and celebrate her and her wedding, but that I didn’t want either of us stressing about it to ruin anything. I think because of number (1), we both felt okay about this. In the end, I did make it to all her events and offered help to the bridesmaids as I could, and we all enjoyed her wedding, sans stress.

  • Emma Klues

    Really, really good advice.

  • Lindsay Rae

    As usual, Liz’s advice completely hits the nail on the head. I have to admit I was a little frustrated reading NONMaid’s letter. It’s one thing to not have the resources to be a bridesmaid, whether it be long distance, strapped for cash, etc. Any (practical) bride will understand. However, the attitude of “I’d rather go on my own vacation than your bachelorette party” rubs me the wrong way.

    My MOH is in the planning stages of my bachelorette – which will be a long weekend vacation – and I know already one bridesmaid from cross-country probably won’t be able to take the trip, and another is planning her own wedding and needs to save the cash. I COMPLETELY understand! I’ve already told my MOH to express to the girls that I won’t be offended if they can’t make it, as well as to explain to them what kind of party it is to be – nights at the club and days at the beach. That’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I get it. I would rather people be honest and say they can’t come if they can’t than say yes and be unhappy while we’re there.

    • AG

      I just celebrated my bachelorette last month, and it was a very similar situation. One bridesmaid has a newborn, so she just came for the afternoon (we spent the weekend in a town about an hour away from where we live). It was totally great, and I was thrilled to have her for the time she could make it. I only expect my bridesmaids to be with me on the day of the wedding, and to be the supportive friends that they are during my wedding planning. Anything past that is just gravy. Frankly, I would be pretty hurt if a friend declined being a bridesmaid because she assumed I’d require anything else.

      • jashshea

        I didn’t have bridesmaids, but the two people who would have been MsOH each threw me a party weekend separately (college & HS friends). College BFF brought her 2 month old to our party weekend and it was totally awesome. She came out for the dinners and early drinks, then headed back for alone time with her baby (she also had a 2 year old, so was super grateful for the 1:1 time). I had no expectations that anyone would do anything like that for me and was so humbled/amazed/thrilled to have such wonderful people spend money on an event for me.

        I’ve been a maid twice and while it’s not really my thing (party planning? Ugh), I loved the wedding days and cherish the memories. Since I wasn’t having the traditional party, I just invited my nearest/dearest to hang out with me while me & the moms had hair/makeup appointments. Champagne & Madlibs FTW!

  • Dom

    I honestly think that the only way to be sure that you wont be resentful of accepting or that she won’t feel like you don’t care to support her is to be open about your assumptions. If she is a close enough friend that she wants you to stand up with her on her wedding day, then she is a close enough friend that you can be honest with. No one wants to impose, no one wants their friends to suffer for a wedding/celebration – and if she does then why would you put up with it anyways?

    There is nothing wrong with saying “hey, I would love to support you, but I’m not sure I can afford to on a high level financially, unless you want a reenactment of the hit movie Bridesmaids. What are your expectations for this role? I want to make sure we are on the same page before I agree to take on thi responsibility because I don’t want to be a stress if an expense comes up that I can’t afford for what ever reasons.”

    I wish my bridesmaid was more open about her financial limitations, rather than wait until a week before we have to order dresses. It has been 7 months since I’ve been engaged and asked her to be a bridesmaid. What ever you do, do not accept if you can’t afford to, because then your friend (who is spending all the money on a wedding and everything that comes with it too) will have to stress about it.

    • Rora

      The sentiment to be honest and open about your assumptions and expectations is a noble one, but the problem I’ve found is that often, a woman doesn’t know what kind of bride she’s going to be until she gets to certain points in the wedding process. (I don’t mean to speak as if all women have a potential “bridezilla” living inside of them. Rather, this should be expected for anybody in a stressful situation where numerous pressures and expectations from multiple sources are being placed on you.)

      The APW blog very eloquently speaks about the pressures placed on brides, but I’ve found that this pressure do, feel, or be a certain way often cascades onto other members of the wedding party as well (spoken as a former MOH and bridesmaid).

  • Sarah

    The whole time reading this I imagined being the friend — and from that perspective, it’s hurtful to read. Part of relationships — romantic, friendship, etc — involves doing things that may not be your first choice. I agree with rys’s comment below that playing the bridesmaid role shouldn’t define a friendship. But if it’s important to your friend and she thinks of you for this reason, you suck it up. From the true friend perspective, it rubs me the wrong way to think, oh, I’d rather do X for myself than Y for you. I’ve been a bridesmaid several times without a lot of money/resources/time but at the end, I *wanted* to be a part of whatever it was my friend had going on and wanted to include me in. I truly did, and it didn’t really matter what she needed me to do. Sure, I’ve declined a couple of bachelorette parties, and have bought an under-$20 cookbook or something handmade to a bridal shower. It’s fine! You do what you can, and the sentiment is there. But because it seems like the thought in your head is “me first” doesn’t really indicate that the sentiment of celebrating your friend (in *her* way, *one* time in her life (hopefully) is there.

    • KC

      I don’t know – the question “I can either use these vacation days and this money to [visit my family at the holidays and see them this year]/[go to a place I’ve always wanted to]/[go on a honeymoon to somewhere instead of going camping] *or* I can use them to go to Vegas [which I don’t really want to do] with a group of people [none of whom I know apart from my friend], to theoretically support my friend [which, yes, I do want to do, but…]” seems valid to me. I understand that the framing of “I have this, but I don’t want to use it on you” sounds more selfish, though.

      But it can be kind of nutty to observe that the amount you are spending on one meal of an event would be about the price of 10 dinners out at your favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, which you normally decide is too expensive and so you will have spaghetti at home instead. Or that the bridesmaid dress is equal in price to all clothes you purchased in the previous year, in total. Or that you just spent a full month’s wages on attending a friend’s wedding plus all the extras. Is saving money for your emergency fund or paying off student loans or saving for your own wedding a “legitimate” reason to not have enough money? Sometimes you go for the cash-splashing friend-cheering-on option – other times you decide that other aspects of your life are what these resources should go to, from your point of view, and you hope to support your friend in ways that are more in line with the resources you *do* have plenty of.

      • Anon

        Yes, THIS. So much. It’s tough for me to swallow the expectation that I will do all these things with my money that I would just never choose on my own. I won’t buy myself a $200 dress for a party that I get to wear once. I won’t spend $250 to split a fancy-schmancy hotel with 3 other people for a bachelorette party. And so on. I happen to be in the process of buying a home, so I feel like that’s given me a bit of an out on some stuff, but the reality is, it’s just generally unsettling to feel like a big chunk of your finances are being spoken for in the name of “being a good friend”.

        • THIS. I feel like everyone is getting really caught up on the bridesmaid not wanting to spend this money on her friend, but it IS unsettling to think of buying a $200 dress to be in a friend’s wedding when you’d never buy yourself a $200 dress under any other circumstance. (Or when you don’t regularly spend that kind of money on yourself, your family, your friends, etc.) I don’t think it’s strange at all that she’s uncomfortable with that concept.

          • anon today

            agreed. my ‘maids are picking their own dresses. when one of mine told me she’d found hers on clearance for under $10, i high-fived her very sincerely and told her she pretty much won the bridesmaid lottery (and it’s adorable and wonderfully within the parameters i gave them). this is how we roll.

          • emfish

            I really appreciate this sentiment. The second time I was a bridesmaid, I was shocked by how much the dress wound up costing ($500 after alterations, and then the bride gave us all $100 to help defray the cost). In the years since, I’ve never spent that much on a dress for myself, and am now trying to buy a wedding gown with the exact same budget (it’s hard!). Given that experience, I would think twice about doing it again in the future if I knew the bridesmaids dress was likely to be that kind of financial burden. Support my friend? Absolutely. But it’s not selfish to be frugal or to weigh the cost of being in your friend’s wedding against the cost of going on vacation — those are both perfectly valid things to spend your hard-earned money on, and the wedding isn’t necessarily more important than the vacation just because it’s for your friend. Vacations are kind of useful for mental health and making new experiences and having memories, and I can easily see one taking precedence over being a bridesmaid under the right circumstances (just as I can see the opposite being the case under other circumstances).

  • Violet

    This feels like it’s a little bit about control. Non-maid, you have specific concerns about making decisions regarding your money (control). You also seem concerned that if you become a bridesmaid, you lose all control over those decisions.

    The fact is, “I’m over the moon for you and your fiancé! I would love to support you! Before I decide on being a bridesmaid specifically, what would being a bridesmaid entail?” seems a reasonable response to being asked. (Is that not? Am I crazy?) Hear what she has to say, then regardless of her response, ask for some time to think about it. Make sure she knows you need time to make this important decision because her wedding is important to you. Then, think it over. What are you comfortable with, what are you 100% NOT comfortable with? Maybe if you give yourself some time to think it over, you’ll realize that you’re comfortable with doing all of it (even if you’re not thrilled about each and every aspect, but that’s called being a grown-up). It might help to allow yourself to think of each piece a la carte rather than this package deal that seems to cause you stress.

    • KC

      That is a totally reasonable response. (and, with some brides, would also help them express what they want or don’t want – bonus!)

      • Violet

        Whew! (I tend towards directness, so sometimes my sensitivity meter is a little off.) Yes, maybe the bride herself isn’t sure yet what she wants!

    • Meg Keene

      That’s a totally reasonable response. I mean, even if I say yes without question (and hey, I’ve been a bridesmaid twice for the same person because my friends don’t get hitched, at least traditionally, so I say FUCK YES), my next question is always “What does that entail?” or really in my case, “What do you need from me?” At which point I usually end up finding you a photographer and being your DOC, because I just do.

    • Jennie

      I’d agree with this. Do you know for sure she’s going to be asking you to spend lots of money in ways you don’t want to? I had one bridesmaid. She didn’t have special duties except to hang out with me on our wedding day. She didn’t plan a party for me and I told her she could choose a dress from her closet if she wanted. She chose to buy a dress, but she picked it out. Finding out what she wants from her bridesmaids may really ease you feelings of spending lots of money.

    • ruth

      “I’m over the moon for you and your fiancé. I would love to support you! Before I decide on being a bridesmaid specifically, what would being a bridesmaid entail?” THIS I think having this conversation with the bride before making a decision is SO important. I think so many feelings get hurt around weddings, because we all have such different expectations (which may be personal, cultural or WIC) Nonmaid and the bride might not be on the same page at all – maybe the bride doesn’t intend to do any of the expensive party things that nonmaid is afraid of. My only advice would be to communicate and get all the info necessary to make an informed decision BEFORE saying yes. I had a bridesmaid who said yes enthusiastically and then several months into wedding planning decided to drop out of the wedding party. It was very hurtful. It would have been a lot less hurtful if she had just been honest about her reservations up front.

    • KS

      This works in some situations, but not all. The bride may have an idea of what it entails, but as mentioned in other comments it doesn’t end at her. At my wedding all I asked was for the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle while wearing blue. That’s it, no other tasks or events, they did their own hair and makeup, they chose their own clothes, and everyone thought I was crazy. My parents insisted on taking everyone out to get their nails done, my MOH decided that I just HAD to have a bachelorette party. I talked her down to a quiet brunch without presents which was more my style, but still… it’s not just the bride’s expectations your dealing with.

      • Violet

        Such a good point! Another commenter pointed out that the other maids can ask questions, so it’s no longer just about telling the bride about your choices, now it’s having to tell other people too (whom you may not know well). You’re pointing out that sometimes the maids (or even other people) can drive the cost/activities up, not just the bride. I would imagine this would make lots of people anxious, especially if it’s feeling out-of-control.

        • KC

          Weddings where not everyone is in the same boat are *hard*, because an “of course we should do that!” for one person can be absolutely impossible for another, and a lot of people just don’t even consider that possibility when they’re suggesting things, whether the problem is restrictions on vacation time or family obligations or finances or health issues or whatever – and many of those are basically invisible.

          (that said, if people ask questions, you can also say “I’ve already discussed that with [bride]”)

      • Cee

        This is a really good point. I’m asking my bridesmaids to stand up with us at the wedding and wear a dress in one of three colors (and since they’re all either local or are going to be staying with and visiting family at the same time, I think it’ll be pretty chill). Mostly I just want my dear ones up there with us. I think my MOH is going to be throwing us a small shower along with my mama, but I’m going to insist that nobody put them out too much.

        On the other hand, my dear friend (one of our bridesmaids) is getting married a month later, and I can tell the traditional idea of bridesmaids has freaked her out, so she’s not having any. But I want to help her out! If her MIL wasn’t so bent on a traditional wedding, I think she’d be more at ease with modifying bridal expectations.

    • Anon

      I think this would be a great approach. But more and more I see asking people to be a bridesmaid turn into an elaborate proposal involving customized gifts, events, etc. It’s SO hard to say, “Pause. Before I accept this monogram tote bag with pink champagne, what exactly are you expecting me to do…” It leaves you feeling cornered, and then having to wonder later how to awkwardly back out once you’ve considered it more.

      • Erin E

        OMG, does that really happen (the bridesmaid proposal)?!? I would feel SO awkward. Please, don’t anyone actually do this.

        • Anon

          Just google, “Will you be my bridesmaid?”

        • anon today

          according to pinterest, oh hellz yes. complete with pre-rhinestoned BRIDESMAID tank top ready for bachelorette party action!

        • Caroline

          I think this happens because it is so scary to ask friends to be there for you in a big way. So you spin your wheels on a Pinterest-y proposal to avoid the scary moment of asking. I’m not doing big pinteresty proposals but I considered it, for that reason: trappings to focus on instead of my nerves.

          And, btw, my nerves are all about what if they say yes and I expect too much and they are resentful (or they think it is silly) and not that they will say no.

          • Erin E

            That’s a really interesting perspective, Caroline… thanks for voicing it. I wonder if people are scared because it’s just hard to ask for support, period… or if they’re scared because the whole bridesmaid thing sometimes comes with a bad rap?

          • Caroline

            I think it’s both. I know for me, I’m partly worried because being a bridesmaid has such a bad rap. I’m worried my practical, sensible, older than me friends will see me asking them to be bridesmaids as selfish and juvenile and stupid. Which, they are kind, lovely people who probably will be honored, but there is so much bashing of brides-to-be as selfish and petty and the bridal party is a part of that, so I’m nervous.

            I feel like it’s selfish to even WANT bridesmaids, even if I make almost no requests on them (no clothing demands, a small shower my aunt is throwing that probably won’t involve big gifts, a small bachelorette planned by my sister who is in college and thus it won’t cost much, to walk down the aisle in their own clothes and provide the same emotional and planning support they are already giving me). Yet even that feels selfish, because of the bad rap of brides being too demanding on bridesmaids.

          • Jules

            This reminds me a lot of a post that was done by Meg in HuffPo a while back on bridesmaids, as well as bridesmaid alternatives that actually look eerily like what you’re suggesting!

            It’s OK to have fears about turning into a bridezilla (I feel like this is the ultimate insult to a bride-to-be nowadays), but don’t let it stop you from taking elements that are important to you and including them, just ’cause they’re under a big ol’ WIC-cloud.

            IMO, one of the most important things is just showing your friends, hey, I just want someone to stand beside me/listen to me/help me pee/come to X, Y, Z if you can. That simple statement relieves a lot of the pressure and really shows that you’re grateful for any of the “extras” because they’re just that – extras. It’s also super graceful because you’ve clearly THOUGHT about what you expect and you aren’t taking anything for granted.

          • sassytights

            I totally share your perspective, Caroline. The idea of obligating friends to spend a lot of money and effort to me felt really uncomfortable and unfair to them. At the same time, I wanted to honor them and make sure they knew their friendship is important to me. The solution we’ve been trying out has been to have my sisters and future sister-in-law as the attendants (i.e. the ones standing at the ceremony) but I talked to each of my close friends to tell them I’d love them to be as involved as they would like. All of them were really into the bachelorette, but a good half of them were thankful to not have to travel a second time for the shower. They all also love to hear the updates and help me make choices, which has been a great support network. The goal has just been to maintain the respectful friendship we have in the bridal dynamic. They don’t owe me anything just because I’m getting married, but they are happy to be there with me and help me, which is all I could ask for.

        • Natalie

          Most of them aren’t really all that bad. I asked my bridesmaids by giving them a little bracelet with a small knot tied in the middle and asked if they’d help me “tie the knot”. The bracelet was kind of cheap, but the sentimentality was there.

        • Michaela

          Our last friend did this by way of sending a personalized hangar in the mail from Etsy along with a card. She’s super sweet, pretty down-to-earth. I honestly think she did it just ’cause she thought it was really cute and thoughtful – I don’t think she thought about how it might make someone feel if they had some concerns about being in the wedding party. (Then again, with our group of friends, this was rare.)

          Also not trying to suggest doing so is inconsiderate – just that it adds to the element of “I need to say yes”.

          • KC

            By mail isn’t as much of a problem as in person, I think? I mean, yes, extra pressure, but at least it’s not “on the spot – you must be visibly excited NOW” pressure.

            (that said: this seems like a snowball sort of thing and I hope it doesn’t become a “required” part of weddings)

        • MDBethann

          I’ve seen it happen. I kinda sorta did it to my bridesmaids, but it was via postcards from Greece, where we became engaged (my DH surprised me). They all knew I was going to ask them when the time came, I just used the postcard as a fun way to let them know where we got engaged and to formally ask them.

          But I have friends who’ve received special treats asking them to be a ‘maid.

      • Liz

        Before everyone gets too anxious!!

        I’ve had two different friends do a really cute gifty, Pinteresty sort of “bridesmaid proposal” like what you’re describing and BOTH times the friends felt me out and sort of asked me first, before presenting me with a cute locket/mini bottle of champagne/engraved “Will you?” card/etc.

    • JDrives

      Yep! I was going to comment with this same suggestion. Asking upfront about the expectations is a great way to dispel any anxieties or assumptions made by the OP.
      If I were in this same situation, I’d probably be honest about my budget. “I’m thrilled for you and am honored to be asked to support you in this way! However I must be upfront that I’m neck deep in student loans/paying off my car/saving up for school/taking a big hit in my income this year. I know being a bridesmaid comes with XYZ expectations and I can afford to spend $XYZ on attire and fun pre-wedding shenanigans. Will that work with what you had in mind?” –> or some more graceful way of wording that. And if the bride’s ideas exceeded my budget, I’d explain that perhaps I wouldn’t be able to make the extravagant bachelorette party in Vegas, or maybe even that I’d love to find another way to support her.
      I’d definitely be inwardly cringing the entire time because talking about money, specifically when you are struggling with it/not having enough, is Not Fun.

    • themoderngal

      This x100. I’ve been a bridesmaid three times now and a bride once. There was very little commitment for me when I was a bridesmaid, and I flat out told my own team bride that all I expected was for them to be next to me at the wedding. Yes, I had a bachelorette party, but only two of my five bridesmaids were able to come and that was totally fine by me. We can’t always be there all of the time. Find out what your own friend’s expectations are, and if you cannot meet them, say no. But if you say no, do try find another way to support your friend.

    • Guest

      The other thing is that a lot of times the expectations haven’t been fully figured out by the bride when she asks the wedding party, so you can think you’re signing up for a lower-budget commitment when in practice it’s not at all. What starts as a conversation about Little Borrowed Dress turns into a $175 purchase. Not to mention that the family and the MOH sometimes want to do more (out of love! which is wonderful!) but it also means that what starts as a low-key bachelorette turns into a weekend extravaganza plus a lingerie shower plus traveling for another shower plus purchasing a wedding gift on top of all the travel expenses for the wedding. Especially now that engagements can last a long time, even being upfront about your budget restrictions doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll know exactly how much of your time and resources being in a wedding will entail.

      • Violet

        This is such a good point. Expectations are just that- expectations. Things change during the process. I can see how it might feel easier to say, “Nope” once at the beginning to the whole shebang, rather than be worried each and every time a new thing popped up that I’d then need to say, “Sorry, I’m not up for a giant penis party this weekend. Have fun though!”

        • Bets

          Speaking of which, what’s up with the giant penis parties? Every time I hear about a bachelorette it involves something ridiculous, usually lewd, that I personally can’t imagine being in the mood for right before I’m about to marry the love of my life. Do I really want to ogle hot guys at a strip club when I already have one of my own? Have the party of my life with my girlfriends in vegas, because what, we won’t be able to party once I’m married? Attend a sex workshop after brunch? (Yes, this actually happened.) Sometimes bridesmaids have ideas that are way beyond what the bride actually wants.

          • Violet

            I mean, if strip clubs, sex workshops, etc., are part of someone’s general modus operandi, I’m certainly not opposed to them doing it right before they get married. I’m just not that kind of gal regardless. My MOH said to me, “So… no bachelorette right?” Thank goodness for her. I don’t know, I can’t imagine asking someone to be a bridesmaid who also didn’t know me well enough to know (generally speaking) what my preferences are. She planned the loveliest tea. : )

      • I think this is a key point. In my experience, the majority of the costs associated with being a bridesmaid aren’t determined by the bride. The bridal shower and bachelorette party often end up costing more than any other part of the experience, and since the bridesmaids (and sometimes moms) are planning those activities, sometime with no input from the bride, the bride can really know what being a bridesmaid will entail for you.

    • Sarah

      My sister asked me that question and I honestly didn’t know how to answer her – “let me buy you flowers and you stand up with me? Maybe help with some crafts?” was about all I could squeak out. I agree it’s a good question that I should have considered before asking her, but I think a lot of brides (especially ones like me who haven’t been in any weddings) just don’t know how everything’s going to shake out. I certainly didn’t.

    • Emily

      This was my initial reaction – that the thing to do is to first ask “What does “being a bridesmaid” mean for you?”

      I’ve been a bridesmaid 3 times (I even made a toy theatre piece out of that fact during grad school). The first time was actually for someone I wasn’t super-close to, but she was getting married after having lived in town for not very long, and while the groom’s big Italian family was all right on hand, she really wanted some non-groom’s-family bridesmaids, and a friend and I were the closest people available. I said yes initially because I thought it was sweet that she asked, and it sounded like fun. But I had no idea at the time about any of the crazy “drive out to the burbs to try on an ugly dress you have to pay for” or “attend some ridiculously formal pre-wedding events with a bunch of Italian matrons in fur coats” or the “stand around while the mother-in-law makes all sorts of old-fashioned sexist assumptions about your friend and her groom”. It was a nightmare, and I wish I had asked all these questions beforehand.

      But the other 2 times were both for family members, and looked really different – dress from a department store (one was a prescribed style, one just had to fit a list of requirements; no bachelorette responsibilities on my part because I wasn’t going to be in town for the week before the wedding; just good chill times hanging out with my family and people I loved.

      For my own wedding coming up, there’s no bachelorette expectations (we got legally married a year ago, after all), we just sent our witnesses a color palette picture for clothing reference, and while some of them are traveling to get here, we see the whole thing more as “be part of this special day with us” as opposed to “be an accessory for the bride and groom.”

      All of the more intense things people are describing are all well and good as long as people are doing them because they’re fun and wanted, as opposed to expected or proscribed (which is what this whole site is about, right?) My overly long and wordy point is this: “bridesmaid” contains multitudes – before you get freaked out about all the imaginary obligations it entails, find out what it actually means to your friend. Then be honest about it – “I want to help and support you, but I think that particular job is going to be too big for me – what else could I do?” There are so many smaller jobs to do at a wedding – do a reading, guard the guest book, run the photo booth. There’s going to be something you can help with that fits what you can manage.

  • Agreed with the answer. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there – if she asks you, then start to panic…if not, you’re off the hook!

  • Bsquillo

    This question is a little off-topic, but I’m asking honestly:

    Are people really expected to buy multiple wedding gifts if they’re attending multiple events? As in bridal shower gift, couples shower gift, wedding gift, etc?

    As a bride I’m not even expecting everyone to buy one wedding gift for my own wedding (which is fine), let alone multiple gifts for multiple events. That seems like a pretty big financial burden to my poor grad student brain.

    I don’t have a ton of experience attending other people’s weddings/showers/bachelorette parties, so I’m just curious about the gift expectations vs. reality.

    • Jennie

      I don’t know what ‘proper etiquette’ is, but for myself, I most definitely do not buy gifts for every wedding event I attend for one couple. I do one gift. I don’t have the money to do more than one.

    • MisterEHolmes

      In the past, I have given many small gifts instead of one big gift, but now, as the bride, I don’t expect anything and am horrified at the idea that people might feel like they have to give me many things. I don’t know how to delicately handle that, though, because it’s *also* considered rude to tell people not to spend money on you.

    • Liz

      Simply: yes.
      More specifically: not all the time.

      The two events that are traditionally gift-giving are the shower and wedding. There are often engagement parties and bachelorette parties where gifts are NOT being brought (you’ll usually be able to tell by the invitation- does it include a card with a link to the registry? or by asking whoever is throwing the event). In my personal experience, engagement parties, bachelorette parties and the like are more commonly not gift events than they are, but that just might be my location + friend group.

      BUT, seriously it’s about what you can and can’t afford. Bring a lovely card if a gift would be too much of a strain.

      • Meg Keene

        Some of my favorite wedding gifts were just cards.

        • Meg

          A lot easier to bring home from the venue haha

    • Lindsey d.

      I have always looked at a shower as a chance to give the bride my wedding gift in person (as opposed to shipping it or leaving it on a table at the wedding). I don’t give an additional gift. As a bride, I expected the same and it has pretty much happened the same way. A couple of people gave additional gifts, but most didn’t and I’m glad.

    • LikelyLaura

      In my area, it’s pretty common to give a shower gift and a wedding gift, but you basically just pick a total budget and split it up. And if you’re invited to more than one shower (which would happen to bridesmaids, sisters, mom and grandmothers) you only have to bring a gift to the first shower.

    • Elizabear

      In my area you bring a shower gift, a bachelorette gift, and cash/card to the wedding. I have never questioned this pattern and I don’t resent giving that many gifts if I am invited to all of those things. I will continue this pattern as long as I financially am able. Now, I didn’t get all three gifts from some people, but I don’t care–I was just glad they were at all of the things!

      • Lindsay Rae

        I’m with you! In NYC – NJ area we do the same (is that where you are?) Maybe not a bachelorette gift because usually people have to travel / pay for drinks all night so that’s a little less typical. Many of us do engagement gifts as well. Although a few of my fiance’s college friends who are from different areas didn’t bring an engagement gift to our party, and honestly it’s not a big deal. We were happy they were there.

        • Elizabear

          Ha, not even close! I am from West Michigan…so maybe it is just my small town’s way of doing things? Although I feel like it is common here in Columbus (OH) too…

          My parents are from NY and NJ and those relatives are the only people who sent engagement gifts…so there is definitely something to that theory!

          • Crayfish Kate

            Oooh, another West Michigan APWer! :-D

          • Elizabear

            Oooh where? I grew up (and got married in) Grand Haven!

          • Crayfish Kate

            Holland! :-D

      • Amy

        Agreed, in NY/NJ/CT area its a small gift for the engagement (or flowers/bubbly), a physical gift for the shower, and a card (cash) for the wedding. I have literally never once brought (or shipped) a physical gift for a wedding, its just not really done here.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      San Francisco Bay Area bride here, but my wedding mostly involved little old church ladies.

      Some people gave at my church shower and a wedding gift. (The wedding gifts were almost all shipped to my apartment ahead of the wedding.) Some just gave at the shower.

      I give at the shower and a wedding gift, which I have sent ahead, like my guests did. I’ve learned to wait to purchase and send the wedding gift until close to the wedding because 1) sending it too early confuses recipients, and 2) I can split up my gift-giving budget if I’m invited to a shower.

  • anon today

    There was a time when I was not a bridesmaid but was invited to a $400 bachelorette weekend for a friend. I had just finished grad school and was living on fumes at the time. At first I though I would go, as plans were still being made and there were some opportunities to save money (not get a facial, cook at the cabin instead of going out, etc), but then I realized everyone else wanted to do all those things, go out for meals every day, etc., and I didn’t want to be the person ruining everyone else’s fun time trying to pinch my own pennies, or overextend myself in a way I knew I couldn’t afford. I found a nice way to decline without making a big deal, and they had a blast without me. As my mom wisely says, “don’t overestimate your own importance” – if you’d rather not be a bridesmaid, be ready with a kind way to say no. And be ready for reciprocal non-support. That same friend of mine has chosen to go to another wedding on the same day as mine, and I’m sad, but her absence won’t ruin my fun, either, or our friendship.

    • “Don’t overestimate your own importance” This is SO TRUE when it comes to stressing about not attending a wedding or an event!

  • KC

    I think a huge part of this is how much time and effort we’re talking about, combined with how good of a friend someone is.

    Obviously, you wouldn’t take a month off from your job and spend a year’s salary to demonstrate “support” for your friend in ways that do not seem necessary (if your friend breaks her leg or something and needs someone there, maybe! but increasingly luxe bachelorette long-weekend things… eh, not so much). But one would sort of hope you’d spend an afternoon and at least as much as a couple of weeks of “extra” money [manicure or fancy-coffee money] on “frivolous” stuff? So somewhere in between, each person has their yes-this-feels-right and eugh-no-this-is-horrible and well-it’s-not-ideal-but-I-can-deal sort of ranges.

    (I would not, for instance, fly internationally for *anyone’s* bachelorette party, no matter how awesome-sounding, until I’m making a whoooole lot more money than I do now. But I’ve flown internationally for weddings.)

    • Dawn

      Exactly. People’s expectations vary so much.

      I was a bridesmaid for my SIL’s wedding an international flight away, and she did the same for me. We did not expect each other to do that more than once!

      Due to distance and practicality, my (local) MOH was the only bridesmaid at a shower she hosted, and she and my SIL hosted an in-home “bachelorette” right before the wedding for the 3 of us. it was low key and awesome. The third bridesmaid arrived in time to help prep for the rehearsal.

      This all went smoothly because we are all coming at this with basically the same idea. It would be really tough to be stuck in a wedding with ever-growing financial demands!

  • tamara

    Also, keep in mind that friends who are NOT bridesmaids are usually invited to showers and bachelorette parties, so declining to be a BM does not mean you won’t still be asked (because you are a *friend*) to participate in “the events” (which could, collectively, have a higher price tag than a BM dress). i realize you may feel more empowered to say “no” to things if you’re not in the bridal party, but being asked to be a BM is not a subpoena to court; you can still agree to stand up with her without attending all of the extra stuff. I had 2 of my 4 bridal party members miss my bacherlorette weekend becuase of schedules and costs, and i’ve missed bachelorette weekends myself. Also, if you ARE a BM, you can actually view your “gifts” at the shower as your contribution to it happening: bring the cupcakes, organize the games. these don’t have to cost much money, and give a sweet handwritten card and call it good. And as others have mentioned, wedding gifts are not mandatory, so you can “save” yourself there if you’ve shelled cash on the BM stuff — just give a lovely card and consider your presence and support (and getting the dance party started!) gift enough (it is).

  • Amy March

    It seems odd to me that you’d be comfortable declining, but not with speaking to her about your budget and learning how to say no. I’m not sure there is a way for you to decline without hurting her feelings , but there are lots of other ways to manage the expenses of being a bridesmaid.

    • I got the impression that the letter writer didn’t feel like she could make this about budget because she really just wants to be able to plan a vacation, buy nice stuff for her home, etc. If she says “I can’t afford it” to her friend and then turns around and books a vacation and has her cabinets redone or whatever, her friend is probably going to be confused/pissed. So I think it’s financial but it’s not exactly “I’m too broke,” and maybe she’s worried about how that will be received? Like she said, she CAN afford it, she just doesn’t WANT to. I can’t imagine most people would respond well to that.

      • anon today

        Yes, maybe it’s more “I’ve made the following plans/arrangements/sacrifices to allow myself X, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for Y (but X is important to me and I’m not planning to give it up).” I’m not sure LW should be required to articulate that, but there may be a way to use that to frame the question of what the bride’s expectations for bridesmaids will be. “I would love to support you, but I’ve made X plans (school, trip, house), and need to work around those to do it. Does that fit with what you had in mind?”

      • e

        If my friend felt the way this letter writer did, I’d probably be hurt and want to know up front so I could adjust my feelings and my view of our friendship accordingly. You have the rest of your life to go on vacations, buy new cupboards, pay off student loans. Your friend’s wedding is once, the memories and pictures are forever. As long as participating in a reasonable fashion won’t put you into bankruptcy, it seems (to me, in my personal world view) weird that you have a friend that is close enough to you that you assume you will be asked to be a bridesmaid but you do not want to be. Do you actually like this girl?

        This past weekend was our co-ed bachelor/bachelorette party. The group of us that could make it split the cost, and it was drinks and video games and board games and hanging out getting to know each other. The people who couldn’t make it were sorely missed but we did not begrudge them the decision to allocate finances differently because it *would* have been hugely inconvenient in time and money for them to travel with us. However, they expressed regret, thought hard about the pros/cons, and ultimately will be there for the wedding. We know that they support us, value us, love us. Even if they weren’t devastated they couldn’t make it, they made me think they were! :) And I told the girl arranging it to quietly let people know that, if finances was standing in the way of them joining us, to rest assured I would take care of it.

        I concur with everyone else who has suggested you first find out what “being a bridesmaid” will entail (or rather, must entail, should entail, may entail, will not entail) on this occasion before you make up your mind. And perhaps your time means more than your money to the bride, and she will quietly pay your way to join in the festivities. I would if that’s what it took to my nearest, dearest people join me as I get ready for this once in a life time event full of emotions and memories.

        • She isn’t saying she doesn’t want to go to the wedding or even all of these events…she’s saying that the financial expectations associated with attending them as a bridesmaid are not her priorities for the coming year and she’s not sure what to do. I don’t think it’s appropriate to make assumptions about how much she cares about her friend because she’d prefer to spend her money on things that are more important to her personally.

      • Angry Feminist Bitch

        I think it is the height of narcissistic arrogance for someone who considers themselves a “friend” to demand Nonmaid spend hundreds, maybe thousands, of dollars to celebrate specific lifestyle choices in specific ways. Maybe Nonmaid has been saving to get those cabinets redone for five years. Maybe Nonmaid wants to take her hardworking mother on a rare tropical vacation. Maybe Nonmaid is exhausted from Bridezillas and wants to sit on the beach alone and drink martinis. It’s none of the bride’s business.

        • Angry Feminist Bitch

          I mean, the only way this “CAN but WON’T” argument isn’t extremely selfish and myopic is to assume Nonmaid is independently wealthy. Otherwise, like with all of us, it’s a sacrifice. Expecting friends to sacrifice to the order of hundreds or thousands of dollars, plus potentially exhausting the limited vacation time most of us get in America (if we’re lucky!), is ridiculous.

  • I know a lot of people reading this are bothered by the letter writer’s statement that she’d rather spend her money on herself on than on her friend and I’m wondering why it’s getting under so many people’s skin. This is a woman who is asking permission to be kinda selfish (something it is HARD for a lot of women to do) and spend her money (a not insignificant amount) on herself and not on her friend. Why, exactly, are we so uncomfortable with that?

    I gotta say, my favorite part of the letter is when she says “I don’t want ‘can’ spend $300 for a kickass bachelorette to become ‘should’ or ‘must.’” Because that is EXACTLY how people talk about finances/wedding expectations.

    • Anon

      Exactly. Being a bridesmaid almost inevitably requires spending several hundred dollars, and if you have to travel for the wedding or one of the events, the amount is way higher. I don’t think it’s wrong of brides to ask, but there is a LOT of pressure to say yes. I’m a frugal person. I do not drop hundreds casually. I’ve felt the way this letter writer does, but feel like I have to keep a smile on because that’s what women are supposed to do. It is good to have a generous spirit and invest in friendships, but sometimes the call of duty is way beyond that.

    • KC

      I know the idea with friendship/relationship stuff is to not be *too* logical about rate of return, etc., but seriously, how much enjoyment is everyone in total getting out of doing or buying X vs. Y? Because at a lot of these events, that’s a whole lot of money to do something you personally don’t even want to do [whether you’re in the “I don’t like clubbing” camp or in the “I don’t like sailboats” camp or simply in the “I have social anxiety and don’t like being forced to be in a herd of strangers plus my friend” camp] so that the friend can have you there, which, yes, your friend would probably rather have you there than not, but… how much is that worth for some of these things?

      I mean, it wouldn’t be considered selfish, barring extraordinary circumstances, to say you won’t spend $100 to buy a $5 gift card for your friend, right?

      (and YES on the “can” becoming “should”. Augh.)

    • Erin E

      Yep. Totally agreeing with you, Rachel. And maybe it’s the fact that I’m a little older/jaded at this point, but I’ve realized that how I spend my time and money is really important to me – and if I don’t prioritize how those are spent, no one else will. When I look back at some of the wedding events I’ve attended (a few of which were for people I’m not even close to anymore!), I kinda want to smack myself and I wish I’d known then that gracefully declining (or participating in a different way) was a viable option.

    • Lindsay Rae

      I’m one of the readers with the statement under my skin. I just feel that if NONMaid doesn’t want to have this responsibility / honor, for whatever reason, than she should say NO flat out. The bride will probably be happy that her friend is not there unhappily out of obligation.

      The flip side of the coin is that brides are sometimes blamed for “making” people spend money – and, to quote one of my favorite APW mantras: My wedding is not an imposition. I would rather her not bring the attitude of “UGH I could have used my vacation days on something else…” to my wedding or celebration.

      • I agree that she should just say no if that’s how it makes her feel…but there also seems to be this implication that she can/should say no…if she’s really that selfish but gosh what a shame that she would even consider not sacrificing for her friend. I don’t think she’s wrong to feel the way she does or to ask this question in the first place.

        • LikelyLaura

          I think the assumptions she’s making about her friend is the main issue for me. She doesn’t even know IF she’ll be asked or what will be involved, and she’s already judging the bride’s decisions. If the bride will really be so upset that a bridesmaid can’t come to a weekend away or all three showers, then she’s probably not a great friend. And on the flipside, if I had a friend judging me that harshly based on some nightmare scenario she created in her head, I’m not sure I’d really want to be that close to her.

          • KC

            I have a friend who is *awesome* but who, thanks to some combination of personality+insecurities, has a hard time not judging how much you value her, and her own worth, substantially by whether you attend her parties (non-wedding). And if her “culture” was also to have engagement party + shower(s) + bachelorette weekend away + expensive wedding-morning prep, I’d be honestly kind of terrified if she were about to get married and if she were likely to ask me to be a bridesmaid. So, sometimes there’s a personal/cultural mess that doesn’t mean someone’s a bad/not-close friend. Other times, we overanalyze things. :-)

          • Michaela

            I’m not sure this is fair. She’s asking HOW to respond IF she is asked, because this friendship is important and a decision like this deserves some thought. Remember Bridesmaids? I think Kristen Wiig was asked to be MOH right then and there on the spot, after being shown the ring. So, two things: 1) it wouldn’t have been unreasonable for her to think that she might be asked and think about how to react beforehand, and 2) you have to admit it’s a lot of pressure to say yes, and that yes is pretty irretrievable. Bridesmaid “proposals” are a real thing that happen, as someone pointed out. How would it feel to suddenly be saying no after she’s mailed you a cute hangar with your name in wire? Or to be gossiped about while taking your time to try and figure out how to respond? (“Well, I asked Laura, but she STILL hasn’t gotten back to me….maybe we’re not as close as I thought…”)

            I frankly think it’s a cop-out to say “she’s not a good friend if X”. People have different expectations. Look at it this way: “Well, apparently she is running a 10K this morning, and that’s why she’s not coming to my shower, even though she lives in town.” Now who looks like the bad friend?

            The way I read the letter, I didn’t see the judging. The only nightmare part of it is possibly the destination bachelorette, which seems like more of an example than anything. The rest of it’s pretty close to reality, at least where I live. Nearly every bride I know has had a bachelorette, shower, and wedding. Add in a dress and travel costs and “several hundred dollars” isn’t unrealistic.

          • So true! I didn’t look at this as her making judgments before she was asked either…I think it’s pretty common to know being asked to be a bridesmaid is highly likely and to start planning accordingly in your head. That’s not weird, that’s being realistic and responsible. And if you know your friend well, it’s entirely likely that you know what her expectations are going to be. That she’s worried about how to respond if she’s put on the spot doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.

          • LikelyLaura

            I shouldn’t have used an absolute. You’re right that people have different expectations. And I don’t have a problem with the idea that someone might not want to be a bridesmaid and is looking for how to handle it. It can be a lot of moneyBut I still think brides and bridesmaids are first and foremost good friends who should ideally mutually respect each other. And to KC’s point, they should know each other well enough to understand what they will and won’t be comfortable doing. She knows her friend reacts that way in life, so a wedding wouldn’t be different. However, non-maid didn’t specify that her friend has high expectations in general (that I saw anyway) so it seems unfair that to assume the bride would suddenly change now.

            Using your example of the race and shower on the same day, I’d think it’s reasonably for both runner and bride to be bummed the other isn’t at their event (and hopefully also be sad that they can’t be at their friend’s event) but not get upset or hurt.

            In the end, to me, a bridesmaid is about supporting the friend at their wedding. I had bridesmaids miss my shower, rehearsal dinner, etc, but they were there for me on the day. That’s what mattered to me. I feel like non-maid didn’t give her friend a chance to explain what mattered to her, and that doesn’t seem fair.

          • Totes McGotes

            Exactly! And if you read closely, this friend isn’t actually even ENGAGED yet!

    • Annie

      Very good question.

      When I read the letter, I was thinking about the popular 50/20/30 budget principle. Weddings would probably fall into the “Lifestyle Choices” section, which is supposed to be about 30% of your take home pay. Whenever I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid in an out of town wedding, it’s cost about $1000 – and that’s with serious commitment to keeping costs low all around. It doesn’t take very many tours as a bridesmaid to make a serious dent in my entire Lifestyle Choices budget for the entire year.

      Is the answer always, if you can spend the money to be in your friend’s wedding, you must, even if you have other financial priorities? What does that say about the people who can’t spend the money? If the writer was debating paying her massive credit card debt vs. bridesmaid costs, is the answer different? These are honest questions. I have really struggled with these kinds of decisions before.

      • Emily

        What kind of weddings are you in that being a bridesmaid = $1000?! Like were there elephants or international plane travel involved? That number shocked me, and would DEFINITELY create a crater in my lifestyle Choices budget!

        • p.

          Just to show how things can add up quickly, here’s roughly what it cost me to be a bridesmaid in a SF Bay Area wedding a few years back:
          $350 dress
          $70 shoes
          $200 bachelorette weekend (two nights stay in cabin at Tahoe)
          $100 hair/make up
          shower & wedding gifts (can’t remember what I spent)
          lodging for wedding – It was suggested that I book 3 nights at the same hotel as the bride and groom (@ $300/night). But since it was a family wedding, I rented a house
          with my family and a few other people. which was more affordable for me. But if we factored in lodging, I bet I spent around $1000 on that one wedding.

          • Alynae

            As another bay area lady, not even as a bridesmaid that’s about what it costs. Destination bachelorettes are kind of de jour, destination weddings because “its just so much cheaper to have it at xyz”… This year just being a friend and guest at weddings cost my partner and I over $3000. And no the weddings weren’t impositions, although I do wish friends would realize that when justifying a destination wedding as much cheaper, but keeping the same guest list is only passing those costs onto the guests. Its still a $90,000 wedding, but every couple spent apx $750 between air fare, lodging, food etc. to pay for it instead.

          • Bets

            Our wedding will be a “destination” wedding for our guests, but that’s because we’re from different countries and most of my relatives live all over the world. Unless you live where you’ve grown up and are marrying someone from the same place, or unless you’re holding multiple receptions in each city where your families/friends are, it’s likely that a good portion of your guests will have to travel to your wedding.

          • Alynae

            That I completely understand and in those occassions not a second thought about money! What I mean is people who have a majority of family in the area but still choose a destination based only on finances. And even then I wouldn’t even think about it, but in conversation to ask “oh, why that place, is it special to you etc” to be told, its just so much cheaper for us! caused a tiny pang in my heart. I don’t think my friends would ask me to pay $1000 for their wedding if it was to rent a venue in the area, but for some reason it feels like that when its a destination to a place picked only for money and then the majority of guests (something like 80% apx) who all lived near the bride and groom are now asked to travel and pay a substantial amount. And I made the choice to be there and ultimately decided I wanted to be there for them. It just comes across as a bit crass I suppose…

        • jhs

          The last wedding I was in, breakdown:
          Dress: $250 (later resold for $100, but still)
          Shoes: $40
          Hotel: About $300 for two nights
          Bachelorette weekend: $100 each to rent a modest house by the beach during the off season, plus about $75 each for booze/groceries for the long weekend.
          Travel: $40 for round trip train tickets

          She didn’t even have a shower or make us pay for makeup, and it still adds up!

        • Annie

          That’s what it has cost to attend both the wedding and the bachelorette weekend for an out-of-state friend. Flights from my city to most major metropolitan areas are about $350-$400, so airfare is a huge chunk. Obviously my friends don’t control where I live, and shouldn’t feel guilty about it, but it’s still a big factor in the overall investment for me. These costs have been for down-to-earth friends who work hard not to financially burden their bridesmaids.

          $1000 is usually 2 plane tickets, a $100 dress, a gift for the shower or wedding ($30-$50), 2 meals out and drinks for the bachelorette weekend ($50) and shared lodging in a hotel for the wedding ($100). Lodging for the bachelorette weekend has always been generously covered, thank goodness. If I bow out of the bachelorette weekend (which I’m probably more likely to do in the future) it’s a little bit more reasonable – about $650 or so.

          One time I turned a wedding into a road trip, took a week off of work and saved the airfare costs, but that’s not always practical.

          I’m not complaining – usually I’m happy to be a godparent to their relationship in this way. But when 3 close friends get married in a year (like they did in 2011), weddings can be almost my entire discretionary income, so I have to be mindful about setting aside my other financial priorities for the year.

        • Anon

          Yes, it’s possible:
          $150 dress
          $250/night hotel x 2 (it was at a resort, so no choice)
          $300 airfare x 2 (once for shower, once for wedding)
          $100 shower + wedding gift

          The stuff I didn’t spend on and felt guilty about: a bachelorette party (couldn’t afford it and no one else stepped up), hair and makeup (other BMs had their’s done, but I opted out), matching shoes (I put my foot down and said I couldn’t).

          It all made me want to cry, even though I didn’t think my friend was being unreasonable. She was just expecting the norm, and I felt like a failure that it was hard for me to even do that much.

          • seriously

            Thank you. I always feel like the jerk or the odd one out who’s ruining the party because a $400 bachelorette party (plus time off) is too much for me or because i dont order 4 mimosas at our getting to know you brunch.

        • K.

          I just did the budget for my bridesmaids and it’s around $1000. And I’m not even expecting a shower or bachelorette!

          $75 dress rental from LBD
          $300 airfare
          $100 car rental (they could potentially take a shuttle and since there are only four of them, I could have family members pick them up)
          ~$120/night hotel x 2 (this is standard for the area, they will have a hard finding something significantly cheaper)
          = $715, per maid (and grooms(wo)men too, though maybe more for them actually? No idea how much tux rentals are.)

          And this doesn’t include the fact that most of them will probably still get us gifts ($50) and want to get their hair and makeup professionally done along with me ($150), which makes the total ~$915. The last two aren’t things I “require” but the “required” things are pretty basic for bridesmaids who all live all over the place…I don’t think I’m demanding anything super outrageous.

          But knowing the expenses has definitely given me pause in asking anyone else to be a bridesmaid. Though, really, minus the outfit, it’s the cost for anyone to actually come to our wedding since all of our family and friends are pretty far-flung.

          • BeeAssassin

            I agree – I never really considered the airfare or hotel to be part of the “bridesmaid” cost. As you said, anyone who isn’t local would have to pay that, and anyone you’d want to be a bridesmaid would (I assume) want to at minimum attend your wedding. And until i started reading posts about being bridesmaids, I had always assumed that bridesmaids got out of buying a wedding gift since they’d put in so much work and money beforehand (I’ve never been a bridesmaid myself, otherwise I’d probably have been quickly disabused of this notion).

          • seriously

            Here is an idea. TELL YOUR BRIDESMAID STRAIGHT UP DO NOT GET ME A GIFT. Seriously. this needs to be the norm. After all that–still expecting a gift? the reality is unless you say clearly no gifts, bridesmaids will think it’s expected.

            You’ve only included day of wedding costs. Every wedding i’ve been in has had all sorts of other costs. Bachelorette party (3 have been or will be destination), lunch and brunch when we go dress shopping or just as bridesmaids getting to know you time (many people choose great restaurants that are just too expensive to expect everyone to pay for), bridal shower (AGAIN, PLEASE SAY NO GIFTS).

            If you want them to have professional hair and makeup, pay for it. otherwise i think i can do a good job of making myself pretty enough for the wedding.

          • K.

            I specifically said in my original comment that I’m not having a bachelorette party or a bridal shower, and I already purchased my wedding dress (so no dress shopping event there). I’m having them go through Little Borrowed Dress for their dress, which is a $75 rental and doesn’t require an extravagant dress shopping trip either. And the only reason I say that I think they will get me a gift and want to get their hair/makeup done is because they specifically told me they WANT to do both, despite my (repeated) insistence that it’s not necessary. So I’m not really sure why you’re getting so aggressive here, unless I’m misreading your tone.

        • Michaela

          Sadly, this was my best friend’s breakdown for a recent wedding:

          – flight (wedding, bachelorette party): $300 x 2
          – dress + alterations: $150
          – hair: $50 (split with bride I think)
          – shower contribution – food and invitations (thrown at our college apartment, only 14 people there): $20
          – shower gift (lingerie): $60
          – bachelorette party (dinner + drinks in town + cab): $100
          – wedding gift: $75

          Boom. >$1000 gone. Yes, she could have skipped out on the bachelorette if she’d wanted to, and it would have made a significant difference. What’s scary though is that you’re still talking hundreds! And, it was a low-key wedding, honestly. Everything was pretty home-grown and the dress was one of the cheapest they found at David’s. So…I can easily imagine how it’d balloon. The sneaky thing is, you don’t realize that you’re paying it out over a course of maybe a year, so other than the flights, it all seems to be just a little here and a little there….

        • Emily

          Wow guys, that is absolutely insane to me! For most of you it seems like the majority of your cost was travel (once or twice). I guess for the two weddings I’ve been in that just wasn’t a factor, nor will it be for my ‘maids. That really says something about your location too: My day time, off season, beach wedding in Muskegon Michigan for 150 is coming in under $5000 there is no way we could have the same kind of celebration in the Bay Area or New York or even in Ann Arbor (where we live).

        • Sarah McClelland

          It’s looking like closer to $500 (still hoping for less) for my wedding… I’m hoping to keep dresses at/under $100, the girls are splitting gas to go down to the wedding(although 2 of the 4 have to fly into Atlanta first) and I’ve nixed the bachelorette in favor of a sleepover/spa night before we all head out of town. So…
          Dress $100, plus whatever shoes the girls want
          Hair/makeup my gift to them
          Cost of mani/pedi and dinner in lieu of bachelorette $60-70
          Gas $50
          Hotel $150(2 nights at group rate)
          So $370 plus shoes and maybe a couple meals?

        • disqus_DpQmrFxuFL

          Almost every wedding I’ve been in has cost around $3000.

          Dress – $250
          Flight to Wedding Shower – $300
          Hotel for Wedding Shower – $200
          Incidentals at Wedding shower – $100
          Flight to Bachelorette Weekend – $300
          Hotel for Bachelorette weekend – $200
          Incidentals at Bach weekend – $250
          Flight to wedding for two – $600
          Hotel at wedding for two – $400
          Gift for bride – $100

        • First time I was a maid of honor was in the late 80s and it cost me about a grand even back then. Parties, dress, gifts, and transportation.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      I couldn’t get past the LW estimating the costs before an engagement has even been announced. That’s not how things worked out with my bridesmaids at all.

      But in general, in every relationship, there’s compromise. I’ve been to several birthday dinners at restaurants I’d never choose, ’cause that’s what friends do. My friends have politely nibbled at my cooking for the same reasons. Since I assume that being a bridesmaid doesn’t have to cost as much as the LW expects, I’m surprised by her seeming unwillingness to negotiate her concerns. But if my assumption about the costs is somehow off-base (’cause this group of friends always does things that way, because it’s already been discussed), it’s like the birthday dinners I’ve sadly skipped when I just couldn’t afford it.

      • JYG

        From the budget breakdowns above, can you really blame her for estimating? Naturally, not every single wedding is the same cost-wise, but being a bridesmaid is (in general) a financial commitment above that of a guest’s. There’s nothing there that necessarily rules out having a “finances” talk with the bride before saying yes and negotiate. But like other people have mentioned, even doing so isn’t always going to keep you in-budget since many costs can be driven by people like fellow BMs or MIL/FMIL.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          Your post popped up as I was adding a clarification to mine in light of comments above, not on the cost break-downs per se, but Michaela’s about prioritizing personal plans compared to friend’s-wedding-plans.

          Basically, to me, “I can’t afford it” is very close to a social nicety and would be appropriate in LW’s situation. When I say, “I can’t afford to,” I mean, “I choose not to arrange my finances to accommodate this.” For example, I mentioned elsewhere about skipping birthday dinners because I
          “couldn’t afford it.” If they could see the details of my finances, I’m
          sure some of my friends would take the attitude I COULD afford dinner
          out – if I just carried a credit card balance, if I cut back on
          charitable giving, if I canceled a magazine subscription, if I used my
          emergency fund, etc.

          Rachel’s raising concerns about what if LW says, “I can’t afford it” and then obviously spends a bunch of money. I get that, but I’ve been in similar situations and just explained or brushed it off. I skipped a really good friend’s wedding because I was unemployed and just couldn’t justify dipping into savings. I actually told her just that, and she was OK with my choice. I’ve gone on fancy vacations while “skimping” on gifts to friends and family. Well, my in-laws paid for the vacations, but that’s nobody’s business.

          Also, I think a bride could rein in other BMs and the mothers, starting with, “I don’t want anything fancy,” and moving up to, “I won’t show up if I it’s clearly too extravagant for my tastes.”

          • Lauren

            People saying “I can’t afford it” when they can is actually one of my ABSOLUTE pet hates of all time, and it’s because I rarely hear it from people who literally can’t afford something. It sounds like and excuse and that’s how the person you say it to reads it; we shouldn’t kid ourselves, they know you mean ‘It’s not a priority’.

            I think it’s fine to explain things in a way that make sense to you, but people are going to be upset if you don’t provide what they consider a good reason to skip out on something, or at least a reason that makes sense. Your exaplantion above is a good example of this; being unemployed and not wanting to dip into savings – you technically can afford to attend, but the story you provided, which was true, saves your friend’s feelings rather than just saying ‘I can’t afford you wedding.’

            That said, some people are so sensitive it wouldn’t matter what excuse you gave. My partner’s childhood friend, who he’d barely seen in the last ten years, invited us to his interstate wedding. I’d only just found work after being a full time student for four years and then unemployed for 6 months, so we were just getting back on our feet. We could find the money somewhere, but we did the scary maths many people have done above – airfares, hiring a car (the wedding was in a rural area nowhere near the airport), a gift, accommodation, eating and drinking for 3 days and it was going to be a lot of money. We were honest. His fiance wrote us a long, abusive email about what terrible people we were and what a terrible friend my partner is. So you can’t win sometimes.

          • Eh

            “People saying “I can’t afford it” when they can is actually one of my ABSOLUTE pet hates of all time, and it’s because I rarely hear it from people who literally can’t afford something.”
            My husband who was a broke student living out of town without a car found a way to pay for being the best man at his brother’s wedding (it did involve me and his parents paying for a lot of it – but he asked us and he never complained to his brother or SIL about being broke). On the other hand, for our wedding his brother dropped the “broke” card on us a couple months before our wedding just after he took his family on a week long vacation. Then he shut down communication. If he kept the lines of communication open instead of more or less saying that my husband wasn’t getting a bachelor party we would have been a little more understanding. Later (after our wedding) he admitted that he should have found a way to pay for things instead of saying that he was broke (I’m not saying that money isn’t tight – he does have a family to support and at the time his wife was unemployed, but he does have a very well paying job and he did just take his family on a big vacation). We tried to be considerate of the expenses. My husbands costs for his brother’s wedding were well over $1000 (plus 6 days off work), and his brother’s costs for our wedding would have been $500 (e.g., suit, bachelor party, gift – no time off work and no travel/accomdations because it was in his town and if he owned a suit he could have worn that so it would have been even less).

    • Michaela

      I think that women in particular get so many messages that urge us to give, give, and give of our time, emotions, and money. If you have the extra [hah!] money, spend on this, not that. The only acceptable excuse seems to be not being able to afford it, versus saying, “hey, I love you and I would love to be your DOC, but we’re saving up for a couple of things right now and I won’t be able to make it to X event.” Which is BASICALLY a more graceful way of saying I don’t want to afford it, which is what seems to have everyone angry.

      Is it because we’re assuming that the money is going to useless, frivolous places? Let’s reframe this for a sec. This could mean being able to afford an apartment where you aren’t driving an hour both ways from work. Or flight money, when you and your SO have family in no less than FIVE geographic locations. Or a car with less than 120K miles on it. I think it’s unfair to pretend weddings and attending aren’t expensive in general, especially when you’re in your 20s/30s and you attend multiple weddings per year, and this could end up making a serious dent.

      I feel there’s a strong overtone of “You don’t think my wedding is worth it? I would RATHER you not be a bridesmaid ANYWAY, then. Don’t bring that attitude HERE.”That’s not what this is driving at at all. This is about having a million priorities – come on, she says she’ll be in school and maybe even planning a wedding to boot. All this does is affirm the original fear that you’re going to be judged as a worse or unsupportive friend “without a legit reason”, and that having reservations about a role that’s historically pricey is the same thing as making her wedding into an imposition.

      This letter isn’t really about being a bridesmaid in the end. It’s asking, “How do I get to a place where I am comfortable with how I have respected my own priorities and boundaries and with how supportive I’m being of my friend?” It doesn’t really need to be a black and white answer since we don’t know the details of the situation, but there is great advice here.

      • Erin E

        Well said!!

      • YES. This comment perfectly articulates everything I was thinking (and then some). I have been thinking a lot about this “without a legit reason” thing all afternoon…and how we’re made to feel like we can only say no to things when we have the most undeniably ironclad legit reason ever. This comment his the nail on the head.

      • Dawn

        I think part of the reaction is it can be really hard to ask for help, including asking a friend to be a bridesmaid. I certainly would not have wanted someone to agree to be a bridesmaid who did not want to do it! I would definitely, emphatically, prefer her to be involved in a way she felt comfortable with, though I would re-evaluate the nature of the relationship.

  • Jess

    My only expectation for my bridesmaids was that they put on a nice outfit and stand next to me at the wedding, providing emotional support and support for my marriage. One threw a simple bachelorette weekend – awesome! One couldn’t attend, no big deal. An non-maid offered a shower – sweet! My sister was the only maid who could make it – no big deal. I wouldn’t expect any $ spent besides travel expenses to the wedding – and I’ve been lucky to be in the weddings of friends with similar expectations.

  • Caroline

    I think that I would probably be a little hurt if a friend said no to being a bridesmaid. That said, I would be far worse hurt if they said yes when they wanted to say no. I want my bridal party to be enthusiastic about supporting me and us. If you can’t do that, then it would be best to be upfront and decline. Say you aren’t able to be a bridesmaid right now but you’ll be cheering them at the wedding.

  • nonmaid

    Thanks for the outstanding advice, and I loved two of your points: the one about godparenting the new relationship, and “you don’t get to pick how your friend wants to be supported”. Amen.

    You’re also correct in that there were a lot of assumptions here. I was afraid it’d happen, she’d ask me, and I would totally blow the moment by either saying yes and backing out (I hear that’s bad news bears), or by going, “Uh…can I think about it?” and hurting her feelings while I try and figure out my sh*t. I debated even sending it at all.

    When I combed the internet for answers, I didn’t find a lot of reasonable stuff. I freaked out because I heard attitudes from other forums and sites where it seemed like that bridesmaids were more like props in dresses, mini-servants, party planners, instead of real people who had chosen to give of their time and money to support someone. Where being engaged meant that you were entitled those things, because they are your friends, and friends throw you a party – rather than seeing those things as a gift. I’ll leave out examples, but there’s some awful stuff out there. I wanted to come to a place that saw things from multiple points of view and that can get me to see, hey, it’s not just about the stuff on the surface. There’s other stuff here too.

    If she asks me, I’ll lend my support in whatever way she wants, absolutely. If she doesn’t, problem solved – I’ll be happy to be there to DIY and anything else.

    Thanks Liz!

    • Heather

      I hope everything works out well! It’s certainly good to think about things beforehand so you can avoid the awkward, “Um… can I think about it?”. I’m such a planner when it comes to any potentially awkward social interactions like this. I’ve got so many responses formulated for situations that have never come up, but it feels good to be prepared.

  • After several issues I had a bridesmaid drop out. She just couldn’t do it and I wasn’t surprised. As a bride it sucks at first but you get over it. The earlier you tell the bride the better. Being a bridesmaid is a responsibility and definitely costly. It’s not the fact that “Nonsensical” wants to decline but rather the way she talks about it that bothers me. What she wrote sounds pretty selfish. Like Liz said, it’s about supporting your friend. I surely hope that when you get married you aren’t planning on having any bridesmaids.

  • Christina Cusolito

    I so understand where the letter-writer is coming from. I find typical bridesmaidery (if you’ll indulge the made-up word) to be truly bizarre. Not bad or wrong, mind you, just really odd and slightly embarrassing. So much of it feels concocted, as opposed to a natural coming together of friends to support the bride. I have come to a point in my life where I am pretty unabashed in my (polite) refusal to do things that make me uncomfortable (e.g. wearing that hot pink “bridesmaid!” sash). It’s good to support friends, and support *should* be a core expectation of friendship, but it’s okay to balance supporting others with honoring your own needs and wants, and it’s okay if that support doesn’t take the mold of the typical bridesmaid template.

  • anon

    “One thing that strikes me about your letter is that it seems like your making a lot of assumptions. Is she going to ask you to be a bridesmaid? Will a bachelorette party really cost all that much?”
    I love this comment and after reading the comments, I’m sort of confused. This blog is all about saying a big F.U to the WIC, but here we are all saying that, “Yes, being a bridesmaid is expensive.” But people! It doesn’t have to be! Is it just my Midwestern routes where the mom’s usually foot the shower expenses? Is it just me that went with a $50 (which I still feel guilty about) dress for the bridesmaids? Is it just me who has no other expectations for my bridesmaids at my bachelorette party than to just show up? They can pay for as much or little of their drinks as they want.
    I think that if a person is expecting this big, expensive party throughout the wedding process, then they need to help pay. But maybe that’s just me.

    • MisterEHolmes

      And as the bride, sometimes I feel like I am bending over backwards to make it NOT expensive, NOT an imposition… it’s impossible to know what to do sometimes!

      • Jalondra

        Bending over backwards results in more stress. Be clear and honest about expectations. Know when something you are way too stuck on (like a particular shade of teal, this was my obsession) is causing more pain and trouble than its worth, but people can also perceive your bending over backwards as uncertainty and lack of clarity about what you need them to do. Some folks will do anything and some will not be happy no matter how hard you try, so just make your plans and be able to either let people off the hook gracefully or honor them with other roles if all of your terms do not meet up.

    • Okay so my sister is the only bridesmaid/my MOH that I’m having in my wedding, but she got a $50 dress off modcloth. It’s suuuuper cute (we’re hoping it fits — it’s been shipped so should come in soon!!!) and a jersey material AKA comfortable. I’m trying to keep costs down for her as much as possible since she’s unemployed at the moment. Back when I thought I was having like 4 bridesmaids, I was still thinking about just letting them pick a dress they liked that was as expensive or inexpensive as they wanted.

      I’m not having a bachelorette party and my only bridal shower is going to be more of a family dinner than anything, so she won’t have to pay for anything extra.

      I kind of like it that way. I want to keep it affordable for her and my other family members… and I don’t like being the center of attention.

    • KC

      Different cultures/classes have different assumptions, and unfortunately unless you know where both the bride is coming from and where all the other bridesmaids are coming from, this can get really nutty.

      I’d say that being an out-of-town bridesmaid tends to be expensive basically no matter what, because of vacation time and the sheer cost of getting there (even if you’re being housed for free), although I suppose it could be cheap if you road-trip it with other bridesmaids and have a career where you have summers or similar off? If you’re getting to the location repeatedly (since showers and whatnot are often not the same weekend as the wedding), then… yeah.

      But even really sane people in not-super-lucrative jobs sometimes have bridesmaid partying options that, to me, are a bit steep as a random additional expense, although they’re cheap for what they are (weekend in a cabin! for something like $200/person including food and whatnot! awesome! and way more fun than a night out club-hopping, in my opinion. But still, $200 is not something I drop easily?). So there’s that.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My bridesmaids were my sisters, and relatively young, so it was an unusual situation for the 2010s, but everything they wore, and their hair and make-up, came out of the wedding budget. That is, Mom and I paid for it. (The 2 dresses were less than $70 total) My “bachelorette party” was a weekend camping with them and my parents, which we also considered my birthday party. (And is totally something we’re all into, but not my husband, so it was a fitting “last hurrah”) They didn’t throw me a shower or help with any DIT tasks. I did get their opinions via email on flowers, etc.

      All in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    • I think a lot of people here are super practical brides/women…it just doesn’t mean their friends are, you know?

    • anon

      what I feel like a lot of people are missing is that while, yes, LW is making assumptions, they are really more like educated guesses. She certainly knows this bride-to-be better than we do and probably has some idea of what being a bridesmaid in this wedding might entail. So while many people here may have had weddings than required minimal costs to bridesmaids, this bride is not you and there *may* likely be costs associated that are higher than she is comfortable with. For example: in my group of friends every wedding has been far enough away that you pretty much have to get a hotel room for one or two nights. I just kind of assume this as a given when someone in my circle gets engaged. It is also common practice in my group to do a weekend away for the bachlorette party. Whenever someone gets engaged I mentally budget for those things. (I realize those are examples of things that I could say no to, my point is that LW has more data than us.)

      tl;dr We don’t know the bride-to-be, LW does. Give her some credit on that front.

  • Anne

    If you’d asked me in junior high, I would have been very sad to think I’d get to 37 without being someone’s bridesmaid. In reality, I’m relieved.

    If I were (non)maid, I’d start with the golden rule: If you expect to be planning your own wedding soon, how would you expect to handle this very question (in general and with respect to this particular friend)?

    For this friend I’d wait to cross that bridge when I came to it, then say something like, “I am really excited to be asked and to be there for you, but I’m not sure I’m bridesmaid material. Is this the best way I can support you on your special day, or would you rather have me play some other role?” [then make suggestions of what you’d rather do, and not just all the fun things]

    Unless the answer is that you don’t want to do anything, in which case she doesn’t really sound that close.

    • Sarah E


  • Kendra D

    I’ve been a bridesmaid a couple of times, both of those being for brides in Texas while I lived in Germany. For one, I was able to plan her bachelorette/lingerie shower, she sent me a fabric swatch so I’d have an easier time matching my dress, and things were low key. For the other, I wasn’t included on anything by the other MoH (there were two of us, something I didn’t know until I showed up for the wedding), barely saw the bride, and ended up wishing I hadn’t attended much less been a bridesmaid. Which is to say that I think it is good to know expectations before agreeing to be part of something. I know that I wouldn’t say yes without knowing all of the logistics ever again. Had I known my friend would have to MoH’s, I would have declined because it was a huge strain financially for her 45 minute ceremony and reception where I wasn’t even invited to stay in the hotel with her and the other bridesmaids the night before the wedding.

    When I asked my friends to support me, it came with a pretty cut and dry list of my expectations and was delivered over social media with a clause allowing them to decline without ever upsetting me. I wanted them to have all of the facts and the ability to say no without me standing right there watching them.

  • On the one hand I totally agree about both finding out what your friend really expects first, and supporting her in the way she wants to be supported being something valuable. On the other hand, just like brides, there are social expectations of bridesmaids that can come from unexpected places. Maybe the bride just wants you to stand next to her during the ceremony and smile real big, but a fellow bridesmaid sends out an email about these “gorgeous” and super expensive earrings and wouldn’t it be cool if we all wore them, and the MOH plans this elaborate surprise video to show at the reception which requires 20 hours of rehearsal time, and the bride’s mother wants to take everyone to a steakhouse to “say thank you” and you’re vegan, and suddenly you’re the horrible party pooper ruining everyone’s terrific ideas. Supporting my friends by doing things that make me miserable is not, should not, be an expected part of friendship. You know your own situation best–if you’re taking a close look at your life and realizing supporting your friend IN THIS PARTICULAR WAY is not something you can do right now, I think it is absolutely a good idea to say “I am so happy for you, and I want to support you by doing X Y and Z, and I don’t think a bridesmaid role is right for me right now.”

  • light0a0candle

    If money is a chief concern I would spell it out to the bride before accepting, “I don’t have a lot of spare cash and thus probably wont be able to purchase my own dress, or spend a lot on the bachelorette” if you line that up in advance you might find that the bride genuinely really likes you and wants you to be involved anyway and might offer to pay your way. Or, she has the option of bowing out of the offer and choosing someone else. I know for myself, if It’s super important for me to have a certain someones support, I would offer to help make it more feasible for them. That being said, if you dont feel super close to this friend and you may end up resenting them or treating their wedding as an inconvenience, then definitely decline. it just doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

  • summerwedding

    Right now I am wishing I had never asked anyone to be my bridesmaid for exactly this reason. I feel like I’m getting zero support or response from my bridesmaids, but I am getting abundant messages that it’s too expensive for them – even while I’ve told them they can pick any dress they want, we are covering over half of the hotel costs, and we’re doing a bachelorette party in a cabin in the woods where people will have to pay the equivalent of a meal out for an entire weekend. I can’t pay for everything – I’m in a better position than my bridesmaids, but I’m not made of money, we’re paying for this wedding largely from our own pockets, and we’re both headed to very expensive grad schools in the fall. I get that budgets are hard and important, but honestly I feel lonely and guilt-tripped. Please think about what you’re saying to her when you make money the primary issue of your participation – this is a huge moment in her life she wants to share with you, and I can say from experience that it really hurts to feel like you’re putting people out for asking them to be a part of an important moment.

    • MisterEHolmes

      I’m sorry for your difficult situation. I totally feel you on the lonely and isolated front: I was crushed when my bridesmaids asked for something to help with and I asked for help on making paper flowers (they didn’t even have to buy supplies!) …and instead they told me they thought I would actually hate them, so they didn’t make a single one.

      (Luckily, KC, a commenter here, is a total sweetheart and made me a bushel of them! I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful!)

    • JDrives

      “this is a huge moment in her life she wants to share with you, and I can say from experience that it really hurts to feel like you’re putting people out for asking them to be a part of an important moment.”
      I think you just summed up why this letter sorta bummed me out. It seems to me as though OP is already feeling put out (assuming that unreasonable demands will be placed on her time/money, she’ll be judged or cast out, she’ll have to buy several gifts, etc) and hasn’t even been asked yet. Nor has the bride, if she does ask, made her expectations and desires clear.

    • Sarah

      This sounds a lot like my experience as well. I’m really sorry, it sucks. It really is an important moment, full of stress, expectations, and well, getting ready to commit to another person FOREVER. I always felt like the only thing they needed to do was support me – none of the other stuff really mattered.

    • Angry Feminist Bitch


  • Natalie

    Speaking as a bride who just had a dear friend decline being a bridesmaid – I wasn’t offended at all. I’ve known her going on 8 years now, and when she explained her reasoning I got it. (She is a type A personality, that has to do EVERYTHING or else she feels like a failure, and she’s so overwhelmed with work, and potentially moving across the country that she felt like she couldn’t put her all into it. And I knew her well enough to know that saying “it’s totally okay if you don’t put 100% into it!” wouldn’t convince her otherwise). My friend said she couldn’t take on the responsibility, but instead made a commitment to be at any and all of the events that she can be at, and be the life of the party ;). She was I think a little afraid to have the conversation with me, but I was totally fine with it!

    Maybe not all brides are the same in this regard, but I’d much rather have her there, having fun and supporting me in the way that she can feel comfortable, than have her there stressed, and unhappy but doing something because she felt she had to in order to show her love for me.

  • Liz

    Ok, first off, I TOTALLY get where NONMaid is coming from. I have been a bridesmaid 8 times. The last time was 7 years ago. I calculated the expense and on average I was spending $1200 per wedding. After the eighth time, I announced to the world that I was “retired” from being a bridesmaid. I absolutely love my friends, and would do almost anything to make their wedding day amazing (I have been the singer, the planner, the centerpiece maker, I love all these things)… but I have a VERY hard time justifying the expense of a dress I will never wear again (no matter what dress it is, you never wear it again), a frivolous trip with people I don’t know, etc etc.

    My advice to NONBride would be to agree to be a bridesmaid, but lay down 1 or 2 ground rules (as nicely as you can) at the beginning. Tell her how excited you are for her and how honored you are to be chosen, but that you are saving money to go back to school and that you can budget X amount for the dress, parties, etc. And then give her an out. If she doesn’t think she can work within your budget, then she can choose someone else, with no hard feelings. And if she agrees, make sure that either you or she communicates that budget to the other bridesmaids, so no one gets upset with you when you back out of the bachelorette trip to Fiji. if they want you there they will plan something you feel comfortable with.

  • Meg

    As a bride who wants nothing more than for them to show up and wear pretty dresses and be happy for me this strikes a nerve. I feel bad asking them to do anything for me, and will probably have a low key night out that I organize myself (maybe not even with them). Not sure there are plans for a shower. Not expecting one. I still feel selfish expecting them to be there.

    • Sarah

      This is how I felt during planning too. No matter what decision was made, someone had a problem with it (or had a problem but didn’t talk to me about it). I tried so hard to be sensitive and accommodating and have my shit together when someone asked me if they could help with something, but it felt like I just couldn’t win. In a lot of ways I wish we had skipped the bridal party.

  • I completely agree with what Liz is saying about how being a bridesmaid isn’t about spending the money, it’s about supporting a friend and sometimes, supporting a friend means spending money on that person. However, if you really don’t want to be a bridesmaid, there’s no law that says you have to be. I had a semi-similar situation. One of my best friends from med school asked me to be a bridesmaid and I really wanted to do it, but I simply COULD NOT afford the dress, the days off, the flight to FL, the hotel, the rental car, etc. I ended up calling her and telling her that I would 100% be at her wedding, but I could not financially handle the bridesmaid responsibilities. She was sad, but understood, and there are other ways to support your friend at her wedding and through her marriage. Just come from a place of honesty and simplicity. Good luck!

  • Sonora Webster

    Fifteen years ago, I declined to be a friend’s bridesmaid, and it is one of the only things in my life that I regret. I had really good reasons, but I really wish I had just been there to support her. Since then, I’ve been a bridesmaid 8 times, and I was more excited about some of those times than others. And some of those times I definitely spent more money than I should have! But I’ve always been so happy I did it, just because it feels really good to celebrate with and support your friends during the really big life events.

  • Emilie

    This post makes me wonder… How much DOES it cost to be a bridesmaid? Do expectations for spending even come from the bride? I’ve never been a bridesmaid, but am getting married this summer, and now I’m worried my closest friends are going broke for me without me even noticing. I haven’t asked them to do/buy ANYTHING except a plane/bus ticket to get to my wedding (I’m spotting them for the hotel when they get there). They also planned a lovely, but low-key shower for me. We asked them to wear clothes they already had (although they are welcome to buy something new if the wish). Are there other expenses I’m just completely unaware of? To me being in somebody’s wedding party doesn’t sound like a huge expense.

    • Sarah

      I completely agree! My moms planned (and I assume paid for) my shower that some of my bridesmaids didn’t even come to, my bachelorette party was VERY low key (I think I had maybe 4 drinks all night), dresses were completely up to them (and I even pushed renting one!) and so was hair and makeup. I thought I was being very sensitive to all their needs, but I wish one of them in particular had said no since she wouldn’t participate in the least. Be up front about not wanting to be in the bridesmaid role – she’ll be better off in the long run.

      • carolynprobably

        Yes me too! Family planned the shower only my sister and ‘local’ bridesmaid attended. The ‘bachelorette party’ was nails done after the midday rehearsal the day before the wedding. Dresses were $75, and we covered the costs for their hotels. So maybe I’m naive, but I hope it didn’t cost much more than being a guest would have…?

        • Sarah

          This is how I feel too! I specifically told them no gifts, I tried to get away from having a bachelorette party (which ended up being in my neighborhood and I offered to have them all sleep over so they wouldn’t have to drive or spend the night in a hotel), I paid for all meals and drinks during the set-up/rehearsal day, and I bought them flowers that most of them didn’t even take with them. It costs the bride/couple a lot to have a wedding party too! I really hope they didn’t feel imposed upon. I did everything I could to be flexible, even to the point of having events multiple times so that travel arrangements were as easy as possible. Honestly all I wanted was an excuse to hang out with my girlfriends during planning and I ended up feeling like the bad guy no matter what I did.

        • KC

          If you covered the hotel costs and they didn’t have to pay for hair/makeup, then yeah, it probably didn’t cost much more than being a guest. My being-a-bridesmaid experiences have varied significantly, though, from “wear a dress you have” to… um… not quite like that (although I will not fly somewhere to attend a bridal shower, on the principle that, generally speaking, friends don’t want [non-plutocratic] friends to pay >$500 to attend an afternoon bridal shower. If I’m wrong about this, I don’t think I want to know…).

          But expectations vary by class and culture and subculture and who knows what else; there may be some variation, but the letter writer probably has a decent sense of what being a bridesmaid usually costs in her “group”. And it *can* be very expensive!

    • Emilie

      I should add–I’m not asking this as an attack on (non)maid. It’s a genuine clarifying question.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      You can think of my maid-of-honor’s expenses two ways. On one hand, she profited from the deal, getting a dress, shoes, necklace, and hair ornaments out of it. She didn’t pay for these things, or her hair and make-up. Mom and I paid for them from the wedding budget. She also had no travel expenses.

      On the other hand, she deferred her entry into the Peace Corps to be able to attend at all. That was six-months’ “employment” and could be viewed as a big change of plans. But she lived at home for that time and found part-time work, then got assigned to the Caribbean, so it really worked out for her.

    • Liz

      I’ve been in wedding that only cost me the expense of drinks out for the bachelorette (I borrowed a dress for the wedding, mom threw the entire shower and refused help, etc).

      But, there are other weddings where the wedding-evil corrupts otherwise smart and lovely ladies’ brains, and we end up with each event being this big to-do, with (expensive) custom “Team Bride” t-shirts and loads of travel and lots of pricey drinks.In my experience, if someone wants to go full tilt in one area, they’re going to in every area (the same girl who wants all the bridesmaids to wear a $400 dress is probably going to ask them to get their hair + makeup professionally done, etc).

    • Jules

      I think it just wholly depends on the bride and the circle she’s in. Like KC’s pointing out, this tends to vary a LOT. In your case, it sounds like being in the party doesn’t cost significantly more than being a guest. It’s when you’re in charge of potentially hosting multiple pre-wedding events + drinks at said events, and your “day-of” look is very coordinated (dress, shoes, makeup, hair, nails). Those definitely can blow up the cost a little bit at a time. I used to think it was the stuff of legends, but my best friend (co-MOH in a wedding) just informed me that her “look” is about $400, plus they’re doing a cruise bachelorette and a shower catered by La Madeleine. (The other co-MOH pushed for these last 2 things, not the bride. It was a crazy power struggle.) Several coworkers in a similar circle/culture are doing a multi-day New Orleans bachelorette or a trip to Austin and customized tank-tops for the weekend. Once you spread it out over the course of the engagement, $50 here and there can add up.

      That being said…in some ways, it doesn’t really “count” towards being a bridesmaid if, say, you and your girlfriends plan a trip every single year for just the four of you, and this year instead of doing that you make the weekend (or even just one night) into the “bachelorette” party. Because that’s already sort of built-in to your budget and time and you’re just getting more bang for your buck, if that makes sense.

      Same thing goes for “wear whatever you have!” – if a BM chooses to buy a new dress, I’m not sure it’s 100% fair to say it’s a BM cost. That’s just the “wanted a new dress for a wedding” cost. ;)

  • This is exactly why I tried to make things as cheap as possible for my bridesmaids. The wedding is on a family property, so they get to stay in the big house for free. The bachelorette is also on a family property that we can get to by train, so again, that’s basically free. I’m telling them they can wear any dress they want in the color blue, which means for some of them they can use a dress they already have or borrow one, for all I care. Most guests coming from the city will need to rent a car, but I’m arranging for some of my bridesmaids to get picked up from a train station by others with cars. So, while you know your friend better than I do obviously, you shouldn’t make assumptions that it’s actually going to cost a lot…

  • Alicia Landi

    I don’t know if I just have particularly chill friends or what, but I’ve been a bridesmaid twice and maid-of-honor once and it wasn’t a gigantic imposition any of those times. The worst financially was the first time: I was a broke-ass grad student, it involved a plane ticket and hotel stay, a dress purchase with pricey alterations, and paying for mani, pedi, and hairdo. I resented this money a little bit, especially since she already had 6 other maids and we weren’t quite close anymore. But I did not go to the shower and was not involved in any way with planning it. Bachelorette was a joint thing where all the guys and gals went out for drinks near the hotel and each paid their own way. Simple enough.

    The second was even easier. It was within a 3 hour drive but I was still a broke-ass grad student so was not able to attend the shower or the joint bachelor/bachelorette party the night before because of deadlines. This wedding involved paying for a hotel and dress and alterations but the bride did not require any particular beauty routines so it was far less expensive. This bride is one of my closest friends and I supported her in other ways throughout the planning process even though I couldn’t be there for the other events.

    Finally, when I was a bridesmaid at my male friends’ gay wedding, I had to do the most work in helping things go smoothly the day of and in planning the bachelor party, but since there were only 2 attendants total the price of the bachelor dinners/drinks were split more-or-less evenly across all the friends who attended. There was no shower and since neither of them were wearing a dress, they let me wear my own pants and just purchase a fancy top from David’s Bridal. It was probably the least expensive of all.

    All of that is to say that I get where the author is coming from with financial difficulties and feeling resentful about coughing over the cash, but I also don’t think it has to be so complicated. I think what’s expected of bridesmaids varies widely and that assumptions of what this friend would want shouldn’t be made and that if she DOES want things that the author doesn’t want to give, the author should feel free to request modifications (i.e. top instead of whole dress) or should just let her know up front “ok, but I can’t make it to this part because of these reasons, is that alright with you?” If you’re close enough to be asked to be part of such an important day then you should be close enough to speak openly with each other.

  • carolynprobably

    You know, we talk all the time about how “your wedding isn’t an imposition” but I sure felt like all the other bridesmaid-y stuff ABSOLUTELY WAS an imposition on my bridesmaids. My four bridesmaids and I lived in 5 different cities. We were all in school and/or underemployed and I felt like in their shoes I would have resented being expected to travel 2 or 3 times and spend beyond my means. So I said fuck it. (In fact, I worked incredibly hard to NOT ask for a lot of frivolous time and $ of my wonderful friends.)

    I’d say it also comes down to knowing your people. I’ve since been in some of their weddings, for which expectations were equally low-cost and low-key. That’s just how we roll. I know it happens, but from my experiences, the nightmare bridesmaid scenario is mostly the stuff of internet lore. Of course, perhaps Nonmaid is right to anticipate certain behaviours from her friend, in which case I think there is some excellent advice here for defending her choices and preserving her finances/sanity.

    • Mezza

      I agree with all of this. My wedding was in my hometown, where I no longer live, and all of our wedding party either lived in our current city or within driving distance of the hometown. They were also all in various situations of financial difficulty, ranging from public school teacher to grad student to unemployed and living with parents. We paid for one bridesmaid’s dress (via LBD) because she flat-out was not going to be able to afford it. The guys already owned tuxes so we bought them $15 bowties and just went with that. Our local friends and family housed out-of-town bridesmates and friends who couldn’t afford hotels. No one threw a shower or bachelorette party. And it was still the most fantastic weekend with all of our favorite people, and I was so excited that they had all made the effort to be there!

      I’ve only been a bridesmaid once and the entire wedding party was between the ages of 10 and 19 at the time, so there certainly weren’t a lot of costs involved there. Objectively I understand that the stereotypical bridesmaid scenario is the norm, though, so definitely know your people.

  • Sonora Webster

    Have to post this! You’re going to be giggling at your desk, promise!

  • Rachelle Reese

    For all the people asking if a bachelorette party can really cost all that much… YES! I was wondering what bachelorette party she had possibly been to that was only $200-300.
    I know very few people that only have a night out in their own city for a bachelorette. Most of them have been weekend trips that include airfare, hotels, multiple nice meals out, expensive daytime activities, matching or themed outfits and lingerie gifts. It’s generally in the range of $500+ JUST for the bachelor(ette) party. I will say that it’s usually so expensive because of other bridesmaids planning, not the bride’s demands.
    Then throw in the people that have multiple showers, destination weddings that also include courthouse paper signings and receptions, and choose expensive dresses (my most recent was $220, plus $55 just for a hem) and you’re dropping multiple thousands of dollars. Happens every day.

  • K.

    Ooof, this letter outlines exactly why I’m scared to ask two of my (old, not as close in contact, but very important to me) friends to be bridesmaids. I’ve already asked my best friend, my closest cousin, my future SIL, and one of my fiance’s cousins (who I’m close to), and they’ve all accepted super graciously. But I’m really, really worried that my other friends would have this attitude and in a way, I think it’s kinder to just extend an invite to the wedding. Even though my expectations are pretty much, “Hang out with me in the morning, show up at the wedding, and dance at the reception,” even that can be a lot when you’re having a wedding that’s out of state for both of them (and technically all but one of your bridesmaids.) I outlined below that even the basics will cost close to $1000 for the wedding party, which is A LOT to ask. But then wedding stuff is so damn complicated, so there’s a chance they’ll both be really hurt that I don’t ask them. So I don’t know.

    My fiance clearly doesn’t have this problem and has been asking everyone under the sun (slight exaggeration) to be a groomsman or woman, so maybe the diciness of it is all in my head!

    • KC

      If they’d be flying in to the wedding as guests, that’s the same cost, so that doesn’t seem like a real problem (but you can specify “I won’t have you fly in for separate events” or similar, or offer housing options or something?). I’d ask them, and tell them your expectations, and say you totally understand if they can’t do it. But that’s me?

      • K.

        See, I think that’s the problem. A lot of people assume the “All you have to do is show up!” is the laid-back version of asking someone to be a bridesmaid, but I guess when traveling to the wedding will cost so much to begin with, I can’t even assume that the bare minimum is simple? If that makes sense?

        But considering that our friends and family live everywhere from California to South America to India, and all over the country for that matter, there was no way we could have a wedding that wasn’t “destination” for ~95%+ of our guests. It’s just reality, but it’s a complicated reality when it comes to people actually being able to show up AND when it comes to wedding parties

        (At least, for me — my fiance, for instance, would be fine with one of his friends saying they can be a groomsman and then backing out at the last minute, but I wouldn’t except in very specific extenuating circumstances, like pregnancy.)

  • Bee

    it’s funny, I’m 31 and have never been asked to be a bridesmaid. most of my closest friends have had weddings without bridal parties. i’d love the opportunity to be a bridesmaid! but at this point am guessing it’s an experience i will never have.

    • Eh

      I am going to be a bridesmaid at my sisters wedding. I’m honoured that she asked me. Of my friends who are married many of them didn’t have wedding parties or had very small ones. I have a lot of friends who aren’t married and if they do get married I can’t see them having large wedding parties either.

  • Sarah

    I haven’t read all the comments so maybe this has already been said, but I’m kind of wondering if she can’t give a “yes, but…” sort of answer. “Yes, I’d love to be your bridesmaid, but I only have X amount of expendable income right now so I may not be able to purchase a dress over X amount or do an overnight bachelorette party.” If I were the bride, I’d understand. I chose my sister who is a single mom, my best friend who has 8+ years of college and grad school debt to pay off on a part-time lecturers salary, and 3 teenage cousins. A few couldn’t afford the dresses I picked out, so I paid for them (and if that hadn’t been a possibility I’d have picked cheaper dresses or told them to pick out something they could afford). Not everyone made it to the shower or bachelorette due to work schedules or just plain living too far and not being able to make the trip. I didn’t care. I just cared that they participated in the wedding in a meaningful way.

    I don’t see anything wrong with laying out expectations to see if the role of bridesmaid is going to be a good fit. It might be easier and more fun than she expected. Or it might be a hugely expensive inconvenience. Better to ask questions and find out so that she can either be a good, loving, enthusiastic bridesmaid or she can back out gracefully.

    • Eh

      You were very thoughtful and considerate. My husband was the BM at his brother’s wedding. The MOH was a single mom (with two kids); the bridesmaids were the bride’s younger sisters – one bridesmaid lived out of town (7 hours away) and was in college, and the other bridesmaid was in high school. At the time my husband was also in college and lived out of town (an hour away without a car); the two groomsmen were new fathers, one was low income and the other lived out of country. This was a group of people with limited income for the most part.

      The women were asked to be MOH/bridesmaids a year or more before the wedding. The men were asked four or five months before the wedding not giving them much time to save money. They were also told that they had to plan a stag and doe. My husband was in the middle of final projects and exams (plus working part-time) and couldn’t take on the extra work of also planning the stag and doe. The MOH/single mom was just finishing her year-long mat leave and didn’t have access to the internet or a telephone so my husband had a hard time getting a hold of her to ask her to find a venue and book a date so that didn’t get done until my husband was done school for the year. My husband had to take two days off work for the stag and doe and then four days off work for the wedding (that’s a lot of lost income for him). For the most part his parents and I covered his costs because there was no way he could afford what they expected (and he has been repeatedly told that he didn’t meet the bride and groom’s expectations).

      For our wedding we only had a MOH (my sister) and BM (my husband’s brother who he was BM for) and we asked them almost a year before our wedding shortly after we were engaged. We didn’t want to burden people. We were already asking a lot of my side because they had to travel quite a distance and a lot of his parents to host the rehearsal and gift opening. I told my MOH what colour I wanted her dress to be and she picked it out herself (she went for a bridesmaids dress from a bridal store, but I would have been just as happy with a cocktail dress). If the BM had owned a black suit we would have said he could have worn that instead of asking him to rent or buy one. We did have bachelor/bachelorette parties (mine was two days before the wedding so my sister and my friends didn’t have to travel twice). As the bride I told people that I didn’t want a stag and doe and I didn’t want a shower (at least on my side where since it would have been a burden – his mom threw one for me). One of the issues we had with our BM was that he brought up the “broke” card way too late in the game (and just after he took his wife and kids on a weeklong vacation). The first time the “broke” card came up was when my husband asked him about the bachelor party. My husband wanted to get an idea of when it was going to be (as my husband needed to book time off) and he wanted to give the BM a list of people to invite. The BM ended the conversation with that he was broke and couldn’t afford it (when my husband was broke for his brother’s wedding my husband asked me and his parents for help and never complained to his brother about being broke). My husband was pretty upset since the BM could have discussed plans with the other guys and determined what was affordable for the group (my husband would have been happy with hanging out at someone’s house with food and alcohol and maybe going golfing). In the end someone else planned the bachelor party and the BM didn’t even go.

  • mmorgan

    “It might be easy to
    consider these little things as “frivolous” or “unnecessary” or
    something, but they’re the trappings (social, cultural, alright maybe
    even WIC-imposed) of a really big super significant event.”

    I have always loved A Practical Wedding but of late, I’ve been feeling like it is losing it’s individuality of inserting it’s down to earth sense and “practicality” in what is often an over-blown event. Rather than accusing the non-maid of making assumptions, I think more care should be given in how the non-maid is trying to be thoughtful to prepare in advance of ways to minimize the hurt and to preserve a friendship that can get lost in emotions influenced by the WIC. It _is_ a really big super significant event but so is the marriage after and that lasts a lifetime. APW has always been big on supporting women’s rights to their feelings and emotions and more importantly, the validity of these feelings that can often be lost in the WIC hype. I feel that this advice, rather than acknowledging and supporting the
    writer’s right to her feelings and offering ‘practical’ solutions, is instead guilting her into the trappings all
    in the name of friendship.

    • Liz

      Rather than guilt the letterwriter into being a bridesmaid (I’m not sure how that could be the takeaway in a post where I repeatedly encourage her to go with her gut), I’m trying to reframe the question.

      To put it another way- I have a dear friend who sucks at going out. There have been times (not often enough to be a habit) that I or friends in our circle will say, “I REALLY need to get out of the house tonight. Who’s up for a drink?” or similar. Every single time, this friend doesn’t come- without fail, citing homework, laundry, being tired, etc etc as reasons. The funny thing is, she’s there in a heartbeat if I need a sitter or a friend is sick and could use some soup. There’s a disconnect in these particular going-out-for-“fun” instances where she doesn’t see that it’s not just a matter of a cocktail, it’s a friend who needs her. Because she’s such a fierce friend in every other way, I genuinely think she’s just not seeing it as a friendship thing because the request is fun/frivolous/silly/whatever.

      I think we can do the same to bridesmaid dresses/bachelorette parties/etc. It’s not a matter of these being MUSTS (clearly! I’m encouraging the girl not to do it!) but it IS important that we’re framing the question correctly rather than chalking it up to just silly. Maybe the OP will have a different answer to “would you spend $200 to support this friend?” than she would to “would you spend $200 on a cocktail dress?” Maybe she wouldn’t. But in case she would, it’s important we’re answering the right question.

      • Agoraphobic Friend

        I don’t know how I feel about this reply. I’m often the friend you’re talking about, willing to drop anything for big problems/real talk/sickness/whatever, and often saying no to nights on the town. I’m a little bit bewildered by the way you’re talking about this friend of yours. She *sucks* at going out? “The funny thing is”, etc? There seems to be no acknowledgement of the fact that maybe she just genuinely isn’t a “going out” person. It’s very well might not have ANYTHING to do with the fact that she thinks it’s frivolous to go out, and more that she just really, really doesn’t like going to clubs or bars, that it makes her feel uncomfortable, and/or like me she has a mild form of anxiety/agoraphobia that makes it hard for her to force her to go out sometimes (whether it’s to a bar or club, or even just someone else’s house.) There might also be financial factors at play as to why she’s able to make the more low-key times and not for the big-night-on-the-town nights. Believe me, if she’s anything like me, she’s well aware that going out is “a friendship thing”, but that doesn’t always make it easier to make yourself leave the house. In fact, it makes it harder to miss out – again. I’m lucky that my friends are all totally cool with who I am, the fact that I have anxieties, and are happy to hang out with me on terms that work for both of us without thinking less of me. It makes me sad that you don’t really seem to be considering who your friend *is* here at all – just how she’s letting you down by being, well, herself.

        Might also be worth mentioning that people aren’t mind readers – if this friend always drops everything when she’s needed, if you really need a night out, with her specifically, for your own mental health or to help deal with something or whatever, try framing it like that with her and see what happens.

        I mean no snark here – I just think sometimes introverts/people with anxieties/people who love in different ways than normal get the short end of the stick. It’s up to the people who love them to disregard ideas of “supposed-tos” and just take each person as they come. In my personal opinion, anyway :)

        • Liz

          While I get your point, it’s not the case in this particular situation.

    • name

      I read it more as ‘this is one way of showing you value your friends’, while also saying it was not the only way

  • Lucy

    Supporting a friend is wonderful, and it’s true that sometimes we don’t get to choose how we give that support. Indeed, a troubled phone call in the middle of the night is nobody’s first choice. But that’s part of being a friend.
    But is refusing, if asked, to be a bridesmaid, really such a terrible thing? Whether you’re spending all that money on wedding events and stand up the front as part of the bridal party, or if you opt out, perhaps not even attending the ceremony if invited, the couple will still be married. And that’s the important part.

  • Hope

    What about saying yes to being a bridesmaid and no to financial expectations? Some people feel loved when others spend $ on their behalf, others would be glad to have your presence at the altar even if you don’t want to provide funding. When I have been a bridesmaid, I have never assumed that I owed any financial obligation aside from my airfare (I have had to decline once for this reason) or unless the bride has explicitly asked me to pay for something(hair once and dress 3x). I don’t attend showers if they require airfare. Once I felt pressure from another bridesmaid to throw an entire lingerie shower between just the two of us for the bride, and I just straight up told her I was not planning to do that. So the girl gave her an entire lingerie shower single-handedly. I did a few thoughtful planned things that were basically free. I was single, unemployed, and living across the country, not about to be pressured into shelling out moola when what I wanted to shell out was love. When I got married, I provided dresses for my bridesmaids and they did their own hair. I feel like you should be able to JUST SAY NO to any financial obligation except airfare. Even to the dress, if that is something you are legit going to resent buying (and haven’t asked others to buy a dress for you). I think it’s acceptable to say: I would love to show support for you by standing up and in these specific ways. And kindly draw boundaries where you feel unwilling.

  • BeeAssassin

    I’ve never been a bridesmaid, but I have attended a super small out of
    town wedding weekend for an in-law (less than 10 people total). And although I went into the weekend with a good attitude (“Oh, I’ll find ways to not spend as much!”) it quickly became obvious that I would be expected to keep up with everyone else’s ridiculous spending habits. So I can understand the concern that NonMaid has, and I agree that expectations can come from sources other than the bride – in my case, the best man kept unilaterally deciding on splitting the checks evenly even though it was obvious my fiancee and I had spent far far less than everyone else.

    But, the fact that the immediate conclusion is “I don’t want to be her bridesmaid” instead of “I want to find a way to compromise and support her in the way she asks, but in a way that works for me as well” rubs me the wrong way. Back when I was completely broke, a friend broke up with her boyfriend and wanted to go out for drinks. I had less than $50 to my name, but instead of saying no, I explained I was broke and invited her over and made her some cheap-ass bottom shelf drinks. And she didn’t judge me, and I didn’t break my budget, but was still able to support her.

  • Londongirl

    Perhaps things are different in England, but when I got married I paid for my bridesmaid dresses, shoes, hair and make-up. When I’ve been a bridesmaid the bride has done the same for me. I had only two maids, both very close friends and this kept the cost down. I wouldn’t have dreamed of asking my maids pay for dresses and shoes which we picked out together but were basically my choice and that they would only wear once. Bridesmaid costs formed part of my wedding budget!

    • Jules

      In most cases I’ve seen here, the maids get their own attire, and the bride picking up the tab is a nice gesture. Sometimes she might cover hair/shoes/makeup if she wants something really specific, but it seems that varies by region/subculture. My French friends are aghast that the “system” works this way, but it’s self-perpetuating.

  • AG

    I’ve been a bridesmaid several times in the past couple of years, and while it’s been an honor every time, there have definitely been some times that were less enjoyable. One wedding in particular sounds a lot like what you’re describing – lots of expense during a time that I had limited funds and free time (thanks mostly to all the other weddings I was in around that time). Also, you mention that you may be saving for and planning your own wedding soon. I was hoping/ expecting to be engaged around the time of this wedding, and I’m a bit ashamed to say how much that affected my feelings about my friend’s wedding. I was so broke and busy from celebrating other people’s weddings, and meanwhile I was frustrated that I wasn’t even engaged. Not saying you’re going through this, but it’s where I was and I don’t think any change of perspective could have gotten me out of that place. All of which is to say, sometimes you’re just not in a great place to be a bridesmaid. I don’t think I should have declined being a bridesmaid in this friend’s wedding, but I do recognize that, through no fault of the bride, this wedding happened to be at a time that my funds, time, and patience were completely overextended and as a result I wasn’t the best friend I could have been. I’ve been in weddings that were more time-consuming and expensive, but I was in a better place personally, and therefore was much happier about the commitments asked of me.

    I guess this is a long-winded way of saying, definitely talk to your friend about her expectations, but be honest with yourself about where you are and whether you have it in you at that time.

  • Sydney Eyrich

    I both know and do not know where the poster is coming from. On one hand, being a bridesmaid can be expensive and a huge time commitment. On the other hand, I have never been in a situation in which I didn’t feel that the money spent to support a friend and be there for an event as important as a wedding wasn’t worth it. Now that I am planning a wedding, I can speak from experience when I say that it is hurtful when a bridesmaid tells you that she cannot come and cites money as a reason even when money is not a reason. I only asked truly, crucially important women in my life to be bridesmaids, and it does hurt when they don’t come because they are not willing to sacrifice a little in order to stand up beside me.

  • Vic Horsham

    I found the letter confusing, to be honest, because I’m not sure what the LW means when they refer to “things they don’t believe in”.

    LW says they’re probably going to be planning and saving for their own wedding soon – presumably if they see this as an unfair imposition and financial obligation then they won’t be having any bridesmaids or any shower events at their wedding? Is that what they mean – that they don’t believe in events where other people are expected/obligated to spend money in order to participate? (Showers aren’t a thing here in the UK anyway, so I can get why they seem an extravagance – we get a hen night, which is usually just a night out for the bride and wedding party same as a stag night, but that’s usually just a pub crawl or dinner out or something else small and manageable. and the wedding gifts are given to the COUPLE on the actual wedding day, not at a separate party).

    Because if it’s really just about not being able to afford to right now, they could always… communicate with the bride-to-be if and when an invitation to be bridesmaid turns up? Something like “I’m honoured that you want me in your wedding party, but my finances right now are really tight and I’m afraid I wouldn’t be able to manage the cost of the outfit/showers/gifts. I would still really like to be with you on the day as a guest.”

    I mean, I know what being dirt poor is like. I’ve been rent-arrears and no-electricity-in-Winter poor, and you can be sure at times like that, that being invited to a wedding as a bridesmaid would’ve just been a case of “There is literally no physical way for me to make the required money appear for this to be able to happen.”. But at the same time… when I’ve been dirt poor, the support and help of my loved ones has been the only thing holding me together, from being invited to dinner by people who knew I was too proud to admit I didn’t have money for groceries, to “I won £10 at bingo so sent it to you!” letters from my gran, to being given hand-me-downs, to big gestures like “here is the money so you can visit your mum who you haven’t seen in a year”. So to me, once me and the other half are financially secure, I’m yearning for the chance to pay that kindness back, or pay it forward.

  • If your friend does ask you to be a bridesmaid, thank her for thinking of you, and ask her what her expectations are. Maybe she expects everything you’re worried she expects. Maybe she just expects you to show up in a particular dress on the day of the wedding.

    If she gives you the expectations, thank her and tell her you need to think about it. Make it clear: you love her and you’re thrilled for her, and if you’re going to commit to being in the wedding party, you want to make sure you’re committing. It’s not fair to her for you to say yes and then drag your feet and feel resentful, right?

    Then think about things, and let her know by the next day or two. Your yes will be more enthusiastic, meaningful, and genuine, and you can feel more confident that you’re really agreeing to be in the wedding party (as opposed to feeling like her asking = you’re in it).

  • Angry Feminist Bitch

    I have no idea what planet you people are on. I think the BRIDES are the ones who often sound entitled, and I do not begrudge friends and bridesmaids their resentment AT ALL. Wasn’t this site supposed to be about critiquing the WIC? This is all rampant consumerist bullshit. If I hear about another “destination wedding” or “second wedding” or “bachelorette week in Aruba,” I’m going to throw my computer in a lake.

    Do you people not have student loans? Do you all have parents footing the bills for your $30,000 spectacle weddings? Do you not hear how entitled and selfish and consumer-driven you sound bitching about your friends not feeling it when you whine that “being happy for you” equates to them spending significant amounts of their limited disposable income and vacation time (in America, where we’re lucky to get ten days of paid vacation, no less?!) “celebrating you”? Do you really expect people to skip their Christmas flights home to see their parents, or saving a downpayment for a house, or using their vacation time for an actual, you know, vacation (not planned by you, on your terms, to celebrate you)? Do you expect people to consider you a friend when you expect them to go into debt to celebrate your totally mundane and predictable and conventional life choices? Not only is getting married YOUR choice and YOUR personal thing – that no one is obligated to care about, much less be thrilled about, much less celebrate by spending their hard earned cash – but having a huge, expensive wedding is not a requirement. I thought that’s what this site was about.

    Are all of you guys living in Beverly Hills or what? I’m in my mid-30s and a professional with two graduate degrees and a partnter to split expenses, and I’m lucky if I can afford gas to a friend’s out-of-town wedding ceremony and a $30 gift.

    This is out of control.

    • Angry Feminist Bitch

      Also. This “my wedding is not an imposition” bullshit. Sometimes it IS.

      Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean everyone else’s lives have stopped while you’re busy being The Bride. Your wedding is not an inconvenience if it’s sensible. But if most of your friends and family are not Wall Street traders who summer in the Hamptons, having a destination bachelorette weekend, two showers, a professional hair and makeup party, and a destination wedding (or two!), is indeed an imposition. Expecting people whom you say you *love* to go into debt and be riddled with worry and miss other family occasions in order to attend your Big Day is the worst kind of bullshit. If you don’t want your wedding to be an imposition – on your bridesmaids, on your family, on your friends, on your guests – don’t make it one.

      • Brianna K

        For a feminist, you’re imposing A LOT of stereotypes onto a lot of women in a very short amount of time.

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