Do I Get Severance Pay for Being Casually Fired as a Bridesmaid?

If your wedding party is informal, do you have to give a shit?

by Amy March

Party shoes of five women in dresses

Q: Dear Amy,

My SIL is getting married, and she’s having a sort of informal wedding party (which generally I’m all in for). Anyway, shortly after she got engaged, she asked me if I’d be part of it—walk down the aisle, stand up during the ceremony, etc. She even went so far as to tell me what colors I should buy my dress in. Anyway, fast-forward a few months to the next time I saw her, and she told me, “Never mind, I found someone else do to it.” I guess since she didn’t send out “Will you be my bridesmaid” cards or whatever, she figures it doesn’t matter.

Anyway, I’ve read your column and Liz’s column enough to know my options. Decide if it’s worth it to me to have a conversation with her about my feelings, and if it’s not to move on. Blah, blah, blah, all very good advice. And I know what I’m going to do, which is to not do anything. This is not the first (or last) time my longtime partner’s family has treated me like this, and in for a penny, in for a pound, right? Besides, it’s her wedding, and our extended family, and causing drama isn’t going to make the experience any more enjoyable. (And who wants to be a sloppy seconds bridesmaid? Nobody.)

So my question is this: How do I deal with my FEELINGS? Because my feelings are definitely hurt, and there have been tears. (And is that normal?)

And also, can you tell the Internet to not pull shit like this? No matter how informal the wedding is, being told, “Can you do this honor at my wedding,” and then told, “Meh, never mind, I found someone else,” really feels like shit.

—Baby For Sure Got Put In The Corner

A: Dear Baby,

This is so deeply, deeply uncool. I feel it’s important to state that right up front.

Of course your feelings are hurt!! This is a horrible thing to do to someone. “Oh, SIL, you mean so much to me would you stand up next to me on my wedding day.” “Lolz nvmd, I found someone better, bye!” WHAT. You’re hurt and crying because she deliberately hurt your feelings. I am so not on her team. I honestly care not at all what is going through her head. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what different special reasons you come up with for needing to do something terrible. Your deliberate choices hurt someone, SIL, and I hope you feel badly about it.

You’ve correctly identified your options, and for what it’s worth I think you’ve made the right choice. Yes, it’s a mean thing she did, but I don’t think it’s worth blowing up the family over it, and you won’t win. You’ll just get a black mark for causing drama and make the day even less fun for yourself. One has to assume she knows she hurt you and doesn’t care. But if she’s so self-involved that she doesn’t know she hurt you? Well, that’s honestly even less cool. Either way, I see nothing to be gained from a conversation with her except more opportunities to get your feelings hurt.

Oh boy, though, how do you deal with these feelings? So many ways: 1) personally; 2) with your partner; and 3) as a member of the family community. Personally you do you. Wanna cry? Have at it. Ice cream? Wine? Excuse to buy a new book? And then once you’re through the immediate tears stage, I think you reassess what you are willing to put into this relationship. Not in a big dramatic way, but internally. How much are you going to care when this happens again? SIL prob won’t get married again any time soon, but for sure she’s going to find another way to slight you, so consider this practice. With your partner I think it’s extremely reasonable to expect support for these feelings. Your partner should acknowledge that his sister treated you terribly. He should probably buy you an embarrassingly large bouquet of flowers. And with your family community I think you get to say no to the next family event you don’t want to attend. Just because you don’t want to. Sometimes you just gotta indulge the petty a little to move past it.

And no, Internet, you cannot pull shit like this. Asking someone to serve in your wedding party (even if it’s an unofficial wedding party), or do some other honor at your wedding, is a big deal and it’s a commitment (no no, that girl you asked when you were seven doesn’t count). Think it through. Being a bridesmaid is a lovely honor, as is walking down the aisle, or being asked to wear the horrible color of greige, or read a random bible verse when you’re not even religious. People don’t agree to it because they’ve always wanted a greige dress. They agree to it because it’s sort of a big deal, no matter how casual or formal your wedding is. And when you offer that (or take it away) thoughtlessly, you’ve turned a special honor into a transaction. Bridesmaid isn’t a job. There’s no HR to solve these problems. You can’t replace someone or put her on a performance improvement plan. You need to really think about your decisions, because when someone says yes to a role of honor in your wedding, they are saying yes to showing up for you as a person, and not treating that as the great honor it is going to lead to hurt feelings all around.

Amy March

Amy has loved weddings at least since the second grade when she made an epic diorama of Charles and Diana’s wedding for “important historical event” day. She has purchased every issue of Martha Stewart Weddings ever published and will happily talk to you for an hour about the relative merits of blush and bashful. Her happy place is poolside with a glass of rosé and a good book. 

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  • Sarah

    Did you already buy the dress? If so, my petty little self would say wear it to the wedding and if anyone makes a comment on how nice it is, looks like bridesmaid dresses say “oh yeah, I got this back when SIL asked me to be in her wedding but then she told me nevermind.”

    • sofar

      Would totally want to do that as well.

    • Sarah

      I wouldn’t wear it to the wedding, because then someone might assume that I’m the crazy one (and/or someone might try to give me a task to do as a bridesmaid). I would wear it to the rehearsal dinner the night before, or the shower if there’s no rehearsal. “Was so glad I still had another opportunity to wear it!” while simultaneously giving away what the dresses look like before the wedding.

      • Sarah

        BOOM! slightly more petty, and infintely more practical, than my idea.

      • Kat

        This is some gold-star pettiness and I love it

      • tilbury

        HAHAHAHA amazing idea

  • Katharine Parker

    I agree with all of Amy’s advice, and I would like to add that declaring that a traditional part of your wedding is actually going to be “informal” as an excuse not to be considerate of people is just rude. You’re having people stand up or you’re not having people stand up, and either is fine–do bouquets or don’t, call people bridemaids or don’t, assign matching/coordinating dresses or don’t, but don’t use “informality” as cover for your rudeness.

    • ssha

      +1. Like what does that even mean. LW says maybe SIL didn’t think it mattered because she didn’t send out a bridesmaid box, or whatever. I think I asked my bridesmaids over text message, but that didn’t make it any less a commitment in any of our minds.

      • I definitely maybe snapchatted at least one of mine. (Followed up by a texting conversation, but the initial ask was definitely via snapchat).

        • ssha

          Haha, yesss. what a time to be alive.

      • Amandalikeshummus

        These formal bridesmaid proposals are a new thing, non? So you can’t say doing it the regular way is informal.

        • ssha


      • Jan

        Right? Like, asking people is asking people. Having people walk down an aisle, and/or stand with you, and/or wear a specific thing ALL make you a bridesmaid! You either have a bridal party or you do not! I’m so appalled by this very concept!!!

    • Kelly

      Plus, in this case LW is talking about walking down the aisle, standing during the ceremony and wearing a specific dress color. Those are…pretty “formal” Bridal Party Things.

  • Cdn icecube

    Am I the only one who was kinda hoping that Amy March was going to talk about actual severance? That would have been AWESOME.

    OP – this situation is all around crappy and Amy’s advice is definitely spot on.

    • Amy March

      I mean, you are certainly entitled to recoup the value of any bridesmaid dress purchased.

      • GotMarried!

        Also when I called off my wedding, i paid the non-refundable parts of my bridesmaid’s airline tickets.

        • Jess

          This is the kindest gesture in a difficult moment. I would not have expected it if I was was your bridesmaid even a little bit, but it is so sweet and thoughtful.

          • Amandalikeshummus

            I don’t know that I’d expect actually money, but some acknowledgement of the lost funds would be appreciated. I had a friend who was planning to have a wedding, and who I was speaking to as I used my lifetime supply of airline miles to book the flight. A couple days later I get a group text message that they had decided not to hold the wedding. I was pretty ticked that she hadn’t said, “Hey buddy, maybe hold off on the tickets, k?” Then to get the mass text that I had lost my lifetime of miles was insulting.

            Things are fine now, but honestly a “Sorry you lost your miles,” would have helped a lot. She had a very legitimate reason to call off the party; I wasn’t mad about that. It was just that she let me throw away cash and didn’t acknowledge it that bothered me.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I was in a similar situation buying a dress. Our appointment at David’s Bridal was Saturday at noon. We ordered and paid for our (non-refundable) dresses, then went across the street with the bride to grab lunch, at which point she told us they were reconsidering the whole thing. She texted the bridesmaids on Tuesday to let us know the wedding was off. Of course my heart went out to her (the groom was a total douche, and she had a great reason to call it off), but I also was a little miffed that she didn’t just tell us to hold off on ordering, or delay the DB appointment until they had figured out what they wanted to do. A couple of her bridesmaids really had to squeeze that money out of their accounts, and one opened up the DB credit card to purchase it. She did immediately let us know that she would be paying us back for them, which was appreciated, and has since found a new dude who makes her much happier, and I have a purple dress that I have never worn. All’s well that ends well.

          • S

            “We ordered and paid for our (non-refundable) dresses, then went across the street with the bride to grab lunch, at which point she told us they were reconsidering the whole thing.” I just cannot get myself into the headspace of someone who does this? Stands at the store watching you all fork over cash, being told it’s non-refundable? Wow. In @disqus_lJ1zVSdTbh:disqus ‘s instance where they cancelled a few days later I can maybe understand it – they were in denial, maybe they weren’t the one to call it off, etc – but to be right there in store, knowing where things are at…wow. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself saying, “THEN WHY DID YOU JUST LET US BUY THESE NON-REFUNDABLE DRESSES THEN, WTF?!” at that lunch. Glad she paid for them!

          • Amandalikeshummus

            I agree that that is worse. Though, to clarify, in my case, the marriage happened but the wedding did not. So, two days before announcing it, the couple had certainly been discussing canceling the party. They may not have fully decided, but I thought my excited texts and questions about buying my ticket could have been met with a different response than, “Yay! Do that!”

            Back to the earlier discussion of tigers and their stripes, though, this was not out of character. This friend has long had this worldview that her peers all have way more money than her.

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            She didn’t realize they were non-refundable, for what it’s worth. In her first text about calling off the wedding, she told us she’d be calling DB about cancelling the orders. She told us she’d pay for them once it became clear that cancelling wasn’t an option. We also took that lunch confession as cold feet, and spent it encouraging her and coming up with ways to tackle the problems they were having. Several days after they called off the wedding, it came out that he’d been treating her like shit and pulling away from her because he’d been cheating on her for at least 6 months, and was too much of a coward to just break things off with her so he pushed her to do it. (This was his 2nd broken engagement.)

          • Jess

            Oh for sure I would want to have it acknowledged! I just wouldn’t have expected the money back.

      • Jane

        I really want her to be able to do that, but there’s probably no way to do it and still be the one who doesn’t cause drama.

        • Amandalikeshummus

          If you did want to cause the drama, I’d watch that Judge Judy: Small Claims Court Edition episode.

          • Jane

            That would be some great TV.

          • Jane

            I would also watch Amy March as a TV judge.

          • Amandalikeshummus

            Wedding Court with Amy March

    • Cathi

      I definitely thought the letter was going to be someone asking if they could get reimbursed for a dress/money spent on shower decor/etc… and was looking forward to “yeah, I feel you, but unfortunately no. Definitely do not give a gift though” advice.

  • sofar

    LOL at “greige dress.”

    And, yes. This is so very not cool. It’s a thing that can end friendships. A friend got kicked out of a bridal party when one of the groomsmen dropped out and then was asked to rejoin when a replacement groomsman was found. And the bride was super shocked when she learned that, not only was the bridesmaid not psyched to rejoin and rush-order a dress, but the friendship was in jeopardy. Turns out you can’t just ask people to be in your wedding party and change your mind like it’s nothing.

    Obviously LW doesn’t have the luxury of removing a SIL from her life, but, in her shoes, I’d maybe be like, “Ehhhhh maybe I won’t attend your out-of-town baby shower.” Not as a revenge thing, but more like SIL is setting the bar with how important she considers her relationship with the LW to be. And, if she considers it unimportant enough not to honor commitments, I feel like I’d be no more obligated to attend her future milestones than I would for a coworker.

    • Lisa

      Yes, people’s actions tell you so much more about them than their words. SIL is telling the LW that their relationship isn’t as important to her as those with other people in her life. LW gets to decide now whether or not it’s worth it to her to continue devoting unreciprocated attentions to her partner’s family.

    • Kara

      I think “polite but icy” could be a great play for the relationship going forwards, but I’m petty, so I’d be fine with it.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        The Polite Yet Icy High Road returneth!

    • Jane

      I had to look up greige. :-)

  • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

    Ooof, the LW could be one of my dear friends. She asked her SIL to be one of her bridesmaids, which she saw as the ultimate expression of “these are my people, and I want everyone we invited to know it.” When that SIL got engaged, she was super excited and asked Friend what color dress she wanted to wear. That was…the last she heard about being a bridesmaid. The SIL ended up having one solitary friend stand by her side, nobody else. I knew that it was hurtful to Friend because she expected her gesture of love (having SIL has her own bridesmaid) be returned as a mirrored expression of love. I counseled her that people make all kinds of weird and confusing and sometimes bad decisions based around their weddings, and it very rarely has anything to do with you. I told her that not everyone feels the same way that she did about Why You Chose These Particular Attendants And Not Those, so this likely wasn’t the epic rejection of quite the caliber that she felt it to be, especially when she cut it down to only one attendant. I also pointed out that SIL is not an easy person to really get to know beyond a surface friendliness, and that she also made other decisions about her wedding (like expecting people, including elderly grandparents, to walk almost a mile in the heat) that point to her being kind of selfish and oblivious to other people’s needs. None of that really helped her feel better, because it still just sucks for that kind of invitation to evaporate, and there’s no way it’s not going to feel personal. I tried to logic her out of feeling badly, but it didn’t work, because emotions are not logical.Over a year later she still felt resentful and couldn’t move past it, so she chose to say something to her SIL. Unsurprisingly, the SIL had no idea that she’d hurt anyone’s feelings, and didn’t actually remember the initial conversation about dresses. She must have been completely caught up in the excitement of being engaged, and didn’t think about what she really wanted before she started asking people to be involved. (As a result, I’ve been pretty cautious about asking people to help or be involved in my wedding, because I realize you can’t take it back.) She’s managed to mostly repair her relationship with her SIL and move on, but she learned that she needs to be a little more guarded around her, and that she can’t expect her SIL to match her in terms of emotional expression and intimacy.

    • cupcakemuffin

      I’m confused, did your friend actually get asked to be a bridesmaid, or did she just assume and invite herself because she had invited the SIL to be in her wedding? I can imagine it would be hard to respond in the moment correctly if someone excitedly asked what color dress they should purchase upon hearing I was engaged! Being in a bridal party is not a reciprocal thing where you must include everyone who you were ever in their wedding. We intentionally decided we wanted a very small bridal party and so I only had my sister and best friend standing up with me, which yes, did mean my SIL and other close friends were not bridesmaids, but I don’t think that was selfish — it fit with our overall plan for the wedding which was very informal and NOT all about the giant bridal party.

      • S

        You’re misreading – the bride-to-be was excited asked the friend what colour dress the friend wanted to wear in the wedding.

      • Lisa

        I read the story as “When that SIL got engaged, [SIL] was super excited and asked Friend what color dress she wanted to wear,” which implied that the SIL was involving PAJane’s friend in bridal party activities like choosing dress colors. Bridal parties definitely don’t have to be reciprocal, but if someone starts in with bridal party wedding talk and asking one her opinions on that, it’s understandable that the person would be upset to find out she wasn’t actually a bridesmaid.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          Right, exactly. I may not have been clear when telling the story. In general, I don’t think it’s necessary to invited everyone whose wedding you’ve been in to be in yours, or that it’s selfish not to. (I also agree with S above that things people say immediately post-engagement should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt.) In this particular situation, the SIL/bride proved to be selfish and thoughtless in a number of different ways, and enthusiastically including someone in the bridesmaid-type planning and then casually forgetting about having done so seemed to fall into that pattern.

      • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

        Both. SIL got engaged and asked Friend, “What color bridesmaid dress do you want to wear?” And then never followed up. It was hurtful to Friend in part because she assumed her love and expression of that love would be reciprocal (which I tried to talk her down from, because choosing bridesmaids doesn’t work like that), and it looked like that was going to happen. But she was also just hurt because in the initial excitement, SIL indicated that she would be a bridesmaid and then forgot that she even asked her and it didn’t happen.

    • S

      I was in a similar-ish situation, a close friend was very excited and asked me to be a bridesmaid as soon as she got engaged. She was very young, the relationship was extremely turbulent, and it took them maybe 5-6 years to actually get married. Honestly at the time, even though I was also very young, I sort of took it all with a grain of salt. I didn’t end up being a bridesmaid because we were no longer friends by the time of the wedding (pretty much all relationships in this woman’s life could be described as turbulent), but even if we had stayed friends I wouldn’t have been surprised if that original excited ask that took place long before any official planning became retracted. And even though I wanted to be a bridesmaid (I did/still do love that lady), I wouldn’t have taken it personally. This might sound mean or cynical and I do understand why your friend is hurt, but I just don’t think people should take initial excited spur-of-the-moment declarations like that to heart. If I’m with someone and they find out they win the lottery and they tell me they’re going to buy me a house, I’d be like, OMG THANKS! and then fully expect for the possibility that I will never get that house, because things we say when we’re excited =/= real plans.

      • Amy March

        Yeah Idk exactly what the statute of limitations is on this but it’s def less than 6 years.

        • S

          I guess the point is that, time period being 5 months or 5 years, excited OMG YOU SHOULD BE MY BRIDESMAID!!! talk directly after engagement news is something you should never take seriously. Sure, in that moment it’s normal and fine to be thrilled and squeal back, “I WOULD LOVE TO WOOOOO OMG” but in my mind, until the wedding is being planned and you’re asked again (or it’s reiterated again) it’s best to just assume anything could happen. It’s very easy to get swept up in a moment and a very different thing to go away and have a talk with your partner about what you actually want this wedding to look/feel like and logistics around that.

      • NotMotherTheresa

        Yessss to your lottery analogy! Particularly when we’re talking about young-ish brides, I feel like there are a TON of excited, spur-of-the-moment declarations, and it’s best not to read too much into them!
        From what I recall, between the ages of 18-24, there were quite a few discussions about who would one day be in who’s wedding…and roughly 10% of those actually materialized when the time came. Granted, it’s not totally the same thing, since in ~most~ of those cases, the weddings being discussed were still of the hypothetical variety (either the couple wasn’t yet engaged, or they were technically engaged, but no date had been set and no concrete plans had been made), but still.

      • YummieYummie

        Lol, yes! Like, I wonder how many people who won the Super Bowl have actually gone to Disney World afterwards…. I caught myself right before I almost did the same thing with my cousin when I told her I was engaged. We’ve been best friends since the day she was born, she was the first person I told, and she was the first person I thought of to include in my wedding party, but I’m not even sure about what kind of wedding I want to have yet (or even if I just want to say fukkit and elope) so I thought it would be unfair to get her hopes up. Glad I decided against it.

  • Cathi

    Ugh. I did this and felt horrible about it. But I think my self-flagellation about it was enough for my buddy to know that it wasn’t a casual oversight. Namely, I asked a good friend of mine to be one of our witnesses and then found out at the rehearsal that uh, our county actually doesn’t require witnesses. Just the couple and the officiant.

    I know that’s not what we’re talking about, but I was horrified at having to be like “so uh, yeah. I guess I don’t have a place for you in my wedding after all?”

    Which I guess is to say, I like to think I’m a decent person, and being horrified at essentially emotionally excluding someone from your wedding is the appropriate response. Not a cavalier “lol nvm, bye”.

    • cupcakemuffin

      We found this out at the last minute too! We had asked our sisters to be witnesses, and then when we picked up the marriage certificate 2 days before the wedding realized there was no spot for them! Awkward and annoying — they should at least make the witness thing optional!!

      • idkmybffjill

        For real, man! We wanted our moms to do that and then were like, oops. For awhile we were like… maybe we could pretend? hahaha

    • rg223

      I feel like this was an honest mistake on your part, and as long as you were forthcoming about the situation, you’re fine!

  • Alicia C

    My husband didn’t even get asked. He got told. But whatever. Shes just being rude and I agree with Amys advice

  • Jewels

    Question for everyone – if you said to someone about a year ago you’d like them to be a bridemaid when the time came for your engagement (I will be getting engaged sometime this winter!) but you’ve lost touch over the past year, should you still honor that statement? My initial reaction is yes, but it kind of sucks since we aren’t super close anymore.

    • sofar

      Agree with your initial reaction. I’d honor it, assuming there was no falling out. Now, if you’d said this to her in high school, that’s different. But, since it’s just a year back, it’s borderline enough where you probably have to honor it or risk burning a bridge.

      I’ve had a lot of friendships that have periods of distance that then get closer again when our lives align. If you don’t ask her, you might risk ending the friendship completely.

      • Jewels

        Which I definitely don’t want to do because I love her dearly even though we have distance! I’m planning on reaching out to her again because I do miss her. Adult friendships are hard to maintain, especially when you don’t even live in the same state.

    • penguin

      By lost touch do you mean that she isn’t even someone you would invite at this point? Or do you just not talk as much as you used to? I’d lean towards saying you don’t have to ask her, considering that it was a year ago and you weren’t even engaged at that point, and you’re still not. By the time you DO get engaged, it’ll have been about 18 months since you talked to her about this.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      In addition to what penguin and sofar said, I’d add that it might be a good opportunity to reestablish the friendship, if that’s something you’re interested in doing. That could allow you to both honor the offer you made, and feel good about doing so.

      • Jewels

        She’s definitely someone I would invite!! So update – I ended up reaching out to her and we have a skype date planned! She was one of my close friends and I think life just got busy for us both. So hopefully this will serve as a good opportunity to reconnect and re establish our friendship:)

    • Amy March

      You weren’t even engaged so I say no (and also stop doing that!!!), but she may be hurt.

      • Jewels

        Well we thought we would be getting engaged this past spring but life happened so we had to push it back! So when i originally said that I thought we were only a few months away from getting engaged 😅 But I’m making it a point to reconnect with her now since I miss her a lot! (We live on basically opposites ends of the country so it’s hard to find time when we’re both so busy)

    • ManderGimlet

      A year is really not very long, so many things can happen and build up. Like others said, if there was no falling out and instead just a case of the “busy adults” absolutely honor that if you would still like her to be a bridesmaid. Sad to say it, but as you get older big events are one of the most surefire ways to keep/get back in touch with people who have drifted due to responsibilities, distance, etc. It seems crazy to pay so much per head to invite someone to your wedding you haven’t seen in a long time, but it can be worth it to have a chance to make new memories again.

      • Jewels

        Yeah it’s hard because we don’t even live in the same state, and kind of on opposite sides of the country now. so it’s basically a long distance friendship lol. But you’re right, she’s someone I love and it’s a great time to reconnect! I reached out to her and we have a skype date planned now:)

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  • I don’t really get how this wedding party is informal. The only way I can really conceive of an informal wedding party is where you basically say “anyone who wants to stand at the front with us on the day can” and maybe all your guests stand or maybe they don’t? As soon as you’re picking some people to stand (and thereby picking some people not to) you have a wedding party, and that’s sort of formal by default, even if everyone is wearing their own clothes and the couple host their own hen/stag/showers etc.