How (and should) I gracefully back out of being a bridesmaid?
May 17, 2014 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I agreed to be a bridesmaid for a friend who wants her bridesmaids to be a lot more present (physically) than I am going to be able to in the lead-up to the wedding. What do I do now?

I agreed to be a bridesmaid a month ago, before I knew what the dates were going to look like (my fault.) I got an email earlier this week with the dates, and, um...
As bridesmaids, I need you to be at all of these events, so please make sure you get the time off now so you're able to participate in all the fun!
The dress-shopping excursion has already happened, and she knew I couldn't attend that (and was fine with it/has been coordinating with me on when/how to buy my dress.) The other events (bridal shower, bachelorette party, oddly enough no set rehearsal date?) are spread over the course of a month. I don't have the money to fly back and forth repeatedly, and I don't have the vacation time to leave work for a month. As it is, making both the bachelorette party and the wedding (two weeks apart) is something I will try to swing but can't guarantee in any way.

Obviously, the first step is going to have to be calling my friend and hashing out exactly what expectations there are and whether I can do them at all. I'm looking for advice on how to make that conversation go as smoothly as possible, minimizing hurt feelings or stress. I've read this previously for ideas on things I can do to be involved without physically being there, but if it is really important to her to have a bridal party that can be around and doing things in the lead-up...well, I'm not going to be able to give her that. I figured I'd also offer to buy the dress for a back-up bridesmaid, if that winds up having to be a thing, since the social dress-shopping event already happened and it'd make it a little easier to find someone to step in if there's already a dress paid-for.

I'm pretty out of my depth here. The only other wedding I've "been in" was my father and stepmother's, which consisted of going with them to the courthouse, signing the witness form, and taking some pictures. Hope me.
posted by kagredon to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You aren't obligated to fly repeatedly over the course of a month. That would be pretty crazy, actually. This doesn't mean that your friend doesn't have this expectation, but there's no code of social appropriateness that would require this of you. I think your plan of talking to her about this is a good one. It could very well be that she knows that you can't make all of these things, but is including you in the circle of correspondence to make sure that you feel involved and invited. In any case, a frank discussion can get to the bottom of this quickly. A good friend would be understanding of you only being able to fly in once.

In terms of advice, just be honest: "Hey, I need you to know how much I want to be there for you, but I can only realistically fly in once, maybe twice. Is this going to put you out? If so, are there other ways I can be supportive?"
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:03 PM on May 17, 2014 [21 favorites]

I would send an email along these lines:

"Hey, friend, I was just looking at this schedule, and I thought I should let you know I won't be able to make most of them. As much as I'd love to be there for all of it, I only have a limited amount of money to travel with and vacation time I can take. If that's a problem for you, let me know, and I'll gracefully step aside from bridesmaid duties, no hard feelings. Love, kagredon."
posted by Andrhia at 4:12 PM on May 17, 2014 [37 favorites]

Andrhia has it, exactly.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:13 PM on May 17, 2014

Best answer: Look, since your friend was chill about your missing the dress shopping, there's a good chance that she'll be understanding about your inability to devote your whole life & budget to her wedding. If not, then I'd seriously question how good a friend she actually is.

SpacemanStix has the right script, and her response will tell you a lot. If it's really just that she loves you and wants you around, you can offer to call her or Skype in for the bridal shower. If it's a dealbreaker for your being a bridesmaid, then you'll be dodging a bullet anyway.

I figured I'd also offer to buy the dress for a back-up bridesmaid

Nooooo. No, do not do this, do not do this under any circumstances. If she needs a backup bridesmaid, she can figure it out, or she can just have one fewer and life will go on. If you offer to buy the dress for the "backup" bridesmaid, you build on this narrative where you're somehow a guilty party for not meeting your friend's unreasonable expectations. Don't do that.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 4:14 PM on May 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: To clarify: there was a window earlier in the process where I was supposed to call and talk about dates, and I kind of blew past that because of external stress/work things. So any kind of guilt that might be coming through in the question is less about not being able to make all of the events (which is not really in my control anyway), and more about not being proactive in figuring this out earlier and potentially introducing extra wedding-planning headaches.
posted by kagredon at 4:19 PM on May 17, 2014

Andrhia and SpacemanStix both have great scripts.

It's only been a month, so now's a great time to clarify the bride's expectations about your physical presence and you can absolutely back out now if you have to without feeling like you need to throw any money at the problem. She's got plenty of time to make other arrangement, if she decides that's what she wants, without having to pay for rush fees for the dress, deposits on hotel rooms, etc. Don't take an unnecessary financial hit yourself out of guilt.
posted by jaguar at 4:20 PM on May 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

there was a window earlier in the process where I was supposed to call and talk about dates, and I kind of blew past that

Even if you had called, I doubt she was going to schedule the shower, bachelorette party, and wedding all over the course of one week. To attend all these events, you were going to have to fly multiple times, which is why it's slightly ridiculous for her to announce that any out-of-town bridesmaids are "expected" at all these events. Figure out if she's serious about required attendance, and if she is, bow out.
posted by jaguar at 4:23 PM on May 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

there was a window earlier in the process where I was supposed to call and talk about dates

She was just as responsible as you to make sure that you knew the dates and could work with them.

Don't worry too much about it or feel too guilty. Just have the convo, stick to your boundaries and be polite.
posted by bunderful at 4:25 PM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone else and would just add don't offer to buy a "backup dress." That's not your responsibility, and chances are another person isn't going to be your size anyway. This is plenty early to just get it figured out and she can choose someone else without a problem.

I've been in quite a few weddings, and none of the brides has ever expected the bridesmaids to fly in for any dates other than the wedding. If she wants that, fine, but that would be an unusual request that *she* needs to be the one to figure out a work-around for.
posted by leitmotif at 4:34 PM on May 17, 2014

Best answer: Don't offer to buy a dress for the back-up bridesmaid. Because, seriously, nobody wants to be the known as the backup bridesmaid, and there's no way for the bride to say 'Hey, so, you're clearly not in my top X choices for bridesmaid, since I didn't pick you as one of my X choices, but since one of those people dropped out and is willing to shell our for the dress, how about it?"
posted by jacquilynne at 4:50 PM on May 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

The rehearsal date would typically be the day before the wedding so that one should be easy to attend. (unless, they're doing something wacky, but I've never heard of a rehearsal being any other time.)
posted by vespabelle at 4:59 PM on May 17, 2014

Actually, the missing-of-a-date is probably a perfect opening gambit - "Hey. yeah, I feel really bad about not having gotten back to you about [schmeh], it was work just being really crazy. But that also got me thinking...." and then you proceed with the scripts as written.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:33 PM on May 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Just call and apologize while saying you have to back out; it's still way early in the process, so it shouldn't be a problem --- and I say CALL because this'll go over better in a phone call than an email. (And add me as another vote for no, you don't owe any kind of 'backup' dress!)

One other thing to consider: if she's this much of a bridezilla this early, it boggles the mind to wonder how she'll be when it comes to the actual wedding!
posted by easily confused at 2:59 AM on May 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

There are two possibilities here. Either she doesn't expect you to fly in multiple times for various wedding-related events, or she does. If the former no problem: a quick conversation will clear this up. If the latter her expectations are way out of whack, and you'll need to gracefully bow out.

This is probably better as a phone conversation but I think e-mail would be okay if it's your preference. I'd phrase it something like this: "Wanted to check in because we never had our call about dates. I'm assuming you don't need me to fly in for the pre-wedding events. If you do, or if there's a particular event it's important for you that I be at, just let me know."

If she replies saying she'd love you to be at everything but understands if you can't be, no problem. If she pushes back, then just tell her you can't do it, but you'll happily step down with no hard feelings. I don't think you should feel the need to apologise or explain or feel bad. This isn't about money or time off work -- in my view, it's about appropriateness. If you live in a different city, far enough away that you need to fly, it would be presumptuous to expect you to come back multiple times for someone else's special-to-them life event. You're not her mother or her sister or even her best friend.

(It strikes me that her assumptions about this are maybe a little out-of-date. A month of face-to-face festivities might have made sense in an era in which people tended to stay in their home towns. But today, it just seems inconsiderate. If the other bridesmaids are also living elsewhere, she is probably getting pushback from multiple people. If it's only you, hopefully she's just being a little thoughtless and will realize it as soon as you raise the issue.)

Good luck!
posted by Susan PG at 12:34 PM on May 18, 2014

Response by poster: Talked to the bride today and she was very understanding of my possibly only making the rehearsal and wedding (and told me that they were possibly looking at a reschedule for the bachelorette party as is, and goodbyewaffles's great idea of Skyping in on big dates came up as well.) Thanks for all of the advice and support.
posted by kagredon at 7:06 PM on May 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

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