4/15 Broke-Ass Advice: How to Deal with a Barely There Bridesmaid

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It’s a fact of wedding planning that people are the second-most unpredictable variable (weather is the first!). There will always be someone who doesn’t do or say what you’re expecting or hoping, and it can be extremely frustrating when it’s someone close to you. 

Every now and then it’s a bridesmaid that seems to go rogue, not following The Plans as you have so carefully laid them out. So how do you get said bridesmaid back on Team Bride? Or do you just give her the boot? Here’s today’s reader question: 

Hi BAB goddesses,

I have a concern that one of my bridesmaids may not actually want to be in the wedding. In the time since I asked her to be a bridesmaid, she got engaged and married (I was not asked to be in her wedding, nor was that addressed at all, leaving me a bit hurt and quite bewildered). She seems to be in good spirits about my wedding, but isn’t really involved: I got a discount code for the gals’ dresses on a partner site if they bought within a two-week window, which she missed; she shows up late or not at all for my shower or a bridal party get-together. I have about 5 1/2 months till my wedding and don’t know how to approach this topic with her, but it’s starting to make me anxious. She’s one of my long-time friends, but I’m getting such mixed signals; is there a smooth way to say “would you rather be a guest?”

Thank you!


Nervous Nellie


Dear Nellie,

Yikes, that’s a toughie! The way I see it, you have at least four options — I’ll get to those in a minute, but first, a few things to consider:

Are you still feeling upset about not being in your friend’s wedding? 

Is your friend struggling with new married expenses and responsibilities? (Or is post-wedding money just really tight?) 

Is there anything else going on in your friend’s life that might require her attention (house, kids, health issues, family concerns … )?

Is your concern about her actions, or about how those actions make you feel (i.e. like she’s not excited about your wedding)?

What is her role in the wedding? Does she need to do more than just show up on the wedding day?

Do you want your friend to be in your wedding, or are you having second thoughts about asking her?

The context of your friend’s actions (or lack thereof) — and your reactions — will help you to determine the best course. Take a deep breath and figure out what it is you need in order to feel better about the situation, and then make your decision.

So here are your four main options: 

1. Rip Off The Bandage. If you’ve already decided that this bridesmaid has to go (despite being a bestie), then it’s best to do it sooner than later. Let your friend know that you understand she has a lot going on, but it’s stressing you out that she’s not on the ball with the stuff you know she knows she needs to do (after all, she just did all of it recently herself). Be gentle in your delivery and make sure she understands that you’re not mad at her or ending the friendship — and you’d still love for her to attend as your guest — you just need a ship-shape Team Bride so you can focus on All The (Other) Wedding Things. 

2. Let Her Decide. Have a sit-down with your bridesmaid and ask her what’s new. She’s your friend, so it should be easy to show genuine interest and concern in the things going on in her life. Don’t even mention the wedding at first. Let her tell you in her own words what’s on her mind. Listen carefully to what she’s saying and put yourself in her shoes (where you will be in a few months). If you hear anything that might explain what’s going on, ask her if any of that makes it difficult for her to be a bridesmaid right now, and if she’d feel better about it if she stepped down from the role and attended as a guest. You could offer her a different way to be involved (usher, programs, reader, honorary bridesmaid without any responsibilities, etc.), and/or invite her to still participate in the wedding festivities (bachelorette party, shower, etc.) so she doesn’t feel left out. (But then make it clear that it’s on her to respond, pay, show up and whatever other responsibilities come with those events.) It’s up to you whether or not you want to offer any of those options, but it can help to soften the blow — and it’s a way to keep your close friend involved. If she says she does still want to participate as a bridesmaid, don’t feel guilty about asking her for better communication and timely action to ease your anxious mind.

3. Assign A Handler. I’m assuming you have more than one bridesmaid, and if so, you can assign the Maid of Honor or another bridesmaid to the task of wrangling your flighty friend. Ideally no one should have to micromanage other friends/bridesmaids, but if it has to be done, why not ask a responsible friend (pretty please?!?) to help with that?

4. Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? So your friend missed a discount — it’s her money, right? And if she doesn’t show up for an event (apart from the wedding day, of course!), will it really affect you? Yes, you’ll miss her, but you’re the guest of honor, the wedding will go on and unless she has a job to do during the event, the only loss is her presence. (Hint: Don’t give important wedding jobs to flighty friends or family!) If you’re able to find a way to let go of your anxiety over what this bridesmaid does or doesn’t do, you could let her remain in the wedding party and just hakuna matata-it.

Regardless of which you decide, you may still want to have a heart-to-heart with your absentee bridesmaid. She probably has no idea how her behavior is affecting you. Tell her that you care about her and whatever is going on in her life, and then appeal to the part of her that you know can sympathize with your experience, as a recent newlywed herself. Tell her how anxious it makes you feel to not be able to count on her as a bridesmaid, and how her lack of enthusiasm makes you feel. You’ll get the information you need in her replies to determine whether to keep her on as a bridesmaid, to cut her loose, or to let it go and go with the flow.

Party on!

How have you dealt with a flighty wedding party member? Do you have any tips for Nervous Nellie?

Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio? Here’s where you can find me for wedding planning assistance.

Lisa Paladin is the owner of Event Plan-It, a wedding planning and design company located in The Heart of It All. Lisa loves helping creative couples to plan EPIC weddings without any highway robbery, and believes there is no such thing as too much glitter. Or color. Or animal print. Lisa is a volunteer cat/kitten foster mom, a collector of neon things, an Argentine Malbec aficionado, a treehugger, a dabbler in all things crafty and a word nerd (despite excessive use of exclamation points and parenthetical statements). Follow Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, or email Lisa at info (at) eventplanit (dot) com about your Cleveland wedding or The Walking Dead.
  • Katy Baranoski

    I was in a wedding a couple summers ago where the bride assumed I was being flighty without asking about anything that was going on in my life. I was super excited for her wedding AND to be in her wedding, but I was trying to finish my last semester of college and was dealing with some health issues all at the same time, so I couldn’t be there for EVERY planning session or EVERY time she needed a shoulder to cry on. Instead of having a heart to heart with me, she exploded on me about how I wasn’t there for her as a friend or bridesmaid and how she couldn’t bear to have me in the wedding because “I clearly didn’t support her marriage” and on and on. I was really hurt by all of that and it could have been avoided if she had just talked to me instead of assuming I didn’t care about her.

    • Yep, Katy, it’s easy to get swept up in wedding stuff and forget that life goes on for others around us. Thanks for chiming in with your experience – it’s so helpful to hear!

  • For my first wedding, two of my bridesmaids dropped out — one of which did so because of family stuff and a good amount of communication. The other? Poof! Disappeared into thin air. It hurt me unbelievably, and put permanent damage on our relationship — especially as she resurfaced a year later acting as though nothing ever happened.

    My best advice is to communicate clearly from the outset — as in, when you ask her — what your expectations are, and allow her time to really consider if she’s going to be able to meet your expectations. Life happens, and you need to be understanding of that, too, but there has got to be clear communication between you and anyone involved in your wedding. Your friends may be your besties, but they aren’t mind-readers, and they may not know that a missed event here or there is really getting under your skin. Likewise, since they’re your besties, be sure to treat them as such and inquire about their lives (as Lisa stated) because they may be holding back so as not to rain on your parade. Don’t fly into any conversation with guns a-blazin’, as that will do more harm than good. Grab a bottle of bubbly and have a nice evening together, but don’t dive right into the hard talks. And realize, please, that as long as she’s by your side on your wedding day, all the rest won’t matter. And this is something you’ll really realize after all’s said and done — it can sometimes be hard to see the trees through the forest.

    Best of luck! xoox