How to Say “I Don’t” (Want to Be in Your Wedding)

January 13, 2011 | By | Comments (1)

My own wedding was perfect. Of course, we ran out of quiche halfway through the reception, and come to think of it, some relatives got into loud fights…and half the guests missed the ceremony because they were in a traffic jam on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. 

Luckily, I wasn’t Wedding party cropped 1 aware of any glitches at the time. How would I be? I was a bride, floating around the room in a Glenda the Good Witch dress while everybody hugged and congratulated me and said I looked beautiful. I bring up this story because lately I’ve been hearing from readers who are worried about wedding etiquette.

Of course you are. A wedding is our culture’s most portentous social occasion, the one fraught with the most emotion, and there’s always a higher risk of offending when sentiment runs high. So I understand why readers like Hatton2be are agonizing over whether it’s rude to invite shower guests who won’t be asked to the wedding and why Trillian72 worries it could be a mortal offense to RSVP “no” to a ceremony after verbally promising to attend.

The details seem so important—before the wedding. But on the big day? What I remember is looking at my husband, after it was all over, and how we both blurted out simultaneously, “Getting married was a great idea!” 


What matters, in the end, is marrying the right person, for the right reasons. The rest is a momentary distraction.

With that in mind, the way to navigate past social pitfalls is with honesty and heart-felt declarations about your warm feelings. Yes, Hatton2be, you can invite shower guests who won’t be at your intimate “destination wedding.” Just explain, ahead of time, the reason you chose to have a 30-guest, out-of-town ceremony—and emphasize that a shower will be an opportunity to share your joy with a wider circle. And Trillian72, you need to say, as soon as possible, that while an unforeseen schedule conflict will make it impossible for you to attend, you are looking forward to seeing the wedding photos. (And send a gift early.)

A slightly trickier dilemma is one that JoAnn793 wrote to describe:

I have been a bridesmaid more times than I want to remember. Now well, well into my 40’s and still single (never been married), I have decided that my bridesmaid days are over. Or are they? I heard recently that a younger (no less) family member is thinking of asking me to be in her bridal party. I’m still licking my wounds from my last bridesmaid experience. Even though I appear to be an independent, confident and happy single person, who I basically am, I also long to be a bride and be married, and it hurts to be so closely involved in other people’s weddings. How do I graciously decline a request to be a bridesmaid without hurting the bride’s feelings? I want to be as honest as I can about the reasons.

You can handle this fine, JoAnn793. While I would never turn down an offer to be a bridesmaid — frankly, I think I look pretty good in lime-colored taffeta — it is not a command performance. 

The reason hardly anyone ever says no is because being asked is an honor that’s typically not offered lightly. It usually means the bride considers you a core part of her new life. But if she is close enough to ask you, you should feel close enough to her to explain your reasons for refusing, especially since it has nothing to do with her and everything to do with you. Emphasize how excited you are for her, and how much you look forward to sharing her happiness…just not as someone who has to walk down the aisle on public display. 

So, what do you think? Can you suggest other ways for Hatton2be, Trillian72 and JoAnn793 to handle these situations? And… have you ever turned down a chance to be a bridesmaid?

(image courtesy of Digital Sextant, via flickr)