Social Graces: Can you turn down a bride or groom without losing a friend?

Wedding party rejection

Being asked to be in the wedding party can be a difficult request to decline without offending the bride and groom.

(Nico Hermann / Getty Images/Westend61)
Chicago Tribune

Q: How do you tell someone you don’t want to be a bridesmaid or groomsman?

•Kristen Maxwell Cooper, deputy editor of bridal website The Knot:

Cooper said honesty is the best policy — especially quick candor.

“Nobody wants to get to the wedding day and feel disappointed one way or another,” she said. “If you know you need to turn down the offer, make sure to let the couple, the bride and groom, know immediately.”


If the problem’s financial, say that. Weddings have gotten much more expensive, she noted, and it’s OK to be honest about any financial restraints you’re under.

She suggested volunteering for another task: “Maybe you can read a ceremony passage or help out at the reception.”

A tougher task for honesty is when the reason is emotional — you were surprised to get the offer, you don’t feel close with the person, you don’t approve of the union.

“Say it’s something that you just don’t feel comfortable doing, you don’t feel like you can really put in the time and effort that they deserve,” she said.


Dr. Ben Michaelis, clinical psychologist and author of “Your Next Big Thing: Ten Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy” (Wolf Street Press):

“There are a couple of ways to tackle this, but both of them start with an acknowledgment of the magnitude of the ask,” Michaelis said, suggesting something like, “Thank you so much for considering me for such an honor on your special day. I am truly touched.”

Then follow with your regrets. “Almost everyone can understand and respect the idea that money can be tight. Even if it’s hard to express, it should be easy for them to understand.”

He admits that it’s trickier without money being a clear, unemotional excuse.

“I recommend a sideways approach to letting them down. After you tell them that you are truly honored, you might want to try something like, ‘I appreciate what a big deal this is for you, and I would love to be up there with you on your special day. However, I’m concerned that I am not in the right head space to be there for you.’

Maybe even, he added, suggest a replacement. “If you can explain why you think that other person would be a better fit, you should be home free.”

Social Graces is a weekly series asking two experts for advice on handling awkward life situations.


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