Annie Roseman, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
It’s always okay for you to say no when you can’t, or just don’t want to, do something. Weddings are more expensive than ever, so most people would understand if you can’t afford it. However, brides are not "most people," at least not in the days and weeks leading up to the Big Day. It’s understandable, as our culture has mythologized weddings to be almost more valuable than the marriage. As a result, price tags have gone up and so have expectations — everything needs to be “perfect.”
Now, if your friend’s idea of perfect includes having you stand next to her all day in an itchy green dress, then just know that your withdrawal could cause hurt feelings. Wedding planning can be a very stressful time when relationships and priorities are put to the test, but it is possible to back out with minimal damage.
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Step 1: Tell her now. Like delivering any bad news, it’s going to be uncomfortable, but dragging your feet isn’t doing her any favors. Event planning has a lot of moving parts, and she needs to know if you can’t commit; after all, newlyweds take commitment very seriously! As much as you might want to avoid conflict, she wants to avoid having one of the groomsmen pull any electric slide shenanigans while walking down the aisle solo. Be a friend, so she can make adjustments ASAP.
Step 2: Tell her the truth. As long as you are authentic and honest in your reason for declining, you can avoid making this a bigger deal than it needs to be. Don’t anger the karma gods and claim your uncle is sick. What if your uncle ends up being the stripper cop at the bachelorette party? Then you’ll be doubly embarrassed. But, be prepared: If you claim financial strain, she may just offer to help you out. There are two major points you want to make clear: One, explain that the personal and financial commitment attached to your sister was enormous; Two, you can't wait to celebrate her special day, but only as a guest. This will show that you care about what is most important to her and that you haven't turned her wedding day into anything about you.
Step 3: Reinforce the friendship. There’s no need to explain that you don’t think you’re that close. She obviously thinks highly of you, so respect her opinion and respond in kind. Tell her how truly honored you were to be asked and that you will make sure that her sister doesn’t get too drunk and the dance floor will never be empty, but that you’d hate to say yes and not be able to fulfill all the responsibilities of the role. Be gracious, be genuine, and be happy for her, and you’ll be fine.
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