A friend has asked me to a bridesmaid in her lavish wedding, but the bridesmaid dresses, which we have to buy, cost a whopping $800…about as much as I pay for a month’s rent! I still want to attend her wedding, but now I’m thinking I would rather go as a guest. It’s not that I don’t want to spend the money; it’s that I can’t. I need to save money since I’m trying to pay for grad school later in the fall. Is there a way I can back out of being a bridesmaid without hurting her feelings?
Bridesmaid in Distress
I’m guessing this wedding isn’t right around the corner? If you’ve already agreed to be a bridesmaid, sat on the promise for months, and the grand event is less than a few weeks away, you can’t rightfully back out. Timing does matter here, especially if you’re concerned with keeping the friendship intact. If, however, this isn’t the last minute, there are a few things to keep in mind when making a graceful retreat:
You Don’t Have To Do This
Assuming that you are giving the bride fair notice, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice your finances to be a bridesmaid. An $800 dress that you’ll wear for half a day is awfully steep—especially if you have a major financial goal to reach, like paying for graduate school. (Note to brides: Consider your maids’ financial situations before requiring them to buy a dress that costs more than $200.)
Give Notice As Soon As Possible
As soon as possible, let her know (gently) about your financial bind. The goal is not to make her feel so bad that she offers to pay for your dress. Tell her that you’ve thought long and hard about this and that it breaks your heart, but you unfortunately cannot afford to be her bridesmaid. Explain that you are headed to grad school in a matter of months, and that you hope she understands.
Blame Outside Factors
Make it less about the exorbitant price of the dress and more about the fact that you simply don’t have the money to be a member of the bridal party. Blame grad school. Blame your small (but, I hope, growing) savings account. Make the resignation about you, not her.
Be Sensitive To Her Feelings
That said, her feelings may be hurt, at least initially. That’s why it’s very important that you emphasize the truth. At the same time, do let her know how honored you are that she wanted to include you in her special day and how deeply heartbroken you are. Mention that you’ll, of course, still attend and do everything you can to be there for her.
Find Another Way To Show You Care
Some cost-free ways to still be a big help on her wedding day: Arrive early to help set up flower arrangements or pass out programs. Put together a scrapbook of all your times together, or give her a call the night before to let her know you’re proud of her and can’t wait to see her tomorrow. Showing that you really care can go a long way to prove that it’s not personal. It’s just a matter of means.
If she’s really a friend, she should understand your reasons—and know that it wasn’t easy for you to make the decision that you did.
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