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What really happens when you say 'no' to being a bridesmaid


Bride and bridemaids side by side holding flower bouquets

Bride and bridemaids side by side holding flower bouquets

Getty Images/Image Source

Bride and bridemaids side by side holding flower bouquets

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is a wonderful feeling.

I, myself have had this honor twice in my life before the age of 30 and both brides and weddings couldn't have been more different.

What remains the common thread between both experiences is the duty bestowed on the bridesmaid. I took the role quite seriously - we planned and celebrated her engagement at every opportunity and in a way, never stopped.

She wasn't your copy and paste bride and we had a lot of fun making our own traditions and memories that fitted her and her other half authentically. She really inspired me to not buckle or conform when my own time comes and to celebrate when and how we want to.

The second time was different. My future sister in-law asked, I was blown away and so flattered that she considered me so close and a part of my partner's family, that I accepted with genuine enthusiasm for all the amazing moments we would share ahead.

This bride was a true romantic and very traditional, unlike myself, but each step of the way I supported and indulged, to make her feel wonderful right up to her big day.

Everything from her hen to organising dress fittings, crisis management and little gifts here and there, to make her feel like the only woman in the world to walk up the aisle went beyond the job description.

It was instinctual for me to give her the most amazing few months ahead of tying the knot.

Now you've found it's your turn to pop the question, but what happens when the bridesmaid says no? Cue the internal cringe...

We spoke to three Irish women who turned down their friend's offer to stand beside them on their wedding day.

Kelly* from Wicklow

''I’ve never been a bridesmaid, ever. I have no sisters and any of my pals who are married have done the whole low key, no fuss kinda thing, so when my future sister-in-law asked me to be bridesmaid at her wedding I was completely taken aback, and really, really touched, but I had to say no.

"First things first, it’s not a reflection on her- I truly love my sister-in-law and after 10 years of courtship with my brother, I consider her a true member of our family. But it’s just myself and my brother.

"How could I miss the night before and morning of his wedding? He hasn't lived at home for years but there was something about being together that morning that I really didn’t want to miss.

"Plus, if I’m being honest, he’s my younger brother and if I’m going to my younger brother’s wedding on my own, I will be looking my absolute best in a dress of my choosing!

"My sister-in-law took it really well, but I was surprised that my brother was a little put out that I wouldn’t be involved. In the end I did a reading and had one of the best days ever. 

"On the up-side, now that I said no to my brother, I have the perfect excuse to say no to everyone else as well!"

Sinead* from Dublin

''I had just found out my partner and I needed to plan for a baby due to underlying fertility issues. With IVF comes so many ups and downs so we didn't want to tell anyone we were trying as it was all so new and uncertain.

"A friend of mine in our group asked us all to be bridesmaids over dinner one night. Naturally the other three squealed with excitement and accepted on the spot. All eyes turned to me and I asked to think about it.

"I didn't know if I would be pregnant or with a newborn by the time she got married and just didn't want anymore stress about backing out later, on top of a deeply emotional time. 

"The group's attitude shifted very quickly and I was villainized for not cartwheeling across the restaurant. We actually no longer speak as a direct result.

"Given the harsh reception I received, I'd no ambition about telling the bride or any of those women what was really going on behind the scenes.''

Tina* from Kildare

 ''My one is a little more awkward than a straight no. My boyfriend's sister asked me to be one of her [many] bridesmaids one night after a lot of wine at a family get together. A little tipsy and quite frankly shocked she even thought of me that way, I accepted. 

"In the months that followed it wasn't mentioned again. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was only in the run up to her hen party I realised I'd been benched!

"It was very awkward as one of her friends kept asking me if I was involved with the wedding. That was three years ago and has never been addressed since.

"Safe to say she won't be asked when it's my turn, as it really changed the dynamic of our relationship.''

*Names have been changed.

Online Editors