Rarely does a bride-to-be get rejected when she asks one of her friends to be in the wedding. But does it totally violate etiquette rules to say no if asked to be a bridesmaid? The short answer: No, it doesn't. There are certainly circumstances that free you to gracefully decline, and one of those is simply being a mother.
The (Short) History of Bridesmaids
We can trace the origin of bridesmaids all the way back to Genesis, the first book in the Bible, and the story of Jacob in which his two wives were attended by their handmaidens. The role of bridesmaids has evolved in drastic ways over the years. In ancient Rome and feudal China, the women who assisted the bride were actually in considerable danger. They dressed like the bride and essentially acted as body doubles to protect the bride from kidnappers and evil spirits. In 1840, Queen Victoria and her bridesmaids all wore white gowns and were esteemed as paragons of grace and fertility, thus popularizing white gowns for both brides and bridesmaids.
Now, bridesmaids are in far less danger and can often wear whatever style (and often whatever color) dress they want. Rather than being servants or decoys, they are typically close friends of the bride and certainly no longer have to be maidens to fulfill this role. It may still make more sense, though, for bridesmaids to be single women.
Mothering and Bridesmaiding
The reality is that motherhood does involve sacrificing some things that you used to be able to easily do. When you have children – especially young children that are still very much dependent on you – things like taking solo trips can be very difficult (or even seem near impossible) for you, your spouse, and your children. While it no longer entails a perilous journey to the groom’s town, being a bridesmaid often involves planning and/or attending a bachelorette party or weekend, a rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and a full day of preparations for the actual wedding (girls only!). None of this is impossible with children, but it certainly becomes more of a juggling act.
This becomes even more difficult when you have an infant (especially one who is exclusively breastfed), children with special needs, or multiple children. Even if you manage to figure out all the logistics of travel and being apart from your little ones (or bringing them with you), you may still struggle with being mentally present to the bride and all of the festivities.
On a practical level, it’s more helpful for the bride to have those girls around her who can actually do all the things.
It Might Be Better To Say No
While you may feel like you need to just figure it all out and stand beside your friend on her big day, you might be doing her more of a favor by saying no. A bride does want her best friends to share in her day. On a practical level, though, it’s more helpful for her to have those girls around her who can actually do all the things. Unmarried friends are far more available to travel for the bachelorette weekend, dash off to the final dress fitting on short notice, pick up a stranded bridesmaid at the airport 30 minutes before the rehearsal starts, party with the bridal party the night before the wedding, and be totally available for all of those little requests on the actual day.
But How Do You Decline?
So, yes, you certainly can say no to being a bridesmaid. However, it’s important that you do so gracefully. If your friend pops the big question to you and the thought of trying to breastfeed your baby while wearing an Azazie gown is overwhelming, be honest. Tell her that you’re overjoyed that she’s marrying the love of her life and that you want her day to be everything she’s imagined since she was a little girl. Thank her for wanting to include you (because it truly is an honor to be asked to be a part of such a momentous occasion), but explain that, because of your state in life, you don’t think you can fulfill all the duties of a bridesmaid. Let her know that you would love to support her in other ways.
She may tell you that she wants you to be a bridesmaid in whatever capacity you are able (even if it means skipping the bach weekend and bringing the baby along with you to the ceremony). Or she may thank you for your honesty and ask you to be a part of the day in a different way. So long as you express your regret with love, sincerity, and total transparency, a good friend will be completely understanding and unoffended.
Make Her Feel Special in Other Ways
Even if you’re not going to be standing by your friend at the altar, you can still make her feel special in other ways. Maybe you can’t attend the bachelorette weekend in Napa Valley, but you can pay for her spa day or send a care package of charcuterie and other treats for everyone to enjoy. You can offer to host her bridal shower. You can treat her to brunch and a mani/pedi the week before the wedding and gab about all things marriage-related. You can lend her “something borrowed” or gift her something new or blue. And you can always, always just check in on her during the months of wedding preparations to see how she’s doing (because we guarantee you, she’s going to be stressed).
As a mom, you may be feeling that your season of being a bridesmaid has passed, and that’s okay. You can still support your bride-to-be besties in other ways that make them feel just as loved. At the end of the day, doing what’s best for your family will be what’s best for everyone, and your friend will still have the wedding of her dreams.
Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.