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Can you say no to being a bridesmaid or groomsman? Etiquette experts weigh in

It's an honor that comes with great responsibility. But is that enough of a reason to decline the bride or groom's offer?
Bridegroom With Bridesmaids
Michael Balaz / EyeEm via Getty Images

Weddings are a joyous occasion — but they can also be expensive and time-consuming.

Especially if you're part of the wedding party.

While there's no doubt that you want to be a part of the happy couple's special day, there may be some factors that prevent you from doing so.

According to a 2022 study by LendingTree, roughly one in five of the 2,100 consumers surveyed have declined an invitation to be a member of the wedding party because of the expenses associated with it.

But cost isn't even the half of it. Maybe you have a prior commitment, can't take time off of work, are pregnant or simply can't swing the steep costs associated with the wedding, all of which are valid reasons, according to etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts.

"Saying no is OK as long as it’s done gently and with good reason," Grotts tells "The power of 'no' is a very small word with large implications that often make us feel uncomfortable. But don’t fear it: It’s liberating and could make a difference in saving a friendship."

How to politely decline a bridesmaid or groomsman invitation

If, for one reason or another, you need to turn down their request, you should let the bride or groom know ASAP. "Don’t stall and make excuses when you know the final answer will be 'no,'" Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, tells

There's a chance that your answer isn't cut and dried, though. If that's the case, Gottsman recommends asking the bride or groom for some extra time to see if you can make it work with your budget, vacation schedule or prior engagements.

"You can say, 'I am honored by your request. May I have a few days to see if I can swing it?' No need to be specific with your reasons, but at least let them know you are doing some research to see if it works," Gottsman suggests.

While making your decision, Gottsman says to keep in mind that "if you have agreed to be in the wedding party, it will need to be an extreme emergency before you change your 'yes' to 'no.'"

There's a lot of emotional weight that comes with saying no. After all, the invitation itself is a testament of their love for you. So, how should you go about it? "Make it personal," Mariah Grumet, certified etiquette trainer and founder of Old Soul Etiquette, tells

"You want to begin and end on a positive note any time you have to decline a request," Grumet says. Then, follow Grumet's three steps to get your point across without hurting the bride or groom's feelings.

  1. Start by telling them how honored you were to be asked to play such a special role in their wedding. "Remind them how much they mean to you."
  2. Explain your reasoning without going into too much detail. "You want them have something valid to leave with, but remember this time is about them!"
  3. Optional, but highly recommended: Ask the bride or groom if there are any other ways you can be involved. "This may mean offering to stuff invitation envelopes, going with them to a follow-up appointment or perhaps even setting up the special day."

What to do if the bride or groom gets upset

Setting boundaries is hard enough as it is...and that's without you throwing the emotions and stress of wedding planning into the mix. That said, it's possible that the bride or groom will have an emotional reaction when you turn down their request.

If things escalate, you can always give them space and time to process your decision.

But if you approach the situation with compassion, you are more likely to be met with a loving response. Says Gottsman: "A good friend will not push or get offended if you are truthful and thoughtful with your response."