How to fire a bridesmaid

Guestpost by Little Red Lupine on May. 20th

When it comes to dealing with drama, Little Red Lupine (aka Kirsten, the former Community Manager of the Offbeat Bride Tribe) has held thousands of brides' hands as they work through it. Here's her advice on one particularly thorny issue…

Yes, firing a bridesmaid sounds shitty. Honestly, it usually feels pretty shitty. There are lots of different reasons that a bridesmaid just might not work out — some that are high drama (like a fight or a friendship ending) and some that aren't quite as emotional (life situation changes, unexpected illness or injury). Regardless, it still sucks. And it isn't just bridesmaids. Maybe it's a bridesdude, a groomswoman, a groomsman, or anyone who you asked to stand up with you at your wedding.

If you're in this situation, there are probably a lot of feels. And we all know that when there are strong feelings, it can be way easy to say or do something you might regret. If you're having issues with a wedding party member to the degree where you want to ask them to step down, you really need to keep your cool and just make it through with minimal damage. You also need to carefully consider your own responsibilities in the situation, and take ownership for your own issues.

Think about why you asked them in the first place

Were you expecting your bridesmaid to be a henchwoman? Were you asking because of what they mean to you? Do you feel like you owe them because you were in their wedding party? Is there history you want to respect? You asked them, so you must have had some reason… but maybe you aren't really clear on what it was, or maybe it wasn't the best reason. When you take the time to examine your own motivations, you may be able to better understand the role that you've played in things falling apart.

Consider exactly why you think it might be time to fire them

Make sure you really understand your reasoning. Are they not living up to your expectations? (Do they even know what their expectations are?) Are you no longer friends? Do you want to do this for their sake due to finances, time availability, or health considerations? Then think about how this compares with why you asked them in the first place.

As much as possible, try to focus on the actions you have taken — it's easy to blame other people, but it's much more difficult to look at how your choices contributed to a rough situation. If someone's not meeting your expectations, is there a chance you were unclear or they misunderstood? Be honest with yourself.

Talk to them

Note that I said talk. I know it can feel way easier to send an email or text but trust me, on the Offbeat Bride Tribe, I've seen how even the best-intended emails can play out — and it's infrequently well. You may be angry or hurt (and here are some tips for communicating when hurt or angry), and you may say something you will regret. Or they may misunderstand something you typed.

You need to have a conversation if at all possible — preferably in person, and definitely in private. Here are some things to talk about:

  • If you're undecided about them remaining in the wedding party, ask them about their feelings. Find out what's going on for them. If they haven't been responding to messages about the wedding, it may be because something has come up in their life that you don't know about. Listen carefully.
  • Talk openly about your concerns. Again, take full ownership for the role you have played in miscommunications and mis-aligned expectations. Apologize if you weren't clear about expectations, or had unreasonable expectations that don't line up with their availability or resources.
  • Be sure to emphasize that you asked them to be a bridesmaid because they are important to you.
  • Don't be a dick. Stay open-hearted and patient. Think of this as information-gathering. There are no wrong answers. Don't cast judgment on any feelings that come up. Just listen, and learn. Most importantly, take responsibility for your own role in things going awry. Yes, she might have fucked up royally… but even if your take-away is just "I should have been more thoughtful in making my original decision," there's almost always a lot for YOU to learn in conversations like this.

In talking, you may learn that your bridesmaid is actually looking for a way out. You won't know until you talk to her.

Sometimes, you just have to end it

Ok. You examined your own original motivations and potential mis-steps. You talked to them open-heartedly. You listened. You learned. And it's clear: this is not going to work.

If you know it's not going to work, then it's in everyone's best interests to ask your bridesmaid to step down. Now obviously, if you want to remain friends with them, you need to be as respectful and loving as possible — even as you're asking them to step down from being a bridesmaid. Even if you've realized that a friendship is over, you still need to act with integrity.

Here are ways to word a difficult message:

I asked you to be my bridesmaid because you are super important to me. You will always be important to me… but at this point, I'd rather you be a guest at my wedding than a bridesmaid. I feel like we're not lining up on our ideas about you being a bridesmaid, and want us to be able to both enjoy my wedding together — and it feels like having you attend as a guest is the best way to do that.
I love you and I know your life is really busy right now with _____. I really want to support you in being able to focus on that, and so let's just have you come to my wedding as a guest instead of as a bridesmaid.
This is emotional and hard, but I guess I'm just going to rip off the band-aid: I want you to come to my wedding as a guest, and not as a bridesmaid. This was a really rough decision, and I totally understand if you're upset with me. I hope you can understand why I made this choice, but I understand if you're mad or frustrated.

Unless you're ending the friendship, it can be helpful to talk to your former bridesmaid about other future plans. Even if it's just "Let's get drinks next week," it can be hugely reassuring to know that just because being a bridesmaid isn't working out, doesn't mean the relationship needs to be over.

The goal with any difficult conversation is to take responsibility for yourself, and communicate with integrity and maturity. It can be easy to try to externalize it when bridesmaids don't work out, but ultimately this is your choice, and your responsibility. Do what you need to do, but do it with respect.

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About Little Red Lupine

Kirsten Hansen, aka Little Red Lupine, is an academically-minded geek who works in instructional technology by day and crafts by night... when she isn't playing video games or watching TV with her husband, playing with their ferrets, or cuddling their kitties. She can usually be found with her nose in a book but might just be baking something yummy instead.