How to fire a bridesmaid

Guest post by Little Red Lupine
Photo by Oliver Barth
Photo by Oliver Barth

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 to be a bridesmaid 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 a bridesmaid

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.

Comments on How to fire a bridesmaid

  1. Hmm, not cool bridesmaid to be a pain on your best mates wedding day and during the lead up… such a shame but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.

  2. Great advice that applies to most difficult conversations.
    It’s odd how we can lose sight of this because weddings are so emotional.

  3. Where was this article three months ago?! Haha
    I, unfortunately, asked a bridesmaid to step down. Well, told her that I no longer felt it appropriate for her to stand with me on my day.

    I am incredibly awkward by nature, and have a tendency to lose my temper. After she blew me off for a lunch meeting (where I intended to talk to her about the situation), I gave her a hand written letter.
    Not the best, but I would have likely gotten mean if we’d talked face to face.

    I think the most important part of this article is the end.
    “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.”
    I haven’t followed up with her. And she, understandably, hasn’t followed up with me.
    In fact, I’m not even inviting her to the wedding.

    It’s a sucky situation no matter what.
    I hope no one else has to have this conversation.

    • Chelseykelsey,
      Sorry to hear of your sucky situation; I agree that while a letter probably wasn’t ideal, it at least got the job done. I think sometimes texts or letters are better than face to face, because at least with the written words there is no confusion about what was said (or not said).

      I feel I had a similar situation to yours as I just fired my MOH yesterday, and ended the friendship. I also had a lunch date with my MOH yesterday (I get 30 mins during my work day & she doesn’t work). She just didn’t show up and didn’t tell me she wasn’t coming…2 hours later I sent a text and asked where she was and she said, “Oh I overslept and didn’t have time to text you”…Also, after 6 months after I got engaged her husband filed for divorce. So, she has asked me to plan a divorce party for her but is unwilling to help me with anything. She said she would be “honored” to help me plan wedding stuff, but the 2 times I asked her, she came over with divorce party plans and wanted me to help her form an online dating site profile: 2 weeks after her husband filed. So, I couldn’t take it anymore and ended the friendship. I tried to talk to her as well but wouldn’t she wouldn’t respond, I sent a text.

      • I’m in a scarily similar situation right now. My Maid of Honor is also going through a divorce, and bonus! has a new boyfriend on top of it. So every time I talk to her, she’s either talking smack about her almost ex husband (whom my fiance and I are still friends with) OR she’s gushing about her new boyfriend. I’ve been engaged since Oct 2017 and like yours, she made grand plans to do all this planning, and hasn’t helped me do one thing except pick out my dress. I’m about ready to snap.

  4. Here here! As an HR manager who deals with difficult people and difficult conversations all the time, this is rock solid advice.

  5. I was once “fired” from a wedding… eventually I think I was joined by all of the original bridesmaids in this fate. I was actually relieved, though still ticked. I was debating resigning my post as bridesmaid anyway, when the bride called and said she’d rather have me as a guest than a member of the wedding party.

    [Which is very good wording, by the way. I was still upset with her, but it was for all the things I was already upset about and the mere fact that she was “firing” me; but not for the way that she did it.]

    I was too upset at the time to actually attend the wedding, but we later got back in touch & we now maintain a facebook friendship.

    • You know, for all Facebook’s faults, there is something nice about the way it maintains a connection in a way that would not have been possible just a few years ago. I almost married the wrong person. He ripped the Band-aid off. Totally the right move for both of us, as it turns out, but it hurt like hell at the time. One of the most painful parts was losing touch with his family, who were already like in-laws to me. I really mourned the loss of his sister in my life and his/used-to-be-my nephew. Now, because of Facebook, I at least get to watch him grow up and cheer on his good report cards and Boy Scout achievements from afar. His sister is always the first to “like” my big life news, from my engagement to my now-husband to the introduction of a new cat. It’s not the relationship I thought I’d have with people I genuinely loved, but it’s okay. So, yay Facebook for this one tiny thing at least.

  6. I was a bridesmaid for a girl last year, she got upset when I got engaged. She didn’t wish me all the best or anything. When we set a date, she got grumpy that it was before hers (she had been engaged for 5 years and changed the date so many times i wasn’t about to wait for her to do it)…. I tried to rise above it… but to no avail. It ended with her leaving me in the middle of a strange city, and me getting a txt saying: “I don’t think you should be my bridesmaid anymore”. what are you supposed to say to that? – Needless to say I haven’t spoken to her since, and we didn’t get an invite to the wedding. . .

    More people (unfortunately) need to read this post!!!

  7. I’m actually having issues with this at the moment.

    i asked 2 friends of mine to be bridesmaids when i got engaged 2 years ago and all was great, since then we have had somewhat of a falling out (to this day i still don’t know what i have done) and i haven’t spoken to once since last October and the other since January this year. Since then they have been pretty mean to my best friend (and other bridesmaid) and completely ignored me so i think its safe to say the general consensus is that they will not be standing up with me, yet my wedding is still 9 months away. How do i reiterate this to them since i barely want to be in the same room as them 🙁 ???
    xoxo

    • I’m sorry you have to go through that, it’s never easy or fun. I personally would consider them not attending at all. I think we can both agree that adults shouldn’t act that way. You can try to make contact with them to talk, but from what I’ve learned with people like that. It’s best to just let them go and not have them attend at all. Especially if you feel uncomfortable around them now, and they aren’t very nice towards your other bridesmaids. I do hope whatever you decide, works best for you and everyone involved. Hopefully you are able to rise above this issue and have the most wonderful wedding!

  8. I got fired. But I wasn’t ever told, the bride just kept ignoring my texts offering help, asking whether I needed to go try a dress on, wondering how she was getting on with everything. We went to the wedding and had a great time but I’m still very upset that she didn’t just talk to me.

  9. I was kind of pressured into having my younger sister as a Bridesmaid. At the time she was only 15 and full of the usual ‘delights’ at that age. Having never had a close relationship, and being very different, I wasn’t happy at having her stand up with me on my big day.
    When my Mother started moving the emphasis to my sister being Bridesmaid, rather than my big day, I bit the bullet and fired her. Admittedly it wasn’t just the jealousy (on my part) of my Mothers attention, but also how my sister regularly conducted herself (inappropriate comments, vulgar language etc) that made me do this.
    I did take the cowards way out and explain to my Sister we couldn’t afford to have her as Bridesmaid (no contributions from my family, so not exactly untrue), but it still caused huge issues with my Mother threatening none attendance and my Sister turning up dressed completely inappropriately, and stealing my dance with my Dad etc.
    The most important part of this article for me is to think very carefully about who you ask in the first place – never let yourself be pushed into something that you’re not comfortable with.

    • My gosh, I have no words. I am so sorry you had that experience. I can’t even imagine what that was like for you.

  10. I was once “demoted” because the bride felt that being MOH was “too big of a financial commitment” for me – i.e., I wasn’t wealthy enough to throw a cool enough shower. (!) C’est la vie… I walked as a Maid, and a year later (to the day! The actual 1-year anniversary day!) she dumped her husband, having gotten him to pay off all her credit card debt and buy her a new car. I call it the “marital refi”.

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