How to cope when a member of your bridal party drops out last minute

Ed Jones Photography

So, it’s three weeks until your special day arrives. You’ve planned everything. The venue has been booked, the caterers have been hired, the seating arrangements have been prepared, most of the decorations have been purchased or made, the dresses have been ordered, the flower arrangements are being planned this week. You’re all organised, you’re stress-free, and then… you get a call.

One of your bridal squad’s members has just notified you that they can no longer be a part of your special day. What do you do?

Your first instinct is probably to panic, you are probably annoyed and frustrated. Your mind will most likely go into stress-mode, thinking, “What am I going to do?”, “Who can I ask now?”, “What if I can’t get a replacement?”, “Will it matter if the bridal party is uneven?”

Let’s sort this out.

Lifestyle Images by Alexandra Grimshaw

Amy Nichols, an event planner based in San Francisco, says, “When a trusted friend declines to fulfil her duties as a bridesmaid, it is natural for a bride to be upset.” So don’t feel silly if you’re upset about it. She also says it’s important to keep in mind that, “She might have good reasons, such as a financial burden or a family emergency,” which caused her to make the uncomfortable call. So don’t be quick to judge her decision.

Your bridal party member, whoever that may be, most likely did NOT want to make that phone call. 99% of the time, it’s just an unfortunate turn of events which caused your member to drop out. They probably feel really bad about it and still, really want to be part of it. The key here is, they already may feel awkward and bad about the situation, so don’t make them feel even worse by blaming them for your wedding stresses.

You should ask yourself if you’re comfortable with the easiest solution to your problem: Leaving your bridal party one member short and moving on as-is. Nichols points out, “There’s no rule that your male and female attendants have to be an even number, adding someone at the last minute may make that friend feel like a Plan B, and if you have coordinated bridesmaids dresses, it may be very difficult to get a dress that fits the new ‘maid.” You are allowed to have an uneven bridal party. Don’t stress. Keep in mind that if you have someone in mind for a replacement, they may feel like a second choice. Be careful how you go about asking that someone.

Linda Pasfield Photography

After browsing some forums we found a few answers from people responding to distressed Bride-to-Bes, after finding out one of their bridal party members cannot participate in their wedding.

One person said, “Her absence may be obvious to your guests, so you want to make sure you are prepared to handle questions in a suitable fashion before you are wearing white, trying to celebrate your wedding.”

During your scramble to find a solution, don’t lose sight of your friendship. Another person wrote, “Whether she is dealing with an unexpected illness, the birth of a child, a breakup, a death in the family, whatever, chances are it was a big deal for her to drop out so unexpectedly from participating in your big day, pay some attention to her and provide her with the love and support she needs.”

Sarah Eliza Photography

What if you have another friend who is part of your wedding, but you decide they may be a good fit for your replacement as well?

Let’s say the other friend is responsible for reading the speeches/program.

Someone answered, “I would approach your friend who is doing the reading and explain the situation to her. Let her make the choice on if she wants to be a bridesmaid or not. I think it’s key with how you bring it up to her and how you explain everything. Apologize for waiting so long, and let her know that if she doesn’t want to be a Bridesmaid or Best Man, there will also be no hard feelings. Be prepared for her to say no. She might feel slighted that she wasn’t asked originally.”

Another said, “I think that approaching her in the right way may make her see that you are sort of in a pinch and she’d be happy to do it, but again, just be prepared for her to say no if she feels like she was on the bridesmaid B list.”

Linda Pasfield Photography

Here’s a summary of all the things you should keep in mind if this happens to you.
  • If you want someone else to be your bridesmaid, then ask them. You won’t know if you don’t ask.
  • If you don’t actually want to have someone be a part of your special day and they’re just a second choice, then you have two options: ask someone else you WILL be happy with, or leave the bridal party uneven. – After all, there is no such thing as “perfect”. Your guests will be none the wiser if you have an asymmetrical bridal group. Everyone is there to celebrate and support your big day, not to judge how many bridesmaids or groomsmen you have.
  • Don’t be rude or quick to judge if one of your party members can’t fill the spot. Take into consideration their reasons. If they didn’t give a reason, perhaps they are in a bind and want to keep it private. That is okay. They may have financial problems, they may have family issues, they may be unwell – physically or mentally, they may have relationship troubles. Whatever it may be, it’s best to respect their decision and move on.
  • If you have a personal grudge against one of your friends, and you decide they shouldn’t be a part of your big day, don’t make a big deal about it. You don’t want a big fuss during your wonderful reception, and you certainly don’t want to offend anyone. Keep it civil and make sure you warn your ex-maid/ex-MOH/ex-groomsmen/ex-BM about any changes you’ve made. Also, explain the situation to your new replacement (if you have one) so no one misunderstands the situation or accidentally says something out of line.
  • If you do want to refill the spot in your party, consider how long it will take to catch them up on everything and get their wedding attire ready. Think, “Will the dress get to me in time? Will the dress fit my new ‘maid? If it doesn’t fit, will there be time to adjust the dress?” If the answer is no, do not risk it. It’s not worth the effort, stress, or money.
  • If your bridal squad is uneven, and you really want it to look orderly, re-think the positions of your members. Are you one groomsman short? Have one of the groomsmen walk two bridesmaids down the aisle. Only have one bridesmaid? Have her walk down by herself. (She’ll probably love being in the spotlight for a few minutes anyway!) Short two groomsmen? Have your couples walk down the aisle together, and get the two extra bridesmaids to walk together at the end of the line. The solutions are endless! No matter what the numbers are, your bridal party will still look stunning and your day will still be “just right” the way it is.

Linda Pasfield Photography

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