Seems years of tacky gowns and pricey bachelorettes have finally borne fruit, and now there's a bunch of of women who frankly aren't very interested in being a bridesmaid, thank you very much. But there's still hope! You can totally say no.
In the last 24 hours, I've seen not one but two pieces bemoaning the unpleasantries of being a bridesmaid and discussing how to escape this "obligation." The first is at A Practical Wedding and is fairly reasonable—simply a woman worrying that it would cost her heaps of time and money. The second, at Elle, is more of a screed against the entire institution. A sampling:
But here goes: I can't be your bridesmaid because I think bridesmaids shouldn't exist. l think it's cruel to expect your fellow besties to invest considerable funds and time into proving we're your friend…at the very moment you're entering a union that, by definition, means we're stepping aside for your new "best friend and partner."
Uh, not if you've picked your friends wisely. But wait, there's more!
So yes—and yikes, sorry—I really do think we should ban bridesmaids. The concept is antiquated and further punishes women who haven't taken up the (white, crystal-studded) veil.
Or maybe it's an opportunity for the bride to include the women who mean the most to her in an important personal choice. Just spitballing here.
Now, it's true that the expectations for bridesmaids are growing gradually more ridiculous. According to a 2011 study, the average cost is $1,695, which is absurd. As far as I'm concerned, the only "duty" of a bridesmaid should be showing up on the day of the ceremony and staying reasonably sober until the vows are said. If possible, the gown should be covered by whoever's paying for the wedding. The maid of honor is maybe supposed to help the bride pee, but that's why you traditionally pick a blood relation for the job. (Apologies in advance to my younger sister.)
Anyone who demands her best friends pony up for $400 bachelorette parties and $300 bridal showers and $250 hair and makeup and $200 heels and $200 wedding gifts should maybe examine the possibility that she is, in fact, kind of a monster. Even if everyone in your bridal party is an heiress, it's inconsiderate to demand enormous sums of money from your friends. And getting married doesn't void your responsibility to be a considerate human being.
All that said: You can always say no. "I'm so honored you asked, but I'm afraid I've got a lot of commitments this year. Count me in for the after-party, though!" And you're done. Sit back and breathe a sigh of relief that your bank account has escaped relatively unscathed. If someone is going to be friendship-warpingly angry at a reasonable, firm "no thank you but I can't," then you definitely don't want to be in that wedding party. Or, you can accept and when the maid of honor floats Vegas for the bachelorette, be frank and say it's not something you can commit to. Just be honest!
Most brides would probably rather you simply decline upfront than spend the next nine months being resentful behind her back. (This is a good rule of thumb for everything about weddings, actually: Please don't act like it's an obligation. If you don't want to go, don't.)
I'm not really sure being a bridesmaid is generally the miserable experience the Internet makes it out to be, either. Are there really THAT many brides who thrive on torturing their friends with exercise routines, spray tans and unflattering shades of satin? If it's such a chore to be someone's bridesmaid, why are you even friends in the first place?
There must be bridezilla outliers, but typically, if someone has asked you to be a bridesmaid, it's because she values your relationship. It's supposed to be an honor and a gesture of love. Even if she's got shit taste in dresses, an unhealthy addiction to rhinestone hoodies or an inflated sense of other people's finances. Feel free to say yes, or no, or even "yes but I'm not paying for those shoes, bud." But it's not a punishment, so don't treat it like one.