It's Okay To Say 'No' To Standing Up In A Good Friend's Wedding

by Kathy Black
Originally Published: 

Several years ago, an old college friend asked me to be in her wedding. At the time, I was four months pregnant and the wedding was happening soon — my newborn would be just four weeks old if he arrived on time.

As soon as she asked, the two conflicting voices in my head started going at it.

You know what I’m talking about, I suspect. You know, that argument that takes place in your mind when you’re ignoring your gut feeling?

I told myself it would be fine. I could totally handle being in a wedding despite the fact the bridesmaid dresses she’d already picked out looked like they had a built-in corset and push-up bra. I’d be sporting two oversized milk jugs for breasts, nursing every hour, and there was no way this torture chamber would even cover my nips.

I’ll figure it out later. This is her wedding.

I knew a month after I had a baby, I’d still look about five months pregnant so I did my best with picking out the size I thought I’d be at the time of her wedding.

I can always have it altered in a hurry if you need to. This is her wedding.

Four weeks postpartum was barely enough time to start walking correctly, much less walk down an aisle with people staring at me in the very tall and pointy spike heels she’d picked out. My feet were on fire just looking at them.

I’ll practice at home as much as I can. I’m sure my feet will return to their normal size by then. This is her wedding.

As the months went by and I was tending to my two toddlers and growing belly, I tried to get excited about her big day — when I was able to remember it was happening, that is.

I was a bride once, and it was everything to me at the time. Yet now that I was a mom, it all seemed so unimportant in retrospect. I felt selfish and tried to put myself in her shoes, but I just could not.

A weekend cruise was planned for her bachelorette party and there was no way I could swing it. Not only did I not want to leave my family for a long weekend, I had zero desire to tag along with my friends while they drank until dawn and I turned my pregnant ass and swollen feet in at 8 p.m. to a bed that was not my own so I could lie there, not sleep, and miss my family so much it was physically painful.

Fast forward to a week before the wedding and my dress did not fit AT ALL. I was lucky I had a friend who worked her magic and made some adjustments in the breast area and removed the push-up bra. I mean, I had so much cleavage it looked like my face was being crushed by my own boobs.

I cried looking at myself in the mirror as snot and tears dropped between my boobs, my newborn was screaming, and my two toddlers were fascinated with her sewing kit and would not stop fucking with her pin cushion.

Just suck it up. This is her wedding.

At the wedding, I stood next to my friend at the altar while I was sweating, still bleeding, and started lactating while they were saying their vows. If someone had handed me scissors, I would have cut myself out of that dress in front of everyone during the exchanging of the rings.

Kids weren’t invited to the wedding so my husband stayed with the kids nearby and brought me my newborn son so I could nurse him every hour. I had planned on pumping a bit and bottle feeding him, but the few weeks flew by and he wasn’t yet taking a bottle.

I ended up wishing my friend well and leaving her wedding early. She was hurt by my lack of excitement around her big day, just as I would have been if the roles were reversed.

Since then I’ve realized something: You are allowed to say “no” if someone asks you to be in their wedding if you need to, regardless of your reason.

It will save you both stress.

I should have declined right from the start. I knew better, and if I had politely declined (like my gut was telling me), I would saved us both a bunch of hassles. I would have saved myself a lot of stress, and she could have been able to ask someone who would have added to her day much better than I was able to.

It just might save your friendship.

Not only that, I could have focused my energy on planning to get a sitter for the evening, bottle training my son, and having a nice date night with my husband instead of learning how to walk in heels again and have a boob pop out while walking down the church aisle. My friend’s feelings may have been hurt initially, but after explaining the reasons in a nice way, the hurt would have faded and not have been as detrimental as it was on the big day.

It takes time and money.

Being in a wedding is usually a huge time and financial commitment. You are participating in a life-altering event. There isn’t just one party to attend, there’s usually 3-4. We have the engagement party, the bridal shower, the bachelorette party, the rehearsal dinner, then the wedding. These events require time, getting a sitter, buying gifts, planning, new outfits, and chipping on to cover food, accommodations, and decorations. It’s about helping the bride.

Your reason for declining doesn’t matter. If you can’t give it your all, just say “no.”

If you don’t think you can, or want to, take all this on, do yourself and the bride a favor and tell them no.

Maybe you are just starting a new job, a family, or you are getting married in the same year. You might be moving, caring for a sick family member, or just don’t feel like you know them well enough to be in their wedding party. Those are all valid reasons to decline the offer.

You don’t have to be a dick, of course, but it’s better to be honest than to go through with something that means so much to another person and carry resentment all the way through the events, as well as after, like I did. That’s just not fair.

Saying “yes” out of guilt doesn’t make their big day any better.

I could sit here and say I had my friend’s best interests in mind and did it for her, but that would be a lie. I said yes to please her because the guilt I would have felt from saying no would have affected me too much. I thought I’d look like someone who couldn’t handle it. I thought I’d look like a bad friend. I thought I’d want her to make the same sacrifices for me.

And I was wrong on all accounts.

While we were able to talk about it (years later) and our friendship survived, it was a close call. No one wants you to agree to do something (especially if it involves them), if you don’t want to. That’s just hurtful.

By saying yes to being in a wedding when your heart’s not in it, you aren’t doing anyone any favors, so be fair to everyone involved (including yourself) and politely decline. Who knows, in addition to saving you the stress and a shit ton of money, it just might save your friendship too.

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