"There's always one." It's a haunting refrain from brides everywhere who have experienced an unhappy bridesmaid in their crew. Assuming you're not exhibiting any bridezilla-like tendencies, it can be surprising when one of your besties isn't feeling your big day. And while it's disappointing, it doesn't have to be the end of the world. If you find yourself dealing with a bridesmaid who seems to want to be anything but, heed the advice of etiquette experts Lizzie Post, co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast, and Diane Carr, Director of the Southern School of Etiquette, and handle the situation with grace.
The best course of action is to try and avoid issues in the first place, which means choosing your bridal party very carefully. "Either you're picking people you know are all going to participate and be happy about it, or you're picking people who you know are going to be difficult and you're preparing yourself for that," says Post. That means you should avoid asking someone to be in your wedding just because you were in theirs, and not asking your friend who rolls her eyes at rom-coms to throw your bridal shower. Additionally, Carr and Post both recommend asking bridesmaids individually, and to remember that "will you be my bridesmaid?" is a question, not an announcement. When asking, be clear about your expectations: Cover everything from dresses and the bachelorette party to the number of events you anticipate having. Only after all the information is laid out should a bridesmaid accept the offer. "Misunderstandings and financial surprises do not make for a happy bridesmaid," warns Carr.
Even the best laid plans can often go awry. When that happens, it's time to be direct with your miserable 'maid. "Recognize that your friend feels like she can't voice this to you. She might not feel like its okay for her to be having these feelings," says Post. "So, you really need to take the lead and let her know it's going to be ok if this isn't her thing." No matter how uncomfortable it may feel, it's up to you as the bride to break the ice. If you don't know where to begin, Post suggests saying something like this: 'Karen, I wanted to talk to you for a minute because I noticed something and I wanted to find out where you're at so we can both really enjoy all of this. Is this something you want to be doing? Because if you're not into this, I would so much rather have you participate as a happy guest." By addressing the issue head on, a few awkward minutes will save you months of tension in the long run.
Focus on the solution.
Once you've identified the elephant in the room, it's time to figure out next steps instead of dwelling on past misgivings. "It's about the other person and it's about really focusing on the solution that's going to work, not the fact that there's a problem," says Post. One of the greatest parts of a wedding is all the hustle and bustle surrounding it means there are plenty of ways to pitch in. Carr suggests offering an unenthused attendant the option to instead be part of what is called the "house party"—the special group of people who fulfill day-of roles like handing out programs, serving cake, doing a reading, or creating a playlist.
Don't get angry.
The absolute worst thing you can do in this situation is let your emotions get the best of you. "Do not yell at your friend and tell her she's a bad friend. Big time. Don't do that." Post insists. "If you want this to go well, you have to put your own emotions aside for a minute and deal with your friend's emotions," she adds. If a friend takes you up on the offer to bow out of the bridal party, don't be upset. As long as you handle the situation with grace, your BFFs will always be right by your side, even if it's not at the altar.