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Why Do 20% of People Decline to Be Bridesmaids or Groomsmen?

A recent study by Lending Tree discovered that a whopping 20% of those invited to be in the wedding party decline the invitation. Is there any way to turn this trend around? YES! What can you do as the bride to improve your chances that your friends will agree to be your bridesmaids? Read on to find out our helpful hints!

sad woman

Hey, Christie!

Help! Three of my closest friends have declined my request that they be my bridesmaids! What can I do???

Here’s the situation: My girlfriends and I all work in high tech or marketing in Metro Portland. Some of us make more than others and that’s understandable.


Last year, Carleigh, a bridezilla, got married at Fiji’s Laucala Island Resort. Her bridesmaids spent thousands of dollars on air fare, hotel, dresses, shoes, etc.

She selected one of the ugliest bridesmaid’s dresses I have ever seen! I was so grateful I could decline her invitation to be a bridesmaid because my brother was getting married that same weekend. 

"27 Dresses" movie still photo
puzzled woman Pixabay

Do you have any suggestions on what I can do or say to get my three closest friends to accept their roles as bridesmaids?

Is there anything I can do to allay their fears that I might be a bridezilla?


–Molly the Mystified in Molala, Oregon


Hey, Molly!

I understand!

Several of our brides-to-be encountered this problem recently so I’ve developed solutions. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, the person who pays for the bridesmaid’s dress has changed.

  • Up until the 1950s in the US, the bride or her family bought the bridesmaids’ dresses since the bride was controlling the choice of dress and it was thought that it was a kindness if the bridesmaid did not have to pay for her dress.

  • Today, the bride still pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses in the UK and Ireland.

  • However, in the US and Australia, the bridesmaid pays for her own dress.

bridesmaid in pink dress
ASian bride in white and bridesmaids in beige

Are there exceptions?

Yes! The bride might pay for or contribute to the costs of the dress for a bridesmaid who is:

  • still in college or

  • is facing a budgetary crisis (e.g., she just lost her job or is getting divorced).

Second, the cost of a bridesmaid’s dress ranges from $100-$500.

My suggestion is that ask your friend to join you for coffee to find out why she declined your offer to be a bridesmaid. Gently ask why.

Here are several of the responses the other brides heard and my suggested replies:


two women PXBY
Wedding on the Front Lawn at Ainsworth House & Gardens!

According to, the average cost to ATTEND a destination wedding is $2,700.

If the bridesmaid fears the costs of a destination wedding, assure her that you wisely selected Ainsworth House & Gardens, an elegant and historic wedding venue in Metro Portland.

(You did select us, didn’t you?:-))

Your friend might be concerned about the costs of the dress, shoes, bridal shower gift, etc.

Be gentle when ask this. No one likes to appear vulnerable. If she is facing a financial problem, you may want to offer to contribute to her costs or pay for it all. The gift of her presence on your special day is all the gift you need from her.

bride and maid of honor
make-up artist and bride PXBY

You might consider hiring professionals to do each bridesmaid’s hair and make-up on your wedding day as a gift to your best friends!

(This saves them the expense and hassle of finding said professionals.)

Or consider buying jewelry, accessories, or a cute clutch as a gift for each bridesmaid!

If your friend fears that you, the bride, will select an outrageously ugly bridesmaid’s dress, share that you are giving her a ton of input in selecting her dress.

My suggestion is that you select either one color (e.g., sage) or two colors (e.g., pink and blue) to create a group of mismatched bridesmaids. This gives each bridesmaid the freedom to shop anywhere from a bespoke shop to an upscale thrift store (e.g., Junior League).

Jordyn and her sage bridesmaids Photo credit The Cusick Co
Hannah, Roxie, and Katie at Sarah's wedding from Kathryn Lee

Your bridesmaid can select 2-3 dresses which make her feel her most beautiful and most confident while staying in her price range.

Before purchasing a dress, the bridesmaid will take photos and send them to you.

You can screenshot all the different dresses which may have different fabrics, textures, or patterns.

Using a photo editor, you can then decide which dresses harmonize the best!

True story: Since the bridesmaids lived in two different states, the bride allowed each bridesmaid to select her own dress in the designated color of purple. At Sarah’s Northern California winery wedding in fall, the dresses blended perfectly! 

I hope these suggestions help you resolve your bridesmaid challenges.

If you have any other questions, please reach out to me.


Your friend in the wedding business,

Christie Shyne


Title image courtesy of The Cusick Co.

(Jordyn and her bridesmaids shined that day in 2023 as Jordyn became Mrs. Shyne!)

Image of the yellow and pink bridesmaid’s dress is courtesy of the movie, “27 Dresses.” 

Image of bride and groom in front of the Ainsworth House is from our wedding gallery.

Image of three bridesmaids in purple:

© 2016-2024. Kathryn Lee. All rights reserved worldwide.

Other images above are courtesy of

Images below are from the Ainsworth House & Gardens wedding gallery.

© 2023-2024. Come Rain or Shyne, LLC. All rights reserved worldwide.

Wedding Wire Rated 5 Years Running Award Logo
The Grove at Ainsworth House
A couple is surrounded by their friends on Ainsworth's front lawn.
wedding under 200 year old Ponderosa Pine