Balking Matron of Honor…It’s OK To Say “No”

by admin on July 19, 2012

The first thing I want to make clear is that, outside of this incident, my sister was great while planning her wedding. But this incident has stuck with me, mostly because I was caught off-guard by her lack of empathy and being self-centered.

My sister (I’ll call her L) , at the time of this story, was still in the early planning phase of her wedding, having just finished picking out bridesmaids, and more importantly, her maid of honor. As it has been several years since the wedding, I forget who got the coveted role of Maid of Honor. However, her first choice was her aunt (we’ll call her A), who was the same age as L, but had not been in close contact with her for quite a few years.

At first, L extended the invitation, asking A whether she would be willing to be her MoH. A turned down the invitation, stating that she had her two kids to watch, and didn’t feel comfortable leaving them with a sitter while she flew out to the wedding. L then asked again, stating that she would be willing to pay air fare for A and her kids to come down. Once again, A turned her down, feeling uncomfortable with the situation.

The main reason I found this lacking in etiquette is how I found out the story. I found out about it a month later, when L and myself were in San Francisco with some family, going on a cruise the next day. When L was asked about her wedding planning, and more specifically, bridesmaids, she basically went off on a rant about how A “refused to take some time off and support” her. To me, that seemed like L felt that A was obligated to be MoH, simply because she was asked, which is definitely not the case. 0702-12

I don’t think people realize that when they say these ungracious, ugly things about another person, the net effect is that they come off looking far worse.   I haven’t heard the phrase used much by younger people but we used to call this “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.  Hopefully your sister has matured in the intervening years.

So, just because a bride asks a friend or family member to be in the wedding party does not equate to being a command that cannot be disobeyed.   It’s OK to decline the offered honored and brides have an obligation to be gracious in accepting that declination.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacey Frith-Smith July 19, 2012 at 5:41 am

It’s easy to understand why some people would hesitate to “”accept the honor” of being a Matron of Honor or even a bridesmaid when you reflect on responses like the one expressed by OP’s sister. The lack of “support” can be construed as time, money, gifts, favors, fawning, and labor. Perhaps A dodged a bullet here.


redblues January 27, 2013 at 1:22 pm

I think you’re right. And I think the bride ~was~ expecting this. A request is just that, a request, not an order that must be obeyed unless the person ‘asking’ thinks the ‘honoree’ has a good enough reason to refuse. If you get mad at a person for refusing a request, or ‘honor’ as she described it, then it wasn’t a request, it was an order. She has no right to order her aunt to to do anything, much less get bent out of shape when she refuses.


June July 19, 2012 at 9:16 am

Similar to Stacey Frith Simth’s comment, the “honor” of being a MoH, or even a bridesmaid, has become less of an “honor” in recent years. If you accept, some brides think they own you, your time and money from the moment you accept. If you are unlucky enough that your friend or family member becomes a Bridezilla, you are really in for it. The personal insults, never-ending screaming and tantrum throwing, expensive dresses, multiple showers, bachlorette party…scary just to think about. It’s no wonder some ladies decline this “honor”.

Maybe she could ask G from yesterday’s post…lol.


jena rogers July 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm

@ June, RE: “Maybe she could ask G from yesterday’s post…lol.”
Ha!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂


PM July 19, 2012 at 12:04 pm

On the ehell forum, posters regularly state, “It’s not rude to make a reasonable request, nor is it rude to decline that request.” This is definitely a case where this adage applies.


PM July 19, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Sorry, posted too soon.

But the bride became unreasonable when she refused to accept the potential MOH’s “no.”


Danielle July 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

It sounds to me like the bride was just hurt by A, and said something she probably didn’t mean. Personally, I would be hurt too; when A declined the position of MoH, she also made it pretty clear that she wouldn’t even be ATTENDING the wedding either. Think about how you would feel if you cared enough about someone to think of making them your MoH, and they can’t be bothered to even be there. It would hurt.

Sure, the bride was rude and it would have been nice had she been able to be more understanding of A’s position, but I don’t think she behaved in a way that was outrageous either. Just human.


Library Diva July 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I agree. No one can control how they feel, just how they act. Etiquette allows you to spend a 20-minute wait at the grocery store checkout thinking how superior you are to everyone ahead of you and how you deserve to be first, as long as you don’t start shoving or saying it out loud. Etiquette allows you to hope in your heart that everyone you know buys you massive presents for your birthday, as long as you don’t solicit them. Etiquette allows you to walk past someone drinking a delicious-looking iced coffee and think about how much you’d just like to shove them down and take their drink, as long as you don’t do it.
Obviously, this bride really wanted A to be her MoH, and was willing to shell out hundreds of dollars to make that happen. She probably felt a little rejected. She didn’t say this stuff to A’s face. She didn’t throw a screaming fit. She just vented about her feelings. What’s wrong with that? And who hasn’t done that from time to time, imagining themselves in the company of people they can trust with their feelings and thoughts? I bet OP has.
I agree with admin in a larger sense that anyone has the right to decline being an attendant in someone’s wedding. The bride and groom can also reserve the right to feel disappointed and hurt, though. In fact, I’d advise anyone who’s considering saying no to think about it really carefully. Absent extenuating circumstances of distance, money, or prior unbreakable commitments, it’s basically like saying you don’t want to be friends anymore.


bloo July 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm

True, etiquette would keep a sociopath from ‘acting’ like one but the reality is that etiquette can only just keep those impulses in check successfully if one tries to feel…I don’t know…humility?

I disagree with your last sentence though, Library Diva. If my reason for declining doesn’t fit one of your categories, then it’s like I’m saying I don’t want to be friends anymore? How about if we flip that around? If your request was really a command, it’s like we’re not friends – I’m just an associate lackey. A gracious, disappointed bride will respect her friends’ decisions graciously – or they’re not actually friends (barring an abject, groveling apology for previous bridezilla behavior with believable claims of temporary, pre-marital insanity).


acr July 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm

I agree with Danielle. Clearly, L fell that she and A were very close. So close that she asked A to be her MoH and was even willing to pay airfare for A and A’s family! That’s a lot of money. A’s rejection of the MoH position in this case was also very much a rejection of L and the closeness L felt they shared. Perhaps she didn’t do it deliberately to hurt L – but I don’t see how any reasonable person wouldn’t be hurt. And I don’t see how the relationship could continue with much warmth and affection at all.


Jared Bascomb July 20, 2012 at 12:38 am

For me, the key phrase in the original post is this: “. . . but [who] had not been in close contact with her for quite a few years.”

What on earth makes the bride-to-be think that her Aunt A, who she had not been in close contact with for quite a few years, would want to be part of the bridal party, let alone the MOH? It sounds like they barely knew each other! IMHO, under those circumstances Aunt A merited an invitation, not MOH duties. No wonder why A declined!

I’m finding this a recurring theme in recent posts to Hell’s Bells: People who once were close but no longer are calling upon nostalgia to “require” not just presence but a prominent role in a wedding.

As Bill Maher would say, New Rule: No matter if you swore to be BFFs, if you haven’t conversed – let alone met face to face – with this BFF in the past year, you’re not BFFs. All previous promises regarding participation in weddings are null and void. End of drama.


Library Diva July 20, 2012 at 10:12 am

It’s meant to be an honor. If a friend or relative who I’d previously been close to but drifted a bit from asked me to be in their wedding party, I would have been thrilled. Most people would treat it as an honor, even if they couldn’t follow through with it. I think it’s ungracious to do otherwise. Even if you personally find it a bizarre request and your thought process is along the lines of “I haven’t heard from Becky in years…doesn’t she have other friends she’d rather ask” you certainly shouldn’t act that way.


Kitten July 20, 2012 at 12:38 am

I remember asking a friend to be a bridesmaid because we had been close at the time. She said no, citing expenses. The expenses I had planned on were a dress (which was less than a hundred bucks). I did not ask for a shower or a night out with my girls (I had no girls night out, and the shower got thrown by my relatives against etiquette rules). I treated all my bridesmaid to their hair and nails done and jewelry. I made no requirements on shoes, outerwear, or anything looks wise. She lived locally. I told her I’d pay for the dress out right. She still said no. I said nothing more to her or anyone else, but I’ll admit here and now, internet anonymously, that it hurt my feelings a lot, and our friendship was never the same afterwards.

I do not have a sister, but, perhaps, if I did, I might have said something to her, if I assumed it would have gone nowhere else.


Bint July 20, 2012 at 4:38 am

“I told her I’d pay for the dress out right. She still said no.”

In fairness, this could have been from her pride. To be the only bridesmaid who could not afford her own dress would be hugely humiliating to many people – to admit you cannot afford to be one would be hugely humiliating to a lot of people as well. Assuming she wasn’t just trying to get out of it, your offer, whilst generous and kind, could have piled the pressure onto her in a very upsetting situation.

I had to decline going to my cousin’s wedding because my husband was unemployed and we were barely surviving. Cue lots of generous relations offering to pay for us to go. I was deeply grateful, but refused all of them. I had to swallow enough pride to admit how poor we were to the world without pushing those expenses onto someone else so I could have a good time. Until you have been the person in that situation where you are *that* skint, it can be hard to understand why they won’t just take the money when you want them there so much, but I empathise with your friend. Sometimes that kind of pride is all you have left.


Kitten July 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

Perhaps, but the year previous I got to hear about things like the purchase of a new espresso machine and scrapbooking machines and her husban’s Trek bicycle and she was onside ring new minivans t the time. Combine that with th fact that I went to her destination Vegas wedding when she begged and it left me stinging.


Bint July 24, 2012 at 4:36 am

Well, yes, that could put a different spin on it – although perhaps the next year she’d run out of money! I could easily have gone to my cousin’s wedding the year before. And if she really were skint, nothing stings like people thinking, “Well, but you bought that espresso maker last year!” as if a) you shouldn’t have bought it or b) that means they know all about your financial situation when they don’t. The fact you gave in to her begging doesn’t mean she had to give in to yours. It’s easier said than done to look on the more charitable side but it does save you hurt when you really don’t know why she pulled out and this is such a likely explanation.


KarenK July 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

As we often do here on E-Hell, I’m looking at it from the other side. Kitten, I can understand why it hurt you to have this person reject your offer, but I’m willing to bet that she’s been burned before, i.e., agreed to be in someone’s wedding when she was young and naive, only to find that she was nickled and dimed to death, or it took up way too much time out of her life. I’m not saying your wedding was like that, as you sound like a very reasonable person, but if this is her past experience, it will certainly come into play.


sv July 23, 2012 at 1:37 am

Kitten, I understand completely why her refusal would hurt your feelings, but if I were in her shoes I would have refused as well. She simply did not want to be in a place where she either had to accept charity or in a position where she may have to spend money she did not have. Being in a wedding party can add up with dozens of tiny expenses and she was being honest about her ability to handle that. Accepting money from a friend, no matter what the reason, is something many people are not at all comfortable doing.


mharbourgirl July 20, 2012 at 6:40 am

I’m sorry, but I’m really not feeling a lot of sympathy for L just now. She asked her aunt, whom she hadn’t spoken to in several years, to be MOH at her wedding, with (I assume) all the attendant responsibilities and expenses. A has two small children to wrangle – traveling with small children is a nightmare no matter how good the kids normally are. It doesn’t really matter what L wanted to pay for or what she wanted to assume about their relationship – as someone above said, if you haven’t been ‘in close contact’ for some time, you’re not that close. L has a lot of nerve getting upset at A’s declining the ‘honor’ of trying to be a MOH AND manage her children – because I didn’t see mention of L supplying childcare while A was running around on a million pointless, silly wedding errands all in the name of ‘support’.

Yeah, I’m not seeing much in this offer for A’s benefit, but I am seeing an awful lot of work being asked of her by someone who is so caught up in their special day that they don’t see how anything they ask could be too much for the person they’re asking. How much support does a bride need, sheesh. She’s got her whole family and in-laws-to-be already there, and her FDH – it would have been nice for her aunt to be there, but it’s hardly the end of the world because aunt decided it was just too difficult and complicated and declined the ‘honor’. I’m not seeing much besides a spoiled bridezilla here, I’m sorry to say.


jac July 20, 2012 at 7:19 am

Perhaps not wanting to be a MOH has nothing to do with money or time but anxiety. I stood up with my eldest sister even though I really didn’t want to. Everyone there thought that I had a terrible flu or something because I was as white as a corpse (their words not mine). Though I was smiling and being pleasant I was also sweating buckets and spent the entire day on the verge of a panic attack. Some people just have a lot of anxiety when it comes to social situations.


Cat July 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm

My brother’s bride elect phoned to ask me to be a bridesmaid in their wedding. In my family, refusing to be part of a close relative’s wedding party for any reason other than health or pregnancy, is an insult.
My brother and I, although only a year apart were never close as he was both physically abusive and he delighted in trying to humiliate me publically. I thought he was finally growing up and taking on adult role in life.
When I said I would be happy to be in her wedding party, ” Linda” blurted out, “Oh, but “Robbie” said you wouldn’t!” I was so taken aback that I couldn’t think of a reply. If he didn’t want me to be there, why have her call and ask me?
I finally, when she was obviously not going to continue, said, “It’s your wedding. Would you rather I did not participate?” I realize now, after forty years, that I should have said, “Thank you for calling me. I am sorry he feels that way.” and hung up.
I was in the wedding party. When the photographers album came back with all of the pictures, there were only pictures of the bride, groom, and MOH. Those taken of me with the others. were never developed.


Angel February 9, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Cat, that is a real bummer. But I think you did the right thing under the circumstances. You are one classy lady 🙂


GroceryGirl July 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm

“The main reason I found this lacking in etiquette is how I found out the story. I found out about it a month later, when L and myself were in San Francisco with some family, going on a cruise the next day.”

…you found it lacking in etiquette because your sister told you something when the two of you were alone? I didn’t know etiquette prevents us from venting privately to our siblings. From the first line here I thought she was going to say that L was spreading rumors throughout the family but it was told directly to her, presumably in confidence. Where’s the harm in that? If I’m not allowed to blow off some steam to my sister now and then, I might explode.


Library Diva July 23, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Agree GroceryGirl. It begs the question: which is the grosser etiquette violation, saying unkind things to someone you’re close to, in confidence, in order to blow off steam? Or, hearing such a confidence, judging the person you hear it from to be self-centered and lacking in empathy though they’d never shown such characteristics before, and then plastering what was told to you in confidence all over the internet and inviting strangers to further judge the person who’d confided in you?


confused July 24, 2012 at 7:31 am

I agree totally Library Diva, I would be so hurt if my sister (also my MOH) went straight to EHell because I had vented. My goodness, if we did that to each other every time we shared a confidence our stories would be all you guys would get to read! We don’t know the bride’s reason for asking A, maybe she had been very kind to her when they were growing up. Perhaps the bride was slightly misguided but she sounds generous and should not be judged because she “basically went off on a rant”.


jena rogers July 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm



redblues January 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I’m guessing bride does not have children. She has no idea what it is like to travel in a car with toddlers, much less fly with them. The intended MOH has two children who were very young. Many people will not leave their young children alone with ~anyone~ except perhaps an immediate family member, and not many of those people are even available for an entire weekend. Few people are comfortable leaving their young children with babysitters who are complete strangers to them, if indeed the bride was even offering to find a babysitter for them during the entire event and throughout all the tasks leading up to it, for the entire weekend while they were there for the wedding. It doesn’t sound as if she did. It sounds more like she assumed MOH would leave the kids at home, and when the MOH told her she couldn’t do that, offered to pay for their air fare, but didn’t think or didn’t care how much work it is to run after two small children ~at home~, nevermind to do so in a hotel, while participating in a wedding. Money isn’t the only reason people socialize less after they have children. Time and logistics are the other. Sounds like one more bride who thought the world revolved around her. It didn’t. For the Aunt, it (rightfully) revolved around her two small children.


Angel February 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm

Although I can understand the bride being hurt, and maybe venting to a close relative, why on earth would she vent to her entire bridal party? Also, I get the aunt’s reasoning for not wanting to participate in the wedding, but from the OP it seems like she didn’t want to attend the wedding at all. There might be other issues at play here other than taking care of the kids.


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