"The toxic bridesmaid can appear in many forms, but it's time for her to step down when her actions are overshadowing your wedding," admits psychiatrist Sarah Glick, wedding planner at Brilliant Event Planning in New York City,
So if it's time to kiss that bridesmaid goodbye, here's an expert advice to help you do it as painlessly as possible.
According to Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and producer of 'The Friendship Blog', "It's likely something was brewing with your would-be bridesmaid long before she even joined your wedding party. My suspicion is that bad feelings arose during the lead-up to the wedding, not before." So before you dismiss your bridesmaid, Levine suggests, "do a reality check and speak to someone close to you—perhaps your fiancé or your parent, to make sure you are making a reasonable decision."
If your confidante agrees you're acting in your—and your bridesmaid's—best interest, then proceed. But if your bickering can be solved, Levine says, it's better to address the real issue. "Asking a friend to step down should only be a last resort," she explains, "because it is likely to damage or destroy the friendship. Hopefully, you can find ways to get her to change her behavior so that it doesn't interfere with or undermine your special day."
This conversation might not be pleasant, so you could be tempted to shoot off a quick text explaining your decision to dismiss her as a bridesmaid. But don't. "Assuming you want to remain friends with this person, this conversation should be handled face-to-face—not over the phone or via text," says Glick, who recommends starting the conversation with statements that focus on how you feel instead of words that accuse her of bad behavior.
"Explain that you thought long and hard before making this difficult decision, and that doing this is difficult for you too," she suggests. "Be specific and clear in letting your friend know what responsibilities she neglected—although you needn't present an exhaustive list of grievances."
If you're worried you'll panic and fail when faced with your friend, Levine suggests writing yourself a script you can practice before you go live. Then "arrange to have this conversation in a semi-private place when you both are as relaxed as possible—perhaps a booth in a coffee shop—and never in the heat of anger," she says, with a specific time frame set up in advance so that this uncomfortable chat won't go on and on and on. "Set aside a specific window of time for the discussion rather than leaving it open-ended," says Levine.
Once you've calmly explained why you feel it's best for your friend not continue on as a bridesmaids, "let your friend knows that you feel that it would be best if she played a different role in the wedding," says Glick. For example, you know the real issue behind her bad behavior is that she's strapped for cash, a role without an accompanying outfit "will let her be involved without feeling financially overwhelmed," Glick says. Or, if it's time she's truly short on, "a simpler role—like a reading at the ceremony—might be better."
Be ready for her to decline the offer. Warns Levine, "especially if she lacks insight, she may either get very angry or disappointed. The best outcome would be if she breathed a sigh of relief and admitted she had felt ambivalent about taking on the role or had changed her mind—but after a traumatic event like this, the friendship could be altered dramatically." On top of feeling embarrassed over being dismissed, your former bridesmaids "may feel guilty about letting you down," says Levine. "It's likely that neither of you will ever feel the same closeness and intimacy you once did."
The good news is it's no longer expected for the bride and groom to have an even number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. "Brides sometimes get hung up on having an equal number of bridesmaids to groomsmen," says Chandra Keel, owner of Chandra Keel Events in Phoenix. "If firing your bridesmaid has thrown off your equal count, don't worry." But if your plan is to ask another friend to step up to the plate, do so as soon as possible so that you give that friend the time she'll need to get up to speed and ready to stand by your side.
It's also smart to alert your remaining 'maids to the situation as soon as possible. "You wouldn't want them to contact the fired bridesmaid and about the wedding and be unaware of what happened," points out Keel. "That would only cause further hurt feelings and embarrassment to the fired bridesmaid." Glick suggests being to-the-point when you make your announcement. "Say something like, 'Monica and I are really great friends, but we decided it would be best for her to do a reading at the ceremony instead, so going forward, the total number of bridesmaids for planning purposes is five,'" she says.
Your last task is to respect your friend and her pride by not letting her dismissal "become a topic of gossip or bashing when you're with your bridesmaids," says Keel. Adds Glick, "talking badly about your friend makes you look like a bridezilla," and nobody wants that