Backup Bridesmaids: How to Ask a Friend to Fill In

A young bride in a lace dress and a bridesmaid in a dark green dress holding hands.

It’s a touchy subject. Your list of bridesmaids might already be sprawled across your wedding website or known among your inner circle—and then you have one drop out, leaving you in a conundrum. Asking “the next in line” if they will stand by your side is tricky. You want them to feel included and loved, yet you both know they weren’t in the first lineup. The good news is that you actually can have a loved one fill in and still not step on any toes.

It Happened to Me (And it Was OK)

I’ve been on both sides of this issue and realized it just isn’t that big of a deal. People will freak out, thinking you’re a horrible person asking someone to fill in, but they need to know every side of the story before judging. My good friend called me in a panic a few months before her wedding because one of her bridesmaids had to drop out, so my friend was genuinely asking me to step in. I truthfully did not feel offended. I actually felt special that I was even the next in line because I never expected to be a part of it at all. I have, however, expected to be in weddings when I ended up not being asked—so even to be asked as a backup is an honor.

I had a list for years of women who would be in my bridal party. Everyone knew my list! The problem is that not everyone’s life can revolve around the bride. When it finally came time for me to set a date, it happened to fall during an anniversary trip that one of my bridesmaids had booked a year prior. I didn’t panic, and instead asked a young family member to step in as “junior” bridesmaid. I knew she wouldn’t be able to attend the parties or be involved as much as an older bridesmaid, but I had no issue asking her to please join my “team.”

Just Be Honest

Two young women outside having fun and looking at their phones.

Asking someone to fill in might be offensive to some, so tread lightly but be honest. Explain to your friend that you love them very much, but just didn’t have enough room in your original wedding party. They probably already understand why they weren’t in the original wedding party; maybe you have a lot of close family members or had to include loved ones from your groom’s side. It will be understood that you didn’t edge them out just because you’re a mean person.

Make Them Feel Special

A woman giving her female friend a gift and pink flowers.

Think of a special and personal way to ask your friend to be in the wedding. This may include a handwritten card or letter. Making the question unique to them breaks the ice and lets them see how much they mean to you. They’ll also feel special knowing how much effort you put into asking them to be a part of your big day—even if it is after everyone else is asked.

Foot the Bill to Show Appreciation

Being a bridesmaid can get costly. Now, think about asking a bridesmaid to step in last-minute and then throwing numbers at her. Explain to your loved one filling in that you will pay for the dress or any other costs that come along like hair and/or makeup. They are already doing you a huge favor by joining your wedding party late in the game. While it’s an honor to be a bridesmaid, it’s also a lot of work to tend to the bride’s needs, help plan and/or attend all the parties, and commit at least an entire day, if not weekend, to the bride. Show her how much you treasure her presence and effort stepping into someone else’s shoes by taking some of the hassle off her plate.

You Know the Best Way to Approach the Situation

Truthfully, no one can tell you how to approach this subject without knowing your friend’s personality. You know the best way to approach them with serious topics, so do what you have to, to make sure they will walk away feeling appreciated—and not like the last kid left during PE. Odds are, you’re going to have an amazing wedding party with everyone smiling and having a great time. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that special moment whether they were picked first or last?

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