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Can you turn down the position of maid of honor?

Image Gallery: Type A Brides Can you say "no" to the woman in white? See more pictures of Type A Brides.
©iStockphoto.com/Adventure_Photo

She may have been waiting her whole life for Mr. Right, but you haven't exactly been cooling your heels waiting to help her try on wedding dresses. For some girls, being asked to be the maid of honor is more of a tedious chore than a revered privilege, and many less-than-merry maids have asked if there's any way they can just refuse the position. The answer is yes, but we should caution that you really (really) shouldn't do so unless you have no other choice.

Turning down the position isn't like canceling plans to catch a movie or blowing off lunch with the girls. The maid of honor is the most esteemed, important person in a bride's entourage, and being asked to fill this role is one of the greatest compliments you can get. The bride is not only asking you to play a role in her wedding; she wants you to be her emotional support and the bridesmaids' supervisor. You'll help her find a theme, decide on a cake and select flower arrangements. So, unless you have a darn good reason -- say, you'll be in prison for the foreseeable future -- you shouldn't turn her down.

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Still not sure when it is and isn't acceptable to say "I can't" to standing beside her when she says "I do?" We'll break down some of the common excuses women have used to get out of their duties and why they're just not good enough on the next page.

A really bad bridesmaid dress is no excuse for declining the maid of honor position.
A really bad bridesmaid dress is no excuse for declining the maid of honor position.
©iStockphoto.com/aceshot

There are plenty of reasons why you may want to decline the maid of honor position, but, unfortunately, they probably aren't going to work.

Most women tend to think about their wedding in emotional, sentimental terms (dreaming about the day since childhood will do that to a girl), so you just can't pass on the offer without bruising a friend's feelings. If you reject the position with a bad excuse, at best she'll hold a grudge, at worst your friendship will be over. Even if there's no way she can get rid of you completely -- you're sisters, for example -- refusing to be her maid of honor could still irreparably damage your relationship. Therefore, you need to consider the potential results of your decision before you cast off the position, and giving excuses like the ones below are a good way to lose her friendship.

  • Reason: You think one of her other friends would do a better job.Why It Won't Work: She asked you, so trust her decision, and start helping her plan the wedding.
  • Reason: You've dated the groom.Why It Won't Work: If she's asking you to be her MOH, chances are she knows all about it. And if she's OK with it, you have to be OK with it (even if it's weird).
  • Reason: You're not as close as she thinks you are.Why It Won't Work: Even if you're not the BFFs she believes you to be, she obviously considers you a true friend or she wouldn't have popped the maid of honor question. Unless you're cold enough to kick your friendship to the curb, say yes.
  • Reason: The dress she wants you to wear is hideous.Why It Won't Work: Just don't show the pictures to anyone. Your friendship is worth an afternoon in an ugly dress, right?
  • Reason: The third member of your threesome is going to be crushed.Why It Won't Work: Just try to break the news gently to her. Better yet, have the bride do it.
  • Reason: You can't afford it.Why It Won't Work: Sell something, borrow money or charge it. This is a once (maybe twice) in a lifetime event, and she wants you to be a part of it. Cough up the dough and support her. You can, however, let the bride know you're hard up. She deserves to know this is a financial hardship and that her bridal shower isn't going to be the extravagant party she's been envisioning.
  • Reason: You have to work.Why It Won't Work: No matter how busy your work schedule might be, you should still find a way to make it to the ceremony. It's just one day, after all.
  • Reason: You just don't want to deal with it.Why It Won't Work: This is probably the most common excuse, but it's not the best one. Taking on this position might not be how you want to spend your nights and weekends for the next few months, but it's important to be there for your friend. Besides, you'll probably have fun once you're in the thick of planning a wedding with your BFF.

Lacking self-confidence or having to don a repulsive dress may not get you off maid of honor duty, but we know some excuses that will. Find out what they are on the next page.

In hopeless, desperate love with her studly groom? Yeah, that should get you a pass from MOH duty.
In hopeless, desperate love with her studly groom? Yeah, that should get you a pass from MOH duty.
©iStockphoto.com/dontcut

Yes, there are a few legitimate excuses for refusing the most important role in her wedding party, but chances are the bride isn't going to be too happy with any of them. These are all perfectly valid excuses, but regardless of your reason, she's still going to be hurt, upset and sans a maid of honor. Consider yourself warned.

  • Reason: You're saving the date for something else.Why It (Might) Work: This is only acceptable in extreme cases. For instance, your husband is returning from war that day, or it's within a few days of your due date.
  • Reason: You have an equally important ceremony to which you're already obligated.Why It (Might) Work: You're getting married that day or your sister is -- that's about it.
  • Reason: You're in love with the groom.Why It Works: Do we really need to explain this one? We didn't think so.
  • Reason: You're really, truly broke.Why It Works: We're talking about squatting at a friend's house, haven't worked in a year broke. Paying for a dress, a bridal shower and a bachelorette party isn't just a hardship -- it's not possible. Not with cash, not with credit.
  • Reason: She's Bridezilla.Why It Works: Every bride can be picky, but if she started shooting down your wedding-related suggestions before you agreed to the position or suggested you take a sabbatical to help plan her nuptials, there's a good chance your friendship won't make it to the big day anyway, so you can just say "no" now and avoid all the drama.

Whatever the reason for your refusal, you need to decline her offer respectfully and let her know where you're coming from. Tell her the truth: If she thought enough of you to make you her maid of honor, she deserves to know why you're refusing the position.

Oh, and if you're getting hitched anytime in the near future, you can invite her, but don't expect her to head -- or even join -- your wedding party.

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