Wedding planning is all fun and games until you discover that your big day won’t go as expected. From unpredictable weather forecasts to sick vendors, plenty of situations can throw a wrench in your well-laid plans.
While such worst-case scenarios are hard to swallow, it can feel even more complicated when a wedding party member turns your plans upside down. Pregnancies, engagements, illnesses, and other life circumstances can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, whether you like it or not.
“Life goes on, and friends and family have their own exciting and troubling times,” promises Nora Sheils of Rock Paper Coin and Bridal Bliss. “Don’t hold it against them! Instead, navigate this time with grace and be there for your nearest and dearest, just as you expect the same from them.”
Practicing empathy and holding space for your loved ones demonstrates that your long-term friendship matters more than a one-day celebration. Yet, when the dust has settled, you’ll still need to address potential changes to your wedding plans — whether it means adjusting your wedding party roles or creating a backup plan for the big day.
Here’s your guide to managing changes in your wedding party without sacrificing your relationships or your dream day.
Communicate from the heart
Your wedding party is made up of your inner circle — people you invite to stand by your side on the most important day of your life. You know they have your back, so show them the feeling is mutual by approaching them with kindness and compassion.
“To navigate your planning, understand that communication will be on your side and to your advantage,” shares Jen Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “Communicate your thoughts and feelings to everyone in your party and understand your needs, but also be realistic when someone cannot fulfill their obligations to you.”
Remember that your loved ones don’t carry any ill intentions. We don’t control the timeline of life, so give them grace and accept the situation with positivity.
“It’s important to acknowledge these life events to your friend or family member and let them know you would still love for them to be a part of your big day but understand that they may look different than other members of the wedding party,” says Joan Wyndrum of Blooms by the Box.
“You may have to let go of your initial vision to create a new one,” Sulak adds. “This doesn’t lessen your love, your day, or your marriage.”
Open communication is critical in the best of times, so don’t be afraid to speak up and lead with your heart as you work through planning obstacles with wedding party members.
Maintain flexible expectations
If you know a loved one is navigating a significant life event, avoid setting firm plans around their participation or attendance. Adding pressure to an already-stressful situation doesn’t help anyone, so work with them to find the best solution.
“Ask them what will work for them instead of assuming they can make it or have the time or capability to do it,” encourages Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events. “Be open and understanding about them not playing as big a part in the planning.”
Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events agrees, adding a suggestion to “talk to them about what they’re comfortable with and see if any special accommodations need to be made. For example, if someone is pregnant, they may not be able to stand for long periods or wear heels. If someone is dealing with a family emergency, they may not be able to be as involved in the wedding as they originally planned.”
It’s best to address potential changes at the first sign of a loved one’s circumstances, as it provides everyone time and space to prepare accordingly. That way, you can “have a backup plan in case someone cannot make it to the wedding or has to leave early,” Vizcaino notes.
Going into the wedding planning process expecting obstacles will help you work through any unforeseen changes, whether it’s months or days in advance. Keep an open mind, and remember that your marriage is much bigger than a wedding!
Adjust your wedding party as needed
Sometimes, you might need to accommodate a loved one by altering your wedding party roles. “This means you may choose another person of honor who does have time to help you plan or hire a wedding planner so that no planning falls on your wedding party,” Chang explains.
And if you’re concerned about filling a vacant spot, don’t worry too much about tradition. Alicia Mae of ILE Events confirms that “things have changed, and you do not need the same number of wedding party members on each side. Discuss with your partner how you prefer to move forward and discuss with the other wedding party members how that may affect costs for bridal showers and bachelor & bachelorette parties.”
While your wedding party may not look quite as you imagined, trust that your big day will still be just as special — and that your friend or family member is there in spirit.
Skip the wedding party altogether
Would you rather skip potential last-minute changes? Opt out of having a wedding party, and you won’t have to worry about whether someone’s life events impact your big day.
“If you don’t want to deal with changes or the unexpected drama that will naturally come with a wedding party, it is perfectly OK not to have a wedding party,” assures Julianne Smith of The Garter Girl. “Your friends and your family are who they are, regardless of being at your wedding or not.”
Your besties can still help with planning and support you on your wedding day, but forgoing a wedding party could mean fewer obstacles on your way to the aisle.
Your wedding marks the beginning of forever with your partner, so try not to dwell on smaller details that won’t matter in the long run. There’s much more to celebrate with your loved ones!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.