10 Tactful Ways to Say… at your wedding

From organizing invitations to scripting your “I do’s,” figuring out a menu for 100-plus people to assembling hotel gift bags, decking out a gaggle of bridesmaids to finding a DJ who plays music you actually LIKE, sometimes it can feel like it truly takes a village to make a wedding work.

Even if you hire a coordinator, chances are your family and friends will offer to pitch in. Sometimes you might be thrilled (your best friend owns an award-winning patisserie and offered to bake your cake for free), but sometimes (your fiancé’s whiskey-loving frat buddy wants to be your officiant) … not so much.

While it’s certainly OK to say “no thank you” to the “help,” the trick is saying it in a way that minimizes the potential for hurt feelings. Here are 10 tips for getting it right (i.e., polite). Mix and match as needed.

It’s Already Taken Care Of!

The easiest solution is to tell your loved one that while you really appreciate the offer, this particular service is already covered. It’s so generous of your cousin Eddie to suggest that his heavy-metal band play during your reception, but wouldn’t you know it, your favorite bluegrass band signed on the dotted line just last week.

Hopefully you’re telling the truth, although it’s also OK to use this excuse if you have a short list: Either say the service or task is already taken care of without naming the vendor or explain that you’re so thrilled with all three vendors you’ve met with and that you’re having a difficult time choosing just one.

It might help smooth things over even further if you then asked your loved one to weigh in on the merits of each option. Who knows? Cousin Claire might make hideous flower arrangements herself, but maybe she has a good eye for blossoms that won’t wilt before the entrées are served.

It’s Going to Be a Surprise …

If you can’t tell your loved one that a detail is already a done deal, consider telling him or her that you’re grateful for the offer, but you have a special plan in the works. For example, if Aunt Sally (a fan of baking with Jell-O and Cool Whip) offers to make your cake, you can tell her the cake may not be ordered yet, but you know you want to surprise your sweetheart with the red velvet from that bakery he loves. It just means thinking fast and, ideally, being willing to commit to your on-the-fly plan so that you don’t have to come up with more excuses down the line.

If your mind goes blank, simply tell your loved one that you already have a plan, but this aspect of the wedding is going to be a special surprise for everyone — then follow through on finding something extra personal or unique and try your best to keep it quiet until the big day.

Propose Alternatives

Maybe you can’t accept help from your loved one in the context they’ve suggested, but you can see them contributing to your wedding in another way. Scenario: Uncle Peter has offered to let you use reproductions of his watercolor portraits of dachshunds as your favors. Tell him you already have plans for the favors, but ask if he would let you use one in the program. (It could lend a bit of whimsy and personalization to a piece of paper most guests don’t keep.)

Other tasks that are easy to assign according to a person’s particular strengths include being an usher, doing a reading, making a toast, helping create a childhood picture board for the reception entry, paying extra attention to a grandparent or child, passing out gratuities to vendors, taking your dress to the dry cleaners while you’re on your honeymoon, and filming the wedding if you have already decided to not hire a videographer.

Just Enjoy Yourself!

Maybe your mom’s best friend is a stylist and has offered to do your hair, but her taste makes the giant, hair-sprayed mops from Working Girl look modern. The solution: Thank her politely and then tell her you simply couldn’t stand for anybody important to you to be busy working on your big day — you want them to be cutting loose, enjoying the fine food and drink, mingling with other guests and taking part in the pictures. It’s hard to argue with being told that you’re special.

Keep It All in the Family (or Friends)

While this tactic is certainly more limiting than others, if you’re trying to avoid “assistance” from a particularly problematic relative (e.g., your groom’s tone-deaf cousin Kevin really wants to sing during your ceremony), consider limiting your helpers to friends only. Your argument is that you don’t want to risk hurt feelings by including some of your fabulous family members but not others.

The same advice holds true if you’re trying to put off a pushy friend instead. Tell him or her that only family members are participating in the planning and styling, as you have way too many close friends and don’t want anyone to feel left out.

Take the Blame

Most women would really rather not be labeled a Bridezilla. However, alluding to that title yourself could extricate you from some sticky situations. Tell your friend or relative that it turns out you’re pretty picky about the details of your wedding AND pretty stressed out, therefore you’d rather stick with professionals who you don’t know and adore. You’re doing your loved ones a favor by protecting them from your bad moods!

Make It Matter to Someone Else

Sometimes it’s easier for someone other than the stressed-to-the-max bride to take the fall for saying no, such as the groom or any of the parents. For example, if your brother, whose musical preferences lean toward misogynist hip-hop, offers to make an iPod mix to play during dinner, inform him that your hubby-to-be was looking forward to putting one together himself. Or if a friend who’s prone to breaking things offers to help set up at your rehearsal dinner, tell her your future mother-in-law who is hosting gets easily frazzled, and best to give her space.

People are less likely to take rejection personally — or try to push the point — if it isn’t coming from you.

Leave It to the Vendors

Some forms of “help” can easily be deflected by citing the rules of your various vendors. Perhaps your venue only allows you to use specific caterers, bakers, florists, DJs, etc. They may also dictate things like who helps set up the space or who brings alcohol (“Sorry, Uncle Bob, we’re not allowed to serve your homemade beer!”) due to their insurance liability.

Specific vendors also might have rules that you can use as an excuse, such as caterers who won’t do menu items they don’t have experience with, even if it’s the “amazing” recipe for liver and onions your grandma has offered up …

Don’t Commit

Don’t fret if you’re presented with an offer of unwanted help and can’t immediately come up with a polite way to refuse it. It is always reasonable to say, “Thank you so much for the generous offer, but I need to talk it over with my fiancé before I can make any final decisions.” This allows you time to get your bearings first, and prevents situations in which you end up making excuses that you can’t live up to.

Know When to Just Say No

Sometimes, even with a brilliant excuse, certain people won’t take the hint or allow you an easy way out. In these instances, you simply have to say thanks, but no thanks. Do it politely but firmly, without mincing words: “It means so much to me that you would offer to make my wedding dress for free, Aunt Barb, but I’m going with a professional seamstress because she has more experience with wedding gowns.”

Focus on the fact that although you may you have your own vision for your nuptials, you’re excited that your loved one will be there to celebrate with you. Sure, she might still be a little hurt in the moment, but she’ll likely get over it after she sees how happy you are on your wedding day — and after she’s had a glass of champagne or three.