Weddings are planned months and even years in advance. When an event has such a long lead time, it is inevitable that some things may change along the way. One of the most upsetting situations that may crop up is when a close friend or family member becomes ill before the wedding. This is what to do when a member of the wedding party gets sick.
As with anything, there are degrees of illness. If a bridesmaid catches a cold the week of the wedding, she needs to take some cold medicine, stuff some tissues into her tiny little handbag, and show up at the appointed time in her dress and bridesmaid jewelry, ready to go. Pay your sick bridesmaid a little special attention by having some orange juice or a nice warm bowl of chicken soup waiting for her when she shows up to get her hair and makeup done. Of course, she would be forgiven for leaving the reception right after the cake cutting to go home and sleep.
Something like the flu, on the other hand, has the potential to knock a groomsman or bridesmaid right out of the wedding party. You don't want someone standing at the altar who is likely to vomit right when the minister asks if anyone objects to the marriage! For that matter, your guests will not remember your wedding fondly if they all caught the flu from a highly contagious groomsman. If the fluish one happens to be one of the parents of the bride or groom, obviously they would do their best to make it to the wedding, but they should definitely skip the receiving line!
When the illness is more serious, flexibility is the key. Let's say that one of your bridesmaids came down with a fairly serious disease three months before your wedding. Perhaps one that has caused her to miss a lot of work, or that may require surgery. In that situation, it is vitally important that the bride throw her support 100% behind her sick friend. Let her know that you absolutely want her in your wedding if she feels up to it, or as a guest if that is all she can manage. Also be sure that your bridesmaid knows that if she feels too sick to come at all that you will completely understand. This is no time to worry about whether the groomsmen and bridesmaid numbers will end up uneven at the last minute.
If a member of the bridal party does have to bow out due to a serious illness, it would be very gracious of the bride to pay for her bridesmaid dress and bridesmaid jewelry and give it to her as a gift. Undoubtedly, your friend will feel terrible for letting you down, and this is a good way to show her that you have no hard feelings. If you are having a wedding program, by all means list her as an honorary bridesmaid. It would be very, very sweet to have a bridesmaid bouquet made for her and have it delivered to her bedside as well.
In very rare cases, an immediate member of the bride or groom's family (parent, grandparent, or sibling usually) might be so very ill right before the wedding that their very life hangs in the balance. There comes a point when it is necessary to either postpone the wedding or to scale it back dramatically. It is simply in poor taste to hold a large celebration when someone who should have been there is in the hospital fighting for his or her life. No one will much feel like having a big party anyway, under the circumstances. The wedding must be postponed until such time as the ill family member has recovered, or should they pass away, until after a suitable period of mourning has passed. The other option when a close family member is deathly ill is to cancel the grand celebration and have a very small marriage ceremony with immediate family only. If the very ill person is one of the bride or groom's parents, they may even wish to consider having their ceremony at their parent's bedside, if the patient is up to it. At least that way, all the most important people would still be there to witness the marriage.