It happens to the best planned wedding, a member of the wedding party suddenly drops out and sends the bride into a full fledged panic. The reasons may be bogus or legit, it might be a work conflict, a car accident or a case of bad bridesmaid. The reason doesn't matter, you suddenly have a gap in the wedding party!
Its not the end of the world and the wedding won't be ruined. It's more common than you can imagine. It happened to me. The person got transferred for work a week before the wedding. There wasn't any thing I could do. Of course I cried, cursed my fate and cried some more, but it did nothing to remedy the situation. So, I punted and decided not to replace the missing member. It was OK. I had an extra usher and none of the guests noticed.
So what should you do should this (please God, NOOOO!) happen to you? A lot depends on the wedding time line when it happens. If its early enough in the planning stages, you can simply replace that member. If its closer to the wedding, you still have choices....replace or not replace.
Not replacing is the easiest choice. You can have an extra bridesmaid, you can have an extra groomsman or usher. Have two groomsmen walk with one bridesmaid or vice versa. Or bump an usher up to a groomsman and have him do dual duty. If it's your maid of honor, have one of the bridesmaids step into that position.
Replacing is trickier at this stage. If the bridesmaid dresses have been special ordered, someone has to pay for the dress because the manufacturer wants their money. There is no way the manufacturer will cancel the order. A special order is a special order in bridal. The bridal shop pays the dress manufacturer or the manufacturer will hold all the dresses. You can scream all you want at the bridal shop, but it won't help. You can demand the bridal shop give you YOUR dress, but unless you signed for the special order, put down the deposit and signed the contract that you are responsible for the balance, it is NOT your dress. The dress belongs to the MIA bridesmaid. Its becomes a legal matter and the courts won't be on your side.
There is a solution. Talk to the dropout about the dress. 99% of the time she won't want the dress, but you have to make sure she doesn't want the dress. Offer to pay her back the deposit, then have her contact the bridal shop to tell them that she releases the dress to you. You will then be responsible for paying the balance of the dress. If your replacement is willing to pay for the dress in full, your replacement pay you for the dress. You can offer to pay half of the dress for her because she's doing you a huge favor of stepping in at the last minute. The key is communication between the dropout, yourself and the bridal salon.
If the dropout is a groomsman, he can simply rent a tux. Since the tux has to be paid in full when the tux is ordered, it won't be a problem if MIA groomsman doesn't show up. The tux will just stay in the back room. Again, the payment WON'T be transferred, the tux belongs to whomever ordered it. Its the legality thing.
Your wedding won't be ruined if someone drops out. Don't waste a lot of energy twittering, complaining, crying and skewering the dropout. It's NOT worth it. Sometimes things just happen. And it could be worse: I once had a wedding where all the bridesmaids were arrested for possession after the rehearsal dinner and were in jail the day of the wedding! And the wedding went on as planned....but I think the friendships were permanently fractured.
Take a deep breath, it will all work out.