You Smell Like Pine Needles And Your Face Is Like Sunshine: Choosing Your Bridal Party

While the trend of not having a bridal party at all is starting to catch on, you more than likely are thinking about who you want as your bridesmaids and groomsmen.  Your bridal party is an important part of your day, so this is not a decision to take lightly.  You want the people standing with you at your wedding to be an important part of your lives, but they also need to be reliable.  Choosing attendants is not the time to reconnect with long-lost friends.  You may have been really close with your sorority 4 years ago, but if you don’t really keep in touch with any of them, there’s no reason to ask them all to stand with you.  This is a special moment in your life, and those who are truly special to the two of you should be the ones bearing witness to your nuptials.

The first question most brides seem to think of first is not just who, but how many you should choose.  While there is not really such a thing as having too few, you don’t want to have too many (both for the sake of having to keep track of all of them and for it not looking like you’ve invited to whole guest list to stand).  If you’re having a 120 person wedding, choosing 10 bridesmaids is a little excessive (by the time you pick the same number of groomsmen, that’s 1/6 of your entire guest list!).  A relatively good “rule” (and I put that in quotes because, in all actuality, you can do whatever you want) is to stick to about 1 attendant on each side for every 40 guests.  The goal of this “rule” is not to impose a strict limit, but to provide a guideline.  If you’re having a 200 person wedding, you can easily have 5 bridesmaids (for a total of 10 people standing), but you could probably get away with 8 (for a total of 16) without it looking overwhelming if you have that many close friends.

When you decide on a number, take a look at who is closest to you.  You may feel some obligation towards certain people, so decide how strong that obligation is and what the potential fall out would be if you didn’t choose said person.  It’s funny how offended some people can get over not being asked to stand for your wedding.  When choosing among friends, it’s best to be aware of how your social circle interacts.  If you choose some people out of the group, but not others, that can come across badly.  In theory anyone who is truly your friend will recognize you can’t choose everyone you may like to and will respect your decision, but in reality that doesn’t always play out.

We are having a 120-ish person guest list, so we decided to keep our bridal party limited to 3 or 4 on each side.  I chose my sister, Tim’s sister, and my best friend who we say is my unofficial sister (I call her parents Mom and Dad, and she does the same with mine, so we’re pretty much family anywho).  If I were to choose a fourth, it’d be someone out of a group of close-knit friends, and I couldn’t choose one over the others, so we left it at 3 to avoid any hurt feelings.  The group is really understanding of keeping my bridal party to the “sisters”, so since none of them were asked, they’re all fine with it.  Tim insists guys are not that complicated and that he’d go with whatever number I picked.

Be clear in your own mind what you expect from your bridal party before you start picking people.  If you expect them to just show up the day of and smile for pictures you may choose differently than if you expect them to help you with any planning appointments or week of set up (like tying 100 something bows).  The more you expect out of them, the more reliable they need to be.  The girl who is notoriously hard to get a hold of who rarely returns phone calls may not be the best choice if you’re going to depend on them for some help.  On the same note, be up front with who you ask what you expect their roles to really entail.

Don’t choose your bridesmaids more than 8 months out if you’re doing anyone outside of obligations (like sisters).  Friendships change, and all too often you hear stories from brides about how they chose their bridesmaids right after getting engaged, and now that they’re almost to the wedding a year and a half later they’re closer friends with other girls they wish they could ask and have kind of lost touch with those that have already committed to it.  In a perfect world you wouldn’t have to ask anyone until just a few months out, but with some dresses taking 6 months to come in, you need a little bit of time for that kind of thing.

Three general notes:

  1. Do not ask your mom to be a bridesmaid.  Or his mom.  You may be really close, you may be best friends (trust me, me and my mom are and if I could have had her as one I would have), but there are certain things the moms are responsible for in terms of the wedding, and it is inviting a whole new level of stress if you ask her to have a new set of responsibilities on top of it.  Not to mention you’re then making dad sit by himself.
  2. Do not “un-bridesmaid” someone.  Ever.  Well, almost ever.  “She’s being a brat” is not a reason to ask someone to step down as a bridesmaid.  Neither is pregnancy.  If she’s not a good enough friend for you to want her to share in your day because she’s carrying a bowling ball in her abdomen, you weren’t good enough friends for you to ask her to begin with.  The ONLY exception to the “no un-bridesmaid-ing someone” rule is if something morally or legally terrible has happened.  If you’re finding yourself uncomfortable with the attitude she is taking, talk to her about it.  Ask what’s going on, if you’ve done something to offend her, if something is going on in her life, etc.  Chances are if something is going on that’s bad enough for you to want to un-bridesmaid her, either she doesn’t realize that you’re expecting certain things of her, or she’ll step down herself.
  3. Take time with your bridesmaids to do non-wedding related things.  They may be your bridal attendants, but they’re your friends first, and you need to remember that life exists for them outside of your wedding, and you need to show them you remember that.

You don’t need to have the same number of bridesmaids as groomsmen if you don’t want to, and you don’t have to ask the bridesmaids and the groomsmen at the same time, but do ask everyone on each side (so all the bridesmaids or all the groomsmen) at once so it doesn’t look like you’re waiting to see who says yes or no and appear to be ranking people.

In a later post I’ll talk about interactions with the bridal party, what is reasonable to expect, and anything else I happen to realize I forgot to include here.  If you think of something, leave a message in the comments or shoot me an email so I can address it later!


Posted on October 27, 2011, in To-Do, Wedding Planning Isn't For Sissies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. 3 is a great number…we are having 5 on each side, two family and then 3 friends. Most of my maids are not close by Seattle, so planning with them is more limited, but I am prepared for that and still try to include them however possible. Our focus right now is making the expenses for these special people as low as possible (travel, clothes etc) since some are not currently employed and still need to travel to get here.

    • Yeah the only bridesmaid I have nearby is my sister…in the same house haha. One of them is 6 hours away in the Detroit area, and the other is in Texas. It definitely makes some of the planning stuff difficult (coordinating picking dresses was RIDICULOUS!), but we’re making it work and they get their hands in things whenever they can.

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