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Family As Wedding Party


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Family As Wedding Party | A Practical WeddingThe thing that has given us the most problems in wedding planning has been getting our heads around the concept of a wedding party. First off, the exclusivity of wedding parties makes me a little bit uncomfortable. I’ve never liked how wedding parties can lead to something of a feeling of a ‘in crowd’ at weddings. Some people are good enough friends to get invited, and some people are good enough friends to wear special outfits and attend the rehearsal dinner and get flowers? It just feels weird to me.

But I think more then anything what I find strange is the idea that we should physically surround ourselves with friends at our wedding, but not family. When I was a tiny girl, I used to point to the woman standing next to my mom in her wedding pictures and say “Who is that lady?” Turns out it was her best friend at the time, and maid of honor, someone she grew apart from right after she got married. Needless to say, I’m delighted with the Jewish wedding tradition of having your parents stand up with you at the huppah. This makes sense to me. You can’t, after all, grow apart from your parents, no matter how hard you try. So I was surprised and delighted when I saw this picture in Martha Stewart weddings this month: it’s a bride surrounded by her family, and her mother and sister in law are sporting… bouquets! A light bulb went on in my head when I saw it. “Of course!” I thought, “Why not give the ladies that are going to be in your life no matter what bouquets? Why not make them feel extra special?”

I don’t know if we’ll give our close female family members little nosegays, since it’s a new idea to me, but we might. What I do know is that we’re going to focus on giving family members specific roles in the weddings. We’ll ask aunts and uncles and cousins to do readings, or bring up the kiddish cup, or make toasts. We feel like the people who watched us when we learned to crawl should be given at least as much honor on our wedding days as the people we learned to love in High School or college. We have friends who are like family who we will also include on our wedding day, and we’re figuring that out. But the one thing we have figured out is that for us, it’s going to be family surrounding us first.

Are any of you including your family in special ways on your wedding day? Grappling with feeling like wedding parties feel like a in club? Negotiating non-traditional but meaningful wedding parties? Fill me in! (I need to know!)

Photo via Martha Stewart Weddings (and check out the flower girls face!)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Becky

    My FI and I are definitely forgoing the wedding party. I’m going to have my best friend of 20+ years, who also happens to be male, ‘stand up’ for me, carry the rings in a small pewter jewelry box and probably read a passage. This is going to sound partially like a pity party but FI and I don’t really have ‘good’ friends at this point in our lives to make up a wedding party. FI has 3 older brothers, although they don’t hang out on a regular basis, he’s always had someone to discuss ‘guy’ stuff with. FI has been somewhat friend-less since his college days and it really doesn’t seem odd at all. I have two decent friendships right now but both of these women have major things going on in their lives, one has a new baby (her second child), new house and marriage all within the span of a year. The second is going through a divorce. If they weren’t going through these things I’m not totally sure I’d ask them to be part of a wedding party either. There always seems to be sooo much drama and extra money in wedding parties – neither of which we’re up for. We’re on a limited budget, going for casual and low key and trying to also incorporate non-traditional elements throughout the wedding. I’d rather have these people be as guests and enjoy themselves.

  • Dianne

    Hi Meg,
    Our wedding last month was really a family affair. Our best man was my husband’s 14 year old son and our maid of honor was his 16 year old daughter. Our flower girl was my 7 year old niece and the ring bearer was her 3 year old brother. My younger sister sang our processional song “When You Wish Upon A Star” and she and my new stepdaughter sang a beautiful duet during the ceremony of “The Prayer”. My three older siblings and my sister-in-law of 26 years did a beautiful choral reading of the “Love is” scripture. My college age nephew was our greeter and my mom and younger sister baked the 6 individual cakes we served. Oh, and one of my brothers rocked the reception as our DJ. Since the wedding and reception were at our home it just felt so cozy to have our nearest and dearest surrounding us in this way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13289107577109971759 anne

    My husband and I kept it very simple. My sister served as my matron of honor, no bridesmaids. And my husband’s brother served as his best man. My sister bought a simple dress that complemented mine and carried a nice clutch instead of a bouquet.

  • vanessa

    Becky, I know exactly how you feel! It’s hard finding close friends these days. Especially when you’ve grown up and moved on from the high school gal pals.

    At first we were going to forego the wedding party alltogether. Then I felt guilty for not including my sister, so I asked her to be my one and only “bridesmaid”. Now I’ve gotten extremely close with my fiances sister, so I feel like maybe I should ask her as well. My fiance doesn’t really want to ask anyone to be his groomsman. I’m thinking we’ll see how we feel closer to the wedding. If we do go through with it, I wont be asking our “bridal party” to wear certain colors or have special duties, we’ll just want them to be there next to us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15103047512463828864 jamie

    Yeah. We didn't have a bridal party. Ben's brother married us and our parents walked us down the aisle. I asked my sister [who is 15] if she would like to act as unnoficial MOH and she looked at me like I was crazy- standing in front of a bunch of people next to us while we said our vows is not her idea of high-jinks I guess. So, while we kept it to out immediate family, I think it is so important to remember that family isn;t always built by blood or law. A negative experience: 2 years age when Ben's same brother was wed, Ben was best man. Though he and I had been together for quite sometime [longer than the bride and groom, as well as, arguably, in a much stronger relationship] I was only the girlfriend, and as such was not included in pre-wedding activities that day, nor am I in any of my brother & sister in laws wedding portraits. :/ Just something to consider. Sounds like you guys are on a great track!

  • http://thisistemporary.wordpress.com/ Christine

    anyone who has a family like that is blessed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00174894872050076618 Marie-Ève

    Personally I’ve been really hurt by the concept of wedding parties (my then best friend asked me to be her maid of honor, then a few months later I heard from someone else that I wasn’t part of the party anymore), so I always felt a little strange about it. Since then, I’ve been a bridesmaid three times, for both my sisters and a friend, and I dutifully and happily did my job, but I kind of always knew I didn’t want a party for my own wedding. I asked my fiance and he agrees too, we’re having a simple, hopefully unfussy wedding and I don’t feel the need to “promote” some people in the “in-crowd”, like you said. I want everyone there feeling like they’re our special ones. I will ask my sisters if they still want a small bouquet though. If they’re into it, I don’t oppose the idea, I also want them to be happy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00701608220286690870 hbrdshry*girl

    One of the very first decisions we made at the on-set of our wedding planning was to not have a wedding party. We were planning a very small wedding of mostly family and a few friends so it just didn’t make sense to us. We wanted the ceremony as simple as possible – just me, him and the guy marrying us.

    Our families gathered around us at the altar, in the front of our small crowd of guests, and when the moment came for me to hand off my bouquet I simply reached out and both my mom and his mom reached for it. That was the only moment where I thought “this is why you have bridesmaids” but it worked out naturally and, honestly, meant much more to me in the moment. We don’t regret our decision at all. In our family’s minds they were our wedding party.

  • Anonymous

    I think it’s a wonderful idea to have family-only or family-focused wedding parties. A good friend of mine from grad school got married and asked me and another friend to be attendants but the official bridesmaids were her bff and sisters in law. 4 years later, we’re no longer close and I’m glad she chose her lifelong companions to be with her at the altar.
    My boyfriend and I each have only one brother and I’d love it if they were the entirety of our wedding party, but we’ll probably get sucked into the ridiculousness of 10-person parties!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06650731630598286205 Rebecca Green Neale

    There was no way I could include in the wedding everyone that I am close with in my big fat Greek family! So, instead of choosing readings and people to read them, we let them self-select and opened up the mike to our gathered guests — to contribute words of wisdom or thoughts during the ceremony. We warned our close family and friends that we were going to do that, so they arrived prepared. I don’t think any of my family members felt that they weren’t an integral part of the day.
    As for the bridal party … well … I hate to disagree with you Meg, because you’re always right on target, but we saw the bridal party as a way to include those who are special to us even though they’re not family. Because we didn’t think twice about having equal numbers, everyone who stood up with us will be in our lives for a long time and, if not, they helped shape who we are and should be there anyway. We didn’t emphasize the point, though, by having them introduced at the reception or a special dance with them, etc. Also, for the only really close family member that didn’t have a formal role (my sister in law), we made sure to give her a corsage.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04949135596695787724 Paisley

    When I started planning my wedding I did not want to have a bridal party. I just didn’t see the point or want to deal with the hassle. When I told my BFF she got all sad and said “But I really want to be YOUR bridesmaid”. She is my BFF so I totally understood that. So she’s going to buy whatever dress she wants and stand by me during my ceremony. It’s very unofficial which is perfect.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13484691703233805436 Sara E. Cotner

    I think you’re onto something here, Meg. At the end of the day, our weddings need to be a true reflection of ourselves and our values. We shouldn’t just follow the “wedding formula” that we see on TV, in movies, in magazines, on blogs…

    A wedding party can be anything you want it to be. A matchy-matchy wedding party. A mixed-sex wedding party. A wedding party comprised of family. No wedding party at all. We just have to have the courage to cast aside the formula and forge our own paths. We have to remember that we can’t have the kind of wedding that everyone else wants us to have. And even if people disagree with our choices, in the end, it is very likely that they will be overwhelmed by the sincerity and the meaning behind our personalized weddings.

    Thanks so much for posting such thought-provoking insights!

  • Anonymous

    I’m a second time bride which frees me from tradition a bit. My three daughters and my son will makeup my bridal party. My Fi is having his two brothers and after much convincing his sister stand up for him. His steddad will be singing and playing the guitar. I love the idea of being surrounded by family.

  • http://tellyoutoday.blogspot.com/ genevieve

    Our wedding three weeks ago was all family. My husband’s brother officiated, my dad made a reading, my brother was ring-bearer, the women in both our families held a chuppah over us during the ceremony. I didn’t ask any of my friends (nor did my husband) to be “in the party”…it never even really crossed my mind to ask my girlfriends to be my bridesmaids. I have a really tight knit group of 6 friends, and I think they were all a little relieved not to have any duties on the big day other than to show up, look hot, and have a great time. Additionally, involving the families from both sides really made the ceremony feel ultra personal. I couldn’t be happier with how it all went!

  • Lisa

    First time commenter here. I got engaged in July, and never liked the idea of a wedding party, but my sister really wanted to be my maid of honor, so we decided that our wedding parties would be exclusively our siblings — my fiance will have his two brothers as his best men, and I will have my sister as my maid of honor, and my brother as my bridesman. I’m kind of toying with the idea of both of my parents walking me down the aisle as well.

  • Lisa

    OH and duh I forgot this. My father sings, and wanted to sing at the wedding, so my father will be singing a Bob Dylan song accompanied by my brother on acoustic guitar. I think we’ll ask my future inlaws to do a reading.

  • Lisa

    Oh and b/c I can’t just say it all in one, or even two, comments, in our ceremony there’s going to be a part where the minister asks our families for their support in our marriage and they reply “we will” or something to that effect. And then the minister asks the congregation at large the same thing. So it all has a very communal and supportive feel to it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11711266239364382681 amanda

    i am really close with my sister as well as my best friend, so i had both as my maids of honor. and my husband, who has 3 sisters, had his sisters on his side as “groomsmaids”… in fact, they titled themselves the “groomettes”! we also had friends in our wedding party… it wasn’t the most cookie-cutter wedding party you’ve ever seen, but who wants a cookie-cutter wedding? we also had our mothers do our two readings during the ceremony.

    i don’t see any reason not to include both family AND close friends in your celebration… as far as wedding “rules” go, this is the first area that i would throw out the rules and do what feels right to you. to me, the wedding party was less about an in-crowd and more about a support system. i asked myself, “who do i want around me on the big day?” and went from there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17468276901563947172 Kristy

    Everyone’s expecting a wedding party. I know my sister would be upset to not be included. And my fiancĂŠ’s sister might, too. And I have a cousin who would probably take serious offense to not being included (even though we’re not anywhere near as close as we used to be). But I have NO idea who I’d pick, out of my sister, our relatives, and my close friends. I think I know who he’d pick, though. The whole thing stresses me out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    We’re definitely, definitely having family involved–but I’m not sure how yet. We would love to have our siblings (his brother and sister, my brother) and my best friend and his best friend stand up with us, but his brother and sister will both have small children at that point, so we’re not sure how much we want to ask of them…

    I also really want my cousins (all five of them) involved somehow, but just having them stand next to us doesn’t seem like… enough, almost. One of them’s easy, because she’s nine and wants to be the flower girl, but the others…? I really don’t know. And I want my aunts and uncles and grandparents to be part of the ceremony, but if each of them did a reading we’d be there all night, and Zack’s nephews, but they can’t all be ringbearers… Meh. I really don’t know.

  • emk

    Neither my fiance or I have siblings or cousins, so the family as bridal party doesn’t really work for us. I don’t know what we’re going to do about his side, but I have about 10 awesome women to pick from, if I wanted to. I’ll probably have one or two maids.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t want a wedding party for the reasons you outlined. However, it was very important to my fiancee to have his 4 friends stand with him, so I had to give in. My 3 sisters + a lifetime dear friend will be my wedding party. But to be honest, I still would have preferred for it just to be the two of us up there…compromising is hard. :)

  • http://tealengthtulle.wordpress.com/ tealengthtulle

    Like a lot of y’all, we’re keeping it simple. I have been a bridesmaid several times and enjoyed it never, plus we both really want the focus to be on us and the meaningfulness and beauty of our vows to each other, not the matching dresses standing beside me. I’m going to try to take all my girlfriends out to brunch or celebrate their awesomeness another way, but on our wedding day, we wanted it to just be us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12020607748960628571 E

    I’ve gotta beg to differ with you on this topic. Our wedding will be very friends-centric, because we’re very friend-centered people. In fact, the only family that will be in attendance are our parents, and my fiance’s brother.

    Personally, I take issue with the notion that weddings are or should be family affairs, because for some people, they’re just not.

    And you most certainly CAN grow apart from your family, without much effort at all, really.

    • Kristen

      I agree completely. I am going through this at the moment actually. We are not really close to anyone on either side but they felt offended because they thought they ‘should’ be in the party. We basically said it ‘should’ be who want… it is our wedding. I mean if he wants to pick his best friend who he lived with for 7 years in another state from his family who he talks to every single day and works with on a winterguard every year for his best man… more power to him… shouldn’t be his brother just because they are related.

  • Anonymous

    I have always been anti-wedding party because I hate the responsibility (both getting and giving) and the inevitable drama, but when I walked down the aisle to “stand up” for a close friend from college (as she and her mother refer to being in the wedding party), I found the experience really moving. Having been in weddings before that, I was shocked to be so glad I wasn’t in the audience, but part of the wedding. I still would prefer not to have a wedding party myself, but since the other half of my partnership does want one, I’m going to choose friends and family (like her) who I think would feel similarly honored and moved to be standing up for me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17737984894162062911 A Diary in the Tme of the Plague

    I agree very much with E. My “biological family”,(even though half aren’t genetically related. my mother was adopted, as was her brother.) is pretty small and we aren’t close. I have had little to no contact with my dad’s side of the family throughout my lifetime, and have grown up with a different definition of family. To me family are the people who stand by you no matter what, and in my lifetime genetics seem to have gone against that more than for it. My mother passed away when I was young and while it was initially incredibly painful to begin wedding planning without her I realized that I couldn’t have it much better. I have 3 of her best friends who are often referred to as “the aunties”. These women have held my families hands, wiped our tears and buried our dead when those who share our bloodline had no desire to be present. I have the mothers of my dear friends who frequently act as surrogate mamas. My father has a wonderful partner with whom he lives but he isn’t married. Her daughter is a sister of sorts but not by the traditional definition. I’m from a small town where community is huge and i can’t wait to have them with me on my wedding day, whether they stand beside me or are simply present. Standing beside my fiance and I will be our “siblings”, the “not quite a step sister”, the girls I have grown up with, my dear friend I introduce as my brother, and the woman who is more of a sister than I could have ever hoped for. Our siblings by more traditional standards will be there as well.
    Sorry that got a bit long, apparently I feel pretty passionately about this one.

  • http://angineer.blogspot.com Angie

    I’m approaching bridesmaid gig #4 and have started to give a lot of thought to the bridal party question. I’d like to limit my part of the wedding party to my sister and maybe my BFF (16+ years and counting). I have a number of other women I’m very close to (incl. some I’ve been bridesmaids for) and while I want to find some special time with them, I don’t want to burden them with matching dresses and mandatory hair appointments. So I’m thinking that I’d like to carve out an hour or so to spend with those women that I’m close to, to honor them with time instead of titles and obligations. I’m encouraged to find this community with other like-minded women. :)

  • Amy

    My cousin is my maid of honor and another cousin is a bridesmaid. My mom is walking down the aisle. My grandma is helping to make the food.

    Family is important to me as well. So my boy’s sister is also a bridesmaid. His family is involved in place too. We want our wedding to be more of a family reunion/party.

  • Julia

    I never considered not having a wedding party. Not really because thought I NEEDED one, but I just never gave it that much thought. I’m a sheep I guess. I am, however, keeping it really family oriented. My mom is by far my best friend (sappy, much?) so she’s goign to be my matron of honor and my fiance’s sister is going to be the only other bridesmaid. I’m excited to become family with her because I’m an only child and have never had a sibling, much less a rad sister. My step dad is an amazing guitarist and is going to play for our ceremony and play me down the aisle. Now I just have to find something for my new mother-in-law and maybe my grandmother-in-law.

  • Liz

    Interesting. My partner and I are less close to our extended family members — we live across the country from many of them, and don’t see or correspond with many them more than once a year. On the other hand, we spend lots of holidays with friends, take vacations with friends, etc. They are the ones that know us as a couple, rather than as my/his “plus one.”

    So when it comes to the rehearsal dinner, or readings, or whatever, I struggle with the expectation that family comes first. I don’t want to EXCLUDE our aunts and uncles, but it’s frustrating to feel like the people that know us best are considered less important.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    One of the most touched weddings I ever attended was very much a family orientated wedding, despite having 190 guests. The bridesmaids were the bride and groom’s 6 and 3 year old nieces and the groomsmen were their brothers. The bide got ready with her mum, all of her siblings and sisters in law and the groom the same. It was lovely.

    This depends on having a family that you not only like but that are relaxed enough for you to be around all day on your wedding day. Not everyone does!

    We had a very half hearted wedding party. Two bridesmaids, a best man and a best woman. They helped us a lot but they didn’t stand beside us during the ceremony. We were adamant that the ceremony was between us and the officiant, no one else. My Mum gave a reading and walked down the aisle with the bridesmaids and my cousin and The Boy’s cousin also gave readings. I wanted my close friends involved and around me on the day, but not too heavily. It was what was right for us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13811559996670448379 Emily Takes Photos

    What a great post! When my boy and I get married, I think instead of having a bridal party, we want to have my brother and sister and his 2 cousins, who are like brothers to him (he’s an only child) hold the 4 poles of our chuppah. Then we’ll recognize our elders by having them either do readings or give us advice for our marriage during the ceremony. Of course, we’re no where near getting married yet, but that’s totally how I have it in my head!

  • Anonymous

    I agree very much what “e” said: one CAN grow apart from their parents and family, et al.

    My family is not coming to our wedding at all. They’ve chosen their religion over their children. My partner’s family consists of just his mother, and adopted half-sister. That’s it. And I’m not close to FMIL or FSIL. They’re nice, but not exactly a kindred spirit.

    Our friends, however, ARE our kindred spirits and we’re blessed to have their support and love. Both my fiance and I are very friends-centered people, our close network / community of friend are basically our family.

    Personally, I could care less if my parents attend. Our friends that have stood by us thru the years mean more to us than most of our blood relatives. Everyone’s situation is different…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03946798903591192470 Becky (rksquared)

    of the 12 people in our wedding party (incl FGs & RBs) 8 were family. 3 of the non family included my BFF (for 25 years) & her 2 kids. The other was a friend of the hubs since high school (we're in our 30s). Readers, etc were aunts and uncles save 1 friend, whom I've known for nearly 15 years. No friends of the moment for us!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06939935590766216936 Bridechka

    This is a lovely idea, and while I am not anti-bridal party myself, I did want to get my family and his family involved in a meaningful way so here is our plan:

    During the ceremony, instead of having the Rabbi recite the seven blessings, each member of our families is going to say one. That way they are actually an integral part of marrying us. I hope it lets them know how special they are to us.

  • Anonymous

    While the general sentiment is right on (i.e. your wedding should be about your values, and whether or not you have a wedding party and how it’s constructed), I don’t see the need to justify it. “Because we want to put family first” or so on and so forth…who cares? It’s your wedding, do what you’d like.

    I just find it a little presumptious to assume that couples who choose to have a wedding party are somehow neglecting the feelings of their other guests. And also, what happens if the bride and groom have families where they don’t have as tight of a relationship as you and yours?

    I’m new to this blog, and thought that it was more about practical things one can do for his/her wedding; this entry though is just about someone’s opinion and how she is handling something (while at the same time putting down others way of doing the same thing).

  • Aerin

    I’ve also got to disagree. Even before we got engaged, the topic of the wedding party came up, and got decided pretty much in the first conversation. When we were debating whether or not to elope, we decided that we couldn’t, because not only did we want our family with us, but we wanted those friends who, after all, we had asked to stand with us. The fact that we were okay if only immediate family and the bridal party were at the wedding really reaffirmed to me that these people are our family too.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t usually comment, but this is a subject near and dear to me. I am getting married next year and intend to have my sister as a maid of honor, my fiancee’s brother as his best man and his sister to do a reading during the ceremony. That’ll be it. And I’ll tell you, people look at me like I have three heads when I tell them that’s my plan.

  • Anonymous

    It’s very traditional in the South for the father of the groom to be the Best Man – for the very reasons outlined in this post. That’s what my fiancee and I are doing – I will have my two sisters and he will have his Dad and brother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10072916384423009466 Jersey Girl & Mom to One Very Special Baby Girl in Maryland

    We also felt really strange about including some friends but not others. My husband had a large group of guy friends who all went to high school together and it felt weird to have to include all of them or on the flip side include some, but then not the others. We ended up having a bridal party of all family with the exception of one of my girl friends. So we had his two brothers as best men, his two nephews as groomsmen, my little brother as both a groomsman and my ‘man of honor’… my little sister was my maid of honor, my cousin, sister-in-law, and one girl friend were my bridesmaids. It worked out wonderfully and we were so glad we chose to have family instead. We did end up including two of my husband’s best friends as “readers” during the ceremony and so they also joined in at the rehearsal dinner. It worked out really well.

  • Anonymous

    ^but…how does singling out the two best friends to be readers not the same as selecting those two best friends to be in the wedding party? isn’t it still singling them out???

  • Bride

    I have little family and just one close friend. My fiance lives in England and so we have very few friends in common. His people will all have to fly here so their number is limited as well. I have struggled with feeling bad because we don’t have enough people to “make” a wedding. Your post makes me feel that perhaps it’s okay. I don’t need to have a wedding party. I need to think of this ceremony as being about us, not about what I’m supposed to do. Thank you for reminding me of this.

  • Stephanie

    the one and only conversation I had as a kid about weddings, was with my best friend at 12 after she had gone to a wedding. We both decided that we would only have our sister as our Maid of Honor and that was it. That way no one’s feelings would be hurt. When she got married two years ago, her sister was her maid of honor, and when I got married on Saturday my sister was my Maid of Honor. Everyone else who is special got a unique corsage and they didn’t have to buy a new dress!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15362812055877443802 Hannah Noel

    I can understand that.
    I’m having my sister as my maid of honor, and niece and nephew as flower girl/ring bearer. My FH is having his dad and brother be bestman and one of his groomsman.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12020607748960628571 E

    On the topic of siblings as honor attendants: I’m all for it if your sibling truly is your best friend. But far too often, it seems people (ahem, women specifically) are guilted into making their sister their Maid of Honor, either by their mother, or by their sister herself.

    And that’s about as lame as lame can get.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08842191847941847564 Bride in Exile

    I’ve been a bridesmaid twice and loved it, and so the question of not having a wedding party didn’t even occur to me. Now I kind of wish it had. My fiance and I wanted to keep things small, and I’ve definitely gotten the feeling that one of my non-bridesmaid friends was hurt that I didn’t ask her to be in the wedding party. I feel terrible about it. You’re right about the “in crowd” feeling being a big potential downside.

    I think if you’re closer to your family than to any of your friends, the family as wedding party concept is a great one. But it’s definitely not for everyone. I love my family but they are also a pretty stressful bunch (parents bitterly divorced, etc.) and I know having my friends around will make the day much more fun. But if I had to do it again I might just ask all of my friends if they’d like to hang out with me in the bride’s dressing room, rather than trying to pick among them and decide who gets to wear the special outfits.

  • jane

    I had the same concerns about the ‘in crowd’ aspect of wedding parties. I wanted to avoid the whole thing – everyone I invited to the wedding I would want standing with me, so why call out specific people – but it was really important to my new husband to have people special to him stand. We compromised (and I should say that our wedding has been described as comfortable yet elegant – we went the classy informal route). We didn’t have a formal processional, but instead just asked the guests and party (on chalkboard, below) to gather when the music started playing (we had a pre-ceremony reception with wine, beer, lemonade, etc). We asked our wedding party to wear whatever made them feel fabulous, so there was no special clothing that set them apart from everyone. His parents walked my husband down the aisle and I followed with my parents. Because it was an eco-ish wedding, we didn’t have paper programs that announced who was what (we used a chalkboard instead that just covered the most important details). We had corsages (sp?) for all of the immediate family who were not part of the ceremony per se. We didn’t announce the wedding party at the reception, only the bride and groom. We didn’t have a formal head table. Our efforts were spent making everyone feel comfortable, not highlighting that some were more special than others. I wouldn’t have changed a thing – people we didn’t know (husbands of coworkers, etc) said later that they felt completely comfortable and relaxed, and even though we had about 120 guests, many commented that it felt really intimate.

  • K

    It is actually very possible to grow apart from your parents, just like one can from friends. It takes a lot more for that to happen perhaps, but it does happen. Sometimes with as much energy as one can muster trying to NOT make it happen. But I love this idea and our groomsmen will actually be my fiance’s brothers and cousin.

  • Dragon

    (working my way through the archives). Due to family issues, I needed to know that I would have a group of women around me at my wedding whose job is to support me, and shield me (when possible). For those of us who have family with mental health issues, weddings can be a challenge. We may want them to be part of our wedding but we need tools and help to manage them, especially as the stress and emotion of a wedding can exacerbate their behavior. I have played this role for friends as well. I felt that designating people as “bridesmaids would make a difference in how seriously both they and others took the position. “I can’t go in the dressing room, her bridesmaid told me not to.”. Knowing that I have the support of a bridal party will help me focus on my partner and the ceremony.

  • Sarah

    I just found your blog and am loving it! I’m planning a Jewish wedding in Israel, and here there is no tradition of attendants — your family stands under the chuppa with you and that’s more than enough. Interestingly here as well, your family is already at the chuppa during the procession — and the bride and groom walk down the isle hand in hand! I want my parents to walk me down, but I have nixed the bridal party and have discovered that my friends from home think this is refreshing.

  • Jennie

    I too just discovered this site and I absolutely love this post. I get that not everyone is close with their families, or might feel they are closer with their friends. That having been said, to me it is about choosing a group of people that will make sense to everyone and will not needlessly offend. If 10 of my friends are there for me as guests on my wedding day, is it nice to effectively say, “but this friend is better than all the rest,” or is that sort of, well, offensive? There is no other situation in life that I can think of where it would be appropriate to make a public statement about which friends are better than others, and I don’t see why weddings should be any different. I’ve been hurt by being excluded from a wedding party in the past when I thought two other girls and I were all friends equally but then one asked the other but not me to be in her wedding party, and have heard many stories from other people to whom this has happened as well. I think brides and grooms-to-be need to try harder to practice good judgment and not sabotage their friendships for no reason. Family is a good choice even if you are not that close with them because it is a distinction that everyone will recognize.