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Wedding Party Alternatives


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

First of all, I wanted to thank you all for your many responses to my “Family As Wedding Party” post. They were wise and insightful. I should have stated at the get-go that this post was about our particular planning process, and reflected our particular situation. It was in no way a judgment of those of you who are not particularly close to your families or consider yourselves to belong more to a family of choice than a biological family. I understand all this, for sure.

The classic wedding party works for a lot of people, and is fantastic. For those of us who it doesn’t quite work for, I’m trying to open up options of different ways to approach the issue. I thought I’d share some of the ideas from the comments that I found particularly thought provoking. A Bride In Exile said this:

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. 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, 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.

Of course! On our wedding day our focus should be to surround ourselves with people that love and support us. I think it’s most helpful to first think of who those people are for you – are they family? Are they friends? Maybe your an introvert and you’d really rather just have some time alone. Once you’ve figured that out, then you should tackle figuring out what will work best for you. Maybe it’s really important to you to have people were matching dresses and stand up with you – its traditional and its pretty. Or, maybe you’d rather have people support you by doing readings, or giving toasts. Or, perhaps you just want to have all of your guests participate in the ceremony by adding responsive elements. Whatever works for you, this thought process might be more helpful (at least for those of us struggling with the traditional notion of bridal parties) then just picking some people and picking some outfits.

Angie said:
I have a number of other women I’m very close to 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.

While I’m not at all saying that being in a traditional wedding party is a burden (I’ve done it and loved it). I do really love this idea of finding ways to spend time with and honor the important people in your life on your wedding day, even if you decide to skip the bouquets. I like the idea of carving out time before the ceremony just to get grounded, and to surround yourself with people who love and support you during that time.

The Lovely Ms. Peonie talked about wanting the ceremony to be personal, in a way that I really understood:
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.

We also are striking a balance with this. Our families will stand up, but we’ll be alone under the chuppah with our Rabbi. Finding a way to balance the personal aspect of a marriage with the communal support aspect of the marriage was for us key.

Finally, Rebecca had some great insights on how they worked to include everyone that was important in their lives in different ways:
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. 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.

I hope all this has helped those of you who, like me, are struggling to find ways to include the people that are close to you in a way that makes some emotional sense to you, if the standard wedding traditions don’t quite gel.

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 Oakland, CA with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11539730024285239393 Brenn

    I love Angie’s idea of getting together with friends in some way. I plan to only have my sister as my MOH but what fun would a wedding day breakfast with the girls be?!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10375459870432504143 sarah

    I love Angie’s idea too, I’ve been planning this also. I’m thinking a wedding day brunch, especially so all my girl friends can meet each other and all be together before the wedding. Very inclusive and fun. I also have friends from all over the place, as I’m sure most people do, so they can’t all get together for a shower or bachelorette or something, I thought this was a very good replacement. I’d love to hear more ideas like this!

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

    I like Angie’s idea too, my friends are going to be having dinner with me, my mom, grandma, and sister the night before my wedding (we aren’t going to be having a rehearsal dinner)… it will just be a fun night to honor some of the amazing women in my life.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10010855220044881380 Krista

    It’s so true, all these comments. It’s not important if cousins, family or friends “stand up for you”. It’s that you ask those who mean the most (if you can choose!), and that you honour those loved ones (family or friends) who are not standing up with you. And a wedding day breakfast is a great way to honour those people!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11371172824707301749 Cate Subrosa

    Now we’re getting really close to D day, I’m enjoying your blog more than ever. I think the reason is because you keep pointing out to me reasons to be proud of all the decisions we made and how determined we were to do what was right for us in a simple way. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06543110433423302969 ctemp

    very thoughtful comments. family is right for some people and not for others. i had many challenges with mine, but my wife’s was fine. very weird world indeed.

    chuck
    TheWeddingLens.com

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10933407474487393296 The Broke-Ass Bride

    Meg – you are getting too good at this blogging business – when’s your book deal gonna come out :P

    You’ve been tagged! Check my blog for da rulez. xoxo

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

    Hey, thanks for the shout-out! And thanks for the original post as well, it helped me put my finger on something that had been bugging me and inspired me to think outside the “traditional” roles and consider what (and who) is really important.

    I don’t think I can take back my bridesmaid invitations, but now I’m thinking about inviting my non-bridesmaid friends to hang out with us in the bridal suite for some pre-ceremony “girl time.” I may also ask some of my female friends to be our ushers. I know female ushers aren’t traditional, but, well, nuts to that! :-)

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    Thanks for the mention! I’m glad to know that someone thinks that we had the right idea. We felt a bit weird for not having people standing up there with us, but it would have felt so wrong to us to do it any other way.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02346474761634640812 jans

    I have three sisters, and my fiance also has a sister who I am close to, so the four of them will stand beside me. They’re wearing whatever black dress they want. My two best friends are the flower girls, and I’m inviting my other close friends to be with me when I get ready- I can’t imagine my friends not being there for that. Our moms will also be there- so it will be special to have all the most important women in my life together.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01561153517388402002 JPH

    We went had my husbands son and daughter stand up with us, and that was it. It was a nice way to honor them… our friends were all integral in planning, setting up, and keeping things running, so they got special mentions in our program and a shout-out at the reception.

    I hope that everyone felt honored, and in the end we only had to find one dress ;).

    Really though, people appreciate whatever you choose as long as it’s special to you. People were really touched by our small but loving little family-as-wedding-party, and the kids got to dress up and be special. Friends and family alike will understand and honor your choice, because they love you.