*Our* Wedding Party


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

*Our* Wedding Party | A Practical WeddingI’ve written quite a bit about alternative wedding party models. I wrote about having your family as your wedding party, having a bridal brigade, and your great suggestions for having the people you love the most near you on your wedding day. But. I realized I never wrote about what we decided on for our wedding party. Funny thing that – starting a blog to write about your wedding and then forgetting to write about it.

So: long story short. Figuring out what kind of wedding party made sense has been one of the hardest parts of wedding planning for us. The traditional wedding party – long lines of friends in pretty matching frocks and tuxes – never felt quite right to us. David said it felt like prom with all the matchy-matchy, I said it felt like picking kickball teams out of our friends (and someone was going to end up left out).* At the same time, not having anyone stand up with us didn’t feel right either. We have siblings and old friends who we wanted to include in some formal way. So, we pondered and pondered, and hemmed and hawed, and every time we settled on a solution something really dramatic would happen that would screw the whole plan up and we’d have to start again from scratch. Fun times, wedding planning. But, with lots of thought, and wonderful examples from friends and the indie wedding planning community, we figured it out.

Luckily for us, Jewish weddings have a small pile of honors you can pass out, and we’ve passed out honors to friends and loved ones. We are including people in the wedding party by asking them to perform certain ritual responsibilities in the wedding. The core of our ‘wedding party’ is this: We’ve asked four people to be our huppah holders: my sister, David’s brother, and two long time friends. We’ve asked two people to be readers at the wedding: Our new sister-in-law and another old friend. We asked a dear friend who is in rabbinical school to perform the cantoral (musical) duties. We’ve asked the women in the wedding party to wear jewel toned dresses, and the men to wear dark suits. Everyone can pick something to wear that they love, and many people are wearing things they already have, which is fantastic. Since we’re having a flower decorating party the day before, all of the women can make themselves some floral decorations, so they should feel sassy and pretty on the day itself.

The great thing for us is that this wedding party model is really flexible. We’ve asked key people to participate, but as time goes on, we will probably ask aunts and uncle’s and cousins to do other small things: say a blessing, bring up a kiddush cup, pass out programs. We’ll ask friends to help out in other ways: witnessing our ketubah signing, helping to set up the wedding picnic, helping to coordinate some day of details, wandering around with a Polaroid camera and taking artsy pictures. We want our wedding to feel like a day when we make an important commitment in front of our community, so we’re not feeling very shy about asking that community to pitch in on the celebration. We may be forming a jewel toned kickball team, but it’s a big one, and it’s pretty amorphous.

One final note: since we’re having a Jewish wedding, our parents to stand up with us. In a Jewish wedding the groom is walked down the aisle first, by both of his parents. His parents then stand beside the huppah. The bride is walked down the aisle last by both of her parents, who stand on the other side of the huppah. They then proceed to cry hysterically in stiletto heels about two inches away from you (well, the moms at least). And hurrah for that. On our wedding day, we’ll be surrounded by the people who have known us the longest: our parents, our siblings, and some friends who can’t quite shake us no matter what they do. And that is good enough for me.

*I’m not at all saying it’s not right for other people. It’s delightfully right for lots of couples, and good for them. Figuring all this out is a headache I wouldn’t have minded skipping.

Photo by Jenny Jimenez from this wedding

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.

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

    Sounds like a fantastic plan. It’s not far off what we did actually and ours worked out brilliantly, with people having real responsibilities as opposed to empty titles.

  • http://maggieplans.livejournal.com/ maggieplans

    We’re having our siblings do readings and that’s it. Neither of us are fond of the whole rigamarole (and expense) of having a formal wedding party.

    On a side note, I love the idea of the parents walking both bride and groom down the aisle and standing up at the ceremony. Unfortunately, my fiancĂŠ’s father is not able to stand for long periods, so that won’t work for us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08446875699927053176 Katie

    what a creative way to involve all your loved ones! great ideas.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00882142088145706596 Lee

    Sounds like a great plan! We also felt a little funny about the matchy wedding party line, so much so that we thought about not having a wedding party. But we really wanted to recognize our good friends and sisters, so we asked them to stand up with us. I’m so glad we did.

    The funny part was how willing everyone was to buy some kind of matching outfit. We insisted that we would be happy for them to wear whatever they would like. One groomsman was about to purchase a suit, just to have for dressy occasions in general, and said that he would buy a specific color if I wanted him to! I can’t imagine telling one of my husband’s friends what color suit to buy!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00556928488657729922 Erinlee

    I love your idea and it’s exactly what we are striving for. We also did not want a formal wedding party, instead we chose one attendant each. Since we are having a Catholic mass we are asking other special people in our lives to do the readings, help with the liturgy of the Eucharist, and play the music.
    I just can’t imagine having a line of color coordinated women following me around all day. Many people have a hard time understanding why we don’t want this.

    For us simple means stress free!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09731426268019406064 Ten Thousand Only

    incorporating those you love the most in the way that makes you the most comfortable is the best way to go about it. and the way you’ve planned it sounds like a win-win.

    it’s going to be wonderful.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Maggie-
    I’ve also written about how a wedding party shouldn’t be expensive. Ours is more or less free. Since they’ll make whatever flowers they carry, that is barely an expense, and we’ll do very simple gifts like a picture of the day and a heartfelt letter (which is what I would want anyway). So! Next to free for us, and next to free for them. (They’ll be flying out for the wedding, poor things, but they were all doing that anyway. We’ll feed them a lot to make up for that.)

    And, if your parents can’t stand, you can always put a chair up there for them. We are not sure if my mom will be able to stand the whole time, but if she can’t, someone will just grab her a chair, and she’ll sit up there by the huppah.

  • Sage

    I just love how thoughtful you’ve been about the whole wedding party process, and applaud the fact that you’re including your loved ones in ways that don’t necessarily come with the title “bridesmaid” or “groomsman.”

    There are some resources (cough theknot.com cough) that insist that you should not put your guests “to work” and should instead just let them enjoy the wedding with no responsibilities.

    I think that’s a load of crap, as most of the “responsibilities” you intend to delegate to your friends and family are indeed HONORS, not work assignments.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441798371617926431 kaitlin

    I can certainly relate to the sentiment that the wedding party is something that could have been skipped.

    We *thought* we had it figured out: My two best friends from elementary school, his two best friends from elementary school: Bam. Done. End of story.

    But, then one of my gals decided to ditch me for a vacation to Italy (not that I blame her…well, I sort of do).

    Anyway, because I asked them in advance, I don’t really want to ask other people now–akward! But at the same time, my mother is insisting that I’m nuts for only having one person in my bridal party.

    Really? I get that a wedding is a big thing to plan, but does that means that everyone who helps has to be in the bridal party? The more wedding elves, the merrier!

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

    We’re having an interfaith Jewish wedding also and doing something similar. We also filled a lot of roles by integrating the seven blessings tradition by writing our own and having seven friends read them.

    One thing– one of my friends did a similar thing, and gave some people speaking roles and had others help out with certain thigns. I would say that the people asked to help felt hurt, like not only were they NOT given an honor, but they were asked to do work. This won’t happen probably with family who expect to help, but be careful with what you consider to be an honor.

    As an aside, have you started writing your vows yet? Are you using any sources for that? I’m so overwhelmed by this task!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06511137593846022849 Amy I.

    Crying moms in stilettos…haha so true!! I love your plan– your wedding is going to be so filled to the brim with warmth and love!

  • Amy

    Good for you. I always love reading posts more than pictures (although I love pictures), but I love reading about how other people are planning.

    The whole, plan and the stop and start over with a new plan sounds a lot like what happens with me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09086142807086386230 Mrs. Andi

    That is a very good idea of using everybody! We decided to keep our party super small, a matron of honor (my best friend) & a best man (his brother). I've never liked the idea of an army marching you down the aisle!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Hey Sarah-
    I haven’t written a ton about crafting the service yet because we start *officially* working on that with the Rabbi in March. Our wedding is interfaith-ish as well. It’s a Jewish wedding, but my family is very Protestant, so we have two sets of traditions to honor. That said, we’re not writing our vows. We decided to stick with the tried and true “Behold, thou are consecrated unto me with this ring according to the law of Moses and of Israel” (in Hebrew) though we’ll also add biblical passages afterwards (short ones) I’ll write more about it soon. We’re personalizing in other areas of the service‌ I just really like the idea of saying the same words generations before me have said. (and like you, I think I’d be overwhelmed by what to say.) But, thanks for prompting me‌ more about service writing (which we are doing lots of) coming soon.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15899239356088557995 Amanda

    At my friend’s Orthodox wedding, the attendants took hands and walked around the bride and groom three times. I loved joining hands with other people who loved and supported them and traveling around them over and over; this reminds me of that. I love that you get to have so many people surrounding you, and cheering you on, and that they actually get to take part. Mmmm.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15449302175595855512 Karol

    Love it. I don’t really want a wedding party and am not entirely sure how to handle it. We’re also having a Jewish wedding and I’d like to limit who stands with us to just immediate family. I like the idea of giving other roles to important friends and family members.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Hi Karol-
    What I didn’t mention is that we’re only having family stand (and huppah holders, by default). That’s totally a Jewish thing, so go with it! You can have people carry in the huppah but not stand to hold it, have people come up to read one of the seven blessings but not stay standing.

    And I don’t just think this is a jewish thing, by the way, everyone can do it. But in your case, it’s refreshingly easy!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00296286661854197887 Fatale Femme

    I grew up in MORMON Utah, and had no idea about any of the traditions involved in a Jewish wedding, but after so much wedding research to pull ours off I decided this: Jewish wedding traditions are my favorite. I love the huppah, the parents BOTH giving you Both away….there are so many beautiful details that I think you miss with a big cathedral wedding, or a sequester Mormon wedding, or with lots of other wedding traditions. I like the idea of having your closest people standing right there up next to you, instead of seated as an audience on either side of an aisle.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    It’s so great that you found a way to include everybody. Whenever I get hitched, I like the idea of all my people being part of the wedding, but not all standing in a line in horrible dresses. Plus, this gives you some leeway when you have a giant family.

  • Lovely Blogger

    I love this idea! I am not the matchy, matchy prom style type of gal either.

    I think this is a wonderful idea that will make it uniquely “yours”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00991638626164427455 Jessica

    I love this, Meg! It’s not far off what we’re planning on doing, either. I am wondering a bit about your thoughts on processions? We’re not Jewish, but we are definitely keen on his mum and dad walking him down the aisle, and then my mom and dad walking me – I think that’s the perfect way to honor them. So…we couldn’t quite figure out how it would work. We have two sets of paretns, 3 ladies (one of these is going to be our officiant) and 3 men, 2 flower girls and a small ring-bearing boy. We are wrestling with what makes the most sense in terms of standing/sitting/processing/recessing, etc, etc. Also, do you think that using one song for all people to walk down the aisle to is confusing for folks? I know my mom’s generation wants to have the “dum, dum da dum” announcement to stand and look for the bride….but I kind of want to walk in on the same great song as everyone else. Anyway, jsut thougths. Once again, I love your blog — thank you! It has kept me sane ish) through the wedding stress cloud that always seems to descend, laden with the whys and wherefores, the whither and whichs. xo jessica

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Jessica-
    The jewish asile walking model (which is pretty much an excellent one) is, as far as I know – groomspeople, groom and parents, bridespeople, bride and parents. Since we are not doing bride people and groom people, just people, ours will go: Huppah holders with freestanding huppah, groom and parents (?), other people (? these two might be reversed), bride and parents.

    And no WAY do you have to have another song! People will figure it out. If we’re lucky, we’ll have a fiddle player, and maybe they’ll change the tone of the tune a bit… but that’s about all. People will figure out to stand (or not), and cry.

    But you know, you don’t have to have people process in at all. I also like when the couple walks in together, or each person walks in alone. My personal bias is that if you are particularly close to your familes having both parents walk each person down the asile is a nice little symbol.

    • Amandover

      I read (on indiebride, I think) that one couple had no aisle, but walked in from either side of the chairs, each with both of their parents. I love the family link and the total equality of this, so I’m pretty sure we’re going to enter that way, but only after our brides/groomspeople and our brothers have walked down the aisle. My FH wants to exit down the aisle together, so we may as well have someone use it on the way in!

  • http://www.onebarefootbride.blogspot.com One Barefoot Bride

    Though I’m not Jewish, my best friend is, and I’ve learned a lot of the Jewish customs over the years. (She even calls me an honorary Jew.) So I will happily be borrowing the tradition of having both parents walk me… well, not down the aisle, as we will be on a beach… but in to the ceremony. It seems only fair: I’m sure it was just as much work for my mom to carry me for nine months and then be the primary caregiver during the early years, as it was for my dad to be the primary breadwinner during those same years, and I want to honor them both.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17780331196723830632 christina

    i love your solution, meg. such a great way to involve your loved ones in your wedding. everyone loves to participate!

  • http://www.sarahkos.com Sarah

    I started reading your blog pretty recently and I LOVE IT! I just got done going through the reader’s weddings section and got some more great great great ideas! And after reading this blog I’m super excited for your wedding too!
    I love that there are other people out there that want the same thing as I do, and are doing it on a budget! Woohoo!

  • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Funny how planning a wedding abroad can flip around what is “traditional” –

    In Germany, there are no bridesmaids or groomsmen – just one single “witness” for each person. This doesn’t suit me – I want to be surrounded by my friends and loved ones on that day!! So I am “bucking tradition” by having bridesmaids – I told Artur, my fiancè, that he could do whatever he wanted, and he was so into it, so he ended up asking 6 friends!

    They are wearing coordinating outfits (but not complete matchy matchy) and I think it’s going to be a fun and new experience for everyone – it was also simply really important to involve our friends in our big day in such an integral way and to have them stand up with us while taking our vows! FUN!