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Ask Meg: Why Is The Wedding Party So Fraught?


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

Ask Meg: Why Is The Wedding Party So Fraught? | A Practical Wedding

I was surfing through old emails, looking for inspiration, and came across an email from reader Katherine for a post talking about attendants. How do we choose them? How do we honor different people in our lives? Why is it so hard for me and so easy for everyone else? And I thought it was time to revisit the wedding party – that complicated, complicated being.

First, let’s talk about the myth of easy. Like everything else in the wedding world, we seem to not hear very much about the difficulties of figuring out the bridal party. All we hear is about cute dresses and girl-bonding and flowers. Maybe wedding parties are that way for some people (I really hope they are that way for some people!) But, like so many wedding myths, the story of wedding parties has a lot more to do with what marketers are selling us than what is really true.

When you think of it, what we’re being sold with the image of the perfectly arrayed bridesmaids and the perfectly matching groomsman, is the myth of perfect friendships. The bride has a collection of best friends – friends from childhood perhaps, or friends from each stage in her life. She knows who her best friends are, and that they will support her in everything she does. She picks beautiful outfits for them (which they all fit in and love) and they stand in a perfect row next to her on the happiest day of her life. The groom has his own group of best friends (ideally he has the same number of best friends as the bride does). They all look dashing in tuxes. They tease the groom, but not too much, and support him emotionally on his wedding day. And who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t dream of that?

But we, over in indie-wedding-world, have made it even more complicated. Since the myth of matching dresses on matching size-two blond friends doesn’t work for all of us, we’ve created our own indie wedding party myth. We’ve looked at the outsides of other peoples blogg-y weddings, and come up with a story of what the inside of our wedding should feel like. We should all have friends in mismatched outfits that reflect their different, but equally hip personalities. We should have a band of quirky and arty friends, who know each other, and love us exactly the way we are. These friends should be talented (so they can help with the wedding) and generous (they are excited to help with the wedding).So we have this all set up in our heads – how the wedding party is going to be, and how warm and fuzzy and magic it’s going to be. And then real life hits. And things get complicated, and we don’t live up to those wedding myths we’ve set up for ourselves, and we get sad. We cry. We judge ourselves as less than. We wonder why it’s so hard for us and so easy for everyone else… and where the f*ck did they find time to buy all those perfectly mis-matched 1950’s prom dresses for their bridesmaids to wear anyway?

So, truth flash: I think most of us don’t live lives like that. We don’t have perfect best friends. We don’t have all graphic designer friends. We don’t have all size two friends that look good in eggshell blue. Maybe we don’t even HAVE piles of best friends. So what’s really going on is, we’re all running around trying to look like we live up, and trying to honor who we want to honor, in a wonderful thoughtful, even-handed way. And we’re all wondering why our d*mn friends don’t own cowboy boots and have super chic haircuts, and own impeccable vintage dresses.

Or is that just me?

Because let me tell you the honest truth – wedding parties are hard. They were, at least, hard for me. David and I have many people that are important to us, but we don’t have a wonderful band of life long best friends. We just don’t. David has one childhood best friend, and then we have lots and lots of people that we love very much. We don’t even have perfectly flawless best friend relationships with our siblings, for goodness sakes. We have… sibling like relationships with our siblings. As for talent? We have lots of talented friends, but we had to talk some of them into helping on our wedding day.

So what did we do? We did something really imperfect. We asked a bunch of people to perform honors. We asked them to read, or hold the huppah, or carry ritual objects. We gave the ones who we thought wanted flowers, flowers. We asked them to wear jewel toned dresses or suits (note: having people pick their own dresses is an enormous pain in the ass, because everyone wants you to pick for them). And even that wasn’t flawless. Because we gave honors to some people who would have rather just sat and watched. And we gave honors to other people who wanted a bigger honor. A whole lot of people decided that jewel tones equaled teal, so now we have some pictures that look like we had ‘wedding colors’ after all… and they were teal & purple. Ack.  People were confused as to what they were part of, because our ‘wedding party’ wasn’t a ‘wedding party.’ And that was just the way it was.

Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.’ But in the end, we charted our own wedding party course, and complicated as it was, I’m glad we did it our way. I’m grateful for the picture I have with old friends and new friends crowded around us grinning. But I wish I’d realized early on that imperfict friendships were normal, and that we should all just do what feels right, and chuck the rest. I’d wish I’d realized there were lots of ways to honor the people we loved and we didn’t even need a (vague semblance) of a bridal party to do it.

So tomorrow I’m bringing you two years of non-traditional wedding party inspiration, APW style. And hopefully the bravery and inspiration to do your thing. Or THANG. Whatever.

Picture: The wedding party that most closely reminds me of my own non-wedding party (God I love this picture…) by Max Wanger via 100 Layer Cake

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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  • A-L

    Ah, I very much understand. Since we were hoping for a small-ish wedding if I invited my closest friends to be bridesmaids, I wouldn’t have any friends in the pews. Besides the fact that all my closest friends are from college and I haven’t accumulated any since then, which is kind of sad. (I’m kind of French in that it takes me a WHILE for someone to become a super-close friend, and I only want family or super-close friends at the wedding.)

    So I decided the easiest way to do this was to have a sister be my maid of honor and my closest friend to officiate (she’s a minister!). But I still would like to include other people. Now I’m trying to find short prayers or other ways to include more people, and it’s like but who do we ask to do this? How will so-and-so feel if they’re not asked to take part? Am I created an in-crowd and an out-crowd at our wedding? Then I think we’ll just have a traditional service with nobody else participating, just watching. Then I think it’s kind of sad and round-and-round I go.

    • Liz

      being invited to a wedding is often an honor in and of itself. don’t feel pressured to accolade everyone in your life!

      • http://twitter.com/dmrkns dev

        Yes, absolutely. And A-L, I think one of the great things about a small wedding is that people really do feel honored just to be invited. We only had about 45 people at our wedding, and the guests all felt special and hand-picked, because they were. We actually did have a small wedding party (3 people each), but none of our other friends seemed offended to be excluded. We were able to spend time with each and every person at our wedding, and that’s how we honored them.

    • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

      Hey A-L, I know *exactly* where you’re coming from! It’s just the sort of person I am; I have lots o’ family friends, friends of friends, but only a few very close friends. And none were made in the last several years since college.

      When it came to a bridal party, my answer was clear: who do I want standing by my side as a testament to who I am, where I’ve been, and who will support me when the sh*t hits. And that is my three sisters. We’re closer than close; we get together several times a month, and we guffaw and we belly-laugh and we have a blast. They’re also the ones there for me when crisis strikes. In short, they’re my best friends. (I know not all sisterhoods are like this and mine isn’t always this great either; families are emotionally complicated by nature).

      HOWEVER, I was a bridesmaid in my cousin’s wedding last weekend, and that caused a bit of awkward stuff, since I didn’t ask her to be mine. We got over it, but it was tense for a bit. I think that’s Meg’s exact point; no wedding party is perfect.

    • http://made-of-sun.tumblr.com/ Trisha

      I had a very small wedding (just over 30 people) so I didn’t have any bridal party at all. Only our very closest friends were invited, so it worked out.

      If you’d like to give people the option to be a part of the wedding, maybe you could pick several readings you like, and let them choose among them? I think Meg’s solution is elegant and lovely, giving people different parts in the ceremony. You could even extend that to the reception, or the time leading up to wedding.

    • Lethe

      Here is one idea: if you are having a smallish wedding, maybe you could make it an open invitation – ask anyone who is interested in reading something short at the wedding to get in touch with you about it? Many people are kinda shy anyway and would rather watch but that would avoid any hurt feelings. I guess that would only work if you’re sure 50 people won’t email you asking to participate. ;) But, in theory this is a little bit like a Quaker wedding, in which any person in attendance is free to stand and say something during the silent part of the wedding/meeting if they are moved to do so.

    • A-L

      Thanks for all the feedback and ideas. Tomorrow’s the first day of school and it’s been crazy getting ready for all of that. I really appreciated the much-needed bit of peace and sanity that your comments provide. (And thanks for ignoring all the errors in my previous comment!)

  • Laura

    My fiance has a TON of friends. If he had asked every one of his “best friends” to be groomsmen/groomswomen, he would have had at least 10 people on his side. I, on the other hand, have 2 best friends. That’s it. I’m just not as social as he is. But–it’s ok. He wound up with 2 best men, 2 groomsmen, and our officiant is one of his best friends from childhood. We asked the others so help with a cultural part of the ceremony that requires 4 people (it’s sort of an iranian version of a huppah), and we asked my brother to do a reading. At first we worried about insulting people, but everyone has been great.

  • Margaret

    When I got engaged, I asked one of my best friends to be a bridesmaid. She said yes, and off we went. Until we had a conversation on the subject of bridesmaids and in the course of the conversation she offered to step down. And I thought that would have hurt my feelings, and I know other people were convinced it had, but actually it felt so natural and easy to excuse her from that role.

    She said “I will do anything you need, but I’ll get to wear my own dress.” And that was the deal we had. It turned out that she loved helping at weddings, but didn’t love being in the spotlight. So while I had toyed with asking her to do a reading or a toast, I was so glad I didn’t. She came out early, stayed with me a week, held my hand through the tough bits, and ran around making everything seamless the day of. I didn’t come up with a way to publicly honor her, and she wouldn’t have liked that. I just let her know how much I love her. And I made sure I got some good pictures of me and her, which took some doing as she was running around like crazy.

    • http://missfancypantsthebride.blogspot.com/ miss fancy pants

      That’s such an amazing idea! It’s awesome that she was able to naturally leave the role but still be there for you in a big way.

  • http://missfancypantsthebride.blogspot.com/ miss fancy pants

    Ugh, the wedding party. I wish such a thing didn’t exist to be honest. I wish all of my friends could have been there to support me without the need to attach titles to their roles on our wedding day. Titles complicate things and in some cases disappointment for those who don’t receive the titles they feel they deserve. We don’t have a barrage of best friends either, so we ended up choosing friends who we were close with at the time. And family. As much as possible, I would advise choosing family because they will always be family. I don’t have the closest of relationships with my sister, but I chose her as my maid of honor because I hope to some day. And even if we never become best friend kind of close, she will always be my sister and I will always be glad she was right beside me on our wedding day.

    “And we’re all wondering why our d*mn friends don’t own cowboy boots and have super chic haircuts, and own impeccable vintage dresses. Or is that just me?”

    Nope, definitely not just you, Meg.

  • Aine

    I totally hear you, A-L; I don’t have a huge group of friends, and every one of my girl-friends is close enough to me to be “bridesmaid material” so it was really hard not ending up with a huge group of attendants. I ended up having mycollege roommates who still live in Ireland and one of my american friends (thankfully, I have a wonderful sister who’s my maid of honor) and then feeling really guilty when my recently married friend here is basically being a guide to being a bride without losing my mind. I’m trying to figure out how to honor her and other US friends without ending up pushing out family members, of whom there are MANY; I instinctively want everyone to do readings, but that will give us a three-hour church service.

  • http://irisira.wordpress.com irisira

    Hi, my post got eaten.

    Anyway …

    Initially, I wanted to do just one bridesmaid and one groomsman, and FH was supportive of this. However, almost off the bat I realized that there was one other person I really wanted to include, and FH has two brothers. So, perfect. 2 and 2. Easy peasy, right?

    Wrong.

    I have a cousin, who’s wedding I was in recently (wedding party of 5 and 5), and if I’m asking just one person I can get away with not asking her … but if I’m asking 2, what difference does it make to have a third? We can have an uneven bridal party of 3 and 2, or FH can ask another friend to be his third … whatever. For the sake of family harmony, it was something I felt I needed to do, even though it wasn’t really what I had in mind.

    However, before I even had a chance to ask her, she started peppering me with questions about the date/venue, because SHE was in a wedding 2 days after mine (mine is a Friday, this other woman’s is a Sunday), and she needed to know the driving distance so that she could plan around the time of the rehearsal. Mind you, we had JUST set the date and venue, and when I got the email from my cousin, I was out to dinner with BM #2, asking her to be a BM. (I asked BM #1 right away.) I was annoyed that she was already making this about her, and decided that, given the circumstances (her prior commitment AND that she, too, was getting married just a few months before me), it would be best to just keep things at 2 and 2.

    Not a week later, my mother starts in on me about how my uncle has indicated to her that my cousin is “very hurt” that I didn’t ask her to be in the wedding. Even if I HAD decided to ask her to be in the wedding, I hadn’t even had time to do it yet! (This, too, coming from the girl who waited as long as July (she got engaged in March and started planning almost immediately) to ask all of her bridesmaids.) I explained to my mother that I hadn’t even had a chance to speak with her about it, but that she was in a wedding 2 days later, and I didn’t feel right about asking her to either renege on her previous commitment, or try and juggle both.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, right? I made a point of taking her out to lunch and discussing why I decided what I did, and instead asked her to do a reading. She mentioned that her friend had said she wouldn’t be upset if she dropped out of her wedding to be in mine … but, again, I wasn’t OK with that.

  • http://beautifulorpractical.blogspot.com/ Louba

    This is what I needed to read today! I want to include people in our wedding so everyone feels part of it but I have a huge family, 4 siblings, 4 nieces and a newphew and we have alot of good friends who ahve been really kind to us. Like A_L I don’t want to create an incrowd especially among the children (or more importantly thier parents who don’t want them treated differently!). I haven’t worked out the anwer yet but it is so nice to hear that under the beutiful blog pics of people’s weddings there are these fairly mundane dramas which drive you insane, thanks!

  • S

    Oh, the wedding party! My favorite response came from my now-husband. When he realized that I would have only one bridesmaid (my best friend since grade 9) and he would have four groomsmen (his three brothers and his oldest friend), he said, totally dismayed, “But who will my brothers dance with?!” Um, their wives? As with everything else wedding-related, people have all kinds of weird expectations–the groomsmen must dance with the bridesmaids!–that they don’t even know they have until you disrupt them.

    • http://peascarrotsonline.blogspot.com/ Katy

      I have totally had this conversation. Our bridal party: my sister, my brother, my best friend, and my fiance’s cousin. Everyone seemed to be hung up on the dancing – my brother and sister dancing together? Weird. My best friend and 15-year-old brother dancing together? Weird. Plus, why would they want to dance with each other anyway? It’s so weird the stuff people think is necessary to the wedding experience.

      • KENDALL

        Haha. Of all the weird wedding hang ups, I found the “But who will everyone dance with?!” conversation to be THE weirdest! I ended up explaining to multiple people (mom! grandma! friends! aunts!) that the members of our bridal party were actually grownups and would be able to choose a suitable dance partner (or choose not to dance) all by themselves. I couldn’t believe how many people thought that this statement was odd!

        In the end, everyone just danced around us in a big, cheerful clump anyway. Glad others found this to be silly, too.

        • Morgan

          Neither of our best men dance. Period. Full stop. So we skipped the bridal party dance – first dance right into everybody dance. So much easier, in our case, than trying to force those guys to do something they hate. My attendants danced the first song an uncle-type figure and father, respectively. Everything’s better when you take actual people in to consideration, not just tradition.

          • Alyssa

            DUDE? A bridal party dance? I’ve never even heard of such a thing.

            I’m glad that one slipped under my radar, it would have been another thing for me to freak out about. :-)

          • Morgan

            Really? That’s totally the standard out here. Bridal couple, father-daughter, mother-son, bridal party, maybe with parents joining in, and then everyone dances. I mean, obviously variations based on relationships, but totally the norm. I was pleased to skip most of it. And out first song was barely 90 seconds.

          • Holly

            Oh, in every wedding I’ve gone to and been in, there is at least one bridal party dance. I HATE IT! It was especially awkward when I was in my friend’s wedding and didn’t know anyone else (the rest were all family). There was one wedding I went to that DIDN’T have one planned, so the bridal party decided to do it anyway and kicked everyone off the dance floor.

          • recovering socialite

            I”ve seen the bridal party dance together at weddings, but I thought it was less of a tradition than a signal to the other guests that the first dance shenanigans had ended and everyone was free to throw down. When I’ve been involved in a wedding party, I always viewed part of my job as making sure everyone had a good time at the reception.
            That, and making sure the bride’s train stayed bussled (sp?) and glass stayed full.

        • http://yezelbelle.wordpress.com/ yezelbelle

          I was in a wedding where the “wedding couples” didn’t dance together. Instead, the couple choose a black eye peas “lets get it started” and everyone rocked out. It made it a lot less uncomfortable.

    • Liz

      ditto alyssa. i’ve never heard of this.

      but i didn’t want to admit it, haha.

      • Amandover

        Yeah, I didn’t really know about it until my friend’s wedding last year. “Superstition” came on, and the then-boyfriend & I boogied onto the dancefloor. Only after the bride said, “Yeah, sure, you guys join us” did I notice everyone on the dancefloor was in matching outfits.
        We boogied backwards off the dancefloor & tried to make it look like it was on-purpose.

        • Jesslulu

          “We boogied backwards off the dancefloor & tried to make it look like it was on-purpose.”

          I LOVE this. Still giggling. :)

  • Sarah

    Oh Meg, thank you! I love the honesty in this post. It’s not just that wedding parties are hard, it’s that FRIENDSHIPS are hard. It’s been best for my fiance and I to have a traditional wedding party, but I can’t tell you the level of self-doubt I’ve had about these women and our relationships – wondering what it says about me that I haven’t maintained more/better/closer relationships. Time for me to stop the worry, say enough is enough – my relationships are what they are, and they are right for me, even if they don’t match some externally imposed vision. I know that each member of our wedding party, family, and guests will be thrilled to celebrate with us, and that it’ll make for a day of feeling surrounded by love and joy.

  • IJA

    I’m struggling with this too. I asked my sister and my two oldest and dearest friends, but I’m currently on the fence about three others.

    One is a college friend. We were very close in college, but have not been as close in recent years despite living nearby to one another. She’s very closed off and secretive and we just don’t feel “connected.” That didn’t stop her from asking me to be her Maid of Honor, however, and it went okay, but she drove me a little nuts by not sharing any info with me whatsoever about the day. This kind of made me feel even further apart. Do I have to ask her to be in mine now that I was her MOH?

    Another is a dear work friend and the friend of one of my lifelong friends. She lives across the country. I adore her, but she has a knack for drama and is totally unpredictable. She’s also very far away and I think this could be a real burden for her.

    One is a dear friend from college, who is a lesbian, very anti-wedding, and complained to me bitterly about being in a friend’s wedding and wearing a dress last year. I get it, I really do. What’s the problem, you might ask me, since clearly she won’t want to be in my wedding? It’s unfortunately not so black and white. Despite what she has said, I know she’ll be upset if I ask the other college friends and not her.

    So even though these are three separate girls from different parts of my life, I almost see it like a package deal. If I stick to sister + oldest friends, I feel most people will see where I drew the “line” and hopefully not be hurt. But if I branch out and ask some but not all other “close” friends, I will offend people. I’ll probably offend people no matter what, realistically. When did this get so hard?

    • Liz

      i don’t know your friends (duh) but i do think that sometimes in wedding-type-nonsense, we assume people will be insulted and offended… and they’re often not. at least, this was my experience.

      • IJA

        I think you’re definitely right. If it was anything else in life, I would bring it up to my friends and we’d talk it out and I’d walk away knowing how they felt. But this just seems like the kind of thing you can’t talk about in advance with a “potential” wedding party member. But, thanks for the reminder. I think it’s a great point :-)

        • Nina

          Unfortunately in my case, all the insult and injury one could predict was there, and then some. I didn’t ask my old best friend from grade school, who I’ve stayed friends with but certainly not close, to be a bridesmaid and she took it really really hard. Now with the wedding behind us I think we are all right finally, but it took months and months. I made my choices mainly based on who I truly wanted there with me that day, bu also partly out of obligation to a friend whose wedding party I had been in. That I regret. Basically what I’m saying is, even though it’s awful to put people in this position of having to “rank” their friends, this honor does mean a lot to some people so tread gently.

        • Marina

          I had several conversations with people that started with, “I’d love for you to be involved in my wedding. What do you think you might like to do, A, B, or C?” I felt like I avoided the “I’m auditioning you to be a bridesmaid” impression, and gained some leeway to involve people in roles that they might not have originally thought about but suited them better. I mean, there were a couple times where people were like “whatever you want, you’re the bride!” which is bull and just meant we had to go around in circles a few times before getting to the point. But it was worth it. Especially since you already have the kind of relationship with your friends where you can talk stuff out, I think the key message to get across is just that you love them and want to honor them in ways that feel right to them.

    • Amandover

      For my 2 cents, I like to go with not “what I want because it’s my day,” but what will actually make me feel more calm and supported on my wedding day.
      If you know in your gut that someone is going to make drama no matter what you do, I’d keep them as far from you as possible on the day. And if someone doesn’t like weddings but is super-cool and supportive, maybe they’re your right-hand-person, and talk to them about what they’d feel comfortable with. Maybe their job is to protect you from the drama.
      Not saying those are your friends’ attributes – just an example.

      • IJA

        YES! That’s what I keep coming back to actually…who will help me feel calm and supported on my wedding day. With the three girls I’ve chosen, I can picture getting ready with them, sharing moments together, and them helping me feel calm and supported (although you never know with my sister, which is why one of my friends is on sister patrol). With the three others, I can picture every single one of them saying or doing something that will stress me out. I think that is actually part of the bottom line here and the main reason I am shying away from asking them (aside from the fact that I prefer a smaller group).

        • ddayporter

          I think you’ve figured it out! You have a very clear line you can say you had to draw, not including any of those three should save you from hurting too many feelings. I had a similar situation, where I would have loved to have 2 of my closest college friends in my bridal party, but inviting them would have hurt others in that group of friends, so I drew the line at sisters + bff from high school + the girl I was roommates with all through college (she was the one college friend I could justify because we had kind of made a pact in college that we would be in each others weddings, and I had just been in hers the year before). I was worried my friends would be hurt so I talked to them both about it and they were surprised I was worried, they totally understood and never would have thought anything of it if I hadn’t explained. BUT they both appreciated that I had gone to the trouble of explaining. In the end, the 2 I had left out probably would have been way better at the job than the girl I did pick, but what can you do. It was a political decision.

    • http://saveitforyourdiary.wordpress.com/ willow

      Ahh I feel your pain – the package deal is a tough one. I decided that two sisters and two/three bestest ladies was too many for our super casual wedding, but couldn’t split it either way – friends over sisters or sisters over friends – neither felt right.
      I think if it were just my day, I would choose my two oldest dearest friends. But I very much agree that the day is about our community as much as it is about me and the boy, and I wouldn’t want to hurt my sisters by not including them. So I decided to not have any. I do think feelings were hurt but am hoping to use some of Meg’s ideas to make it clear to them how much I love (and need) them on the day.

  • Vmed

    We have a built in wedding party- siblings. I two sisters and his sister, he two brothers and one best friend who would have been best man and now may be officiant.*

    But all of those sister-bridesmaids come with those dang sisterly issues. We are critical. We know just how to hurt each other. As sisters, we are very likely to be brutally honest (especially about meeting conservative familial expectation). I’m cringing at the thought of planning my dress with any of their input (what do you mean you’re MAKING it yourself- it isn’t a halloween costume). Maybe they will surprise me and be nice. All I can do is try to be nice first.

    So I’m keeping my bridal brigade in the wings- my friends from college who are now all over the country (too far to look at anything together, but not too far to email or call!). To keep me sane. To bounce ideas off. They know who they are. I would like to do something else to honor them, though.

    *which makes my mom say “but people will think it’s just a play wedding if his friend marries you!” Right. Could someone please explain how I might accidentally invite a performance art audience in place of wedding guests.

    • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

      It sounds like you’ve got a pretty good line on what you’re doing! I fielded a lot of comments like that as well on things we’re dit-ing. But with the family stuff, hopefully you’ll find that they’re also so overwhelmed with happiness for you that even the mean ones are nice!

      That’s how it was for me — it was a bit weird at first that as our engagement goes on and the wedding gets closer, my mom has stopped worrying about our interfaith marriage & wedding, my (very catholic) grandmother has said she’s excited to see what Jewish elements we’ll incorporate into the ceremony, etc. The people with their hearts in the right place will perk up and be supportive. That’s the transformative power of wedding joy!

      But like Meg says, family issues that have been around for years won’t magically disappear because it’s your wedding day. Just try to focus on the positive!

    • ElfPuddle

      We have built-in attendants, too. I have two brothers and two sisters-in-law. He has a brother, a sister, and a sister-in-law (and a son and a daughter. :) ) Between us, we have two nieces and two nephews.
      We asked the seven siblings to be our attendants. The men are excited, as are two of the ladies. One of the other ladies had an awful time as a bridesmaid once, and swore never to do it again. She didn’t for her sister-in-law, and isn’t sure she will for us. The last “lady” told my mother she couldn’t live through not being the center of attention, and so wouldn’t even come to the wedding. We have yet to hear that from her.

      Ah, the joys of siblings. Truthfully, though, despite all of that heartache, I wouldn’t ask anyone else. If my sisters-in-law can’t do the very little I ask of them for my wedding, I’d just as soon know that now than years from now.

      • Liz

        oh, i am SO tempted to ask for the full story about the last lady.

        but i won’t.

        but SO TEMPTED.

  • http://cosmickitten.tumblr.com cosmic

    You know, I just never saw the point of this wedding party nonsense, so I didn’t have one. And in the next wedding, if it materialises, I won’t have one then either. One can do a lot more colouring outside of the lines than rethinking traditions — sometimes it can be most liberating to do away with them altogether. I can dress myself and hold my own flowers just fine, thanks. So much cheaper and less hassle with internecine politics to nix the whole archaic idea altogether.

    • Class of 1980

      Ditto. All my life, I have secretly wondered what the point was of wedding parties. I always kept that particular thought to myself because some people really do love them.

      But, for many people, the wedding party is a source of stress because it adds emotional issues, logistics, frustrations, and expense. It just seems like an avoidable complication in an already complicated event.

      But that’s just me. If you have your heart set on a wedding party, then rock on with your bad self. I promise to be happy for you. :D

      But if it feels like a stress you’d rather skip, then don’t bother. ;)

      • Class of 1980

        Followup on possible hurt feelings engendered by wedding parties:

        Long before any of my friends got married, I had one friend who got married at age 19. She and I had been friends since we were five. We grew up two houses apart from each other.

        She asked me to go wedding dress shopping with her and I was excited to do so. Later on, I found out her huge wedding party was going to consist of all her cousins and only ONE friend. You can’t imagine how shocked I was to find out that I wasn’t asked to be a bridesmaid, and this other friend was.

        There is nothing like finding out where you stand in the friendship hierarchy. I’d rather not know. LOL The terrible thing is, it’s been decades and I am still conscious of the fact that she didn’t consider us as close as I thought.

        • Alyssa

          And what is bad is the myriad of reasons that may have happened. It could have been pressure from family, ridiculous height considerations (I hate that excuse), pressure from the other friend and she thought you could take it, which you could because you didn’t throw a hissy fit and are so nice I bet she’s never known. :-)

          That’s why it’s important for people to be honest with each other. (SO easier said than done.) I was a bridesmaid for a friend and when I asked her to be in my wedding, she accepted but then later declined. It hurt, especially because her words were, “You know I’m not into girly stuff like weddings, not even my own.” BUT, it was true. And she knew I needed someone who would squeal over the things that I wanted to squeal over and who genuinely wanted to be in the wedding. It’s caused tension in her relationship with my husband, but I love her just as much; even a little more so because she’s terrible at faking things and if she hated it then I would have felt bad and there would be guilt all around. :-)

          • Class of 1980

            Actually, she asked the other girl to be the only “friend” bridesmaid among all the cousins, because she TRULY WAS her closest girlfriend. I realized this later on after observing how much of their lives they shared with each other. I never knew.

            See, I didn’t catch on that the bride considered the other girl to be closer than me until the bridal party choice made it obvious. Ignorance was bliss. ;)

            I don’t know if brides are still asking people to preside over the guest book anymore, but we all knew back then that first-string girlfriends were asked to be bridesmaids, and second-string girlfriends were asked to handle guest books, etc ….

            Oh yes, the potential for hurt feelings is endless. LOL

        • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

          I know exactly how this feels. When my oldest brother got married, his wife and I had been friends since junior high school. I assumed that as both a sister and a friend, I would be asked to be a bridesmaid. Wrong. Her sister and three other friends were bridesmaids, but I was not. I can’t tell you how hurt and generally pissed off I was about that — for many, many years. My oldest brother held the video camera for their wedding and often talked about feeling like hired help.

          We decided not to have any bridesmaids or groomsmen for our wedding (we’re including all of the kids, none of the adults — just like we do for Christmas presents). I asked my brother to officiate for us (mostly because he’s funny, so I thought he would have a little fun with it). I was thinking about asking my oldest brother if he would like to help out with the bbq for our welcome picnic. When I mentioned this recently to my oldest brother and my mom, mom immediately said that he still harbored ill will over being the videographer, to which my brother responded, “It’s been 20 years. Shouldn’t he be over that by now?”

          Wedding parties are tricky, tricky things. So tricky, we’re opting out and just sticking with flower girls and ring bearers.

          • Katelyn

            I want to “exactly” this a million bazillion times! My oldest brother’s now-wife lived with me for two years in college and I was not asked to be a bridesmaid. My sister and I were only asked to help a few weeks before the wedding- I sang at the ceremony and she did the readings. It was my brother who asked, not the bride, and we definitely felt like the hired help.

            I’ve mostly gotten over it (my mantra is “be the bigger person”)- but was pretty hurt that she didn’t communicate (we lived together *while* she was wedding planning) with me or my parents, who basically got ignored.

          • Liz

            so here’s my question, sarah and katelyn… there seems to be a fine line between HONORING someone by giving them a part in the ceremony and making them feel like “hired help.” what was the distinction for you?

            josh and i both had women who were really influential in our lives, and we asked them to do a reading and a song in the ceremony. i hope they saw it as a means of incorporating them, and not of using them.

          • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

            For my part, I was completely left out of the wedding party. As in, they didn’t even take pictures with the siblings, which meant that my brother had a job (videographer) but was not treated like family (not in the wedding pictures or party) and I was not treated like family, either (I was just like any regular guest). This really hurt. My family all left the reception shortly after the cake was cut, with my brother and dad being sent off to take the leftover food to the homeless shelter. My brother and his wife were both really young, which probably had a lot to do with how things went down.

            I think we all struggled to think of my sister-in-law as family for many years because we did not feel like she thought of US as family, if that makes sense. After my niece was born, the family dynamic changed dramatically, but it definitely took a baby to heal that wound.

            We are being very careful not to ask anyone to do wedding chores (we don’t have anyone designated as the “guest book attendant,” which always feels like the second-tier freind job, for instance). We hired a photographer so that my family will be in the pictures, not taking them. We are, however, asking a couple of people to do things that are meaningful to us (honoring them and our relationship): my brother will be the officiant; I have asked my mom, who sews, to make the ring bearer pillow because I don’t sew; our flower girls are helping make the simple wedding crafts so that they feel like they are part of the process. We’re trying not to burden people or occupy them with chores during the party, and it is very important to us that everyone be included in photos and fun.

    • elemjay

      We did not have a bridesmaids/ groomsmen either. Two of our good friends did readings, another friend and my sister were the witnesses that signed the register. To do anything more than that seems a bit over the top for a civil wedding ceremony with 40 odd guests.

      The only exception I would have made would be cute little flower girls, but there weren’t any little relatives available so that got cancelled too….

  • Shelly

    It’s been interesting to see how those wedding blog pics influence our perceptions about the idea of a wedding party. My fiance has been really struggling with having the “right” wedding party – the right people, the right amount of them, and it seems like his perception is being fueled by pictures of guys hanging out with their buddies in suits and tuxes, looking like they are having a grand ‘ol time. But getting from here to there, where you’re actually doing the hanging out, having fun bit, isn’t so cut and dry.

    It’s one thing to not feel pressured into asking people just for the sake of appearances or relational dynamics, but sometimes you just don’t even know what would make you happiest.

  • Alexa

    I think there is so much built into the idea of your bridesmaids being with you every step of the way, helping with diy, cheering you on through dress shopping, etc. My bridesmaids were all out of state, everyone of them.

    I got so many comments throughout the planning process about why did I choose out of state bridesmaids, or couldn’t your bridesmaids help you with that? So now I am supposed to choose my closet friends, but only ones that live close by, and can afford a dress, and will agree to my every wish and desire? Its just not realistic!

    That being said, I was so happy that I had my closest friends and husbands sisters up with me on the day of the wedding, but there is no way to deal with the whole wedding party without some hurt feelings, which STINKS!

    • Jennifer

      I have never understood this whole bridesmaid = take part in all the planning activities thing. As a bridesmaid I don’t think I’ve ever helped with any significant choices other than input on the bridesmaid dress or answering the occasional “it wouldn’t be too weird if we did X instead of Y, would it?” And task-wise, I once helped address and stuff envelopes. I know the Knot and such always say the bridesmaid’s “duties” are to help the bride with whatever she needs, but I always took that to mean on the day of, if she needs someone to go grab her purse that has the dental floss in it or whatever, not to be her wedding-related servant for the entire engagement and planning process. I am a notably bad delegator, it’s true, but there are very few aspects of the wedding planning process that it even occurred to me to involve anyone with other than my fiance.

      • Liz

        i’m with you guys. i think there are probably two ways to view the whole role and title and whatever. 1) honoring friends and 2) doling out chores.

        i would hope every single effing bride picks ladies just because they want to honor them and point them out in same way. and not because she’s wringing her hands in delight over the thought of them addressing envelopes.

      • Barbra

        When I was in the wedding of one of my best friends, I ended up helping her with things like picking out the photographer, but I never felt like it was a “bridesmaid duty.” It was exactly the kind of thing we do for each other all the time, just like when I went looking at houses with her and her husband while I was visiting a few months ago. My “bridesmaid duties” seemed to fit in perfectly with normal “friend duties,” and I loved being involved.

        • Pamela

          Yes, I think the big problem comes in from calling those kinds of things ‘bridesmaids duties’. There is one thing a bridesmaid does out of duty, I think, thinking about it: wearing what the bride wants them to wear*. Everything else should be out of friendship, or familial love. Personally, I don’t expect my bridesmaids to do any more than that. But I’d love it if they want to participate in things like helping address invites… but on the flip side, I also don’t want to feel guilty for not inviting them bridal dress shopping (for example, one of my best friends is one of those tall, thin funky girls on whom everything looks great, and not only does that mean she doesn’t understand my plus-sized plight emotionally, she also suggests clothes or things for me that there is no way would look good on me or most people even, just because she’s one of those people blessed by God that no matter WHAT they were, it ends up looking chic, funky, and COOL. Whereas for every ten items I try on, nine make me feel ugly.) So even though I love her and want her taste (which is actually fabulous, and I really like–it’s just I can’t pull it off like she can, and she doesn’t understand that not everyone can) when it comes to everything else like decor, invites, etc, I will NOT invite her dress shopping. :) And it’s not cause I don’t love her and appreciate her, its just because when I go ordinary clothes shopping with her I know she’s always grabbing things that would make me look or feel like a blimp and saying ‘try this’. lol

          Anyway, my reason for saying that was just sometimes when bridesmaids have ‘duties’ they either feel obligated and drafted for something dreaded, or they feel entitled to be a part of some aspect of wedding planning for which you, lovingly, know you’d rather not have their say in. But understanding that the only duty a bridesmaid has is attire (and personally I believe in at least some choice in dresses [even in a formal, traditional wedding, letting them pick different necklines, or between two colors or something is great], and letting them pick their own shoes, hair, and make up). Of course the bridesmaid also has to come to the wedding, lol. And be supportive and cheerful… but that one is also a friend duty. (The cheerful part– I realize not all friends can come to all weddings. It KILLED me not to go to one of my best friend’s wedding earlier this year, but I was out of a job and it was three states away and I simply couldn’t.)

          *Well, that could be too, but it also may not be, and with all the flak brides seem to get all along the decision making process, they don’t need it from their bridesmaids (admittedly, I believe in giving bridesmaids some sort of choice).

    • Morgan

      My bridesmaids were my sisters. My sister lives in another province, and his sister lives in another country. They “helped with nothing” and there wasn’t a person I would have rather had stand up with me. (And do nervous shots with me before the ceremony.) Was I not going to pick Erin because she gets to live in Mexico? Hardly! I’m jealous, wouldn’t you be? Why would that mean I should have excluded her? Nonsense.

  • Rachel

    I can’t wait for tomorrow’s post!

    I didn’t want a wedding party at all, but my sister was hurt and then I felt like we would feel awkward up front all by ourselves so we decided to have a small party. My two sisters will stand up with me and my fiance will have two friends up there with him. Now my sisters are making me nervous because they don’t have dresses yet and we’re only six weeks away — I told them they could wear whatever they wanted, but I keep second-guessing myself and being nervous. For what?! They’re not going to be up there naked. I look forward to seeing pictures of non-matching parties. A lot.

    • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

      Don’t stress about it! I’m sure your sisters have been dressing themselves for a long time ;)

      I did exactly the same thing though experienced more stress than I would have thought. I didn’t really want a full-on, official bridesmaids, but I didn’t want to hurt my sisters’ feelings. So we’re having them as, more or less, official, and we’re having just my groom’s brother. It might be uneven in that sense, but I think there’s a bit of symmetry in that we’re just having our siblings.

      I did want mis-matching bridesmaids dresses, since I didn’t want it to look like we had an official wedding party, and I couldn’t believe how much of a to-do it was to get my sisters to pick out just normal dresses they liked. But in the end, they picked great dresses, they’ll look gorgeous, but most importantly they’ll be standing right by me at a big moment in my life.

      good luck with working it out; just try not to worry about something that’s supposed to be easier!

  • JAG

    Thank you!! I’m having tons of trouble deciding, I finally thought I might have an idea for what I would like to do regarding the girls and apparently I pissed one girl off because of it. In the meantime I’m a bridesmaid in another wedding and I’ve decided it’s only something you give to people you really hate, so I’m beginning to question my original decision anyway based off of this current experience.

  • Jessie

    After a lot of thought and realizing that my husband and I simply don’t have a matching set of best friends, we decided not to have a bridal party but instead, have friends help us in various ways (playing music, doing make-up, etc.). Although this caused confusion for our more traditional friends who were part of the non-wedding party, it still saved us (and our friends) stress. My husband isn’t from around here, while I have friends from grade school that I’d want to stand up with me. He could avoid the awful feeling of asking people he’d just met to stand with him. Also, I didn’t have to ask friends to fit into dresses that they may not be comfortable in. For example, one of my closest friends just had a baby and is extremely upset with her weight. Asking her to try on dresses would have simply made her feel terrible. We’re happy with what we chose. We didn’t need an array of friends in a perfect line. We needed each other and the support of those who love us.

  • http://www.hungrybruno.com Adrienne

    Aaah yes, the wedding party. I have only ever been in one wedding (my best friend from High School), but in addition to that friend, my potential bridesmaid roster was very deep: I have a sister, 3 close friends from college and 3 cousins I’m close with. Eight is way too many, and my fiance only has a couple of very close friends. After some discussion, we decided that one was enough for us. My sister will be standing next to me, his best friend next to him.

    My friends are actually pretty psyched not to be bridesmaids – they can be there for all the fun stuff and be there to support me, but they don’t have to spend any money on a dress they don’t love. It was also pretty great to be able to tell my sister a color and have her go buy a dress she does love :)

  • http://planbhouse.blogspot.com/ bria leeann

    previos to being engaged i had languished over the idea of picking a BP. My fiance has loads of dear old friends where i have a small select of close friends from many stages of my life. In the end i picked them based on my gut. one id known for decades, one was soon-to-be family, another I had met the previous year. some were boys, some i asked drunk. in the end, they all were happy to support and helped calm me down the day of.

    the dresses were annoying. i said “any blue dress” and i meant it. any shade, any style any length. i did this not only to help them manage their own costs, but to preserve their individuality that i appreciate so much. Most ended up going to a bridal shop anyway and it bothered me that they still complained to me and others about the cost of their dress – when that fate was in their hands from the get go!

    the fact is: people love to complain. dont take it personally!

    • Sarah

      I got to that point, too. After deciding I did want the women in matching dresses, I was driving myself crazy with trying to find a dress that I thought would fit each body type, and suit each person’s budget, and tastes, and so on. I ultimately realized that it wouldn’t be possible, not just because they are each different (duh) but also because it is so clearly a part of the WIC-bridesmaid story to complain about the dress, or the price, or the color, or the material, or whether it may or may not be something you can wear again.

    • http://nightlarke.livejournal.com Nightlarke

      AHAHAHA! This is excatly what happended to me. Like, verbatim. (Except only my darling sister went to a bridal shop. And I paid for the dresses.)

      If I could do it all again, I would either have a) one bridesmaid or b) picked out the damned dresses myself.

      But I’m happy with the final result, even if I didn’t listen to my gut until last week…. my poor cousin got left off the list because of our dumb “vision” of “people with a big part in BOTH of our lives RIGHT NOW”. But now she’s onboard. She’s wearing her junior prom dress. Sweet!

      So yes. Happy ending. All will be well next Friday (The Big Day).

      • http://nightlarke.livejournal.com Nightlarke

        Scratch that: My MOM and I paid for the dresses. What a great mom.

  • Chelsea

    Meg, thank you SO MUCH for acknowledging that “having people pick their own dresses is an enormous pain in the ass, because everyone wants you to pick for them.”

    Because that is 100% true. I would have been completely open to letting my bridesmaids pick their own dresses, but they were all very busy women with similar budgets and styles who thought nothing of doing the whole matching-dress thing. So, I picked a few dresses, put it to a vote, and it happened that they all (7 of them…. I have a big family) liked the same dress. It was so much easier than what I’d seen happen to a friend of mine when a bride told her to “pick any yellow dress,” and she ended up, over the course of several months, buying and returning thirteen yellow dresses in a quest for the perfect one.

    Not saying that matching dresses are right for everyone any more than mis-matched dresses are right for everyone. But I did have that “I’m not having an indie enough wedding” panic for a few days, until I realized that everyone was happy, and that was way more important than fitting some indie ideal.

    And, on the wedding day, they looked great, and each person looked completely like themselves even if they were all in the same dress.

    • Liz

      yep. i told my ladies to wear whatever the hell they wanted.

      they all picked the same dress.

      so much for my indie cred.

      • Chelsea

        Haha! Ironically, the only part of my bridesmaids’ outfits that didn’t match was the part I picked with no input from them – I got them all different jewelry to fit their personalities.

    • Jennifer

      Indeed. I went with the choose-your-own dress thing mostly because I initially was only going to have my sister, and by the time I decided I really wanted to add one other very close friend as a bridesmaid, my super-planner sister had already found a dress that she loved, and it wasn’t a color that would have looked good on bridesmaid #2 even if it had still been available (the dress was used). So bridesmaid #2 was charged with finding a dress that would look nice next to my sister’s. It has definitely been more of a PITA than I expected, and that’s with only two people. I can’t imagine trying to do pick-your-own-dress with a large party unless you go the little black dress route or both you and your wedding party members are honestly fine with “no, really, just wear whatever you would wear if you were a guest.”

      I’ve also been on the other side when that same sister got married and told each of us (also just two attendants) to just pick something long that would go with her color scheme. I had a really hard time finding something and ended up with one that wasn’t flattering or nearly as nice as what her sister-in-law picked, which obviously could be the end result if you let the bride pick everyone’s dresses, but since I’d chosen it, I felt like I’d let her down by it not being nice enough.

      • Mayweed

        Huh. I’ve chosen the choose your own little black dress route and let me tell you, that’s just as much of a PITA. It’s a constant stream of “do you like this one” emails featuring dresses I’m never going to see in real life because they all live in different places! I have this feeling I’m going to end up choosing for them but I REALLY just want them to wear something they like. And there was me thinking I was making it easier…

        • Jennifer

          There goes that theory! I guess the only way to avoid bridesmaid dress stress is to not have bridesmaids, or to choose ones from a completely different culture/headspace who would be completely baffled at the idea of the bride having any input into what they’re wearing.

    • TNM

      Ha ha. Exactly. I told my b’maids to pick any red dress they wanted. Then said really, any bright color would do, anything they liked. Then assured them I would be fine with anything they picked. Then repeated all of the above statements several times. After a while of this though, they confessed that they thought choosing a dress would be too stressful and that it would be easier if I just picked something out. And I did. So much for easy-breezy indie-mismatched wedding style!

      • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com/ Koru Kate

        i identify with the pick-your-own-dress drama! i had zero interest in choosing bridesmaid dresses so i told my maids to wear their own black dresses. HUGE backlash!! my mom & my maids insisted this was a bad choice because i don’t wear or like black much but honestly, i didn’t care. still, i changed my approach to choose your own purple dress. then i got comment after comment about how i was going to end up with a million shades of purple & it would look awful. again, i didn’t care but everyone else seemed to care a lot. long story short, my sister (my maid of honor) & i are going bridesmaid dress shopping this weekend. sigh.

    • Mel

      I asked my bridesmaids to choose their own dress. They disagreed and pretty much demanded that I pick a dress. It became a huge problem because some had no budget and some did and some made a ton of suggestions and one person completely vetoed the store I was thinking of (?) and some wanted to roam the city looking for a dress that would work from the mall. This was very stressful. Nasty emails were sent. Without meaning to, I hurt someone’s feelings while getting mine hurt as well. If I had to do this over again, I either would have put my foot down about people choosing their own unique dresses or would have not had a bridal party at all. It’s really left a bad taste in my mouth and made me reluctant to ask my best friends for help with the wedding, lest it break open more problems.

      Bridal parties – yeah, complicated.

    • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

      I did this too! I wanted my bridesmaids (3 sisters) to wear different dresses (not clashing, not matching), and had a ton of trouble with it. They all wanted the same thing! We hit a good place in the end, but it was way more complicated than “Just pick any dress you love” seemed at first.

  • merryf

    Oh, I so identify with this. I started agonizing about the wedding party the same week I got engaged. Then I had a brilliant thought not to have any wedding party. I don’t have a lot of friends, I don’t keep in touch really with anyone from college, and my oldest friend that I keep in touch with lives in San Francisco and could’t come to my wedding. I have a lot of cousins whom I love dearly but not like “oh be my bridesmaid because we are so tight”. I also have a SIL who is nice but we see each other 3 times a year and we are not close. I was a bridesmaid for her in 1997 and I know she did it because that’s what you “do” — you invite the siblings of your intended to be in your wedding party. Well at that time we had been face-to-face maybe a half-dozen times in all the years she had been dating my brother and we barely knew each other, we certainly weren’t friends. I didn’t want to do it and my mom made me so not to hurt her feelings. So — I decided that I would have no one, and not hurt her feelings by not asking her. I’m not sure she would’ve wanted to do it anyway; she is busy with a life and a young family. And I didn’t hurt anyone else’s feelings either by having to choose some over the others.

    My new husb and I each chose 2 people to hold our chuppah. I chose my best friend who helped with all my DIY projects and a dear cousin. He chose his 2 dearest friends. Both of our brothers signed our marriage license as the witnesses. And that’s all we had. Oh, wait, that’s not all — we had my 2 little nieces and his 2 little nephews, all between 4 1/2 and 8 years old, carry banners in the wedding procession that said “here comes the groom” and “here comes the bride” and that was our pseudo wedding party/procession. The children were thrilled and their parents were thrilled and no adult feelings got hurt, because the kids were so cute.

    And I didn’t feel any regret that I had no MOH or bridesmaids. And my SIL is still talking to me.

  • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

    I should apologize for lurking and not commenting for so long, but I feel like commenting is for when I need a sanity check, and I have surprisingly not needed any recently.

    Anyway. Regarding wedding parties. I will say that we are very lucky in the wedding party department. Everyone who was going to be a bridesninja knew she’d be one – all I had to do was say the word. We are a quintet of close college friends, like Sex and the City only the city is different, we’re not 35, we are mostly married or partnered off and we’re not “media-accepted” hot. My Supreme Ninja is my younger sister, and we are quite close. She’s done a few slightly immature things (when I was considering a skirt and corset she called it “tacky”, for instance, and I had to set her straight. I didn’t go that route but still – not cool sis) but all in all it was a natural, easy choice and she’s really been there for me, especially as my fiance and I plan this shindig from the other side of the planet (it’s tough – I wrote a whole blog post about planning a wedding back home as an expat, and my blog isn’t even slightly wedding-related).

    They’re not graphic designers or super creative types, but they are willing to help, they are smart and organized, they are genuine, they are there for me, and yeah, none of them is a graphic designer but they’re all helping so much (another friend *is* a graphic designer – and he did our invitations for us).

    When we came home over New Year’s, they hosted an engagement party / New Year’s bash for us. Basically a New Year’s party with a toast to us thrown in. (The New Year’s bash part made it possible to invite people who aren’t invited to the wedding, as they also invited their own friends, and it was not a gift giving occasion. This is good as most of our actual guests don’t live in the city they all live in, and we attended college in).

    I told them “jewel tones” and then, when that was too general, said “OK, one of you in red, one of you in blue, one of you in purple and one of you in either green, copper or gold)”. The other great thing? Other than my sister, we are all college friends so they could easily consult one another on choices. They e-mailed me their choices so I could give the thumbs-up. (The “red” bridesmaid ended up in bright jewel pink as there were no good red choices. OK!).

    The only drama I can think of is that my sis keeps implying that pictures will look bad if they don’t “match” (I’m her older sister so I get to slap her upside the head for that – yay!) and one of our readers dislikes one of my bridesninjas – but they’re adults. They’ll be fine.

    Groomsmen? My fiance has a younger brother just as I have a younger sister. The college friends are a mutual group, so their husbands/boyfriends are my fiance’s groomspirates. The bridesninjas get to walk down the aisle with not just any groomspirate – but their actual partner! Only my sister and his brother don’t get that advantage (my sister is single anyway, and I’ve never met his brother’s fiancee…or his brother – long story but basically we live abroad so those things are hard).

    We’re not “perfect” though – not one of us looks model-worthy though we all look good in our own way. Two of my ninjas are overweight (they’re beautiful regardless – I mention this fact only because bridal magazines and websites – I’m looking at you Green Wedding Shoes and Style Me Pretty – don’t feature many, or any, overweight women. When they do, they’re in bum-fugly dresses and always the ‘token plus size’ the way that non-white people are ‘token ethnic friends’). The third is very, very short. My sister has an athlete’s body, not a model’s. I am not stick-thin myself, I have bad skin, thin hair and ugly teeth. We are by no means the perfect Bridal Magazine Wedding Party.

    And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Just to say – it IS possible to have a non-dramatacular wedding party. It can be done. It does exist. That party may not look like it popped off the front page of Style Me Pretty but *inside*, it can happen.

  • Emily W

    We just had our wedding with unmatched bridal party sides – I had 10 bridesmaids, and he had 4 groomsmen. I am the oldest of seven sisters and I would not hear of leaving any of them out, plus I have three good friends who I really wanted to stand up there with me as I took my vows. My husband has two brothers and two good friends who stood with him.

    It just never mattered that the sides were uneven, I remember a few people panicking over it – “but it’ll be UNEVEN!” me: “it’s not like we are on a teeter-totter up there.”

    When one of our guests toasted me and said that my decision to have 10 bridesmaids reflected my personality because I tend to make decisions that are right for me, and I don’t worry or look back, I was proud and happy.

    I must say that my ten bridesmaid looked lovely in their gray dresses (any style or shade, they pick) carrying their pink peonies.

    • Vmed

      LOL not on a teeter totter!!

      I want to say that.

  • Amandover

    It is fascinating to me that people buy into (& then expect) this very clear separation of your “best” friends from your wedding guests. Luckily, I have 2 female cousins who are the same age as me, creating an obvious & factual distinction. (And happily, one of them is wearing a vest & trousers combo.) But if I was forced to choose from friends? I’m not sure it would be worth it.
    Let me say that my parents told me to do what felt right, not what I think other people expect/want. I would extend that to all of you. Of course, if it’s worth it to you to avoid conflict, great.
    For me, friends are on a continuum, and if I start down that continuum, the one just slightly less of a close friend than a bridesmaid is going to be hurt I didn’t pick her. As it is, I’m only inviting friends to the wedding to whom I actually say, “I love you,” and mean it. That’s getting me in enough trouble…

    • Rachel

      what a great boundary line!! I’ve been trying to think of a good concrete one but only inviting those I love dearly, and tell them so, is brilliant! Thank you :)

    • ddayporter

      that is a great distinction for the guest list. it got me in trouble too, but it was so worth it!

    • Alyssa

      I WISH I had done that. I went with the “if I haven’t spoken to you in a year, you’re not coming,” and that STILL got me in trouble with family.

      And I think your firm attitude is great, and in the end will cause you a lot less heartache then those of us who tried to stick to our guns and then fell apart unless whiny family member pressure…

      • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

        I actually came to the opposite conclusion with this problem. I tried sticking to my guns about lame-o family members, but I found that it just wasn’t worth the hurt that I would cause my father (he’s Portguese and is *very* Old World about it). My experience with wedding planning and the guest list (which was our only big stressor) was that it was worth it to compromise.

        Also, I should note, my parents are paying for 90% of the wedding, so it was hard to be completely firm about who they could & could not invite.

        • Amandover

          I should say, that rule applies to my friends. My mom put her foot down about all the aunts & uncles being invited (which is half the guest list), and I didn’t argue too much. And parents’ friends who’ve known me all my life? They’re on there, too. (It’s just my generation I’m worried about now…)

          • Liz

            we invited all the lame-o’s… err, i mean… relatives we had never met/hadn’t seen in ages.

            it was FABULOUS.

            i definitely see the value of an intimate wedding, but let me tell ya. it was much better than i ever anticipated. it was like an honor to be the reason that people in our families were reunited. amazing feeling.

  • Jamie

    The perfect bridal party. I almost wish we hadn’t asked anyone to be in our wedding, coordinating all of those people has become a tremendous pain in my ass.

    We decided to have 3 each. My side of the bridal party consists of my friend from kindergarten, the friend who introduced us, his sister. The problem is, no one lives near me. I’m 5 hours away from the geographically closest bridesmaid. So that’s tough. They can’t really help me with much, they pretty much just show up that day and I give them a bouquet. Since I don’t want a bachelorette party and my mother in law desperately wants to throw my bridal shower, there isn’t much for them to do anyway.

    To complicate matters, my best friend from kindergarten is like a sister to me. But she’s a recovering addict. I refused to speak to her until she went to rehab so we kind of grew apart in that time. But she’s been sober for 4 years, and we’ve gotten close again. But I really suspect she’s using again (her behavior, it’s so incredibly reminiscent of the days before her recovery) and I don’t want her near me if she’s back on drugs. There’s no forum on the kn*t for that particular problem, I can assure you!

    • http://anyotherwedding.blogspot.com Fliss – Any Other Wedding

      I know it’s a super serious issue, and I dearly hope that your friend is not using again, but I just needed to say that you actually made me laugh out loud at the Kn*t comment.

      Perhaps we ought to suggest it?

  • Kristen

    We had a small wedding party – his brother was his best man and I had my two best friends as maids of honor. That’s it. We’re in our thirties and the idea of a huge wedding party did not fit in with our vision for the day.

    But then my aunt heard that I was not planning on asking my younger cousin to be a bridesmaid. (Which would, of course, have meant that I had to ask my other cousin, thereby doubling the size of my party.) And she stopped talking to me. Totally stopped talking to me. I was actually in a dress store literally trying on what would become my wedding dress when my bridesmaid choices innocently came out, and she completely shut down. It took months for our relationship to return to normal.

    Everything worked out in the end but yeah – wedding parties are tough.

    • Kashia

      Oh I hear ya. I am also having a small wedding party (just my two best friends) and my fiance is having his brother and two best friends. I wasn’t going to have a wedding party but it was important to him so that’s cool. The problem is that I have a half sister who I was close to (but didn’t grow up with it make it more complicated) but some family drama a few years ago caused her to stop talking to our dad and my extension me. So now in the past maybe 8 months we’ve started to have a relationship again, but (for me at least) it isn’t anywhere near as close. She still isn’t talking to our dad who I am really close with and who will walk me down the aisle. I didn’t ask her to be a bridesmaid and to my face she said that was fine and she was relieved and could do behind the scenes stuff. And then emailed me later about how hurt she is. And I feel awful about this. But I still stand by my decision. The final detail is that we are having a small wedding, as in only 40 people. The people that we are inviting are those dearest to us and really any and all of them could stand-up with us. So now I’m left with figuring out how I try to explain this to the sister because I would really like to continue a relationship with her, but I really don’t know how …

  • Erin

    Our wedding party was tough. My husband has 20 first cousins that he sees on a regular basis, as well as several good friends and three step-siblings. I have a sister, step-brother, and one friend from elementary school who I hadn’t seen in years before the wedding. I’m just not good at making friends, and the couple of close acquaintances that I do have weren’t able to come to the wedding.

    We ended up with my sister, my friend, two of his cousins, and one of his friends on my side, and his sister, my brother, two of his cousins, and one of his friends on his side. I was a little embarrassed that I couldn’t muster more friends to be there, but I’m close to his friends and cousins, so I just went with it and it was fine.

    Wedding parties are tough.

    • Tricia

      I also only have a few good friends and was initially kindof embarrassed and afraid of judgement about who I did and did not have to stand up for me. Fortunately, I was saved by the venue. There is not enough space at the front for anyone else to stand up with us and that is fine. No wedding party means no worries and I am going to ask the people I most want there to come get dressed with me and spend the mornign with me anyways.

      • suzanna

        I’m with you on this–how dorky is it to feel like we’re going to be judged because we DON’T have 5 people on either side of us? Like, “Jesus, they must suck! Why did we come to this wedding where they don’t even have any friends?” Glad you have an easy solution, but I keep telling myself that actually nobody attending the wedding actually cares about the bridal party.

  • bailey

    i second irisira – you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. i decided to completely not have a bridal party at all (there’s barely any room, in the bar/restaurant we are marrying in – i’m not even walking down an aisle), and i think most of my friends were grateful. i just want to be surrounded by my nearest and dearest without worrying if they hate their dress or are secretly cursing me for the cost of an updo or something.

    my mother was disappointed, and told me there wouldn’t be anyone to throw me a shower or bachelorette but, shock of shocks, my friends have still been there for me 100%, despite the lack of title, because they are incredible people and friends. i want to be thinking about my future husband the day i get married, not about organizing everyone…

  • http://www.kellyandellen.org/wedding Ellen

    Ours was easy-peasy. While I initially would have rather had one bridesmaid and one groomsman, similar to the tradition that some of my friends from Europe have had. But, I couldn’t choose between my two sisters, or bypass either of them for just one friend (oh, and who to choose?!?) and since my husband has two brothers, that sealed the deal.

  • http://scientistcarrie.blogspot.com Carrie

    So what did we do? We did something really imperfect. We asked a bunch of people to perform honors. We asked them to read, or hold the huppah, or carry ritual objects. We gave the ones who we thought wanted flowers, flowers. We asked them to wear jewel toned dresses or suits (note: having people pick their own dresses is an enormous pain in the ass, because everyone wants you to pick for them). And even that wasn’t flawless. Because we gave honors to some people who would have rather just sat and watched. And we gave honors to other people who wanted a bigger honor.

    I love this.

    Picking attendants wasn’t too hard for us. I have two obvious closest female friends, and he has two obvious closest male friends, plus his sister and brother and my brother, whom we are also close with. In fact, I had more trouble finding other people to give other honors to, like reading. (We ended up having one groomsman do a reading, my mom, and one bridesmaid.)

    But what to wear involved a surprising amount of drama. I say surprising, because my original plan was super laid back — ask the ladies to wear some variety of black cocktail dress, knee- or tea-length, and the dudes to wear a black suit of their choice. If they already owned such an item and wanted to wear it, great, go ahead and wear that one. Otherwise, set your own price range.

    But first there was drama over ties. My husband said he wanted them to match, and he liked green, so I looked all over the internet for affordable green ties, showed him a bunch and asked what he liked. Because he had a nasty headache that day, this resulted in an argument along the lines of “I don’t know! I don’t care! You pick!” vs. “You’re the one who wanted to pick matching green ties, and you’re the one who will be wearing it, surely you have some opinion!” (This really shocked me because in all the wedding planning, he had never said “I don’t know, I don’t care, you pick.” He’d always been willing to offer some thought or opinion or preference.)

    I settled it by asking the opinion of a male friend of mine who likes male formalwear, then showing my husband just one tie and giving him veto power. We ended up with nice silk apple-green pindot ties, $15 each.

    Then one of my bridesmaids stated about a month before the wedding that black dresses were too heavy and dark for a summer wedding. I was really upset for a couple of days, because I knew I had talked to her about black dresses 18 months before when we first got engaged — and it was way too late for everyone else to find matching pink or green or whatever dresses. I solved that one by sending her some photos of cute black summer cocktail dresses, which she liked, and by deciding with everyone else to give the bridesmaids pink wraps for a splash of color. It turned out the last time she’d shopped for black cocktail dresses, it had been wintertime, so she was just thinking in those terms. She ended up finding a really pretty dress. And the pink wraps did look good.

    The fact that there was drama at all upset me more than the drama itself, because I wanted to be so chill and laid-back about what people wore, and suddenly I was in the position of having to argue over it. That made me feel like a failure at being a chill non-bridezilla.

    • http://peascarrotsonline.blogspot.com/ Katy

      As soon as I announced “little black dresses” of your choice for the bridesmaids, several people told my wedding would look like a funeral. Really?

      • Morgan

        Yeah, I see a lots of pink bouquets and joyful faces and dancing at funerals. Oh, wait.

        (Actually, you know what I didn’t see at either my dad’s or my cousin’s funeral this year? Black dresses. Black suits, yes. Shirts and skirts, yes. Long formal black dresses? No. Black cocktail dresses? No. It makes just as little sense as saying that black suits ‘look like a funeral?’ )

      • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

        Our colors are black, white, and red. Our invitations are on white stock, with black and red accents. To make them really pop, we used black envelopes with wraparound labels. My uncle decided that they were “funeral invites”. Yeah.

        Whatever, dude, the “funeral” is going to be a rocking good time, so just send in your reply card.

        • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

          Our colors were black, white, and red too! The invite envelopes were black, as were the cards inside (that had a white piece mounted on the black part). And the bridesmaid and Best Person (female) both wore black dresses. All was good, even among my conservative family. :)

      • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat

        Don’t worry about it — it will NOT look at all like a funeral. One of my favorite wedding looks out of all the weddings I’ve been to had little black dresses for the bridesmaids. It was awesome, and – dare I say it? – might actually be something they wore again.

    • Nina

      I think black bridesmaid dresses are lovely but I will say that in some cultures this is considered less appropriate (i.e. they really associate black with mourning). So just in case some of these criticizing comments are coming from people from a different background, that might be why. I’m speaking from experience as an Iranian friend of mine, who is incredibly laid back about wedding expectations in general, frowned on the idea of black bridesmaid dresses for that reason.

    • ddayporter

      “The fact that there was drama at all upset me more than the drama itself, because I wanted to be so chill and laid-back about what people wore, and suddenly I was in the position of having to argue over it. That made me feel like a failure at being a chill non-bridezilla.”

      AAHHH yesssssss. i couldn’t believe how many people seemed to be Trying to make drama about the wedding. I was working so hard to make sure everything would be chill and no reason for anyone to have a meltdown and people just kept coming up with things to make drama about. it made me feel crazy. and yes, a bit of a failure.

      • Nina

        This happened with my bridesmaids as they were planning the bachelorette party. I made it clear that I had no expectations and as long as we were together with some drinks it would be a good time – but somewhere along the way they got obsessed with making it “perfect” and this led to all kinds of arguments and drama that I eventually had to mediate. And it was all. over. NOTHING. I think people do just want to inject drama into weddings, it’s that whole “this is ONCE IN LIFETIME” aspect of it I guess.

  • http://peascarrotsonline.blogspot.com/ Katy

    This is kind of a nuts-and-bolts wedding planning post for APW lately, but I’m so glad you’re addressing this, Meg. All things related to wedding parties and involvement have been really, really challenging for us since we got engaged. Though I think they might have thrown a fit if not asked, the wedding party has really strained my relationships with some people and brought a lot of issues to the surface. Our wedding party is small, and I chose not to consider the “socially correct” or “most appropriate” way of doing things. I knew that there were two women I would want with me that morning when I wake up and am scared/ excited/ nervous/ giddy, and I asked those who women to stand with me that day. Unfortunately, the sentiment is not always returned, and the bridal party has become a mess of competitiveness, slighted feelings, and passive aggressive behavior. I’m sure the girls will look lovely day-of, but that wasn’t really the point. I hoped that this would be an opportunity for us to grow closer and for them to get to know one another better and for everyone to share and feel involved in this experience, but that couldn’t be further from the reality.

  • K

    Thank you, Meg. I searched and searched your site for this topic and always came up empty, so I worked through it myself, but it’s nice now to know that I’m not alone.

    I went through a month of near hell over my wedding party. My fiance was adamant about having his brother be his best man. I envisioned my wedding as a smaller group of all those people surrounding us as we said our vows and celebrating after. Each of them supporting and loving, not just a select few standing next to me in front of everyone. It feels so silly to choose a few friends because “that’s the way it’s done” when it didn’t feel right to me. I ended up deciding to ask my brother to be my man of honor, but now we’re headed towards no wedding party as I first had hoped.

    It is the American ideal to have a group of girlfriends who all know each other and are equally close friends (i.e. SATC) and that just isn’t always the case! Dare I say it’s a lot less the case than we all tend to assume?

    • K

      Also, personally, the last thing I want is a whole bunch of people (or even one or two friends) around me when I get ready the morning of! Talk about jacking up the stress. Give me the same normal routine that I have every morning, please. I don’t want to have to keep up chitchat or spread my attention thin. I want quiet focus.

  • http://ridiculouslyeverafter.blogspot.com Nikki

    TRUTH.

  • Allison

    I just got married a couple of weeks ago so this really resonates for me.
    I have so many lovely and wonderful friends that it was hard for me to just CHOOSE one of them and my husband’s only got a couple of guy friends, neither of which he wanted to stand up with him so we had our sisters. I told them to stand on whatever side they wanted and to pick a dress that they loved that they could wear again. But sometimes giving them that “freedom” can be kind of daunting for your lady friends…
    TRUST ME when I say that asking them to pick their own dresses was a PAIN IN MY ASS. I love them all so dearly but man, I had to field so many questions that I almost gave up and picked them something from David’s Bridal! In the end, after a few shopping trips, his sisters each wore dresses in a lovely shade of lavender, and my sister picked out somthing that made her look beautiful and was a couple of shades darker than the other girls.
    It was the perfect choice for US because there was someone to hold the ring box, someone to hold my bouquet, and another to hold our vows.
    I’d think the only think I’d add to Meg’s comments are that if you choose not to have a traditional wedding party, be sure to tell your nearest and dearest friends who were probably hoping to be your bridesmaids that just because they are not wearing matching dresses or corsages, you love them equally and that their presence at the actual even is just as important as being in the wedding party.

  • Bethany Mc

    This was a hard one for us. My husband has a brother (local) and 3 best friends from elementary school (flung around the country). We just did not know which of his friends would actually be able to come due to financial and scheduling concerns.
    I have a sister, sister-in-law, and good friends (all local), but I am a tom boy and I could not imagine the horror of actually picking dresses for someone else and then requiring them to pay for them. We toyed with the idea of just giving them a color to work with and then letting them pick the dress, but that still felt akward to me.
    In the end, we did a family only ceremony and then a larger reception and did not have a bridal party at all. Many friends pitched in to fill the support roles normally performed by the bridal party, and as far as I can tell, no one was offended.
    It worked perfectly for us, especially since, although they genuinely wished to, none of my husband’s best friends were able to be there.

  • Sarah

    The siblings-as-wedding-party tactic worked beautifully for my husband and I. No picking favourites, no worrying about even numbers (I have two sisters, he has a brother and a sister. It worked out fine), no second thoughts.

    It’s no cookie-cutter solution, but I think honouring your siblings in this way (and probably having to overcome/let go of/work out some baggage along the way) is a beautiful thing. And so much easier!

  • Michele

    Am I the only one who’s ever wished and hoped that a friend would NOT ask them to be a bridesmaid? I’ve done it four times now…and I’m over it. That sounds awful and ultimately, is sort of a punishment for those friends who are marrying a little later in life, but it’s true. Not only will I NOT be offended if my most recently engaged girlfriend does not ask me to be a bridesmaid, I will be OVERJOYED at not having to buy another one-wear-only dress and matching accessories, not having to participate in the planning of and paying for bridal showers and bachelorette parties, and not having to stand up for the entire ceremony in adorable, yet uncomfortable heels.

    I’m a terrible person. Ha!

    • ddayporter

      haha not at all. there is a special thing about being asked to be a bridesmaid, but nobody should have to do it more than maybe twice. Or at least, nobody should be blamed for feeling “over it.” It is a lot of work, a lot of money, and a big time commitment. Luckily, you are totally allowed to decline the invitation (as uncomfortable as that may be, it’s better to say no than to be a disinterested participant).

    • Jennifer

      Although it’s not your point, I’m struck by the “punishment for those who are marrying later in life.” Are there cultures/social circles where the bridal party is only open to single women? I think I assumed that was a rule back when there were vastly different codes of dress and conduct for proper married ladies vs. eligible young girls but not any more — but if there’s anything the internet has taught me, it’s that there are far more deeply-held beliefs about what’s right for weddings than I’d imagined.

      Both of my attendants are married; I didn’t actually take that into consideration, but I figure if anything, they’re better suited to the role because they’ve been in the bride position and can maybe better relate to what I’m going through that day.

      • Michele

        I think you misunderstood me. :) I’ve definitely never heard of bridal parties only being composed of single women (all three of my bridesmaids were married, because I’m one of the girls who married A LITTLE later in life at 32). What I meant was that this recently engaged girlfriend who is 34 and has been in no less than TEN weddings over the past 15 years now has a slew of friends who are already married and sort of “over it.” Which is unfortunate because this is a girl who is really quite traditional, LOVES weddings, has been dreaming of hers for all 34 years of her life, and has worked her BUTT off for every friend who’s gotten married before her. And while were all incredibly excited for her, we’re not terribly excited about the ins and outs of being a bridesmaid, which in a way, is sort of a “punishment” for her, because she’s getting married at 34 rather than 24 (i.e. before her friends had an opportunity to be “over it.”)

        • Jennifer

          Ah, yes, I did misunderstand – I thought it was that the single-for-longer women were being punished by having to be bridesmaids over and over, not that the brides were being punished for marrying late by having fewer girlfriends up for the bridesmaid gig. Which shows you where my head is at, that I assumed being a bridesmaid was the punishment. Your version makes much more sense than my misinterpretation!

  • ddayporter

    uhhh yeah. my whole bridal party experience ended up wayyy different from what I imagined, based on the WIC and indie messages I’d been consuming. I remembered the panic I felt when my sister had suggested we find our own dresses for her wedding 2 years earlier, so I tried giving more guidelines while still allowing them a lot of freedom to choose their own. They still weren’t really comfortable doing that so I had a pretty big hand in guiding the process. And then yeah, friendships are complicated and surprising.

    If you are still in the process of planning the whole wedding party concept, well, HUG! Just remember you don’t have to do any of it if it’s not your thing, but if you do, most people have their own ideas about how a bridal party is supposed to work, and it’s hard for people who think wedding parties are supposed to match to get used to the idea that they don’t have to (or [insert thing you want to do that goes against their expectations]). Nobody wants to ruin your wedding, so having them choose their own outfit can be of a lot of pressure.

    I was surprised that the hardest part for me was just convincing everyone of how little I cared about the whole concept of matching bridesmaids, or how loose my plans were for even making them coordinate. I thought it would be a much more organic process than it was.

  • bailey

    i’m jumping in again just to say thank god for this post. i needed it today. we had our engagement party over the weekend and it was four hours of us defending our decisions – lovingly, but still defending –

    no bridal party? but who will witness your wedding?! er, the 150+ people there?

    no aisle? no. no giving away of the bride? no. cocktails before the ceremony with the bride? HELL YES.

  • Fab

    I’m in the “pre-engagement” phase (I know, not a real word) and this bridal party thing gives me the jitz in a big way. I don’t like the idea of a friendship hierarchy, and I have several largeish groups of close and closeish friends. Most of us have been friends for ten or 15 years, and that means that there are a slew of complicated relationships floating around among these people I love.

    I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I think I’m bound to–at least a couple of my friends have said that they’d be hurt if they didn’t get to “stand with me.” I don’t feel good about disposing with the attendants altogether, since having his best friend and brother is important to my guy. My current plan is to ask my sister (with whom I’m not super close, but there you go) to do the standing part and then genuinely let my girls know that I want to do this thing with them close by, and that this way they can avoid throwing a shower and wearing shiny fabric on the day of.

    You all are right–it’s not that wedding parties are hard, it’s that relationships are hard. If I’d gotten married at 22, my bridal party would have been a snap–but 10 years later everything’s a bit fuzzier.

    This post and yesterday’s A Los Angeles Love’s post on body image and wedding photos are activating two huge sets of nerves. I’m going to back and read some wedding graduates until my heart rate goes back down….

  • Ashley

    The weirdest wedding-party related experience that comes to mind was when my best friend was engaged a few years ago. We were roommates, and she called me into her room one afternoon to settle a dispute she was having with her mother. The groom was a Marine and his best man was in the Navy, and the groom wanted them to wear their respective military dress uniforms in the ceremony while the other non-military groomsmen wore tuxes. The bride’s mother was appalled at the idea and said it would ruin their wedding pictures not to have “symmetry down the line.”

    I found my friend sitting at her computer looking at a picture her mom had emailed her. In this picture, her mom had created two photoshopped versions of a traditional wedding party photo- one with groomsmen all in tuxes, the other with groomsmen wearing military uniforms. She asked me which one looked better, and I completely refused to get involved.

    I did *not* have a wedding party when I got married a few months ago:)

    • Jennifer

      That is mind-boggling. (The bride’s mother photoshopping the picture like that, not you eschewing a wedding party, of course.)

    • Michelle

      In our wedding, my husband’s brother wore his Air Force uniform. Everyone else wore tuxes. My husband would’ve worn his Army uniform, and his dad his Navy uniform, if they still fit into them. A bridal party (the whole wedding, really) is not about the pictures. It’s about love and support and commitment.

  • LR

    I’m so glad this is being addressed. I’m currently going through bridal party woes–not from the bridesmaids, but from those who I didn’t ask who feel hurt. Even though I asked them to do a reading or perform another honor. And it’s affecting our friendships negatively. I would appreciate any insight anyone has to offer.

    • Nina

      I went through this, trying to deal with the hurt feelings of a friend who was left out, and I’m not going to lie – it wasn’t pretty. Instead of asking her to be a bridesmaid I gave her another honor (as I learned however, honor to one person can be a slap in the face for another). Initially she didn’t talk to me for over a month, despite my heartfelt emails and messages of concern. I started to get angry myself – this wasn’t an easy choice (I never intended to rank my friends!) and I thought she should understand that I tried my best to include everyone in the best I could. But I stuck to the high road, even though at times I was tempted to fall from it. Eventually she relented and we talked about it. It still took months, and her (eventually minimal) involvement in the wedding always felt a bit forced. But the wedding has passed and I think we are now in a better, and more honest, place than before. So I have no easy answers, but just be patient and hope that your true friends come around.

  • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

    I wonder if it’s also different as we get married older. I have more relationships now, they’re more fraught-yet-rich, they aren’t really connected to each other, and I’m simply not comfortable with a) asking friends to shell out money for the honor of being in the wedding party (after doing it myself) and b) asking friends to dress in an expensive similar dress they may not like (and yeah, I’ve heard horror stories of allowing maids to dress as they please too.) So we’re not having enough bridesmaids and groomsmen to hold the chuppah and that’s that. It wasn’t a wrenching decision in any way, and maybe I’m lucky, but it was a simple easy decision to make. We are also honoring other friends with readings and roles and we will publicly thank everyone who helped create our day. But I had zero interest in dealing with the politics of the symbolic wedding party and with possibly excluding people. I just wanted friendship and love to surround us everywhere.

    • Liz

      it totally is.

      as i’ve gotten older (ripe old age of 24, here) i’ve noticed that i have more and more circles of friends. in high school, i had School Friends and Relatives and maybe like, Theatre Friends.

      now, i have so many circles of relationship that intersect and branch. it’s difficult to say, “My Besties” about any specific group.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

        Yes. And if you are older and have moved a lot over the years, between cities, states, countries, whatever…. Yeah. Not so easy to define the closest 5 friends or whatever the “perfect” bridal party number is. So I ended up choosing three (one from middle school and two from college- my closest friends for the longest time) and my husband just wanted his best friend (who is female). I ended up asking one of my bridesmaids to become the officiant instead because she is a minister, and she was FABULOUS as our officiant. My husband’s brother was also a co-officiant. But I felt bad about some of the close girl friends I didn’t ask to be in the “official bridal party.” I really wanted to include everyone, but the “levels” of closeness among my circle of friends were just too similar to try to separate some as “closer” than others. That felt artificial to me and like it would negate the beauty of ALL of those friendships. It would have been 3 or maybe 7, if I included all of them. So, I went minimal, and then asked many of my other close friends (male and female) to be involved in as many ways as possible. (And my husband thinks I was CRAZY to “over-think” all this and he thinks no one would have cared if I chose some but not others. Maybe he would have been right, but I didn’t want to risk hurt feelings. And I like to please everyone… Not always a helpful thing.) :)

        • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

          Darn, I meant “So we’re ONLY having enough bridesmaids and groomsmen to hold the chuppah and that’s that.” But yes, Jenny, I had the same experience with levels of closeness after moving and switching groups of friends for so long. And I DON’T think it’s overthinking. I remember feeling really excluded when I earliest childhood friend excluded me… until I realized she only asked her sister and sister-in-law. My hurt feelings faded because family felt like an understandable cutoff. For those who don’t love their family or have giant groups of close friends, I can see how it gets trickier to pick small wedding parties. But for us, I felt unbelievably grateful for the Jewish Chuppah as an easy wedding party cutoff line.

  • Rachel

    Imperfect wedding party? Uh, been there, done that. By the time a month before the wedding happened, my MOH and I weren’t on speaking terms, I had only met one of my bridsmaids twice and hadn’t met another at all, and now, 2 months after the wedding, I’m getting ready to verbally divorce one of my sisters who I invited to be a bridesmaid because I hoped it might help our relationship (suffice to say, it didn’t; it made things worse).

    But you know, with all those things, what happened? The two bridesmaids I barely knew helped me prepare mentally (i.e. they stopped me from hyperventillating and made me feel okay) before the ceremony, none of our extended family were stuck wondering why Sister 1 wasn’t a bridesmaid, Sister 2 and I had an OUTSTANDING time, and… well… I realized my MOH can’t live without me, and even if I feel our friendship isn’t working anymore, she’s far from accepting it, so I’m trying to suck it up and go through it.

    Wedding parties are hard in the planning, but the truth is that, like many other parts of the wedding, most of us are so blissful with our new spouse everything else sort of falls away from our scope of emotional vision.

  • http://yezelbelle.wordpress.com/ yezelbelle

    I think we lucked out.

    My fiance has three best friends. I have two sisters and my best friend. Three and three.

    But in all honesty, does it really matter if the numbers are equal? Who is going to care? All that matters is that the groom and bride are surrounded by their friends and families.

    Afterall, the history of a bridesmaid is unique:

    A custom once existed where maidens dressed similarly to the bride would accompany her as her protectors on her way to the groom’s village. This would deflect spurned suitors from kidnapping the bride or from stealing her dowry. Roman law once required witnesses to come to weddings in order to confuse evil spirits as to the identity of the bride and groom. This meant that female wedding attendants came to a marriage ceremony in garments akin to the bride’s, while male wedding attendants–the forebears of ushers–wore attire that resembled the groom’s own clothing. This supposedly threw off bad luck that could be directed towards an easily identifiable bride and groom.

    The above taken from History of Bridesmaids
    http://www.ehow.com/about_4576431_history-of-bridesmaids.html#ixzz0wJMyN7WO

  • Chelsea

    As I’m reading the comments, I’m noticing that everyone seems to want to solve this problem by going smaller – by having fewer attendants or none at all. Am I the only person who solved it by going BIGGER? When I realized that there was an extra friend that I felt especially close to (and – this is important – would LOVE to be a bridesmaid), I figured that I was lucky and asked her to be in it. This was on top of the two sisters, two cousins, one soon-to-be sister-in-law, and one best friend already in it, so I ended up with a huge bridal party.

    I realize that this can create its own problem – the bigger you go, the more left out the people not in it feel, for one. Not to mention that more people can mean more cost. But, for me at least, it all worked out fine, and I’m glad I gave up the notion of the ideal small bridal party in favor of inclusiveness.

    • Liz

      it may be because the usual APW wedding is smaller. so going bigger would mean less “regular” guests. there’s only so big you can before there are more people standing on the stage than sitting in the seats.

      i went bigger, too. we started out with just family… and somewhere down the line, i ended up with 6 bridesmaids. not what i wanted originally at ALL. but it ended up being totally awesome, and i wouldn’t have had it any other way.

      • Class of 1980

        I prefer no wedding party, but I know part of it has to do with being a minimalist. I like the simplicity of the bride and groom standing there alone.

        But how many of us are minimalists? ;)

        I know my idiosyncrasies could be all wrong for others. But it’s good to throw out the possibility of “no attendants” for those whom it might resonate with.

        • Alyssa

          You know, that’s a REALLY simple solution to such a crap problem. And it never would have occurred to me at the time….

        • Ash

          I too, am not interested in having a wedding party. I brought this up to my fiancé and he say “Yeah we don’t need a hierarchy of guests” and I feel the same way. Not that non wedding party attendance should feel slighted but in reality they some times do. We have many beloved and we will be so honored to have any and all of them there. I want them all to get that message equally. Wedding parties introduces a whole lot of hoopla that I do not want to welcome in. My twin sister (who loves the spot light :) definitely has had somethings to say about it but she understands I am not the same type of staunch “traditionalist” that she is. That is part of why she loves me, and is down for whatever I want. I do want to give some sort of sentimental gifts to my home girls that I have not quite worked out in my head yet.

          How traditional is the wedding party? Does anyone know how far back this whole circus started?

          • Class of 1980

            Brilliant question.

            Wedding magazines always portray the wedding party as an ancient practice that’s been unbroken for centuries. What a lie.

            In early America, most weddings took place in the home of the bride’s parents. Guests were restricted to family and very close friends. Wedding gifts from guests were unheard of – the bride stocked her own future household. Due to lack of space, there were usually zero bridesmaids or maybe a maid of honor and best man.

            Once more churches got built and more people began having weddings inside them, all of a sudden there was so much more space to fill. That’s when weddings began to be filled with more pageantry, like a procession of bridesmaids going down the aisle.

            American weddings have progressively gotten more complicated with more moving parts during our history.

        • Natalia

          I agree!
          We asked my 4-year-old half-sister and my husbands 7 years nephew to be our “girl of honour” and “best boy.” The walked down the aisle and then sat down. When it was time I handed my flowers to my sister and his nephew brought us the rings his mom had been holding. Then they sat down again.

          I guess I personally don’t understand the point of a wedding party. A lot of the wedding and choices we made were for our friends and family but to me the ceremony was really about us…. My husband and I standing up together in front of our family and friends and getting married!!!

        • http://silver-sandalled.blogspot.com/ Margaret

          Minimalist here. At least when it comes to attendants. We had no bridesmaids/groomsmen and it worked perfectly – and reading these comments makes me even happier we went this route! My sister did joke a bit about how I was cheating her out of the experience, but I told her I prefer the simplicity of just the bride and groom… (we did ask her and B’s brother to do readings, as a way of including them in the ceremony).

    • bailey

      i totally was going to go the bigger party route, but once we realized that we didn’t want an aisle, or a lot of pomp and circumstance, we decided to go in the other direction…

    • ddayporter

      yeah I think if you can handle going bigger and it totally solves the problem, that’s fabulous! my party would have jumped from 4 to at least 10 if I wanted to make sure my bases were covered. that was too many for me, for a number of reasons, most practical of which being that I simply could not afford to buy that many bridesmaid gifts (although if I had that many, they probably would have been fine with a thank you note or a small gesture instead of an actual gift, but that’s beside the point).

      my now brother-in-law got married 3 years before us, and they had 10 and 11 on each side – it worked great for them because of their own dynamics but it would have completely overwhelmed Zach and me.

    • suzanna

      Nope, Chelsea, you’re not the only one who’s thought of going bigger. It could solve a lot of problems. The only thing that makes me nervous when picturing this option is getting ready the morning of–there are people who I’d love to have (or just need to have, for family political reasons) stand by me, but I wouldn’t want to be getting ready with. That just seems too intimate, and when I’ll be at my most vulnerable, and will not want to be herding 10 people who want to be “involved”.

      If there’s any way to have like 3 people get ready with me, and then 7 people stand by me, THAT would be a freaking miracle.

      • Liz

        that’s exactly what i did, suzanna! six girls, but i left it open- whoever wants to meet at the church is ok. we ended up with half at the house and half meeting us.

        • suzanna

          Nice, Liz! Glad to hear that worked out. In my head, though, it’s like “oh dear lord, please do not get ready with me” more than “come if you want to”. I guess that’s why you give people specific jobs? Like, could you please go set up the guestbook table (so that I can get ready)? I’m being totally neurotic and probably making it into a bigger deal than it would be in reality–in which case, your more laidback approach would work much better!

          I guess that’s why this post exists and so many people have commented, huh? It’s weird and tough and complicated. And, as usual, kindhearted communication about expectations works best.

  • elyse

    i did not want a wedding party, but my husband could have easily picked 10 groomsmen. . . in the end, ours consisted of 3 bridesmaids (of very different shapes and sizes): 1 good, close friend from grad school, my now-sister in law (who lucky for me is awesome), and one of my husbands best friends from childhood who happens to be female; 5 groomsmen: 3 of his best friends from growing up and college, my brother and his brother. Yup, that made it uneven! For more uneveness, my bridesmaids all wore dresses and shoes of their choosing (i provided some direction in terms of color and just said no to strapless), i had a friend of my grandmother’s help me design matching necklaces for them to tie it all together. Groomsmen were told to wear any suit and tie they already had in any color except black.

    people thought i was crazy for doing this, especially given our otherwise fairly traditional wedding. but we all had a blast. and the pictures came out great.

    oh and at the last minute (literally minutes before walking down the aisle), we picked out a few more close friends and cousins to do readings during the ceremony. that probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but it was one less thing i had to stress over during the planning.

  • KristieB

    The wedding party was the one thing we didn’t struggle with at all. Both D and I are crazy close with our families. We also both have groups of friends that we have been friends with since junior high who are insanely good-looking people. We are THOSE people. *laughs*

    Once upon a time in my life, I would have had local DJs spinning tunes at my wedding that was catered by chef friends and carried flowers done by an acquaintance who owns a hip flower shop. My pierced-scenster friends would have worn vintage dresses and so would have I. That isn’t my life anymore and I struggled with that a lot when planning my own wedding. I didn’t want a cliche Knot beach wedding, I wanted something more like vintage Elvis-movie Hawaii.

    In the end, two of the guys D picked for his groomsmen couldn’t come to Hawaii with us. Our wedding party (we refused to have a his side/ my side thing) ended up consisting of my two (skinny/ blonde) best friends, my brothers (J was our ‘man of honor’ and G was our ‘guardian of the rings’) and D’s best friend. My best friends wore J. Crew dresses (after our etsy order fell through). No one carried flowers (we used parasols). It wasn’t as hip, indie or vintage as I would have dreamed up – but our wedding party looked comfortable and like themselves. When I look at our pictures, I don’t see a wedding magazine or indie wedding – I see OUR wedding with OUR friends.

    • Liz

      “vintage Elvis-movie Hawaii.”

      WHAAAAT. please tell me there are internet photos.

      • KristieB

        That’s what I wanted. It didn’t exactly turn out like that either. *laughs*

        We are having our home reception in one week – then I’m going to write a wedding graduate post for here because the one thing I’ve learned about weddings (well, my wedding) is that nothing goes as your originally planned – but it turns out lovely no matter what. :)

    • Marina

      “When I look at our pictures, I don’t see a wedding magazine or indie wedding – I see OUR wedding with OUR friends.”

      Yes yes yes yes yes. This should be the goal during the planning process, cause it’s what ends up happening anyway. :)

  • Pamela

    Great post, thanks.

    For some reason, at this stage in my life, I find myself without close friends, so having a bridal party is not really an option for me. My “childhood” friends and I drifted apart over religious differences and I’m really shy, so making new friends is hard. Fortunately, I have an awesome twin sister who is also my best friend, and we’d long ago promised to stand up for each other on our wedding days. But still, seeing the pictures of big bridal parties is hard, because it reminds me of what I don’t have right now. My finace has more friends than I do, but they’re all buddies from high school, so picking one of them to be as best man was really stressing him out. Finally, he just decided to skip having a best man and invite his friends as guests. We both realized that no, we might not have picture-perfect friendships right now, but we *do* have people who love and support us, and those are the people we’re inviting to share our day.

    • Tricia

      Before you feel too bad about not being “as good” as the people with huge wedding parties because you don’t have as many friends, you should consider that, while some of those wedding parties are organic extensions of groups of close friends, some of them are artificial mish-mashes of friends, acquaintances and relatives that were put together because a bride felt like the sides “needed” to match or she “needed” to have a certain number of attendants to look good or to make the pictures look good.

      To be very clear, I am not bashing those with large wedding parties. For some it is a natural decision that is right for them. However, I do think that there are many that are driven by WIC imperatives and the insecurities of the bride feeling that they have to meet a certain standard. And I think that those images can perpetuate that standard and make other brides feel insecure.

      I know that when I first started planning I felt very uncomfortable with the fact that I don’t have gobs of friends who I would want to stand up with. I also felt embarassed about how small our wedding was going to be. I was concerned that it reflected poorly on us and people would be judging us. However, as time went on I realized that what we are doing is right for us. Our families are small and we like the more intimate setting. Moreover, I realized that most people do not have 300 people who they know well and care about deeply and that most (although surely not all) weddings of that size include many people the bride and groom do not know well who were invited for a range of reasons. Realizing that really assauged some of my insecurity. I think the same is often true of wedding parties. While I some people really do have 10 or more very close friends, many do not, including some of those with large wedding parties. Some of those people may have been invited for various political (or other reasons) or it may be driven by other factors such as large families.

      • Pamela

        Oh, I totally understand what you’re saying. In fact, years ago I was a bridesmaid in a wedding that was a “mish-mash” as you describe. At first I was super excited, but ultimately it caused some hard feelings and unfortunately I didn’t handle things well at the time. My dress ended up costing about $500 (dress itself was $250, plus the rush fee because the bride didn’t tell us what to order in time, plus $100 for alterations to the jacket and train – yes, a BM dress with a train!, plus $100 for a strapless bra because I’m a 36G and those bras don’t grow on trees, plus shoes). This was a little hard to swallow when the bride told me her dress was $700 and she didn’t need any alterations at all. Oh, and I was making $10/hr at the time. Anyway, the wedding was in a lovely town about 3 hrs away – no problem, until the bride’s mother called my mom the week before the wedding and asked my mom to bring a salad because the bride’s mom hadn’t ordered enough food. I have no problem with potluck weddings, but bringing food from three hours a way is a little much (not to mention not good on the food safety front!). Anyway, because of all that (and some other stuff) I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder during the wedding and it was not a fun, girl-bonding experience for me. I realized the kindest thing I could have done was to say “no” to being a BM, and I also decided that I would be much pickier about future invitations to be a BM.

        All that to say, I do understand that wedding parties aren’t always about one’s best friends being happy and giggly and supporting you through thick and thin. But at the same time, it’s hard know that I don’t have that option right now.

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    Ahhhh, yes, the messy bridal party.

    Early on in the planning, my fiance was petrified about the issue of Best Man. He has a huge number of close friends (he’s very gregarious), and has best friends from different points in his life. I mentioned an old tradition (from the south, I believe) of fathers standing as Best Man, and he jumped on it. When I was struggling with who to ask as a Maid of Honor, I realized symmetry would be more than appropriate– my mother and I are very close, so I asked her to stand as Maid of Honor. It’s definitely made a few things interesting (my mother is NOT planning the bachelorette party!), but it’s the perfect choice for us.

    What has been a pain in the butt for me is the miscommunication with my fiance. He is MUCH more traditional than I am, and my directive to my bridesmaids to get black dresses of their choosing really upset him– he also only told me this six months after we made the initial decision (so dresses were already purchased, plans made, etc). So our bridal party caused some stress between us, but we’re both learning to compromise in the best way. :)

    The reason I told my ladies to choose black dresses was the issue that caused a little dust-up earlier in the comments– my girls aren’t all matching size-two blondes. And though I would have gleefully picked out a color and fabric at J. Crew and had my girls pick dresses they liked, J. Crew doesn’t carry sizes above a size sixteen. SIXTEEN. Absolutely ridiculous. I have one bridesmaid who is easily closer to an 18 or 20, and another who would be a 16 or 18. So as much as I would have loved them all in J. Crew dresses (so easy, good quality, different styles…), I couldn’t. Instead, they found dresses on their own. My one bridesmaid who actually is petite did get a J. Crew dress, and my other girlfriends found dresses in styles that flattered their body types and that make them look stunning.

    And to me, that’s what’s most important. They’re standing beside me because they’ve been there through different parts of my relationship with my fiance, and their love and support has helped us tremendously. And I want them to look and feel fabulous that day, so they can stand by our side, boogie on the dance floor, and know that they’re loved.

    • Alyssa

      That is an amazing idea! I’d never heard of parents standing up with the bride and groom, I think that’s absolutely lovely. It’s nice that you found such a sweet compromise. (I mean, who can complain about you picking your PARENTS over them as an attendant? That’s just crappy….)

      I’m glad you brought up the groom’s issue with this also! My husband had his “Best Mens” (“s” included because he’s a dork.) because he had so many Aggie buddies that it was hard to pick one person to stand up as his best man. I suggested his sister be his Best Woman, but he vetoed it because he’s super tradiational. (I had a Man of Honor. I don’t give a damn!)

      But the pressure is definitely on for the guys too. There might be less tears associated with it (maybe.) but it’s there.

      This is how I tried to help him pick.

      “Your best man is usually your best friend.”
      “I don’t have one.”
      “Okay, then someone who’s been there for you the most.”
      “Ummm…dunno.”
      “Oookay, how about someone you’re known the longest?”
      “We all started in the Corps together.”
      “Fine. If I got hit by a bus, who would you call?”
      “An ambulance.”
      “*sigh*”
      “Fine. Your mom.”
      “MATTHEW.”
      “WHAT, she’d need to know!”
      “You know what I mean….”
      “I dunno, probably nobody because I would be sad.”
      “Aww.”
      “And I wouldn’t want them to bother me after I got over it and started moving some hot 18 year old into the place…”

      (Seriously, this is how the conversation went. After I beat him with a pillow, we went with Best Mens and called it a day.)

      • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

        This is so similar to one of our earlier wedding party conversations (it led to the decision that we didn’t want any attendants), it’s eerie.

        • Alyssa

          You have a husband (or about to be husband) with lots of friends who wants to please them all without any hurt feelings AND who threatens to trade you in for a better model when your warranty runs out TOO?? :-)
          Unless you were replying Sarah K, cause then I feel silly….these replies and whatnot can be confusing…

          I like your decision, it’s sensible and if it’s what’s best for the both of you then that’s all that matters.
          Plus, who doesn’t ADORE cute flower girls and ring bearers? (Even if they’re like 15, they are still adorable, all dressed up and nervous…)

          • Nina

            I had to hit “exactly” because that conversation is so freaken hilarious :-)

          • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

            Yep, it was your conversation. Too similar by half. Our flower girls and ring bearers are all in the 8-and-under set, but the oldest is almost as tall as me and has bigger feet, which is totally bizarre because when you see her from behind, you expect her to look nearly grown but then she turns around and looks exactly like an 8-year-old should, only about 3X as big.

    • Sarah

      My fiance couldn’t pick one best man from his five groomsmen, so he isn’t having one. (Or, alternatively, he is having five.) We just took some of the jobs that generally fall to the best man and divided them up among the five. And, it did take us some time to come up with five important roles to play, so in the event others need ideas, we are having (1) toast at rehearsal dinner, (2) toast at reception, (3) stand next to him during ceremony and be responsible for the rings, (4) sign the marriage license as witness, and (5) manage the money day-of – making sure vendors receive checks and tips. It’s working out well for us so far.

  • Ann

    My fiancee and I each had a set of friends who made things sticky (for example, I have 3 who consider themselves a group even though I am only truly close with 1), so we decided to go with our “mismatched” set of siblings – a total of 3 people standing up for the 2 of us. 4 months into a 6-month engagement, I could not be happier.

    Since then, I’ve put extra effort into relationships with everyone, so no one feels left out. I think it helps that “siblings” is a very clear line to draw. I asked 2 friends to give toasts at the reception, 1 to be a greeter/hostess. One who hates being in the spotlight actually organized a bachelorette party for me, and I decided to make that small – just 6 friends, so it felt really personal.

    What I like best about this arrangement is that it doesn’t close any doors. I’ve been hurt at the lack of enthusiasm from some people that I would probably have asked to stand up for me if we were having a larger bridal party. Conversely, I’ve been stunned by the help from friends who probably wouldn’t have made the “short list” a few months ago. I realized that some of my extended family members have been quietly supportive for years, and am happy to make time for them and include them on plans. All the doors are wide open.

    Also, we decided not to invite coworkers, distant friends of our parents, etc. to the wedding. This means that we have a personal relationship with everyone there. So now my focus is on ALL of our wedding guests, not the wedding party. Not having to deal with bridesmaid’s dress drama means I can invite a few friends over for a (completely non wedding-related) dinner, without any secret or lingering resentments. I feel like I’ve freed myself from artificial (i.e. dress-and-hair-related) drama to focus on relationships.

  • april

    Sometimes my heart would ache as I looked at wedding blogs or grad posts, where I saw laughing, smiling hordes of bridesmaids surrounding a radiant bride. “How awesome it must be to have SO many friends! What great pictures.” Felt a bit envious, actually.

    I started out with two “best ladies” and ended up with one… the other was “that bridal attendant”. The one who waited till the 11th hour to buy her plane ticket, choose her dress, or offer any moral support. All this came to a boiling point 6 weeks before the wedding when she was dress-less, shoe-less, and had not made her hotel or flight bookings. I just didn’t have the strength anymore to deal with her whiney, crappy, “your-wedding-is-such-a-PITA-for-me-cuz-I-got-XYZ-goin’-on” attitude.

    So I excused her from the wedding party. And then it got ugly. She grew horns and spat venom and ended our 14-year sister-like friendship in one e-mail and another very tearful (mostly me crying) phone call. IT SUCKED.

    My other bestie that was my “Woman of Honor”? The one who calmed me down when my flowers showed up looking like hell, ordered up champagne when I was on verge of meltdown, handled bossy guests that kept ringing our suite, and kept my cell phone far away from me… the best friend who clipped in my veil as we were both tearing up with joy and nervousness, squeezed my hand in the elevator as we headed to the ceremony and later offered up a lovely, funny and sweet toast at our reception: that’s when I KNEW that it didn’t matter that there was just one of her. I didn’t need an entire pasel of doting bridesmaids bedecked in cute dresses and matching heels. Cuz the one I had effing ROCKED. And she was all I needed.

    • Alyssa

      That’s HORRIBLE.
      I’m so glad you at least had someone you needed. That makes it all the more special that you got to share your day with someone who knew what you needed.

    • Anon

      Having just been one of 5 bridesmaids in a somewhat drama-laden wedding… it’s very possible that smiling picture is the only time any of them were smiling all damn day. Pictures are posed. Even the picture-perfect weddings aren’t actually picture perfect.

  • Other Katelyn

    I’m dreading this decision. My best friend from childhood, the one I always thought would be standing by me on my wedding day, just isn’t that close to me anymore. My sisters are supportive/wonderful, but if I invite them, I feel like I have to invite the bossy SIL. And my friends are from wildly different circles and have never really gotten along with each other. My guy has a clearly defined small circle of dude friends and no brothers (or BILs) to include, so it’ll be exponentially easier for him – and that makes me feel resentful, which makes me feel small and about 8 years old again.

    I have a few years to work it all out, but the thought still makes me panicked! Says something about how much of an emotional weight this kind of decision can carry, and also says something about my need to chill the hell out. Haha. The solution is to limit it to family on my side, get over the resentment, trust that my sisters will help balance out the SIL, and move on. Easier said than done, though.

  • Ragon

    I thought our wedding party would be easy–I have one sister, we’re very close, done! But my fiance was stuck on a best man. He doesn’t feel like he has a lot of close guy friends, his closest cousin has drifted away from him since my fiance was HIS best man ten years ago, and we asked one of his closest friends to officiate so therefore couldn’t be his best man. I thought that his best female friend should be his “best woman” but he wasn’t quite ready for being that untraditional, although I thought it was a great idea. He really struggled because he felt so bad that he didn’t have a lot of close guy friends to choose from, especially because he felt like I couldn’t have a big bridal party even if I wanted one because he didn’t have enough guys, despite the fact that I reassured him a lot that I only ever wanted my sister. In the end, we decided that his best female friend would be the “dog wrangler” and walk our dogs down the aisle–a perfect role for her. And his dad is his best man. He has two nieces (11 an 5) and a nephew (8). So we added a junior bridesmaid, a flower girl and a ring bearer–his mother is so happy about it that it’s totally a plus in my column and wasn’t even a sacrifice for me. I think it works.

    None of my friends seem to care about being bridesmaids but all the ones in town have offered to help and have gone dress shopping with me. And I asked my best out of town friend from college to do a reading, which she loves and was touched I asked her. We asked my fiance’s sister to do the other reading so she’s included. I think she’s pleased but I doubt she’d care if we didn’t include her.

    As for the dress thing….I TOTALLY wanted non-matching dresses! I didn’t like the idea of matching at all. I was just going to have them (my sister, the dog wrangler and the junior bridesmaid) pick out a green dress they liked. Then of course, I realized how much work this might be. What if green isn’t the color of the season and is too difficult to find? My sister has a new baby and doesn’t have time to shop, my dog wrangler hates shopping and my junior bridesmaid hates it even more. It was easier if I picked something. So I picked a color I liked at Alfred Angelo and they each picked a dress they liked. I went along with each when they picked out their dresses because it was fun and they wanted some confirmation even though I told them to pick whatever dres they liked. So it really was easier than sending them on a quest for a green dress on their own. And they will look good together without being super matchy and each dress fits their separate personalities and body shape.

  • peanut

    OK, can someone explain to me why the traditional bridal party all wear the exact same dress? I don’t get it. I remember when I was a kid and saw all the bridesmaids in a wedding wearing the same dress and I was like “oh no! They are all wearing the same dress – I hope the bride doesn’t get mad!” I get that they should wear something that reflects their position of honor, but I don’t think it’s necessary to wear matching poorly made dresses in an obnoxious color they’ll never wear again (can you tell I”ve got a few hanging in the back of my closet?) And while we’re on it, what’s up with brides controlling every aspect of their bridesmaids – like “wear neutral makeup” or “hair must be done up”? Good lord, who cares???

    As for the it’s hard to tell people what to wear thing; yes, if you say “something in tangerine orange that hits the knee but not too long and not strapless”. I asked my girls to wear a black cocktail dress – any black cocktail dress, preferably one that they already had. No problems here!

    • K

      It started way back when when the wedding party would all dress similar to the bride and groom to confuse evil spirits or would-be suitors who might want to harm the couple. Now that’s putting a lot more out there than $300 for a dress and shoes!

    • ddayporter

      ha! I thought saying “any dress in a shade of blue or yellow (solid or pattern) that looks good on you, preferably around knee-length but I’m open to other styles if people want something else” would work almost as well as “any black cocktail dress.” still they all gravitated to the same exact dress and I kind of had to push a little to get them to choose different colors.

  • Chan

    Our wedding party was full of lifelong friends who looked chic and supported us and teased us (but not too much). But it didn’t start out that way. Especially with the girls. It actually started with snark and infighting and 3 months in it led to one of my best friends (or so I thought) bowing out/being fired (depends who you ask) and never ever talking to me again. It was and still is really painful to think about. But once she was gone, the rest of it was really great.

    On the flipside I’m in a wedding party now and the whole thing is a nightmare. An indecisive bride who is not terribly conscious of or respectful of her friend’s budgets and time constraints. Things are getting tense and I don’t know how to express to her that even though she’s the loveliest specialest bride, she needs to start thinking about how all this is affecting everyone else. I guess my best bet is to just keep my mouth shut, look pretty in my $250 dress and hope I can sell it afterward.

  • http://koruwedding.blogspot.com/ Koru Kate

    Once we got past the idea of only having my sister as the maid of honor & his brother as the best man, we had an easy time choosing our bridal party. I chose my sister, sister-in-law-to-be, best friend & two cousins who are also dear friends. He chose his brother, his two best friends & two cousins who are also great friends. I was so happy it was so easy . . .

    Then I found out via my Mom that my Grandma & Aunt were hurt that I hadn’t chosen one of my other cousins. Now the two cousins I chose I see all the time & I am close with them. The so-called “left-out” cousin I haven’t seen in over five years & we were never close. Plus as my Mom pointed out, I have plenty of other cousins that I didn’t include to which my Gram & Aunt replied perhaps I should include all of them. If I did that, I would have a bridal party of 10 which is too large for me personally. Some of my other cousins I may include in other special ways during the ceremony, although I didn’t plan on including the “left-out” cousin. But I hate hurting people’s feelings. It’s still to be determined.

    Anyway, in the end, not as easy as I had hoped. I wish everyone luck!!

  • Marisa-Andrea

    Did I miss something??

  • Chandromeda

    This post more than most REALLY spoke to me, and I want to thank you for addressing this topic.

    I don’t have the benefit of having life long friends, either. As time and growth would dictate, we’ve all amicably and mutually moved apart over the years as we get older, commit ourselves to partners, pursue careers, start families, etc. – while we do stay in contact, it’s not this big sorority of sisterhood the wedding machine wants me to believe it should be. I think this must be a byproduct of women marrying later in life – the lack of high school ties? Or is that just me? Same goes for the circle of artsy friends you mentioned – I have artsy friends, but guess what? They’re all too busy creating and circulating their art to get together for martini sleepovers or whatever the heck those hip friends do. ;)

    Anyway, the solution you provided via the honors thing just SAVED MY LIFE. It is precisely this poignant thinking coupled with out-of-the-box alternatives that makes this blog my favorite in the universe. I am all over this honors thing now. Thanks, Meg!!!!

    • Sarah

      Love this. Truth be told, in the past five years, the relationship I’ve been cultivating and the person I’ve been spending time with is the person I’m marrying. We have a loving and supportive and fun community of friends and family, but it doesn’t necessarily match up with mainstream wedding party images.

  • http://extoria.blogspot.com Vee

    “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.’”

    I feel so much EXACTLYness when I read this sentence that I could write a book about it.

  • http://www.kellyprizel.com Kelly Prizel

    Coming at it from a bridesmaid perspective, I don’t know how you can have a bridal party/attendants without hurting feelings. You are *ranking* friends….so it’s going to disappoint someone even if they never tell you. Even if you do get picked to be a bridesmaid, the amount of decisions and various things are going to cause conflict. And then there is the money. When I heard the knot says bridesmaids spend $700 on average per wedding I thought it was a bunch of sh*t. But being a bridesmaid twice now and both times my wife was a bridesmaid too, I quickly learned that’s not crazy (and it’s not the dress, they picked under $200 dresses! All the stuff adds up very very quickly). In fact, we spent way more than that. I honestly was so stressed out about the money it made me a lot more emotional when I thought of the wedding and put me on edge.
    I honestly had a bad experience being a bridesmaid both times…so much so that I have decided to simply say no to any friend who asks. I’m just so glad those weddings are over. It’s sad to say that but I kept thinking through the entire process “She’ll be married soon and it will be done”.
    Blurg.

    • Liz

      and here’s where i’m curious. cause i get the whole “ranking friends” thing, and 3+ people have above mentioned being hurt/having hurt someone over not being a bridesmaid. so yeah, it happens.

      but 3 weddings all happened recently, and i expected to be a bridesmaid, and i wasn’t asked. (two of them had GIANT bridal parties, too). and i wasn’t hurt in the slightest.

      so what i’m wondering is if the whole thing would’ve been maybe more painful if it didn’t all happen is such close proximity to my OWN wedding. if maybe it had happened at a time when i wasn’t aware of the politics of it all, if i would have been more hurt.

      • ddayporter

        I am commenting way too much today but! It’s too soon for me to know whether I’ll be offended, as there haven’t been any other weddings announced where I think I should be in the party, but I’m pretty sure I will not be offended at all (unless it’s my oldest sister, I would like to be in her wedding (if/whenever that happens) just so we’re all 3 in all 3 weddings, but even then I wouldn’t care that much if she just wasn’t doing a bridal party or something).

      • http://www.kellyprizel.com Kelly Prizel

        It’s actually odd because I was married first out of all my friends. We didn’t have bridesmaids/groomsmen. But we had friends come to help us get ready without the label of ‘bridesmaid’ so they could show up when they wanted, wear what they wanted, and enjoy the wedding from their seats (both times I was a bridesmaid I didn’t see the ceremony at all!! Ugh.)
        I think even more than hurt it feels ‘icky’ to be ranked. I hated the politics and was fully aware of them. But perhaps more than even a bridesmaid role is the ‘maid of honor’ role…it’s like were back in 5th grade and are like ‘This is my bestest friend in the whole wide WORLD!”

        • Fab

          I feel like these situations are pretty hard to predict–I can imagine that some girls anticipate that not being asked would kill them, and the real reaction would be more “meh,” and others wouldn’t realize that hurt feelings were a possibility until they weren’t asked. When I think about my circle of friends, I don’t see myself banging down the door to be included in that particular way in their weddings, but I can imagine that being “left out” of some of their wedding parties would sting a bit. We don’t all play kickball during recess anymore. As adults, there aren’t other times when someone gets picked first or last that come to mind outside of the wedding party question. We’re out of practice.

      • http://faithintruth.wordpress.com faith

        I do think there is some sub-conscious reverting to grade school where we chose our best friends and everyone else didn’t matter so much. But I also think it’s about the importance you, the potential bridesperson, place on being included in the “circle” of the official bridal party. If it’s important for you to be recognized, than it will hurt when you feel you have not been. If it’s not important to you, that you will not be hurt and maybe ask how else you can help the 2 lovely people beginning their lives together. Isn’t that what it’s about anyway? Supporting and loving, any way you can?

  • Jenny

    Re. this post: *Exactly*

    We had some immediate issues on my fiancee’s side of the equation (his closest dude friend is overseas in Kuwait for the year, and he didn’t feel close enough to ask his brother to be his best man), and general paranoia on my end (about everything, but this was no different; I don’t have any siblings, or *one* close friend, and hate the thought of ranking the close friends I do have), so we ultimately decided not to have a wedding party at all. I don’t think my girlfriends are hurt (one’s organizing the bachelorette, one’s doing a reading, one’s giving a toast, and one’s going with me for hair/makeup, and *all* my girlfriends are invited to the bride’s room before the wedding for a champagne toast), and we save a whole lotta trouble.

    I was also recently vindicated in this choice when I attended a wedding that seemed purposely designed to make me–a very close childhood friend of the bride who was not a member of the 8-person bridal party–fell left out and hurt. All my friends are important to me, not because they look good together in a photo, or all happen to be women (they’re not), or even fit in with *eachother* that well; but they fit into important places in my life, and I’m happy to celebrate them in their own ways on my wedding day. Many, many kudos to this post!!!

  • Erika

    My experience + a bit of hindsight is this: manage expectations. I had a best woman, my husband had a best man, and siblings and other friends did readings and other honors. Since my best woman lives in the same city as me, I hoped she would do things like look at dresses with me, maybe go to a makeup trial, help with the playlist. It became quickly apparent that she had zero interest and thought her job was to show up the day of. My feelings were hurt, but I was not honest about it, which caused tension and fights eventually. Luckily it did not end as badly as some other people have commented here. But still, it took a while after the wedding before we could both get past it. Turns out she’s really just not into weddings. Fine. But if I could do it over, I would be more upfront about what my expectations were and also realistic about whether this friend was up to the task. A bestie is not necessarily the best person for the job. I think it would spare a lot of hurt feelings if this were acknowledged more.

  • Michelle

    I’ve always wanted only one maid of honor, no bridesmaids. My best friend since 1st grade. I wasn’t going to choose among my 6 sisters and 4 close college friends, and there was no way I was going with 11 people in my bridal party. This was one of my wedding dealbreakers. My fiance tried SO hard to get me to add more bridesmaids to even things out. I told him he could have 1 or 10 people on his side, but I was sticking with 1. He went with his best friend, his brother and then his dad and grandfather (fathers as best men are a Southern tradition). I would’ve preferred he just had one, but it was important to him. Walking up the aisle the men went two by two and the maid of honor walked alone.

    As far as dresses, I picked 1 attendant partially so I could pay for her costs – her dress (which we picked out together) and getting her hair done. She wore her own shoes and jewelry. I think this was the most practical way to do it for me.

    And my 6 sisters and 1 SIL I asked to all wear some shade of blue, just for fun. Well, I thought it would be fun. I didn’t know they’d need my approval and 3 shopping trips to pick out their dresses. More of a hassle than I’d expected (will the different shades of blue clash? Is teal a shade of blue?) but it turned out alright.

  • Michele

    Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but I think one of the primary reasons that selecting a bridal party is so difficult for so many couples is that serving as a bridesmaid or groomsman has come to be viewed as an honor. Specifically, it’s a way for the bride and groom to honor those people who they’re nearest and dearest to, and/or (unfortunate reality here:) those people who have the highest expectations of being honored (hello, obligatory sibling bridal party invitation!)

    When we got engaged and started thinking about the idea of having a bridal party, what I kept coming back to is the old-fashioned way of putting it, i.e.: “standing up in” a wedding, and what it meant to STAND UP IN someone’s wedding. And for me, what it means to STAND UP IN someone’s wedding, is that you’re telling the bride, groom and everyone in attendance that you will also STAND UP FOR their marriage – always. And once I thought about it in that context, everything else fell into place, and it became abundantly clear exactly who I wanted STANDING UP beside me when I married my guy.

    I have A LOT of friends. A lot of GREAT friends who are wonderful people and who play different roles in my life and fulfill different needs. And while I love them all dearly, I absolutely know exactly who will STAND UP FOR and support my marriage (and me) when I need it, and THAT is who I wanted to honor that day.

    • Shelly

      THIS! I have definitely reframed things this way too. And it helps to see who has stood up for me/us during the totality of our relationship, good times and bad. The whole thing is so symbolic, but often gets lost in politics and tradition.

      • http://faithintruth.wordpress.com faith

        YES.

  • Carreg

    It’s funny, the last wedding I went to, the bridesmaids were the bride’s little granddaughters (5 years old or so) — I think they enjoyed having cute matching outfits, but their main contribution was to break the ice in the reception by jumping on their cousin and demanding hide and seek. It just goes to show.

    When it comes to my do — a bit of me is inclined to just declare that we shall all wear what we damn well please and we’ll be matching on the inside. But I don’t think my bridesmaids would be terribly happy with me if I did that. I think they’d at least like not to end up more formally dressed than me.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    In some cases the wedding party actually has a role in the wedding.

    At our wedding we had the officiant. Our fathers acted as the witnesses. And then there was us.

    No other official roles to fill.

    Thus – No wedding party!

    I did involve the women who have been influential in my life by keeping them apprised during the planning process as part of my posse, and some of them really stepped up to help in other ways. The people close to us were all honored with one of our ribbon pansies to wear. And that was it. No organizing. No coordinating. And, as far as I know, no offending either.

  • http://www.insideouthappy.com Jenny

    In the third grade I came home crying because everyone seemed to have a “best friend” but me – and I’m social, gregarious and NOT shy. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me.

    22 years later I’ve finally come to embrace the fact that I love so many types of people and having a group of friends I love has ALWAYS been more fun than having a single best friend – why choose just one?

    So now we’re planning a wedding, and I have all these dear friends who I love equally but who, because my friendships are spread thinner and wider, I’m not close enough to want to ask them to submit to all the chores/expense/expectations that come with being a “bridesmaid.”

    It was hard to admit that the best choice was to go with no “bridal party” given that we have so many great friends, but that just seemed to work best.

    Girlfriends are volunteering for all sorts of things (making favors, manning the guest book, picking up our flowers) and I’m trying to figure out how honor them for their help without dressing them in “I’m important” matching dresses.

    Advice would be appreciated!

    • Marina

      Are you doing a program? You could list their names. Or give a toast at the reception and thank them all. Or host a party before (bachelorette?) or after the wedding for them all. Or write them personalized thank you notes.

    • Liz

      there’s kinda two ways to do the whole “honor” thing… either in the personal, private way (ie, give a little gift, send a sweet note, throw a party, or take a photo together and print/buy/frame and give it to them after the wedding). the other is when you want your guests to know this person is Special. which doesn’t sound like what you want, because of the whole “no matching dresses” comment. but that could include having a part in the ceremony, mentioning them in the program, giving them each a special corsage to wear, or something like that.

    • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

      Ah yes, me too. I had several years where I legitimately had a “best friend” – well, she had some problems and I wasn’t the most mature person so I didn’t really know how to handle her issues – the friendship ended in the worst way. Had I gotten married earlier (and I am so happy I didn’t – I was way too immature to get married in my early 20s and not ready in my mid 20s) she would have been a co-Ninja of Honor with my sister,

      After that, I had heaps of close friends, though they often lived at a distance (I’m an expat, so this is the normal state of things). My only best friend was the man who became my boyfriend and has now become my fiance. The groom can’t also be the Maid of Honor, so… !!

      I do have my sister – a natural choice to be my MOH – but if I had to choose another non-fiance friend to take that honor, I don’t think I could. I love them all dearly but I can’t choose.

      • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

        And this is to the point, I might add, that it’s kind of weird for me to see girls with their BEST GIRLFRIEND doing BEST GIRLFRIEND things – my BEST (MAN)FRIEND is, was and always will be my soon-to-be husband. This has been the way it is for so many years that it’s just the natural state of things.

        There was a point where my fiance and I had been friends for years and it was absolutely not clear that we would get together (we’d always liked each other – it was a combination of choosing to be roommates at the wrong time, my immaturity, his shyness, other relationships and distance as we both traveled). If that had come to pass and I’d married someone else, he would have really been my Man of Honor.

  • http://littlewedplanblog.wordpress.com Amy

    Long time reader, first time commenter, and I have to say that this post could not have come at a better time. I am currently struggling with the fact that I feel regret about one of the bridesmaids I chose.

    I chose her because she was a dear close friend of mine in college and she helped bring my fiancé and I together. We are still friends, and we still hang out, but we are not nearly as close as we used to be. I always knew I wanted her to be a bridesmaid, and so, when we got engaged, I asked her and she said yes. There were red flags from the beginning though, and I am now faced with the reality that I deeply regret asking her to be a member of the bridal party.

    Long story short, over the course of our nearly two year engagement, this bridesmaid has made me feel very guilty about our wedding and has caused lots of small problems that I have tried very graciously to overlook. And now, today, I have learned the difficulties she has put my maid of honor, my sweet little sister, who is trying so hard to make my shower and bachelorette parties–and indeed, my whole wedding experience–perfect for me, through. Needless to say, I am feeling very hurt, as I am the type of person who would bend over backwards for her, has shared her joy and excitement in the course of her own engagement–yet she seems to refuse to honor our friendship and do the same for me.

    I would never kick her out of the bridal party, as I do want to honor our friendship. Hindsight is so 20-20, isn’t it? I wish I would have waited, asked someone else to be a bridesmaid, and chose to honor this particular friend in a different way. C’est la vie.

  • bamagirl3525

    I opted not to have a wedding party, mostly because I didn’t want to deal with the politics of choosing between high school friends, college friends, after-college friends, cousins…. and then ending up with a 15-person set of bridesmaids. I asked my sister to be my MOH, and I asked my 3 besties from college to be readers. [One bestie is from a denomination that frowns on women "leading" worship services (which apparently includes reading from the Bible in front of a congregation), so she declined my invitation to read but offered to be my day-of coordinator/vendor emergency contact, which ended up being clutch.]

    Pre-wedding, I was pretty happy with this decision — I didn’t have to pick out a dress that would look good on everyone, I didn’t have to negotiate with my FI on 5- or 10- or 15-person wedding party, etc. My besties stepped up and co-hosted a couples shower and threw me a last minute bachelorette/lingerie party when I got bachelorette envy.

    But then the wedding day came, and there was a storm that practically destroyed our outdoor reception venue, and while my parents were off fixing everything, I was alone in our hotel room just waiting on them to come back. If I’d had a wedding party, they would have been with me.

    I still can’t decide if the not-having-high-maintenance-girls-stressing-me-out part was worth the trying-not-to-cry-alone-in-my-hotel-room part.

    • Liz

      this made me so sad.

  • Christina

    I have really been the scrooge of all brides, and my girlfriends know me well enough to know that I was going to be like that – but it hasn’t been easy on them. I am a scrooge for two reasons: 1 is that I see shopping of any kind and hair/make-up as nothing but work (read: not fun) and I just want to get it done. I didn’t ask them to follow me to look for my dress. I was in and out of Nicole Miller in 20 minutes flat with my dress. I couldn’t handle more input than my own head. 2 is that I really really don’t believe in ranking my friends by choosing them to be in the bridal party. I have like 6 girls in my life and two boys are my closest group of friends, and that’s pretty much everyone at the wedding. I didn’t want to give labels, as I knew feelings would be hurt because I do love them all equally and if I had them all in the bridal party no one would be left as guests! I’m not a wedding-y person so I’ve been pretty much treating this as tasks that need to be done. I know my girlfriends are annoyed because they want to help me pick out veils and be there when I’m getting ready and stuff. But it’s just not my style, and after thinking about it, they love me anyway. That’s what friends do, right?

    • Christina

      That doesn’t leave out the fact that you have to choose who you’re sitting with if you’re having a sit-down dinner reception. The H2b and I both have divorced parents so we couldn’t sit with family. Thus we had to choose the 8 friends at our table. We almost opted for a sweetheart table, but haha that seemed kinda boring. So the ranking might be unavoidable in this case….

    • Carreg

      The thing is, they can indulge in the hair/make-up/dress/veil thing all they like when it’s their turn. That’s what I tell myself, anyhow. :)

      • Christina

        I totally agree. Sadly there is really no nice way to say that without coming across totally bratty. But i think it in my head and feel better when I have to keep nicely saying “no” to the viels/make-up/dress-shopping stuff. They will have their turn and if they want help from me then, I’m totally happy to be there for them even if it’s not my bag. Cuz I love them :)

  • http://www.craigathenawedding.blogspot.com athena

    My fiance and I, prior to our engagement, always said we would each just have one person stand up for us. One of my sisters, who is my best friend in the world, and his best friend. I always liked that idea best. No one can argue with it, no one gets hurt feelings. But, apparently, my fiance felt that way only because he thought we were paying for the wedding ourselves and we are both students (broke, broke, broke). So now, he decided he wants additional groomsmen (though we have settled on one each only) and I had to choose out of all my friends. So I chose my next best friend, Rob. I’ve been calling him a BridesMAN or a BridesDUDE. And EVERYONE asks me if he is up on my side because he is gay, like you can only stand up for a woman if you’re gay (WTF?). He isn’t, he is married, I did the toast to the groom at his wedding even though I wasn’t in the wedding party, and I wanted to honour him. Some of my family is weirded out, all of my friends are cool with it, but I think it’s the best choice and it simplifies things. Only my sister needs a dress, easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    And Meg, you are SO right about people wanting you to choose their dress, my God! I thought, she is the only girl, she can choose whatever she wants as long as it’s black. I want her to have a hot dress she’ll totally wear again and she’s kind of indifferent! Oh well, I picked a fabulous dress that looks totally hot on her so whatevs!

    • Alyssa

      As a bride with a Man of Honor (gay, but whatevs, so was one of my husband’s Best Mens and since neither one planned on humpin’ it up on the altar at the chapel, it wasn’t anyone’s bidness, thankyouveryMUCH…) I say shine on you crazy diamond.
      Bridesmen and Grooms ladies are AWESOME.

  • Marina

    So a couple people have mentioned this now and I’m getting curious–why do wedding party people WANT the bride to pick out their clothes??? I told my peeps who were standing up during the ceremony that they could wear whatever they wanted, and I meant it. They could have shown up in jeans and a t-shirt and I would have been perfectly happy. But they all took it very seriously… I ended up going shopping with two of them and looking at multiple pictures online with three more, and most of them changed their mind about what to wear at least once. It would have been easier on all of us if I’d just picked something.

    So why is this? You hear so much about ugly bridesmaids dresses in the mainstream media I would have thought people would be happy to pick their own stuff, but not in my experience… Anyone have any ideas?

    • http://www.insideouthappy.com Jenny

      I think it’s because no one wants to be the person that wears the (accidentally, of course) clashing/ inappropriate/ just wrong dress and “ruins” the wedding. If the bride weighs in, she can’t complain about your choice later :)

      And thanks for the tips on my earlier comment about honoring my “bridal crew”!

      • Alyssa

        I agree. I’ve heard too many stories of, “Oh no, wear what you want, whatever fits you and looks good, it’s whatever you want…..oh. Is THAT what you’re going to wear?”

        Not that a bride who reads APW would be like that! :-) (Though if you are, SHAME ON YOU…)

    • Ana

      I also agree with the fear of the bride not liking what you wear or not fitting in with what other are wearing. Plus dress shopping can be a nice bonding time together for a bridesmaid who likes to feel involved. I doubt these BMs realize that it can be a headache for her friend to deal with yet another detail and from that perspective would probably just pick something on their own as a favor to you.

      • ddayporter

        yep. I was kind of terrified when my middle sister got married 2 years ago and for a brief period of time decided we should all just pick out our own “sun dresses” and that would be that. If it were just me and our other sister, I think we could have figured it out, but there were 2 other ladies in the party we didn’t know and it was hard to figure out what kind of sun dress exactly?? because yeah I didn’t want to be the one who went too casual and ruined it. NOW looking back I know I probably couldn’t have ruined it, and I completely understand why my sister considered that option (and yes it would have been kind of me to do her the favor of picking my own dress). In the end she picked out a DB dress for us all to wear in the same color, DB drove me insane but honestly it was easier for me than stressing about picking the wrong dress on my own.

    • http://nightlarke.livejournal.com Nightlarke

      Hi, Marina! *waves*

      Your wedding party was AWESOME (assuming your the same NBTSC-attending, Zach-marrying Marina I’m guessing you are). Hands-down fantabulous. Seriously… everyone looked great. Because they looked like your friends! Friends who stood by you and supported you! Which is what a wedding party is supposed to do, right?

      *le sigh* Good to know the clothing-worrying-shopping-stressing moments happened to your party, too.

      • Marina

        Haha, hello there! :) Yeah, that’s exactly what I wanted–people feeling comfortable and like themselves and AWESOME, because they are awesome so looking awesome was inevitable. :)

        It’s so funny how so many of the things that are dramatic during wedding planning look easy from a guest’s perspective. You would not believe how many tense, emotional conversations I had about planning the day-before picnic in Irving Park that went so smoothly… I guess it’s reassuring, really, that it all turns out okay in the end, right?

  • http://cisteagusmilseain.blogspot.com/ Beth

    “But I wish I’d realized early on that imperfect friendships were normal, and that we should all just do what feels right, and chuck the rest.”

    This really resonated for me. I have many people I love in my life but I do not have a “best” friend nor does my soon to be husband.

  • http://artfuldodger.livejournal.com Hayley

    I really struggled with this issue when planning my wedding. I moved as a teen, and I became disconnected from all but one of my good friends. And the friendship that lingered turned into something very painful that took many years to work through. I was still “connected” with good friends from my childhood, but they were…..childhood friendships, not current real-present active things, and if I was going to have someone stand with me, I wanted it to be because they KNEW me as I am RIGHT NOW, what my daily life is like. Doesn’t mean I don’t love my far-away friends, but they’re different sorts of friendships.

    I really struggled with whether I wanted to have a bridal party at all because I simply don’t have a gaggle of girl-friends. I wanted to choose people I felt were a part of my life, and ended up choosing a guy and girl to stand with me. They were good friends from college and were engaged to each other at the time, and I felt like they and my now-husband and I really connected. But even though I felt asking them was the right choice for me, I still struggled with NOT having a gaggle of girlfriends, and I spent some considerable time mourning that lack. I mourned over friendships that were far-away because they were just that: far-away and distant and not-a-part-of-my-real-regular-LIFE. I mourned for the lack of the best friend whose friendship was lost years ago. And then I took a deep breath and asked those people I wanted to stand by me to stand by me.

    But it took me some time. It took me some time to let go of the fact that my mom suggested some of the people who were far-away-friends to be bridesmaids, because the nostalgic part of me really did WANT to have them there with me. It took some time for me to accept my being far away and living a life apart all over again, because while in daily life it doesn’t bother me…..when it comes to Big Important Things, it does.

    I’m glad I didn’t just ask the people I asked right off the bat, that I took the time to mourn the bridal party I had envisioned in my childhood and teen years. And I’m also very glad that I had the people standing by me that I did, because while I needed to take some time to mentally mourn the lack of others, the people I DID ask were and still are incredibly important to me in other ways. And I wouldn’t have asked them if they weren’t.

    But I do think it was important for me to sit on it a while and mourn the lack of what I wanted, and then take a deep breath and plunge into the “this is what there is, this is who you really have”.

  • Alyssa

    Can I bring up something that I don’t know that anyone else did? I had a pregnant bridesmaid and for some reason people, even the normally sane ones, were like, “OH NOES! Is she still going to do it?” Not concerned for her health and her flight to my wedding (like I was) but as if she’d ruin my pictures or take the focus off of me or fall down in her duties.

    I mean, her duties were to stand there and look pretty and she did a great job. I didn’t ask her to do anything because she was from out of town and also kind of busy making a life. While I was making favors, she was growing an arm so she wins in the busy department.

    Between her baby bump and the father-daughter dance I had her do with my dad (who she thinks of as a father) because she didn’t get one at her Vegas enlopement, you would have thought I ripped out a kidney and handed it over to her or something…
    I dunno, maybe I just have judgemental family members. :-)

    • Moz

      My reply to this would be that she is pregnant because she is in love and that her baby is part of that love (hopefully) with someone you also love (hopefully).

      If this is the case, then what more beautiful statement could be made than by having her pregnant and beautiful (although maybe with swollen ankles and sore) in your bridal party. It’s all about love, right?

      • Alyssa

        This was much better than the super mature eye-rolling and comments about how I needed at least one bridesmaid fatter than me to make me look good.

        Someone actually nodded in agreement at this until I glared at her long enough for her to realize I was making a tacky joke.

        *sigh* FAMILY….can’t live with ‘em, can’t set ‘em on fire.

        • Liz

          next time, make sure all of your bridesmaids are knocked up. then the photos will be even.

          • Moz

            Damn Liz, that was heaps better than my suggestion!

    • Nini

      Ha! I don’t think your family members are judgmental, well, maybe they are a little bit, but I think it’s that you are a more laid back bride than most.

      My fiancée and I began dating when I was three months pregnant and we decided to see if dating would work out as well as the great sex did. (We learned, we in fact, DO get along – awesome!)

      It was at this time that I also learned his sister was getting married and she wanted me to come to the wedding.

      Flash forward four months…

      I put off finding a dress because I was unsure what my size would be and didn’t want to spend a small fortune on a fancy maternity dress. When it got down to the wire, I finally found one that fit and was fancy enough for her fairly formal wedding. It was white, actually kinda white, well a little off white, but way more white than say ivory. Did I mention it was white?

      Well, his sister had a passive aggressive meltdown (note: I find these worse than those forehead vein throbbing, eye twitching explosion ones – at least those happen and then they are over). I wasn’t even IN her wedding but she was upset because I would be in family pictures. Leading up to the wedding, there were many hints and ‘helpful’ suggestions about how to dye dresses. And I suppose I could have gone along with it, but a) the wedding was a week away and I was nervous about effing it up and not having a dress to wear, and b) it was a pretty expensive dress considering I was only going to wear it that one time, I really didn’t want to ruin it, and c) honestly, I was too damn lazy to care about dyeing my off-white, knee length maternity dress because she was a spaz.

      So yeah, my reply had nothing to really do with bridesmaids (she actually had my fiancee and her sister stand up with her – so a maid of honour and a man of honour, no bridesmaids), but just how crazy some brides can get when the spotlight may be slightly shifted due to the pregos. And why people might expect you to freak out about it as well.

      Another note: on my one and only visit to the bridal shop of horrors, the owner told me how she had all her bridesmaids sign a contract promising to not gain any weight (for any reason, including pregnancy!) OR lose any weight because her wedding was about HER.

      Yeah, this woman exists and sells wedding dresses.

    • ddayporter

      I was kind of hoping my sister would be pregnant by the time the wedding rolled around, honestly! I don’t think they’re even trying yet, I was just really hoping because I can’t wait for them to start having kids haha. Anyway the only thing I was not hoping was that she would be too far along/in labor to make it to the wedding (purely selfish reasons there). Certainly I would never have seen it as stealing any of my limelight (hello nobody gets in the way of that, I steal enough of it and am always happy to share).

  • J

    Can I ask the uncomfortable question of what to do if you and/or your fiance have siblings, but you don’t want them in the wedding party?

    I have sister, and we’re not very close. Frankly, we’ve never gotten along very well. I’ve got a trio of very close friends from high school and college, and would definitely want them as my bridesmaids. I would feel horribly guilty leaving out my sister though (plus it would make my family unhappy and uncomfortable)…

    • Liz

      if i were in this spot, it wouldn’t be worth the subsequent family drama to exclude her. i’d suck it up and ask her.

      but that’s me. everyone has different sordid family drama, and that may not be the answer for you.

    • Marina

      Is there a way you can redefine “bridesmaid” so your sister isn’t doing anything that’s uncomfortable for you? Like, maybe she can just stand up with you during the ceremony but not participate in any of the pre-wedding bridesmaid duties. I guess what I’m asking is what, exactly, you don’t want her doing. If you really don’t want her symbolically supporting you during the ceremony, your best bet would probably be to have no bridesmaids up there at all. But if you just don’t particularly want to spend time with her during the pre-wedding girl-bonding times, I think that can be avoided pretty easily.

    • Erin

      Honestly. Don’t have her as a bridesmaid. Find some other meaningful way for her to contribute to your ceremony and stick with your 3 besties. I would just make sure you don’t branch beyond what would be a pretty definitive line on whom you are having standing up with you. I am only having two bridesmaids (best friend since forever and best friend from college) neither of them is my sister. My sister’s forte is baking so she is making our cutting cake. My MOH was very awesome though in involving my sister in the shower planning but yeah. You don’t *have* to have family. You really don’t.

  • DamnGina

    We’re 2 months out from the wedding and we’re going the no bridal party route. So far it’s been surprisingly smooth. He has so much family and so many sets of friends and I’m an only child with a nomadic past and scattered friends who don’t overlap much, that we felt our only options were no party or 16 people each. To complicate things further, the woman I would hands-down have as my Maid of Honor lives 2 states away and had a baby 2 months ago. She has enough on her plate without worrying about my wedding or finding a formal dress post-partum (talk about a dress you will never wear again!), but standing up there with a party that didn’t include her just felt wrong.

    So we just did away with the entire thing and so far everyone has been understanding and supportive. I think the fact that we’re having a Hindu ceremony helps us out. There aren’t traditionally wedding parties (though you will definitely see maids and groomsman incorporated nowadays) so you don’t run afoul of so many expectations. Also, there is a lot of family participation in the ceremony. We won’t have a bridal party but there will be a full complement of parents, uncles, brothers, sisters, and cousins up there on the platform with us. That makes the decision not to have a bridal party a bit easier since we know we won’t be alone during the ceremony and that there will be someone to discretely pass tissues or catch me if I trip on my sari.

    • galaxie

      I had a traditional Hindu ceremony (his family is from India, mine’s midwestern white folks) and bridesmaids — but not a maid of honor, they were all equally special. I called them “my ladies” or “my posse” a lot. He didn’t have groomsmen at all — we filled up the other half of the “head” table with a bunch of his same-age cousins. It totally worked.

      My ladies saved the wedding more than once: I’d bought them clothes from India but many of them didn’t get fitted/altered before the wedding, so one of my ladies ended up hand-sewing alterations to four blouses. And the flowers I’d bought for the ceremony couldn’t be delivered because of flooding (really!), so two other ladies were logistical geniuses and made the FedEx office stay open long enough for the mandap guy to come get the flowers. I definitely needed them, because my mom couldn’t have done all that (she was busy) and my now-husband’s sister also had her own things to do.

      Funny, though — when you have 3 bridesmaids who have never worn Indian clothes before, the whole concept of bridesmaids helping the bride get ready is completely turned on its head. I felt that getting to dress them helped distract me and occupy my brain before the wedding, so I really liked it. Instead of getting nervous, I was fussing about pleats and safety pins, and concentrating on paying attention to my friends.

      • DamnGina

        We’re the same way – I’m the gori girl with the Midwestern family marrying the Indian-American guy. I never thought I’d see another couple like us on a wedding blog. There aren’t a lot of us on the wedding blogosphere that I know of – I sort of feel like I’ve spotted a unicorn! :)

        The thing that’s been so awe-inspiring and humbling for me is that even though I don’t have a bridal party, the people we love have stepped up again and again to make this wedding happen. Everyone we talk to about the wedding seems to ask at some point, “What can I do to help?” Then look at you intently as if to convey, “Really, I mean it. Give me something to do.” People have run down vendors, got recommendations, offered to tailor, cook, decorate, find, and plan so many things at this point; we even have an aunt in India who coordinated blouses (we sent measurements – she had them stitched) and bought saris for 10 of my friends and family. When we decided to go without a bridal party, I was a little afraid I was forgoing the kind of help and support you usually get from maids but so far everyone has been so wonderful – including people who wouldn’t have been bridesmaids had I had them. On the other hand, it means we’re still working out on finding the right way to honor and thank all of those people appropreately….

        Though no one’s commitment and generosity has been tested by flooded(!) florists yet. Your posse sound like they rocked and I loved that you had backup and he didn’t and it worked for you. And I have to commend you for dressing your girls on your wedding day. It sounds like it really helped you, but wow! I’ve figured out how to drape my own saris decently, but I can not get the pleats to work when I’m doing other people. Also, I get shaky hands when I get nervous – no one wants me coming at them. I tip my hat to you!

  • http://meaghanking.wordpress.com Meaghan

    Thank you so much for this post! Perfect-indie-bride world has always made me feel a little down about the fact that I don’t have any photographer/graphic designer/baker/musician friends (although my partner and I fall under those categories and have performed those roles in other weddings).

    • Alyssa

      Dude, watch out for perfect-indie-bride world. It made me all crazy-face and I ended up making ridiculous amounts of DIY things when I should have been sipping mimosas and enjoying being engaged.

  • Christina

    I know this is kind of an old convo. But it really got me thinking. I love my friends and everything, I really do. They are practically my family. But I don’t understand why they need to be honored at my wedding? I hear it a lot. Honoring your friends for everything they’ve done for you, etc. etc. But I’m not going anywhere! I feel like I’m supposed to honor my girlfriends for being “there for me” during my non-married life, and now thank them as I’m whisked off into married land. Why honor them at my wedding? I just don’t understand…. Don’t you think this bridesmaid thing is just more consumerism hype? I feel like a complete jerk writing that, but I would really like to understand.

  • http://www.expandoutdoors.com/blog amyc

    “But I wish I’d realized early on that imperfict friendships were normal.”

    This quote speaks volumes to me today. Not so much in a wedding-party-planning sense, but in a life-is-what-it-is kinda sense.

  • Michelle

    I know I am coming waaaaaay late to the party here, but this post – and every comment on it – was EXACTLY what I needed to read today. (I’m so glad I looked in the “Dilemmas” section, because this post originally flew right by me!)

    I’m putting together my bridal party for my June wedding next year, and geez has it been hard. I’m in a transitional phase with several of my friends right now, whether because of their poor handling of their own weddings or plain old distance/time. However, I want badly to honor the important roles they have played in my life over 15 or more years. This post really helped me realize I’m not alone in being left in the cold by my fantasies of SATC sister/brotherhood.

    What it’s coming down to for me is trying to act (and make decisions) always out of love rather than resentment or frustration . . . which means I will have to swallow some residual pain, but will hopefully have less to regret in the future. Here’s hoping everything for everyone who’s going through this difficult process! You are all superamazing, Meg not least of all!

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  • http://birdsongartblog.blogspot.com BL

    I just found your website and find it SO refreshing! I especially identify with this post. I’ve had so much envy for indie brides with their super talented creative friends in their mismatched dresses. I told my bridesmaids to chose their own dresses, no limitations, and they all picked matching dresses from J. Crew! I’m ok with the decision because they all love the dresses and want to wear them again, but I did have a moment of resentment where I wondered why my friends weren’t more original – such a horrible, horrible thing for a bride to think. In many ways, the indie wedding culture creates monsters just as hideous as the mainstream wedding culture. I’ve reformed and am trying to focus on the important things. Thanks so much for your post and website!

  • Jaya

    I know I’m two years late, but thank you for this post. I’ve been fretting nonstop over the idea of a wedding party. I could go the easy route and just have my sister, but a) my groom can’t choose just one of his friends to have up there and b) I love my sister, but I have other amazing and supportive friends. I feel like if I were to fully honor everyone, male and female, that is important in my life, I’d have 20 people standing behind me and nobody in the seats.

    So we made the decision not to have a wedding party. Hopefully we’ll have friends who want to help no matter what, but separating people out like that is just not how I roll.