Q: I am in the process of planning my August 2014 wedding and I am having a bit of a dilemma about my bridal party. My fiancé has three sisters I would love to be bridesmaids, which I have kind of mentioned to them already, but that puts my side of the bridal party at nine and I feel like that is waaay too many people to have up there. Our guest list is only 170, and it just seems like it would be silly to have that many. Plus we are on a small budget and paying for the wedding mostly on our own, and I’m guessing nine bouquets and gifts will add up to a lot. I came up with other ways for each of them to still be a part of the wedding without actually being maids, but my fiancé also has nine friends he would like to have up there with him and doesn’t feel like he can cut anyone out. So my question is, if he does end up being okay with cutting his side down to six people, is it wrong to renege on what I already mentioned to his sisters? Please help!
I Hate Conflict!
A: Dear IHC,
Make them bridesmaids.
Not because you can’t renege (it would suck, but they would understand).
But because a bridal party is about honoring who you need to honor. If these are the people that you want beside you, put them beside you.
Besides all that, the cost difference between six bouquets and nine probably isn’t that huge. Get estimates and do the math first. Often when you start talking in terms of bulked purchases (like nine matching bridesmaid gifts), the price for each item drops a smidge when you order a bigger quantity. It just depends. If it does end up being a noticeably bigger expense, chop the gifts and write a note of thanks instead. Skip the bouquets and give them each a single flower to carry. Whatever. But chances are, if you’re already buying six, you won’t notice an extra three.
I’ll admit, people like to gossip, and they have opinions about some pretty weird stuff. So, there might be a few who mutter an, “Oh my! Nine bridesmaids! So showy!” or whatever it is that people say about big bridal parties. But meh, who cares. They’ll do the same if your sides are “uneven” or your bridesmaids are all wearing a different dress or any other number of reasons. Because they like to mutter things and have opinions. Just do what you want.
All of that advice is completely rooted in my sense of reason and the definition and purpose of “bridesmaid,” not at all dependent upon my own experience. But, just the same, here’s my personal experience. I wanted a small, small, small bridal party. Just family! No fuss! Then I spent time with my close friends that I decided were “too many” for the bridal party. They were awesome, googling things like “retro wedding hairstyle” for me, despite not being bridesmaids. I ended up calling my partner and saying, “THEY HAVE TO STAND UP THERE WITH US,” bringing our bridal party up to six each (eep! way too big!). No regrets. I’m so glad to have had them up there. Not because it didn’t cost as much as I thought or it wasn’t that hard to wrangle six opinions about a dress. Because I wanted to honor them, and I did.
If these are people you want to honor, just do it.
Q: I’m getting married this summer and am currently facing the decision to choose my bridal party, which also, naturally, will go hand in hand with my fiancé’s decision to pick his groomsmen. My fiancé and I have one sister apiece, both in college. I have a large pool of lady friends and he has a large pool of guy friends. On the face of it, we should be able to wave a magic wand and say “You, you, you and you!” and be done with this. Of course, reality is more complicated.
I have three close lady friends who all live local to me. But one of them has a newborn, one of them is six weeks pregnant (due two or three weeks before the wedding), and one is actively trying to get pregnant. This complicates everything about being a bridesmaid: the money involved, dress sizes, time commitments, you name it. There’s a good chance that, body-wise, none of them will be comfortable being in front of a crowd on that day. My other best friends, mainly from college, all live VERY far away (as in France, Korea, Nigeria). I can name some or all of them bridesmaids, and order them dresses and such, but they’re not exactly going to be able to fly around the world to help out with a bridal shower. I’ll feel honored if they make it to the wedding, but there’s just no expectation that they can afford to be there for any part of this except via Skype.
As far as my fiancé’s buddies go, they’d all make awesome groomsmen, but he’s friends with all of them pretty equally, and it would be weird if he had to choose just a couple of them to stand with us. He would pretty much have to ask all of them or none of them. And I know that the numbers don’t have to be equal, but it would look pretty weird if I was up there with the two sisters, and he was up there with eight or nine guys in suits.
At this point, it looks like the solution is to have my sister stand with me, and his sister stand with him. And I’m okay with that. Here’s where I’m getting stuck: how do we tell our friends, many of whom are probably expecting to be asked, about this decision? Especially for my recently/currently/soon-to-be pregnant friends, all of whose weddings I was involved in—they deserve a conversation about this, but I don’t want to frame this as, “Well, you got knocked up, so I guess you’re not going to be able to do friend stuff anymore.” I don’t feel that way, I just don’t want them to feel pressured to look or feel a certain way on my wedding day when they’ve got enough on their plates. Do we fall back on, “We’re trying to save money by keeping the bridal party small?”
Also, our two sisters don’t have any money or resources to throw showers, bachelorette parties, etc., especially since one is under twenty-one. So I do want and need my friends to help out with the events, and he’ll need his friends to help too. How can we ask them to participate in all of these bridal-party things without making it sound like we’re saying, “Yeah, we’re too cheap to get you a dress and a bouquet (or a suit and boutonnière), but it would be super if you could chip in on all the stuff we would have asked you to do anyway”?
How would you handle those conversations? Do they need to be had at all?
A: Dear T,
Your friends are adults; they can decide what they can and can’t take on.
Your friends are your friends; they’ll be honest with you if it’s too much to take on.
Ask them to be in your bridal party if you want them in your bridal party. Deciding that someone may or may not feel too fat or too strained for time or too strapped for cash isn’t really your place. Your place is to say, “I want to honor you in this way—are you up for it?”
Frankly, even apart from the bridesmaid aspect, if my friends did something without me and later said, “Oh, we were afraid you wouldn’t be able to find a sitter,” I’d be super annoyed.
Yes, there’s a chance that dress size and finances and time constraints may mean your friends can’t be in your bridal party. But let them decide that.
Aside from all that, you have some misconceptions about the bridesmaid role. You don’t have to buy their dresses! (Assuming you’re in the States. You typically do in the UK.) I mean, you can if you want and are feeling generous, but typically buying a dress is their individual responsibility. And whether they’re your bridesmaids or not doesn’t mean they’ll be throwing any parties. Having a shower or bachelorette for you aren’t required parts of being in the bridal party. Your friend in Nigeria can be just as much a bridesmaid without chipping in for a sheet cake at a shower.
And that’s just fine. Because you’re not asking them to be in your bridal party so you can have a great bridal shower or so that your photos look awesome. You’re honoring them. Whether they’re big as a house with pregnancy, or they don’t throw you a shower. You’re picking them to be in your bridal party because you’re honoring them.
If you read everything I have to say and still decide having a big bridal party is more trouble than it’s worth, tell your friends exactly what you told me. They don’t need the gory details about, “You’re too pregnant,” just, “We’re keeping the bridal party to just family.” But, nope, you can’t expect them to throw you a shower.
That’s not why you were asking them to be bridesmaids, anyway, right?
Team Practical, how did you choose your bridal party? What logistics factored in?
Photo by Kara Schultz.
If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!