Why I Chose My Brothers to Be My Bridesmaids

man holding bride's bouquet

I have never had very many friends. I’ve always been a quality over quantity girl, whether due to natural shyness or the fact that my family moved dramatic distances every four years, I’ve never had more than a handful of close girlfriends, and they usually lived a few hundred (or more) miles away from me.

So, imagine my surprise when, upon sitting down to hot-glue two hundred fake flowers onto brooch clasps for my wedding, I found myself in the company of two of my oldest, dearest friends. I’d seen them through awkward puberty, various boyfriends, heartbreak, happiness, joy, and ridiculous shenanigans. Perhaps you know them too? Lorelai and Rory Gilmore? Ah, yes, as I hunkered down on the couch with my laptop and my sea of fake-florals, I sat down right in the middle of a whole pile of self-pity, too.

I had never bought into the WIC ideas about bridal beauty (I didn’t want to wear eye makeup? I wasn’t going to wear eye makeup!), traditions (no bouquet toss or sit-down dinner for me!), or the “necessary” expense of jewelry (free family engagement rings for the win!), but I had deeply, sincerely bitten down into the idea that I was supposed to be surrounded by a group of (at minimum) three sassy girlfriends who would drink too much wine, help me hot glue things, roll their eyes at each other about my bridal freak-outs and be willing to stay up late on the phone hashing out the details (details I didn’t care too much about anyway). They were supposed to be there! To help me! To pay attention to me! To make the wedding planning process fun, and to fulfill my expectations.

I consoled myself, knowing that my wedding was finally the excuse I needed to entice all my far-flung friends to come see me. Entice, hell, they HAD to come! It was my wedding.

And then.

And then two of my bridesmaids, two of my far-flung friends, couldn’t come. Each had their reasons, financial and personal, and each wasn’t able to tell me until less than a month before the wedding. My friends hadn’t been able to be there throughout my planning process, and now they wouldn’t even be there for my wedding. I was miserable.

When the relationships that I had counted on to fill the expected spots in my wedding couldn’t, I found myself questioning what those spaces meant, and challenging myself to recover mindfully, to fill the empty spots in my bridal party not just with the first two people I could think of (Lorelai and Rory!?), but with two people who would stand up with me for my marriage, who would bare witness not just now but into the future. I considered asking no one else; I considered scrapping both wedding parties; I thought and thought and thoroughly pitied my poor self.

And then I somehow had a stroke of genius. Other people had their sisters stand up with them, why not my two brothers with me? Two of my best friends, my two absolute oldest friends, with me through every move across the country and every embarrassment and every joy. Two who I knew would be with me throughout the rest of my life, and who would promise to stand beside me throughout the course of my marriage.

They were excited, but apprehensive in some areas (would I make them wear dresses?) and we spent at least a week emailing daily about their outfits. And did I mention they were coming from across the world? My oldest brother had just finished a year living abroad in England, and planned his trip home around my wedding. My middle brother was (and still is) living and working in South Korea and finagled time out of his job to be there. They were what I hadn’t known I wanted in a bridesmaid—they knew me better than anyone else, they knew my history and we could talk with all the context of our lives. They wanted to participate, but they didn’t care about arranging flowers or getting me a garter (neither did I!), and they jumped at the chance to get to know my husband better—this man who they barely knew had their sister’s heart, and therefore their respect and admiration.

The memory I come back to most now is standing in the alley outside the dive-bar we went to after the rehearsal dinner. My brother pulled one of those, “Hey, what’s on your shirt? Oh I got your nose!” tricks and I fell for it. A typical big brother thing to do. And I had a very atypical reaction (well, I hadn’t reacted this way since we were five): I immediately started to cry. Everything sort of stopped. I tried to pull myself together, but when he hugged me I started blubbering. All I could think in that moment was how much I missed him, how much I wished he were closer all the time, and how much I loved him for coming all the way across the world to stand up with me.

Even after the wedding is over, sometimes I am haunted by the experiences I felt I was entitled to that I didn’t get to have. I have avoided talking about my wedding with the friends who couldn’t be there. I don’t want them to feel bad, but also, I do. To prove somehow that I am justified in feeling let down by expectations they didn’t even know I had. And then I reconsider. If they had been able to come, I still wouldn’t have had those WIC-inspired “bridal party” experiences. It would still have been real life, gritty and honest and different from the expectations I had. And if they had come I would never have had my two brothers—my “bridesmen”—host my surprise wedding shower complete with improv games, buy me too many beers at that dive bar, tease me throughout the primping the morning of, and stand beside me as I married this man I love so dearly. What I got was so much better than what I could have expected.

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  • KEA1

    This is why I want my brother (along with my best female friend) to stand with me if I get married. And, incidentally, why I cringe at the assumption that some people have that siblings are a) automatically included in the bridal party and b) included on whichever side matches their gender, regardless of their relationship to the bride/groom. SO glad that you got the bridal party that was right for you.

  • Margi

    I’ve also never had very many friends throughout my life. And one of the reasons I dreaded the idea of a wedding was the fact that even though I have close friends, I don’t have that one friend I would consider a best friend to serve as maid of honor. Heck! I don’t even have any friends I still keep in contact from college. As time as passed and with the help of APW and posts like these! I’ve realized that I don’t need bridesmaids or a maid of honor. And in fact, the person I would most like to stand up with me on my theoretical wedding day would be my brother. And even though people might find that strange, it would matter to me and in the end, that is what truly counts. Thank you for your post.

    • DKR

      When my cousin got married this past May, her only attendant was her brother (her wife only had one attendant as well). When I get married in December, my brother is my “man of honor”; I also have my sister as matron of honor and a dear friend as brideswoman. I see no reason why a bride’s brother can’t stand with her!

  • PAW

    This is wonderful! The story about the “got your nose”esque trick made me tear up…!

    • Tear up? I cried actual tears! (Not pretty ones.) Having been travelling for a good year of my sister’s engagement I think this story just hit me particularly hard :) How precious are our sibling relationships? They can get to us like nobody else, have seen us transition through so many phases and yet they are such a source of consistency.

  • This is a GREAT post! Assembling “the right crew” is hard no matter if you’ve too many choices or too few. I think this is a wonderful reflection of how and why and what people want out of a wedding party. I know it was really important to us to have people to whom we felt close/effortless, not who we’d been friends with the longest or who wanted to be there. Kudos to you for the stroke of genius!

  • Anna

    I love your story! I too had bridesmen standing with me on my wedding day (not brothers but long-time best friends) and it was a wonderful experience. One lesson I learned very quickly though was that I needed to really REALLY communicate with them about my expectations. They hadn’t seen the gagillion movies/shows/ads that women see and are inundated with constantly about the bridal shower/bachelorette party/etc.etc. so they had no clue what to do. Luckily I didn’t want many of those things but for women who choose bridesmen, you may need to be even more communicative about what you want and expect out of the experience.

  • Class of 1980

    I am convinced that the whole bridesmaids/groomsmen thing is a source of great misery for many people.

    From the unspoken expectations to the emotional drama – to the stress of finances and organization – I have never understood the attraction or necessity. Why do we take the focus off the couple and expend so much time, money, and energy trying to corral a bunch of people who are extraneous to the purpose of legally binding two people together?

    I know the answer and it’s historical. It was when weddings moved out of homes and into churches that people suddenly felt the need to fill up the larger space with more people.

    Yeah, I sound like a curmudgeon. I get it. I get that it’s a joy for some people to have their friends walk the journey with them. Well then, go on with your bad self and more power to you!

    But when did it become a NECESSITY for everyone? Even stranger, is the idea that if your true friends are not available, you are supposed to find substitutes among your second-string friends to fill those roles. How bizarre. It’s like casting parts for a play.

    Sara, I find it natural and organic that your two brothers were there with you. It seems authentic and beautiful.

    • Anna

      I don’t think you sound like a curmudgeon….I had the same thoughts when I was getting married. Having a bridal team can be stressful, cause undue strains on relationships, and be a money sink. But it can also be really really fun. I do wish more people felt they could make more unconventional choices (if they want to) but the power of the WIC is very real and present.

    • Alexandra

      But then who will stand decoy beside me so the spirits don’t get me? And who will hold off my angry hordes of relatives until the marriage is legal? Clearly, these are important enough roles to force secondary friends to feel uncomfortable.

      Similarly, Britain having an economy downturn and Queen Victoria hoping to revitalize the lace economy is a good reason to wear a white lace dress! These are still relevant reasons. =D

      *sarcasm font needed*

      • PAW

        I now have a mental image of my bridesmaids fending off angry family members with their bouquets: “Stand back! None shall pass!”

        That would have been pretty epic.

        • Alexandra

          XD That would be rather epic, though fending off family members is properly the Groomsmen’s job.

          • PAW

            Hahaha, yes, my mind just went to the ridiculousness at once. As it does.

    • Jashshea

      I have wonderful, delightful, long standing female (and male) friends that I love love love to pieces. Because I love them so much (and because I loathed being a bridesmaid in the past), I didn’t ask anyone to stand up with me. You’re right – it’s not a legal necessity. It adds expenses and headaches. My friends get along with one another, but aren’t geographically or emotionally close to each in other in all cases.

      The closest of friends will be with me when I get ready for the wedding (Saturday! Yah!) and we’ll drink champagne and then they can dress themselves in non-matching outfits.*

      *Though it would be totally amazing if they all wore matching dresses anyway.

      • Moe

        I’m a career bridesmaid (7 times!). I became CONVINCED that asking someone to be a bridesmaid is something you should reserve only for those you secretly loathe. One wedding cost me over $1,000 from beginning to end, the bride completely swept up in all the WIC hoopla had to have only the finest of everything.

        Based on all of those good and bad bridesmaid experiences I can only hope and pray that the experience for my maids will be a much better one.

        • Allie

          Luckily I’ve only ever been one once. That was enough.

          We opted for zero wedding party. No one seemed to notice or mind… and our sisters witnessed our license.


      I really like the posts about wedding parties, because they’re not traditional in my country. We do have witnesses, and I’ve always thought they were the cultural equivalent of maid of honor/best man. They are normally close friends or siblings. But here, you legally need to have one per side because they need to sign the paperwork as witnesses.
      In a way, I’d rather have my group of friends stand beside me (doing nothing, being giggly) than have to choose only one who will have The Official Role.

  • Kara

    I have some good (really wonderful!) girlfriends, but not the “best friend” like you described you wanted, too. My brothers didn’t stand up with me, but they -were- my “men of honor.” And they gave a tag team toast that had both me and my husband somewhere between tears and laughter.

    It was wonderful and natural to have them play such an important role in my wedding.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this post. I also struggled with a lack of pre-wedding “sisterhood,” given that my closest friends and family lived hundreds of miles away. Nevertheless, my husband and I were lucky enough to have the people we cared about the most standing beside us on our wedding day. My brother was a bridesman and my husband had his sister (in a dress) and a close female friend (in a suit) as groomswomen. Although it perplexed our traditional families at the time, choosing a non-traditional wedding party (in which, *gasp*, the groomspeople outnumbered the bridespeople) was one of the best decisions we made on our wedding day.

  • This is part of the reason I had my brothers as bridesmen, because I was afraid that if I looked too closely, I wouldn’t see anyone close enough to me that I could ask to do that. Also, my brothers are awesome.

  • Granola

    I really just wanted to give you a hug in the beginning of this post – the image of you and the Gilmore Girls is priceless. I’m glad it turned out OK in the end – for me a lot of great things happened around our wedding when I asked other people to help and/or left space for them to do so. Just doing it all myself resulted in me being cut off from those serendipitous support systems that I was ultimately really grateful to have.

    And I’m sure your brothers will also treasure this memory as well, which is a pretty awesome gift.

  • I love this post. At my wedding, my sister was on my side, my spouse’s brother was on his side, and my brother officiated the wedding. It was all family up front and perfect. At my mom’s wedding this last summer, us three kids stood up with my mom, and her spouse’s two kids stood up on his side.

    To hell with balancing genders and number of people per side, I say.

    • Class of 1980

      “To hell with balancing genders and number of people per side, I say.”

      F.Y.I. … Miss Manners actually agrees with you.

  • Another Meg

    I’m having my two brothers, three sisters, and my close friends, two of whom are guys, stand up with me. My fiance is doing the same. We just refer to them as “teams” and it’s working out so far. I had one requirement for who was on my team- who will be helping me keep my vows in fifty years?

    • Ashlie

      I LOVE the “who will be helping me keep my vows in 50 years?” requirement!! Awesome selection criteria. This should be what everyone uses to decide who stands with them.

  • KB

    I LOVE this post – I also struggled with the concept of a wedding party, but sadly have no siblings. I think it’s totally weird (and actually keeping with the messed up social narrative of weddings) that we invite all these people to this intimate, personal event and then say, “Thank you all for coming – but THESE two to sixteen attendants are our BEST friends. Please stare at them and their matching outfits in envy!” If I could rewind my engagement, I’d probably push for no attendants because ALL of our friends and family are important.

    • Class of 1980

      Nothing like choosing a wedding party to broadcast to your friends where they really stand in the hierarchy.

      • Jashshea

        See? I’ve never felt this way when I’m not a b’maid. I’m always thrilled that I get to dress myself and not buy another pair of heinous silver shoes. I’ve been at various hierarchies in a wedding (ceremony reader, program giver-outer, b’maid, regular person guest) and I’ve loved regular person guest the most.

        NOTE: Not all silver shoes are heinous. Just an example of b’maid hysteria.

    • Ana

      Oh that stuff is so awkward! I have a recently-married friend who is upset because she is merely a bridesmaid and not the maid of honor in HER maid of honor’s wedding, if that makes sense. The whole grade school “you’re my best friend but I’m not yours” thing, plus matching shoes and $70 up-dos. Thank God I have a sister who actually is my best friend.

      • I’ve just refused to designate a maid of honor. It’s amazing how much that befuddles people, but I’ve tried to explain best I can that I don’t want to choose.

        • Kara

          Yup. Me too. My husband named a best man, I didn’t, and no one worried about it (except one of my bridesmaids who wanted to know who was the officially designated “planner of showers”). I said “no one,” so she assigned it to herself.

          P.S. Love your name. :)

    • Sara C.

      I don’t know if this applies to what you’re talking about here, but we had an outdoor standing ceremony (with special seating for grandparents) so our bridal party ended up merging with all the guests. There really wasn’t a definite line between guests and bridal party, they were really more ‘helpers’ during the prep and people who we wanted to imbue with some responsibility for keeping us socially accountable to our vows.

    • KC

      The nice part about having a (small) group of bridesmaids is that they’ve got assignments: make sure you eat the day of the wedding, fend off unnecessary questions, etc. There’s an “if everyone might do it, no one does it” thing that having someone actually assigned to this role of active support, rather than being a valued but non-role-assigned guest can help with. (obviously, bridesmaids do not always take care of you, but sometimes they are awesome)

      The standing-up-front-with-matching-dresses bit is weird, I grant you. (yes, someone available to hand your bouquet to while trying to swap rings is useful, but otherwise… um… yeah.)

      Also, there’s the interesting disconnect between “these are the people I know who would be good at this “job” in this wedding, due to tact and skillz and inherent soothing capabilities” vs. “these are the people who are most active in my life and our relationship and who will support us in our future marriage” vs. “these people will be sad/insulted forever if I don’t include them”. Or, you know, people sometimes pick bridesmaids that all “match” with height and hair color and stuff and are pretty-but-not-prettier-than-the-bride and whatnot.

  • Lauren

    This was so sweet. I’m not planning on having a bridal party, but now I’m thinking how lovely it would be to have my brother beside me as well. Thank you for sharing your story (and your brothers are so handsome!)

  • Lynn

    My husband wound up having the now-husband of one of his best friends…who just happens to be a woman…standing up with him because he said, “I can’t have her so he’s the next best thing.” I repeatedly told him that if he wanted her to stand up with him, then to have her stand up with him. I *didn’t* care. I wasn’t like our wedding party wasn’t already incredibly lopsided. He tried to get me to put her on my side of the aisle, but I was having none of that. She’s not my friend and just because she’s female doesn’t mean she goes with me.

    There were lots of skirmishes surrounding our bridal party. I was adamant about only wanting the three women who have been the rocks of my life with me at such an important moment. There was pressure to add my husband’s sister-in-law; there was pressure to add his female friends; there was pressure to add more of my friends. I only wanted those three women. The PA had his 9 men (at various points that number was 11. Then 12. Then 15. Then 10. Finally 9), and I didn’t care. I did ask when the number was 15 if *all* of those people really needed to be there with him or if they had to be there, could they be included in other ways….because if everyone was up front, who was going to be in the audience? But on the whole…I didn’t care.

    • KC

      Congratulations on standing firm (and hooray for different-numbered wedding parties)!

  • Jashshea

    Every damn day with the tears!

    Especially this:

    “they jumped at the chance to get to know my husband better—this man who they barely knew had their sister’s heart, and therefore their respect and admiration.”

    Lovely. Sigh.

  • Hannah

    Hurray for bridesmen! When I got engaged, I knew that I really wanted my best friend from grad school (female) and my best friend now (male) to stand up for me. (I’m an only child, so siblings were obviously out…) He was the one who talked me off the ledge when I was getting a little crazy with planning. He came to visit when my planning anxiety was getting a little out of control. He & his partner worked their asses off setting up the reception hall with us. And he stage-managed on the day of, because he is AWESOME. I love him to pieces and could not have imagined getting married without him right up in the front of the church with me.

    After the wedding, my mom has taken to telling people, “I really think every person needs a Yancey in their life.” And she’s totally right.

  • I love this post. From the perspective of someone who was in a wedding party similar to this, familiarity trumps sex organs. When my dad got remarried to my stepmom (who has only sons), he suggested that I would be her maid of honor and Nathan (her son) could be his best man. Um, how about we each stand next to the person we’ve known our whole lives, Dad? So I got the awesome privilege of being his Best Lady. It was entirely awesome to stand up next to my dad as he pledged his life to his new love.

    PS. Best Lady way easier than MOH (which I have done 3 times).

    • When my husband and I eloped our moms were the only ones invited, and his mom in particular was thrilled to be able to designate herself his “best man”.

  • Stacey

    My FH has no close friends but me, and asked specifically that no friends be invited to the wedding (much less the wedding party). We each have one brother and will ask them to be our witnesses. We feel pretty strongly that this is a uniting of two families and we don’t need our friends there at all. I know it might hurt some feelings, but I’ve been telling my friends I’m going to elope since I was 15 years old, so none of them really expect to be invited anyway. In fact, nobody (including our families) even knows that we’re engaged yet! We feel like we need to figure out how to explain our choices before we make the announcement.

    • Ana

      Congratulations on your engagement! Our engagement was planned by both of us so we had some time to work out answers to the FAQs before making the announcement. We decided that asking siblings instead of friends (and being upfront about it) was the easiest way to avoid hurt feelings. I always knew I wanted a small wedding party and I have a total of 4 friends beyond my sister. It would be an easy choice for me, but my fiance has 10 or 20 close friends and people-wrangling, outfit-choosing, and question-answering aren’t her strengths (they’re mine, and I wasn’t about to organize 24 people on top of everything else). I told my 4 friends that I would have just my sister as a witness in the same conversation I told them we were engaged. Though at least one (maybe two) of them was disappointed, they really couldn’t argue with that logic and since they knew right away they will have plenty of time to accept my choices before the wedding.

  • Moe

    I don’t know how many more APW posts I can read on the morning train. I’m a mess almost every single time. Your brothers are awesome!!

    My experience has been the mirror opposite of yours. I’m trying to reconcile with the reality that I don’t have the picture perfect mother, sister and immediate family. Instead I have friends stepping in to go dress shopping, make plans and a few are standing with me as bridemaids.

    I was very clear that the girls I did choose were not out of obligation, tradition or even necessity. I wanted my friends there who were supportive of marriage and my choice to marry this man. I wanted people there who would continue to be a source of support after the Big Day passes.

    I do find myself with an awful ‘bride envy’ of friends who had mothers & sisters planning showers and events. Still trying to sort all that out…

    At the root of it all is the idea that it’s easy to get stuck on the idea of how things ‘should be’. Then you attach judgment to circumstances, relationships and your own self. Once you can accept reality and even take time to mourn the loss of what never was there is a wonderful space created where you can move on and enjoy what you actually do have.

    • Class of 1980

      Well, if you are following etiquette, moms and sisters are not supposed to plan showers. So, there’s that.

  • Yes to this post,

    My FH has five brothers and several good friends, so the immediate assumption of a lot of my family was that I would need to have a matching entourage of girls. But in this area I’ve been able to stand my ground- just my best friend (who’s been a tremendous help in fending off crazed family members) and my sister. I haven’t had the stereotypical gaggle of girls to fuss over wedding details (my sister lives out of state). But I know I have to two people who truly support me and who will help support our marriage with me. And that’s what counts.

  • JC

    I was recently the “Best Maid” in my best friends’ wedding, and it was great! I consider both the bride and groom to be my best friends, and when she asked me to be a bridesmaid, he was upset because we were friends first. After much debate, it was decided that I would stand on his side for the wedding. It was truly the best of both worlds because I got to play bridesmaid in the morning for the getting ready portion that boys just don’t do, and I got to stand up and watch my two best friends marry each other (and I still got to wear a pretty dress, it just matched the boys’ suits).

    Now I am engaged and planning my wedding party. I have been super conflicted about the bridesman issue! While one of my best friends is, in fact, a man, I can’t seem to shake the WIC notion of perfectly matched bridesmaids and groomsmen (I am also super OCD, so the fact that the balance would be off, he wouldn’t match the girls, etc. gives me anxiety). I know that it shouldn’t matter, but it does kind of matter to me. And I feel like a worse friend for having trouble getting past it.

    • AnotherCourtney

      I was like this, too. Logically, I knew that WIC matchy-matchy made no sense, but that didn’t mean I was eager to throw out the idea. We ended up including my best guy friend as a groomsman. He admitted that going to the bachelor party wasn’t his idea of the best time, since he didn’t really know the other guys at all, but he wouldn’t have been any less uncomfortable at the bachelorette party, which included a lingerie shower. In the end, he was thrilled to be a part of it all, and I loved having him with me on the day of the wedding, whichever side he was standing on.

  • katie

    I adore this post. And you, dear writer–the Gilmore Girls are indeed some of the best friends I’ve had! We ended up without a wedding party and it was just fine. Because yes, we do have an awesome enough circle of family and friends that won’t ask why no one “stood up” with us. (Hate that expression, by the way.) My default would have been my (half) sisters, and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea during the whole engagement period, so I didn’t ask. I’m glad. I won’t say what happened because it’s not that horrible (they didn’t get drunk and knock over the cake table or anything). I guess my point is that even relatives are going to let you down, or be a bad fit for this ideal of a wedding party. And you know what? That’s okay too. My husband has a great little group of dude friends that would have been picture perfect groomsmen, but those guys were really happy to hang out and be guests. Wear their own clothes. Not get stared at.

  • Lan

    Our only sibling between the two of us (my brother) will be marrying us, but I too have a bridesman. Our pictures may look lopsided but I don’t care! What I care about is that the people who have always supported me are standing with me on that day.

    • We had 2 bridesmaids and 6 groomsmen, so our photos were totally lopsided, but I didn’t care. I have 3 brothers, and it was more important to include them than have symmetrical photos.

      Also, not everyone has to stand on gender-segregated sides. My favorite photos of our wedding party are the ones where everyone is mixed up together.

  • I loved reading your story! My boyfriend was the “Man of Honor” for his sister’s wedding. The groom had his two brothers both as best men so why shouldn’t she have her brother as her man of honor? He was so happy and proud to be included in that way, he couldn’t stop bragging about how awesome his sister was for doing what felt right, not what was expected of her. I think it’s beautiful and authentic to have your brothers stand up beside you on your wedding day and I’m sure they were proud and honored to do it for you. :)

  • aww I teared up when you said you cried.

    I had the WIC message that you have to have a gaggle of bridesmaids who help you craft and go to appointments with you. My 2 bridesmaids lived across the country from me, so I didn’t have any of that. But, like you had with your brothers, my bridesmaids and other friends were there for me on the wedding weekend, and that’s what mattered.

    P.S. I had two bridesmaids (my sister and my best friend), but we also had a groomsman/bridesman and my 3 brothers stand up with us. Our groomsman/bridesman is a mutual friend who was actually my husband’s friend first, but he has become one of my best friends. He did most of the traditional groomsman activities, but he also came to my bachelorette party for me. Supportive friends/family members are the best, no matter what gender they are.

  • Ashlie

    I immediately smiled when I saw the title of this post, because it took me right back to my own similar experience. And, it achieved the rare ability to make me cry! Our wedding party bucked tradition in many ways. I had 4 on my side and my husband had 3 on his. Of my 4, 1 was my dear brother. As a result of his participation, my brother delivered a beautiful speech at our reception that still gets me teary when I think about it. That would have never happened if I’d let the WIC expectations get to me. For all the same reasons you expressed, it was so very important to me that he was on MY side the day of the wedding, not my husband’s just because that’s where the boys are “supposed” to be. And similarly, 2 of my husband’s 3 best friends are women, and though I’ve grown close to them too, they stood on his side as they should. The concept of a bridesman and goomsmaids totally blew peoples’ minds, but they got it once we explained. I’m satisfied that we stayed true to ourselves and our friends/family, and didn’t let societal gender roles get in the way.

  • Brothers are seriously the best.

    And I’m glad that they were there for you and you see now that it worked out. I had 10 bridesmaids in my wedding just 3 months ago, but realistically, I’m only close with one of them, who is my little sister. I wish I had just gone with her all along. Who needs the bullshit of friend drama when you have siblings that you love and adore?

  • I watched Gilmore Girls through every single DIY project during my engagement. I’m about to start season 5.


  • Katie

    Thank you for this post! The last bit got me all blubbery, too. My brother had lived far from me since high school (I’m 29, he’s 31) until about a year and a half ago. I have so enjoyed having him nearby again, and we’re closer than ever. I’m so happy your brothers were able to stand with you and celebrate your marriage. Congratulations!

  • good for you girl..

    for our wedding my husband and i had very different ideas about the bridal party. i had always imagined a group of color coordinating, gorgeous friends, behind us in quirky pictures, smiling, sitting with me while i had my hair done. he had been married before and didn’t want to do the groomsmen thing at all.

    the idea of asymmetry confounded me. i had never seen it done. what would people think? would the pictures turn out ok?

    turns out i had 4 girls spend the day with me, walk down the aisle with flowers and then sit with my family. each of our siblings and their spouses stood beside us as we said our vows and though we didn’t have any big wedding party pictures, the wedding was a blast.

    thanks for putting it out there again, that we don’t have to fit the mold, we can do what fits us!

  • LMN

    We are getting married next summer, and we have opted not to have a wedding party. We talked about it for a long time before making the decision. It actually started from the need to save money (if we didn’t have a wedding party, then that cut a lot of expenses from our budget). I was relieved to not have to choose who would be in the party. But I cried a little bit when I let go of that image of myself surrounded by girlfriends helping me put on my dress as I got ready for my wedding day.

    What started as budget-based decision moved into something much more. As we’ve been planning our celebration, we’re figuring out what help we need, both during the planning process and during the day of the wedding. And, because we didn’t pick a set wedding party in advance, we are free to choose the people who are most interested in helping us with each different thing we need. Rather than giving them titles and obligatory duties (“You’re the best man, therefore you organize the bachelor party!”), we ask if they’re interested in helping with particular things (“You are awesome with speaking in front of groups, and we love your sense of humor and outlook on life–would you be our officiant?”).

    And I keep being surprised by everyone’s generosity. A couple of my friends have been dedicated to dress shopping with me from day one, and I recently asked if they would help me get ready on the wedding day. They said they would love to, and I found myself near tears again, this time from a huge burst of happiness. My FH and I are learning that we don’t need to have a wedding party to be surrounded by those we love on our big day. We just have to ask for what we need as we go along, and someone will say yes and find a way to make it happen. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s making me even more excited for our wedding.

  • Lacey in ak

    I feel like I could’ve written this. Getting married in Alaska- where I’ve made my life for ten years- seemed like the natural thing to do. I said, “I will not take ‘nos’ personally” and I didn’t. I was so cool and collected when friend after friend said they wouldn’t be able to make it. But it got harder and harder not to look at the nos in aggregate and one morning I realized that not a single woman that I’d considered my best friend at somepoint in my life was going to be at the wedding. Not. a. single. one. Most had legitimate reasons. A few didn’t. I lost it. I cried for days, and felt like I’d failed.

    And this: “I have avoided talking about my wedding with the friends who couldn’t be there. I don’t want them to feel bad, but also, I do.” Totally. I remember one friend- who decided to go to Seattle for a “pre-birthday trip” after originally saying she’d come- asked me how my wedding was via GChat a few days after. I said, “Lovely.” She was horrified that I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) elaborate. We haven’t spoken since.

    But, I think it does get better. I was so burned out on everything and everyone for about a month that I couldn’t talk about my wedding to ANYONE. Lately, I’ve been feeling a little more open about it.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Exactly to not wanting them to feel bad, but actually wanting them to, deeper down. And Exactly to not being able to talk about it. Our wedding is in less than 2 weeks, and I’m dreading the next, “Are you excited?!” “Sure, I’m excited, if by ‘excited’ you mean I want to cry constantly and am very stressed and actually feeling very disappointed in the people closest to me, including perhaps you.” But that won’t go over well. So I’ll probably end up saying, “I’m sure I will be” and changing the subject.

    • HC

      I had the exact same experience of having every single one of my close girlfriends reply one after another that they couldn’t make it for various reasons in the last month leading up to our wedding. I also went through a long period of not being excited for my wedding leading up to the day because not only did I have no one to stand up for me, I also feel that close friends were not really there for me in the planning process. The actual wedding day was so happy and it hardly mattered that I only had my mom there to get ready with me and no one standing up with me. The hard part is now exactly that! The not wanting to talk about my wedding with the friends who disappointed me by not showing up or being there for support. The friends who weren’t there for me were long time friends that I traveled miles for, stood up for them at their weddings, and supported them through the years. This part hurts the most. Although it’s only been a month since our wedding, I can see how some friendships will not be the same after this. Still not sure how to move on from the mourning of not having the friends you imagined by your side (in wedding party of not). I’m just trying to remember the joy of our wedding day for now and not let that other stuff get to me…

  • Teresa

    Our wedding party was lopsided and mixed up and it was awesome. My husband had his brother, his two sisters and one of his closest friends standing beside him. I had my sister, cousin and three closest friends (one of whom is a dude!) standing beside me. My bridesman matched the groomsmen and my husband’s sisters matched the bridesmaids. It was really important to us to have those people standing beside us and no one batted an eye at having women on the groom’s side and a man on the bride’s side. Mostly, people thought it was great that my husband had his sister’s on his side and everyone knew that one of my best friend’s was a man, so it just made sense to see him standing there next to me! You have to do what makes you feel comfortable and what is true to you, lopsided photos be damned!

  • I worried and worried about not having “close enough” bridesmaids. I tried not to ask too much or be too imposing on the friends that I asked to be my very casual “non-bridesmaids”. (I asked them to get ready with me on the wedding day, but not stand beside us as we got married). In the end, I didn’t ask for their help on much of anything in the lead up to the wedding, except a small wedding shower and some vendor names. But for all my fears about not having “close enough” friends… on the day of the wedding, they blew my mind. They were there for me 100%, working in the morning, running errands, and showing their love in the way that I knew them as friends. We weren’t different friends than what we’ve always been either. I just realized that even though we didn’t giggle and gossip and glue gun things into infinity, they cared about me and that was enough. Seriously, I was overwhelmed by all the love I never fully realized I had. I wish i had accepted all that love much earlier, and never worried about what it should have looked like.
    It was what it was. And it was awesome.

  • Claire

    Ohh, I love this post so hard! We decided early on and without much discussion to forego the whole wedding party thing. We wanted our ceremony to be super simple and not feel like a performance or production and that part didn’t resonate as meaningful for either of us so we just cut it. We purposely didn’t have an aisle so nobody would have to do an aisle walk. We were mingling with everybody beforehand and, when it was time, we stood up front with our officiant/awesome friend and everyone just gathered around us. It was right for us.

    Having said that, I’ll admit to feeling some secret disappointment at not having the experience of getting ready for the wedding surrounded by my sisters and closest friends, primping and fussing over me. The truth is I didn’t really think about wanting that beforehand and didn’t bother to ask anyone to join me. When I finally realized on the morning of the wedding that I didn’t want to get ready alone (husband was handling some last minute set up), I felt vain and didn’t want to come across as the attention-demanding, self-absorbed Bride (you know the movie stereotype). So I stayed quiet because I was simultaneously too proud and too embarrassed to admit that I wanted that girly stuff. With the benefit of hindsight, I know that I could have voiced my needs and several of my people would have been happy to be there for me. But they can’t meet needs that you won’t admit you have. I should have been honest.

  • ha! “i’m not wearing a dress” was the first thing my brother said when i asked him to be my maid of honor. frankly, i don’t know when he became such a curmudgeon, but i’m pleased he thought it enough of a danger to mention.

  • Taylor B

    Your post was so beautiful! I have a brother and sister I adore but now I find myself wishing we had one more brother, sounds like they are even more fun when there are two of them.

    I have known since before we were engaged I wanted both of my siblings to stand with me during our ceremony. My fiance doesn’t want groomsmen, and doesn’t have siblings so now we’re a little unsure how to proceed. We have asked a friend of his to officiate, so he feels like his closest friend will already be standing up for him. I don’t care about the symmetry, and neither does my fiance, but wouldn’t you know, his mom is distraught. She has bought into the WIC narrative and can’t hear my fiance’s reasons for being totally comfortable standing there with me without a ‘best man’, though there will be so many of his friends, many from childhood, there as guests. We are currently in negotiations over which side each of my siblings will stand; they love him and are ecstatic about our engagement, and I am happy to share them :)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Having just my 2 siblings (sisters) as my attendants [I prefer the old-fashioned word.] was a choice I reconsidered over several months. But when planning heated up, I was so glad I had kept things small and in the family. It has been so much easier on directly practical levels [They both live with my parents, across town.], and on more emotional levels. [“Mom says” is a sufficient argument with them in a way it’d never be with a friend.]

  • Cara

    I’m having my brother as a bridesdude too! I have my best friend ever as my MOH, but I didn’t think it was fair for my FI to have his best friend and brother on his side and then take my brother too – if I had a sister it would be a no brainer that she would be on my side, standing up in support of me and my background. So why wouldn’t I ask my brother to do the same thing? He is such an important person in my life, and even though my fiance also likes him and would love to have him standing up as a groomsman, I am being selfish and claiming my brother!

  • Rose

    We are trying to keep it simple and have just a MOH and a best man. Am I the only one who is irrationally afraid that the world will find out out that I have NO REAL FRIENDS, because only a handful will be able to travel across the country for us?

  • Martha

    My three siblings were my attendants. Two brothers and a sister, who are my constants. We go back and forth on how much we talk and see each other, but I know they’ll always be there when I really need them, and they always have been. I would give them anything. They live far away, and I miss them so much!

  • Beth

    I’m a little late to the game on this one (on this whole site! Where have I been??), but the issue of bridesmaids was probably been the biggest concern for me going into wedding planning (I’m still 4 months out, so maybe it will be eclipsed…).
    I live far from most of my oldest/close friends and we’ve grown apart over the last few years, so who would I have stand up there with me? The girl friends I’ve made where I live are nice and fun to hang out with and will be at the wedding, but we are in no way close enough for me to want them up there with me. I’ve become fairly close to my fiance’s friends & their significant others, but they still feel like “his” or “our” friends, not “mine.”

    My fiance, however, has a very close knit group of guys he wants to have stand by him. I couldn’t ask him to nix the wedding party completely and give up that experience. So, I stressed, cried a bit, felt like a loser who didn’t have a close group of friends and didn’t know what to do, and then he came up with the idea of having a “wedding horseshoe.” We decided not to have guys on one side, girls on the other. Instead, we’ll be alternating guy/girl and they will be surrounding us in a horseshoe of support with one of his best friends in the middle, officiating. This allows us to include my brother, his sister, his closest friends and many of their significant others who have become my community, too, but who I just didn’t quite feel comfortable putting into the role of “bridesmaid” with all the expectations that come along with that. We will be surrounded by our community, those who will be with us for the rest of our lives, and I don’t have to feel like I’m forcing them into a role that is not quite right.

    Fiance, ftw!

  • Jazzy

    My fiancee only has girls for friends and a brother, so we are doing bridesmaids and groom-maids and a Best man and Maid of honor. So, it fits who we are :)

  • pumpkinpicker

    My wedding party is comprised of a Brother of Honor and a Best (Wo)man (my ex housemate).
    I wish my brother could be around for more of the wine and hot glue stuff, but he lives hours away and such is life. I still couldn’t imagine anyone else by my side.
    Luckily one of the advantages of having a non traditional wedding party is that they have non traditional attitudes towards who does what, and my best (Wo)man and I are old hat with wine and hot glue gun time!

  • Cait Hawley

    Like the author, my family moved a bunch (every 6 years) when I was a kid, so I don’t really have a close group of friends. I’ve opted to have my best friend from high school as my maid of honor and my little (21 y/o) brother stand up next to me on my wedding day. My fiance will have his brother and his 3 closest guy friends. It doesn’t have to match or be even. I’d so much have my brother stand with me than scrape the bottom of the acquaintance barrel to have even and gender-specific parties. Love this article.

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