How Do I Choose Bridesmaids?

What logistics factor into choosing my bridal party?

How to choose your bridal party | APW (1)

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,

Two things.

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!

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  • Katriel

    Basically, I agree with Liz. Invite who you love, create events and
    attire you can afford and shower your friends with appreciation and love
    for whatever help and support they are able to give.

    We didn’t stress about it. We had 6 bridesmaids and 12 groomsmen. I had 1 maid of honor and 1 matron of honor and my husband had 2 best men. One best man and the matron of honor witnessed the marriage license. The other best man and maid of honor held our rings and my bouquet respectively. We included all the people we wanted!

    They each paid for their own attire, we gave small gifts and long thank-you notes. My bridesmaids carried handpainted fans and wore necklaces that were gifts from us. I don’t even remember what we got the groomsmen, besides the silk ties that they wore.

    My bridal shower was hosted by an older family friend, and my bachelorette party was a nail-painting and wine party in my apartment the night before the wedding, because that was the only night all the bridesmaids were in town. A bunch of ladies who weren’t bridesmaids also came to that. The groomsmen went to a paintball war place in the mountains and had a beer/camping night after. Everyone paid for their own gear rental, and everyone chipped in for the beer and BBQ at the camp site.

    • springday123

      That sounds really awesome– nail painting and wine party. Thanks for sharing!

  • ali

    Also, if your guy has nine friends he wants to honor, and you have just two, consider having some of his guys stand by you. They are supporting you too :)

  • Amy Sigmon

    IHC- go for it with nine bridesmaids!! If you’re on a small budget anyway, I would seriously consider making your own bouquets. I did it with 4 of my 5 bridesmaids the day before the wedding and we had a really great time. (I bought bouquet flowers & centerpieces flowers from a farmers market vendor for $150, seriously). And for gifts, like Liz said, you can make that work how you need it to work for your budget. A small thoughtful gift with a sweet note is just as appreciated as a huge gift bag.

    • Laura C

      Yes, I have eight bridesmaids (ok, seven bridesmaids and a bridesman) and I’m planning to have a get-together the day before the wedding to make our own bouquets. I said to everyone, if you want a bouquet, come make it, we’ll have some mimosas, it’ll be fun. I’m seeing it as a key opportunity to carve out some time to hang out with my closest friends in a laid-back, relaxed kind of way on what’s sure to be a hectic weekend.

  • Amy

    For my bridal party, we chose our sisters. He has two, and I have two. He, however, will only have one groomsman, because he only has one friend to whom he feels close enough to ask to stand with him. I’m going to give his sisters the option of standing on their brother’s side of the aisle, too.

    Part of me feels bad about not including my best friends in my wedding, but if I started adding friends, I’d talk myself into a whole list of them and then I’d be like the girl at the end of 27 Dresses with a long trail of bridesmaids. Picking and choosing isn’t my thing, so it was easier to just decide that bridesmaids were family only.

    I’m finding other ways to include my friends that didn’t “make the cut”; one has gone dress shopping with me and will do my makeup the day of and another is going to help the sisters with my bridal shower. Others have offered to help according to their interests and abilities, and I am grateful for their support.

  • lottie

    The question I’d ask is: WHY do you want a bridal party? I’m not really sure, based on the letters, what’s driving the letter-writers (and LW1 sounds more committed to a bridal party while LW2 sounds a bit more equivocal). The resolution to both dilemmas depends on that answer. If you want to honor people, that leads in one direction. If you want people to throw pre-wedding parties, that’s another. If you want a certain look, that’s yet another. If fiance thinks it’s important, that’s another. By figuring out what you want and why, you’ll have a better sense of what solutions are viable and what needs to happen to make them work, emotionally and financially.

    And it’s also totally legit to scrap the bridal party. I’m a little surprised that wasn’t mentioned as an option.

    • No bridesmaids for me

      Yes! Early on, we both knew we didn’t want to have bridal parties. The politics of choosing seemed tough, and we both haven’t had great experiences being in other peoples’ parties. None of our siblings or friends seemed miffed, or felt that they were NOT honored. They were just happy to be at our wedding. Our closest friends stepped up to help anyways, but without the pressure or coordinated outfits.

      • Emer

        Ditto! My two nieces were flower girls, but they were our only bridal party. Various friends and family did things like welcome guests, do readings, bring the rings up to us, sing, give toasts, etc., but we didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen. Our local group of friends threw us a co-ed potluck “shower” and all chipped in for one big shower gift (a worm composter!).

    • Sarah

      I was a bit lazy about wedding planning and that’s why we didn’t have a bridal party. We found ways to incorporate siblings, and I had my childhood best friend come early to be in pictures with me and mom. Though this best friend also had a 4 month-old and just finished building a new house before the wedding so she was *glad* to not buy/fit into an expensive dress and have to attend a rehearsal. Having no bridal party eliminates these issues!

    • rel_redhead

      I’m so relieved to see “skip the bridal party” mentioned and know that other people made this choice. My fiance and I have decided that we’re just going to have a matron of honor (my best friend) and a best man–no other bridesmaids or groomsmen. A big part of me really wishes I could include more friends as bridesmaids, but the politics were also hard for me. In particular, I have one friend who I know would expect to be included if I had a bridal party, but she is someone who, for a variety of reasons, I don’t want to be in my wedding, much as I love her. However,because I care about her, I also really don’t want to hurt her feelings by having a 4 or 5 person bridal party (which would consist in part of close mutual friends) in which she is not included. So having my best friend as a matron of honor, and no other bridesmaids, feels like a good way of avoiding unnecessary hurt feelings and drama, and also satisfies my fiance’s desire to keep the ceremony as simple as possible. But a part of me does feel like I’m skipping a nice tradition by not having a bridal party.

      • A.

        Agreed. I like the emphasis above on honoring people you love and having them around you on that day. We are planning a small wedding (~60 expected guests) and are *almost* skipping the bridal party; my sister is my MOH and his brother is his Best Man, and all we are asking them to do is show up dressed for a church wedding, sign the license, and smile in the pictures. No procession, no showers, no bachelor/bachelorettes, and they can give a toast if they feel like it and choose their own clothes. Other close family members (Best Man’s wife, my brother) are doing readings at the ceremony and being honored in other ways (and will be thanked with heartfelt notes and possibly small gifts).

        Funny story- we made this decision because the idea of a future wedding party was actually stressing out my future husband *before we were even engaged.* He only has a few close friends and is older than me, so all his friends are already married and having kids and not so interested in being groomsmen anymore. I’m a more extroverted type and have close friends that I could have asked, but he didn’t know who else he would have and it was actually bothering him, so I said, “You know what? Your brother, my sister. We’ll include the rest in other ways that honor their specific talents. My friends will still love me if they’re not in my wedding. Heck, they’ll still love me if they’re not even AT my wedding, and that’s why they are my friends. Done.” His relief was obvious :-) I know we’re both really happy with that decision, and I think it set the tone for our wedding of putting first things first and not stressing too much about the rest. Good luck!

    • Liz

      I’m going to push back on the idea that there can be all these varied reasons to want a bridal party, and that asking someone to be a bridesmaid is a legitimate way to achieve these extraneous goals (like being thrown parties and having a “certain look”). If those are the motivation, yes, please skip the bridal party.

  • Anon

    What if you are the friend that’s due two or three weeks before the wedding? I really want to be a bridesmaid, but it is our first baby so I just don’t know what to expect and don’t know if I’ll be able to attend (the wedding is in a different state than where I live). Do I have to say no because I can’t be sure? I want to support her and will make every effort to be there but there’s a chance I’d have to cancel at the last minute.

    • C

      I would tell her exactly that! And hopefully you can be there, but if not it should work out OK. I’m sure she’ll want you to be there, but understand if you have to bow out last minute.

    • Kat Robertson

      My best friend/bridesmaid is due about four weeks after my wedding date, and lives about four hours away. When she found out she was pregnant we talked about it and decided to go ahead and plan on her being there, understanding that maybe she would not be able to when the time came. To me, she is irreplaceable, so taking her out of the bridal party was out of the question – I can definitely live with knowing she may be giving me a new adorable god-son instead of coming to the wedding. So I would say, just be honest with her about it and the two of you will figure out what works for your situation.

    • Liz

      That’s a pretty solid chance you won’t be able to stand with her. But maybe you can still be involved with whatever lead-up weddingtime things (planning the shower, bachelorette, chipping in for a gift, whatever) are involved.

    • Anon

      I hate to say it, but I’d decline. I think the chances you’ll be able to attend are pretty small, given the particularly tight timeframe, the likelihood of being overdue with your first, and your out-of-state location. I was in two weddings where someone declined being a bridesmaid for this reason, and of course the brides understood! Neither was able to make it to the wedding at all, so it was the right call.

  • Moe

    The decision-making process was easy at first, got a little bit messy in the middle and then it ended perfectly. My criteria was pretty simple I wanted to pick people who were I felt would support my marriage after the wedding and the hoopla was over. They were all people who had suported us in friendship leading up to the wedding. My MoH was always going to be childhood friend even though we had not been in close contact in recent years, so I had a little bit of hesitation to ask her…because what if she said no?

    I asked my groom’s younger sister because he wanted her to be a part. I honestly didn’t think it would be a big deal to her. But when she was asked she burst into tears because she was so happy. It was awesome.

    About halfway through the planning one of my bridesmaids had to move cross country a year sooner then she had planned. She would not be able to come back for my wedding and had to drop out. Breaking the news to me was really hard for her and I told her “This wedding is the most important thing to me, but I also know that life is happening for everyone else while I’m planning. IT’S OK WITH ME if you can’t be there! I’m going to miss you, but I still love you!” I still considered her an honorary bridesmaid, and she was able to attend my shower before leaving.
    Just a word of advice from a veterean bridesmaid, if for any reason you DO NOT want to be in a wedding. Please say so. Oh how I wish I had spoken up and passed when I was asked. It was a far more expensive event than I could afford, and to be painfully honest I did not feel the same connection/friendship that the bride felt for me. It felt disingenuous to be a part of her bridal party. We are not friends anymore either and I wonder if she feels regret when she looks at her photos now.

  • Meg

    I think nine is a nice number because then they can be your nazgul

    • Cat

      Oh good gracious. I almost spit my gum out trying not to laugh out loud in my very open office… Nazugl!!!! Heeee!

    • Natalie

      You’re my new favorite

    • Kayjayoh

      Where would you like us to set this internet you have won?

    • Guest

      This is, hands down, the best comment I’ve ever read on APW!

    • Marlena

      This made my day, Thank you :)

  • C

    To “T”- from a 7-months pregnant perspective, I would definitely be hurt if I found out a friend hadn’t asked me to be a bridesmaid just because I was pregnant/trying/post-partum. Pregnancy can be wonderful, but sometimes I also feel a little left out of things that non-pregnant people can do. I am definitely not complaining- I know that being pregnant is a blessing. But it can be isolating at times. I agree with Liz that if you want to ask them, do it, and let them decide. Just offering a personal perspective!

  • Anonymous

    I wanted a small small small party. So it’s just my 2 sisters and his 2 sisters. One of my sisters is very young, 10, she’s a jr bridesmaid. No maid of honor — i don’t have that type of relationship with my other sister. I’m very close with my fiance’s sisters. So it’s really just the three of them and that makes me happy that it’s so small. My fiance’s best man is his dad. he asked his two childhood friends and his sisters fiance to be groomsmen. very little drama involved.

  • I think its important with bridal parties, like everything else, to remember that no one changes, just because you are getting married. If your friends aren’t already the kind of friends who would do something generous for you, they certainly won’t magically become generous just because they’re now a bridesmaid. That was definitely a lesson I learned the hard way during my wedding planning.

    I agree the second OP should ask her close girlfriends to be bridesmaids and let them choose. But its also important to remember that if you have ANY expectations of your bridal party, i.e. buying a new dress, planning and paying for showers and such, you need to be clear and upfront when you ask them to join your bridal party. It’s not a rule ANYWHERE that your bridesmaids or even just close friends owe you a party of any sort and I think its important to be aware of that. Understanding our own expectations of others and being clear about them, can often help avoid problems down the line because everyone is on the same page.

    • Katherine

      I agree that it doesn’t make sense to choose a bridal party so that they can throw parties for you. I was only a bridesmaid once (10 years ago), and I had no idea that there were expectations that come with that role, other than wearing what the bride & groom asked me to wear. I assume I didn’t offend anyone by not offering to be more helpful, but sometimes the things I read on APW make me wonder…

      That being said, I also had no idea that there was an expectation that you buy gifts for your bridal party. I was fine with getting a gift at the rehearsal luncheon, but I was honestly surprised.

      The moral? Low expectations for all. :)

  • Californienne

    I have a brother and my husband has a sister so, boom, done. We didn’t have to have awkward conversations about it with anyone. Instead, because they are amazing, our closest friends (the ones who likely would have been our bridal party had we gone the friend-route) organized bachelor/bachelorette parties, without being asked, for each of us. And not even just one party each but local friends organized local parties for each of us and farther away friends organized bigger shebangs states away. Swoon!

  • Anne

    Not to be too iconoclastic, but IHC could just scrap the bridesmaids bouquets. It will be meaningful to have your friends/family stand up with you, with or without flowers.

    • MC

      I don’t think that’s too iconoclastic at all – I went to a friend’s wedding last fall where there were 6 bridesmaids and none of them had flowers. I didn’t even notice until I went and looked back at the pictures specifically to see if they had bouquets or not. I kind of like it better, aesthetically, because the groomsmen don’t usually hold anything, so it looks more even to me.

      Plus (and someone could offer some insight on this), I never understood the logistics of the bride giving her bouquet to her MOH when the MOH already has her own bouquet to hold. Does she hold them both? Don’t her hands get pretty full?

      • Liz

        It can get pretty hairy up there for a few seconds unless you do some advance coordination. Because yeah, the maid of honor can hold two bouquets (unless the bridal bouquet is super heavy, and it sometimes is), but often the maid of honor is ALSO concerned with arranging the train of the gown while the bride moves around. In that case, she’ll have to pass BOTH bouquets down the line of bridesmaids, etc. You get the point.

        Anyway, the argument I’ve heard in favor of bouquets is that they give you something to do with your hands when you’re awkwardly standing in front of a room full of people staring at you. So if you do go sans bouquets, keep that part in mind!

        • Kayjayoh

          “she’ll have to pass BOTH bouquets down the line of bridesmaids, etc.”

          A bouquet brigade.

        • KC

          I am now wondering about “convertible” mini-bouquets that could turn into fascinators and be jabbed into one’s hair, or maybe clipped onto a bridesmaid dress strap whenever something-to-carry isn’t needed…

          (but yes, having been a bridesmaid however many times, it was a lot easier for me to have something, however minimal, to carry and ideally to hide kleenex in.)(stupid bridesmaid dresses without pockets…)

        • K.

          So is the reason that the “something to do/non-awkward hands” thing isn’t an issue for groomsmen is because they generally have pockets? Because otherwise, that reasoning seems more like an excuse for a gendered tradition rather than an actual practical reason to do bouquets.

          For the record, I’m saying this as a bride who is getting bouquets for her bridesmaids. But I’m ever-so-slightly side eyeing the idea that women need to hold bouquets to keep their hands occupied when the men generally don’t have the same expectation and do just fine.

          • Liz

            I’m not quite sure how it would be a gendered tradition for that reason alone? I’m speaking from the perspective of women I’ve talked to prefer to have bouquets to hold because, fidgety.

      • Jade

        The bouquet problem used to be confusing until I realized that that is what a flower girl is for. Holding the brides flowers. Problem solved.

        • Jade

          Oh, and having been a bridesmaid at far too many weddings (almost all for my parents) I decided that the wedding party should only be standing for the first few minutes. We are going to do an affirmation of support and then let them sit in the front row.

        • I was going to say this! My niece is six, and she spent most of the ceremony sitting with her parents, but she walked down the aisle with the bridesmaids, and when we said our vows she stood up and held my flowers. It gave us a great way to include her, and meant that no-one had to juggle two sets of flowers at once.

  • Anon

    Ugh, by far the most stressful thing for me during wedding planning has been picking my bridesmaids. Before we got engaged my boyfriend and I had lengthy discussions about our future wedding, like how many attendants and whether we could work a reception around not wearing shoes. Anyway, he asked his four best friends if they would be groomsmen about a week before he proposed. The decision was easy for my partner; he just picked the 4 dudes he knew either of us could call at 4am with an emergency and have show up. I love them and fully support this decision. My side isn’t quite as easy. I have a best friend from college in rehab, no sisters, a childhood best friend on the other side of the country and a bunch of girls I love dearly, but who are not…4am friends. So what’s a girl to do? Pick 4 girls who I know will show up without complication or wait it out and see if my “real” friends will show?

    • KF

      I relate COMPLETELY to this. My best friend from childhood is now an addict, single mother living with her parents. I don’t feel comfortable relying on her (like would she show up on time?) and if I did ask her I know the financial burden would fall on her parents to help her because shes really struggling. I’ve grown apart from my college/hs friends and we only keep in touch on the phone. I have a ton of acquaintances or new friends but I feel like asking them to take on so much responsibility is unfair. I hate burdening people! No sisters. One cousin, who I’m not that close to anymore. I second guess my bridal party all the time. I am very envious of those girls with great friendships/sisters who they knew would be their maids as soon as they started planning.

      I have one friend who I thought I wanted to be my MOH, but she has snuck into different convos the fact that she would not, could not ever give a speech (she’s super shy). My future hubby is have 2 best men, both of which I know will give amazing speeches. The thought of not having a MOH to speak for me makes me sad. Even though I still considered asking her, and not forcing her to speak, but my fiance thinks thats “weird”. Thoughts?

      • Anon

        I think you should still totally ask her even if she doesn’t wanna give a toast or whatever, because at the end of the day, it will be nice to have someone you really want to stand next to you, even if it is quietly. I have decided to ask my 4 friends who I know will show (and who really want to be there) but am still reserving some special tasks for both my friend in Washington, and my friend in rehab (who will be out by the wedding, and is a simply amazing artist/poet/musician) based on what they thought they could handle. Good luck!

  • Karen

    Just a quick note about involving people even if they aren’t bridesmaids – my (now) husband and I decided just to have a maid of honor and best man. But we both asked an additional three people to be our “wedding entourage.” I pitched it as having all the bridesmaid fun without the matching dresses, and that’s exactly what it was! Those people helped my maid of honor with some planning, they got their hair done with me on the day-of, they hung out while we all got ready, drank mimosas, and I gave them a shout-out in our program. My husband’s entourage acted as our ushers and did the same get-ready-with-the-groom (which really just involved tailgating, cornhole, and scotch). And it was AWESOME. The pressure of having a bridal party was off but I still got to hang out with some of my closest friends for the entire day! And they were thrilled to basically just hang out with me with virtually no responsibilities, other than to keep everyone’s mimosas fresh!

    So I agree with some other comments about having nine (or however many) bridesmaids if you want, but also rest assured that if you decide NOT to have a wedding party, you can still basically have a wedding party!

    • KC

      We also totally had a wedding entourage. (pin flowers on people! include them in all the behind-the-scenes stuff! then they’re official!) I think how this works for each person (and for each entourage-person) partly depends on expectations going on, though.

    • LM

      We had our siblings as the wedding party and then also had an entourage although we asked just people to do specific tasks, rather than sign on for general assistance. I asked my art-y friend to do the chalkboard, and my not-afraid-of-microphones friend to make announcements, and we had other friends tend to the music and be ushers. Our friends also offered to organize bachelor/bachelorette parties, which was lovely of them, since our sibs were out of state. Having our siblings as wedding party also meant that there was less reason for friends to feel hurt about not being included in the WP.

  • KC

    I would note that you can’t make anyone throw a shower/bachelorette for you, in any event. If that’s something you really, really want, though, and is also something that you feel would be too much to put on the shoulders of a young and not-financially-there-yet solo bridesmaid, I think it might be legit to sigh over that fact with a good party-throwing friend, just to throw out the “this is not being organized by anyone else” data out there. :-) One would need to not get grumpy if the good friend didn’t then “act” on it, but… yeah. Other options include organizing your own or seeing if other family members would be interested (I know Miss Manners might have Opinions on throwing parties for yourself, but especially if they weren’t “gift requiring” occasions, it seems like it might be the best solution to me).

    I do agree on not excluding people based on whether you think it’d be inconvenient, with caveat 1. being “provide them a good way out” (as in “I know you may not be able to pull this off, but I would love to have you be bridesmaid, if we can swing it without it being too hard for you”), and caveat 2. being “know your people”, because if you have a friend who just absolutely cannot say no (I have one. So hard to know how to negotiate!), then… yeah, maybe if you *really* know it would be a bad plan financially/health-wise/whatever, then don’t ask. Yes, they’re adults and can make their own choices. But sometimes, as friends, we help each other make good choices?

    • BreckW

      “I think it might be legit to sigh over that fact with a good party-throwing friend, just to throw out the “this is not being organized by anyone else” data out there.”

      I totally agree with this. While it definitely falls into the category of “know your people,” I looooove throwing parties and am generally a pretty organized person, so if a friend/friendly acquaintance asked me for help coordinating a bridal shower or bachelorette party (or to stage-manage their wedding) I would be extremely flattered and happily agree without any need for the “bridesmaid” title. But again, know your people.

    • T

      Thank you! Thank you so much, this is exactly what advice I was hoping for. I never meant that I wanted to “force” anyone into throwing parties for me. I just wasn’t sure how to even go about trying to find out whether a shower or whatever (which does feel important to me) would happen if I didn’t involve my friends, or if I tried to put the whole thing on two young, broke women. It just didn’t seem fair to ask that of them (or, more likely, to have them dump the task on my mother and my future MIL). And doubly thank you for the advice on talking with my friends. I’ve been so scared that they would say yes out of niceness and then actually be totally overwhelmed. I appreciate the pointers.

      • Kat Robertson

        Your concern for your bridesmaids seems so thoughtful. :-) All I would say is that I was young and broke when I was MOH for my best friend, and I was still happy to host her shower! Granted, it was a cupcakes and tea thing, not a big catered party, but it was still a lot of fun. Definitely don’t underestimate what people who love you will be willing to do for you!

        • KC

          Very true! Young and broke can still throw a good party. (although 1. the more experience one has, the easier it is, and 2. the more of the guests you know, the easier, so a friend-hosted or co-hosted thing might potentially be lower stress, depending on the people involved?)

          (but also, always try to avoid judging how much they love you by what they’re not doing or not able to do for you. People express themselves in different ways. I dearly love my friends, but am a *terrible* shower host. I have unfortunately proven this. I tried really hard, but… yeah. My ideas were not good ideas [ah, theory vs. practice]; I had no idea how to time things or how to move smoothly from point A to point B; I am incompetent at small talk; I mean, it just was not the Stellar Shower Experience that might be expected based on length-of-friendship and whatnot.)

  • Kat Robertson

    As an introvert, my main coping mechanism for the wedding day was to keep the wedding party small. Our attendants are Fiance’s two brothers, my little sister and my best friend. I have so many wonderful girlfriends who I would have loved to include, but having 10 bridesmaids would have been emotionally exhausting for me. Instead I asked them to be my “Bridal Brain Trust” and we have an ongoing group e-mail where I share pictures, ask for advice, gripe, etc… They are all a part of the celebration in whatever way they decide to be. Also, having a 13-year-old MOH – completely awesome. No jaded past bridesmaid experiences, no drama, lots of energy and she is ridiculously excited about everything to do with the wedding!

  • L

    I think “T” sounds like a “B”! Like APW pointed out many times- your bridal party is chosen because you want to honor THEM. Sounds like she is more concerned with them honoring her and making her wedding photos look good (“There’s a good chance that, body-wise, none of them will be comfortable being in front of a crowd on that day.” — what is that?! That’s not your decision to make for them).

    • YPI

      Hi L,

      I think it’s important to reserve judgement here- it sounds to me like both writers are coming from a good place, if maybe a little misguided- and are trying to navigate what can be a daunting process (weddings are tough stuff emotionally, that’s why this community is so great). Also, I feel like APW is a safe place, and calling someone a “B” feels aggressive and anti-feminist. Your thoughts are valid, but maybe it’s good to take a step back and come at this from a place of inclusion and support?

    • T

      LW2 here. I’m very sorry to have come across that way. It never even occurred to me that people would read my letter as being about “wanting the photos to look good” or anything like that. I could give a hoot about the photos. My friends are beautiful, and will be even more beautiful in the coming months, whether they’re in their third trimester or holding an infant or chasing a toddler. I’ve been trying to think of ways to make sure they’re in the photos, even if they aren’t officially designated “bridesmaid.” I just wanted to clear up that in no way was any of my question motivated by wanting them to look un-pregnant in the photos.

      I’ve re-read my letter and I now realize that I somehow managed to frame this as “I don’t want my pregnant friends to be involved in the wedding but I want them to pay for my bachelorette party.” I’m furious with myself for managing to deeply screw up what I meant to ask, which I promise was much more about me loving my friends but being scared to ask them for help with this wedding. I worry that I’m causing my friends anxiety and stress during a very crazy time in their lives, whether due to pregnancy or travel. It has been difficult for me to ask for help in any context, and I felt like a bad person for asking them to take on anything for me when their lives are so full. I’m going to think over what Liz said about them being adults, because I know she’s right. I’m just so scared that if I ask these women for help they’ll say yes because they’re good people, but secretly will be overwhelmed by the task and hate me for making them do things for me. I guess in my head I came up with any excuse in the book – pregnancy, travel, money – to avoid having to ask them to help. And then I got scared that if I didn’t ask anyone for help, no one would volunteer to throw my a shower, or, worse, that the task would fall on just a couple people and then they’d be overwhelmed and also hate me. When I wrote my letter all those feelings and fears got mixed up and came out horribly wrong.

      I’ve probably said too much now and am just sticking my foot further down my throat. I hope that you believe me when I say that I never meant to be a “B.”

      • BreckW

        I’m sorry you feel so overwhelmed. You sound like me when I get caught in a cyclone of worry, and I just keep heaping more and more anxiety and pressure on myself. I would still take Liz’s advice and talk to your friends–maybe a huge word dump of all these thoughts you’re having would help you all come up with a plan of action that works for both you and them?

        • T

          Thank you so much. That’s great advice.

      • tashamoes

        I had similar worries – two of my closest friends will be new moms by the time my wedding comes. I didn’t want to burden them with the stress, the cost, the busyness. I hate asking people to go out of their way for me! I totally understood what you meant in your question.

        This afternoon I asked one (as we both gawked over her tiny fresh baby at Starbucks) if she’d be a bridesmaid for me, offering her tons of outs and trying my best to take all the pressure off (“you can skip any wedding stuff that is too hard to manage, you can bring the baby to anything, we’ll make sure you can sneak off anytime to feed him, pick whatever dress you feel comfortable in, you can carry him up the aisle and skip a bouquet if you want!”) and she was so, so happy to be invited and involved. The other will have her baby just before the wedding and reacted the same way earlier this week – totally thrilled. FWIW, I’m so glad I asked them.

        I think maybe the key is giving tons of grace for them to decide what they can manage, and then supporting them in whatever decision they’ve made. By asking, you let them decide and show them how much you honour them.

        PS – I hear new moms sometimes feel isolated. Being involved in wedding planning and feeling useful might be a really happy thing for some of them?! Just a thought. Probably not true for everyone!

        • Crayfish Kate

          Heh, I offered pretty much the same advice below. Great minds ;-)

      • Crayfish Kate

        Oh man, you sound just like me when it comes to asking for help! If I do find myself in that position, one thing that works for me is, I always try to offer an out, and let the person know I won’t be upset if they decline. That can sometimes take the pressure off the ‘askee’, since the out is already on the table. You could try something like “Hey, you’ve been a really awesome friend to me and I was wondering if you’d like to be one of my bridesmaids. I know you are really busy with baby/baby on the way, so if you’re not up for it I totally understand and won’t be upset.”

      • RW

        I’m on track to be 6.5 months pregnant as a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding. Having this going on isn’t negating my excitement for my friend in any way. Dress shopping was a bit more difficult but the ladies in the shop were incredibly helpful, although it is still a guessing game with sizing. At that particular shop, I was the 3rd pregnant bridesmaid in the prior month, so it’s certainly not unheard of. The only wedding event I am bowing out of is the bachelorette party (long weekend getaway with a primary activity of getting wasted). My friend is a little disappointed I won’t make it to that and I am, too, but it is what it is and cost was a factor in that decision even before the pregnancy happened.

    • Amy March

      I don’t understand how L’s comment possibly doesn’t violate the comments policy. Calling someone who looks for help from the community a “b” is beyond the pale.

      • Liz

        Headed in to address that this morning, and found that T did a lovely job of responding and clarifying her question.

  • Caroline

    I’m having a hard time deciding on this. I asked my sis to be my Maid of Honor because I wanted to honor her and it was clear that was the way she wanted to be honored, and I was cool with that (I was on the fence about bridesmaids at all). I’m quite happy with that decision. But I’m uncertain about having more bridesmaids. If I did, I have about 4-6 friends I would want to honor, and my girl cousins would expect to be asked. Growing up, I was really close with my girl cousins, and would have expected to be bridesmaids and have them as bridesmaids, but we don’t get along that well right now, and I don’t really want them there getting ready with me and stuff.
    So I think I will try to find other ways to honor people. There are plenty of ways to do it: chuppah holders, readings, signing the license or ketubah, helping out in various ways, and more. An maybe we’ll do the the “wedding brigade” thing, but it just seems like if I have more bridesmaids than my sis, it becomes too unwieldy.

  • YPI

    In my experience, the decision was pretty simple. He has a brother- best man. I have a sister- MOH. We have lovely friends, but didn’t feel comfortable with a traditional wedding party- it would feel forced. My best friend is co-officiating, and that was how I chose to honor her, rather than as a bridesmaid. We are also having our siblings (mentioned above) and 2 other close friends hold our chuppah- they won’t be maids/groomsmen, but will be honored in a way that feels right. But that’s what worked well for us- everyone is different!

    I wholeheartedly agree with Liz’s advice, if you want to honor people, do it- and do it in a way that make sense for you! But that might also mean laying expectations aside.

    • YPI

      I forgot to add, re: parties. I felt like a small get together the evening before- dinner with friends- was all I wanted. My sister is more traditional and would really like to throw a shower- I’m not fighting her on it, it’s a lovely gesture :). Since I am planning across country, and almost all guests are out of town (even though it’s in my hometown, might as well be a destination wedding), we are doing any showers/get togethers/drink wine and eat cheese on a hotel bed the week of. Wedding day is a Sat, so whatever parties will happen Thursday or Friday to make sure we are all in the same place at the same time.

  • emilyg25

    It sounds like these ladies both have some good reasons to have wedding parties. But I just wanted to chime in and say that you can also skip the whole thing altogether. We did that for a variety of reasons (didn’t want to choose among loved ones, wanted a simple wedding, wanted to avoid drama). It was perfect for us.

  • To the second question you responded, “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.”

    Forget annoyed, I’d be heartbroken.

    Good advice.

  • Kendra D

    On my side of our bridal party will be my two sisters, his one sister, and two of my good friends. On his side will be his two brothers, my one brother, and four of his good friends. We ended up going with uneven numbers because he had more close friends that he wanted to pick. Of course, on his side one of his brothers and one of his friends may be deployed, so we may end up even after all.

    On picking friends, we’ve lived overseas the last three and a half years, so I picked the friends who stayed in the closest contact. The ones who went out of their way to see me or who would get up at ungodly hours to skype with me are the girls I knew I wanted with me for our wedding ceremony. He pretty much picked his friends for the same reason, his friends are just better at staying in touch than mine are.

    There won’t be any showers or parties before the ceremony, partly because we’re already married and partly because we all live on opposite sides of the country. As far as logistics for clothing, I have all the girls picking their own black dress and he has all his guys wearing their own suits.

  • Natalie

    I think I’m going to have seven. I have two sisters, two really good friends/former roommates from college, two girls I’ve been close with since high school, and one recent friend since college who is one of my new best friends, and a huge support. I’ve thought a lot about how that might be too many, etc, but in the end, I love those women and want them there – and seven is my favorite number!

  • Megan

    Just to add to the ‘reflect on why you want a bridal party’ theme – for me, the decision about who I wanted standing with me became clear when I boiled it down to two questions:

    1) with whom did I want to get ready and then sit around drinking whiskey in the few minutes before I got married?
    2) who did I know I could count on to, as our (totally awesome) officiant put it, remind my husband and I to turn toward each other throughout the years of our marriage?

    Yes, there are tons (and tons and tons, depending on what kind of party you’re throwing) of logistical-y things that bridal parties may (or may not) help out with leading up to the day. And if you for, those things are the most important factors in deciding who is in the party, then right on. But for me, it was these two things. And figuring that out made it super clear who my people were.

    (just by the way – because the hubs and I both wanted diverse groups, and didn’t want to feel constrained to bridesmaids, groomsmen, best men, maids of honor, etc. we each had a posse (several folks), a deputy, and a handler (our handlers were sort of like stage managers and I *highly* recommend asking a friend or hiring a professional for a similar role!))

    • BreckW

      I love your bridal party requirements, and the fact that your titles for them (posse, deputy, handler) sound like they’re from an old Western.

    • Crayfish Kate

      This is an awesome way to think about it!

    • J. Driver

      Love those criteria – filing that away for when I select my Bridal Brigade!

  • Kate

    I’m facing a similar dilemma. My older sister will be MOH, and his sister will be in the bridal party, as well as two of my friends from college. He’s having trouble finding a fourth groomsman as it is.
    However, when I was home recently my (much younger) half-sisters told me how much they’re looking forward to being bridesmaids. I wasn’t really sure what to say. I’ve barely seen them in the past 6 years (unfortunately) and they’ll be 15 and 14 at the time. I love them and would want them to be part of the wedding, but I’m not sure if I want more bridesmaids. Suggestions?

    • Kayjayoh

      Well, there are a couple of things going on here, so I’ll do it by points:

      1. WIth your fiance having trouble finding a 4th groomsman, are you worried about having even numbers? Because if that is a stumbling block, you can think about why and whether it is important to have even “sides”. You could mix it up a bit with 6 and 3. You could have his sister stand on “his” side and and have 5 and 4. While there is a certain aesthetic value to even pairs of men and women, it isn’t prom, and they don’t have to be sets. Unless you want them to. (And that is valid as well, it’s just important to examine if it is important or if it just seems expected.)

      2. Beyond the numbers, your half-sisters are eager to be involved. A big sister wedding is an exciting thing. Your “unfortunately” statement indicates that you wish you had seen more of them, so it sounds like you like them. Having them in your wedding can be a nice bonding point. It might not make up for 6 years of some distance, but it can be a good moment. They would feel loved and honored and excited. Wedding! Bridesmaid! Dress! :)

      3. Aside from numbers and the excitement or disappointment of your sibs, it really comes down to what is most important to you. It sounds like you were a bit blindsided by the expectation, which can always throw us off our game. No one *has* to be in your wedding party if you don’t want them to be. No one has to be left out simply because of numbers. There are valid reasons for either decision, and it is going to have to be based on your personal values, feelings, and priorities.

      I hope that was helpful.

    • D

      If you would like to honor them in some way, you could involve them in some other way. Or you could have them be a part of your “bridal entourage” and include them in getting ready with you day of. They will still be hanging out with the big girls, but you won’t have uneven sides. I don’t like them term, but you could also make them “junior bridesmaids.” They could walk down the isle, kind of like a flower girl, and still have a matching dress. It would be up to you whether you would want them to stand up there with you. It really just boils down to if you want them to do it, but there are a lot of other roles you could give them to make them still feel involved.

  • youdoyou

    I was in an extremely similar situation to T. When I got engaged I immediately asked my 2 best friends to be bridesmaids. Fast forward 9 months later (ironic, considering I always joked that i didn’t’ want to be engaged for longer than it took to gestate an infant): and one of my friends was 8 months pregnant (not only not able to participate as a bridesmaid, but not able to attend either for various reasons) and the other was living abroad for school. To be honest, at first it was really sad, and hard to be ok with my two closest friends missing my wedding, after being so involved in both of theirs. Then i realized I had so many friends, and an awesome sister, brother and sister in law who I was closer to. Also, during that time I became SUPER close with my roommate, and decided to ask her instead – to which she screamed with joy, exactly the kind of reaction you want :)
    I ended up with three on my side (my sister, brother and roommate), and my partner had six (including his sister). He wanted to honor all of his close friends, and it was perfect. People will be weird about uneven parties, but they don’t matter. People will be weird about mixed gender parties but that’s BS. Just do what you want! In the end you want to be surrounded by love – and however that happens will be just fine.

  • Anon

    I didn’t want to have my sisters but decided it wouldn’t be worth the grief I’d get if I didn’t have them. It was important to me to have some close friends as well, since I’ve always had close female friends and they mean the world to me. I wanted to keep things small, so I was a bit limited, but luckily it’s been pretty clear who those closest to me are. When I thought about it I realized that I already had bridesmaids- the people who had been supporting me the most, my go-to ladies, since I got engaged and before that.
    A few times I did second guess my decision to not include more people. I heard that a friend whose wedding I was in was upset upon learning I had not chosen her. That was rough, because I didn’t know that it had even meant anything to her. Ultimately, I realized that choosing her wouldn’t make our now distant relationship better. In a way I do sort of wish I could honor more people in my life- there are many that mean a lot me. I’m confident those people still know I care for them, though, and there’s a reason I kept things small (introvert here!).

  • The approach we took was that we had a list of people we wanted to be honored guests, and we came up with ways to honor each person. Parents are honored by walking us down the aisle. Grandparents are honored by being ushered down the aisle. Ushers are also honored guests. We’ve asked two friends to be the witnesses for our ketubah signing.

    We are having two groomsmen and two or three bridesmaids (my plans to ask one of my friends keep getting foiled, so ask me again tomorrow night!). I made it clear to the people I asked to be bridesmaids that I do NOT expect matching dresses (or even specific dresses), they can spend however much they’d like, I’m not interested in having a shower, and they don’t need to be present for things like dress shopping or fittings, or tastings, or anything.

    Again, the idea here is that we’re asking them to be honored guests. It would be wonderful if they wanted to help out and were able to. But I think that reframing the wedding party so that we’re figuring out who to honor, versus who can handle specific responsibilities, was incredibly liberating for us.

  • Kristyn

    My thoughts for both brides:

    1. Think about who you want with you the night before and morning of your wedding. Chose those ladies to be your bridesmaids.
    2. Tell all of your bridesmaids to wear a black cocktail dress. Everyone looks great (even the pregnant ladies) and it saves everyone time and money – especially since they will absolutely wear the dress again.
    3. Think outside the box when it comes to bouquets and the like. We didn’t do any boutineers and had a friend help with the bridesmaid bouquets. It saved a good deal of money and no one even knew any difference.

    Good luck – these are tough decisions, but go with what you know you will regret the least!

    • clairekfromtheuk

      Second the black dresses! I bought my two a black, full length, full on glamorama number and they loved them!

      • lady brett

        the one time i was a bridesmaid, the bride asked us all to wear knee-length solid-color dresses, and i thought it worked out lovely for a more colorful, more casual wedding, while still looking purposeful.
        (and it meant i didn’t have to go shopping because that describes everything i own.)

  • mackenzie

    We had a similar situation to the second poster, I guess. It was looking like a really big wedding party. But then we decided to have a really small wedding instead. Since we couldn’t (or maybe we could) have more people standing than sitting, we decided to have our guests be immediate family and our would-be bridal party (had we had a bigger wedding) + their spouses. His brother and sister stood on his side, and, since I’m an only child, my best friends (a man and a woman who just happen to be married to each other) were on mine. We still gave gifts to everyone (even the people who weren’t “standing up” with us) because they were the 30 most significant people in our lives. It all worked out quite well.

  • Eh

    I like the stress on that you are honouring these people.

    As has been mentioned before (but I find needs to be mentioned again and again) – people don’t just change because it’s your wedding and you have to accept them for who they are.

    1. Your expectation for a person needs to be based on what that person can do. My husband was his brother’s Best Man and, at the time, he was a broke student working two jobs (living in an hour away without a car). He had no money and very little time. He was asked to be Best Man about 4 months before the wedding (they had been engaged for over a year at this point). My husband also procrastinates (this is a continuous battle). He is also an introvert and doesn’t dance or drink. His brother and SIL were upset about his “behaviour” (that is, not “celebrating” with them on the dance floor with tons of alcohol) and lack of help regarding the wedding and other related events (they also had a stag and doe, and they didn’t like his bachelor party plans). He flat out told them that if it wasn’t for me reminding him to do stuff for their wedding that he probably wouldn’t have done anything. Not because he doesn’t love his brother and not to be malicious, but because if he was left to his own devices he would put things off until after they needed to be done. (There was a lot of other stuff that went on surrounding their wedding – like them not communicating their expectations, them asking him to do things last minute when he didn’t have time because he had other commitments, and them not telling him who was in the wedding party – which also set him up for failure.) Note: if you want your wedding party to go all out on your wedding events don’t ask three new parents, including one who lives out of country and one who is a single parent, and three broke students, two who live out of town, to be in your wedding party – however if you want to honour these people because they are the six people who you know have your back then take them for who they are.
    2. You can have people who are more suited to planning/party throwing in charge of events like a shower or bachelorette. My sister, who was our Maid of Honour, lives on the other side of the country from us. There was no way she could plan a shower or bachelorette for me, nor did I expect her to (I would have gone without if other people didn’t offer). My MIL offered to plan the shower (I only had a shower for people on my husband’s side because my friends and family are all over the country). And a friend offered to plan my bachelorette because, eventhough she was fro out of town, she was familiar with the area where I live (and it was planned for a date when my sister and other out of town friends could attend). The important thing here is to be clear with everyone involved. My BIL was (supposed to be) Best Man for our wedding but he told my husband that he was “broke” when my husband brought up bachelor party planning. My husband took this as that his brother wasn’t going to plan his bachelor party (as his brother shut down the conversation about who my husband wanted to invite and which date might be good to hold it – my husband works weekends so he would need to book it off and the earlier he put in the request the better). My husband (who was very upset at the time) mentioned this to his cousin and his cousin offered to plan the bachelor party and this resulted in a lot of drama.
    3. You can honour people in ways other than having them in your wedding party. My brother did a reading. My sister’s fiancé walked my step-mum down the aisle. I had flowers from my aunt’s garden in my bouquet. My husband hung out with two of his close friends before our wedding (they went for straight razor shaves and they played pool and got ready together). After my BIL removed himself from our wedding my husband did not replace him (eventhough there was a lot of pressure to ask someone else to be Best Man) but did ask a close friend to sign as a witness.

  • jhs

    We chose no wedding parties, and it’s been fantastic. Our friends are still helping us, but are all relieved they get to wear what they want and sit down for the ceremony. We don’t have to choose other people’s outfits, or flowers, or worry about things being uneven. Obviously to each their own, but if you’re fretting, I highly recommend considering doing none at all!

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  • Sarah

    Fiance wanted groomsmen even though I did not want a bridal party. He insisted it would be weird to just have dudes and me not have anyone so I have my sisters, my niece, and his sister. This is mostly okay except I really can’t stand his sister and don’t want to deal with her flipping out over everything and trying to be the center of attention like she always does. I’m scared I will have to stop being pretending to be nice like I have the past year and tell her straight up that she sucks and needs to calm herself down or go somewhere and sit.To say I’m worried about her behavior on the day is an understatement…

    • Sarah

      So my advice is have no bridal party cause that shit is way easier

    • Liz

      People who are self-centered will manage to be self-centered whether they’re in the bridal party or not.

  • Kayjayoh

    For bridal parties, I am having my sister as my honor attendant, and asking other friends to be part of the “bridal brigade” but not actually being “in the party”. (Officiant, stage manager, etc.) My fiance is having his sister as his honor attendant, and has also asked 6 of his guy friends to be groomsmen. The “sides” are different and that is fine with us. (His sister is also not the one who will be throwing his bachelor party. I think the 6 dudes will handle that part.)

  • JSwen

    T – Similar situation except with brothers. My fiance also has a sister so we’ll ask her to do a reading in the ceremony (she’s the literary genius of the family). Our solution: My brother stands with me, Fiance’s brother stands with him. I have proclaimed my 9 friends (all of whom have to fly to get here) “The Bridal Brigade”. 7 ladies and 2 gents. Sent a mass email this morning and the responses have been delightful. There are little-to-no expectations for The Bridal Brigade other than 1) dance and have fun, 2) come to these two pre-wedding activities if you can, and 3) be my entourage for pretty pictures. It also gave them the chance to coordinate a vacation rental to save money for the trip out.

    What I am doing might not work for you but start thinking of ways to honor your friends (and start asking your Fiance to think as well) without having them stand up. As long as you feel comfortable in the ceremony and your friendships, you can’t go wrong!

  • Beth

    What a timely post! We are sorting through this right now…I have one sister (my MOH), and my fiance has two sisters, one of whom is dead set on being a bridesmaid. My biggest worry has been that my side would be only sisters, since we are trying to keep it small! I’ve found that it’s really important for me to feel equally represented up there, with my own family and friends standing by me. He has a LOT of friends and could easily fill the bridal party. I don’t have as many, and I guess I’m a bit sensitive about it. We decided that we would ask his oldest sister to give an opening address, since she didn’t have any strong feelings about being a bridesmaid, and plus I think it will be very sweet. I was so worried she would be offended, but she wasn’t. As long as we involve in some way the people we truly want to honor, I think things will work out!

  • CaitlinSumner

    The fiance and I each have 9 attendants, and we’re having 150-170 guests. Don’t let your perceptions of how other people might snark your choices make you regret or question what you really want to do! My wedding planning mantra in general (as we navigate making our own choices and picking priorities for what will generally be a mainstream affair) is “As long as it makes us happy, I really don’t care if this decision confuses/annoys/disturbs anyone else.” This also applies to my post-wedding surname decision, our future parenting style, and pretty much everything else about our baby family.

  • melodycharlotte

    I got myself into quite a pickle this summer over my bridal party. Less than a month after my partner popped the question, my mom asked me what I was thinking about bridesmaids and I told her I thought I might ask my 3 closest friends. Then my mom mentioned it to my brother’s fiancé, now wife, for whom I was to be a bridesmaid, and she became hysterically upset that she wasn’t one of those people. Cue horrible argument in which I stood stuttering apologies while being berated with insults and “rules” about bridesmaid selection.

    The two of us have always had a slightly strained relationship because my brother and I are incredibly close, yet his wife and I never “clicked”. And of course the distance and infrequency of visits doesn’t help anything. But this whole ordeal has placed my relationship with them both squarely in the toilet, where it has remained since. It felt strange and alienating to be in their wedding. Is it so wrong to only want people who make me feel loved and supported in my bridal party?

    Oh, it’s just a mess! I want to mend fences, but should I ask her to be a bridesmaid, even though I don’t really want to?

  • Marie

    Fabulous, wise, practical ladies:

    I picked my 5 bridesmaids months ago (sister in law, 2 best high school friends, 2 best college friends) and tried to keep it small. However, a newer, post college friend has been SO supportive and gone above and beyond with my wedding, and just in life. She’s even told me I will be in her wedding (she’s pre-engaged) I would really like to add her – but is it too late? She knows the other girls have already ordered their dresses, ect.

    So, to add or not to add?

    • Ashlee

      If your gut says add, then add. As said many times over above, it’s all about honoring the important people in your life, and if she’s important now and fits the best-post-college-friend bill (which, internet high five to you for making a close friend in the post-college real world!), then she’s someone you want to have.

      This reminds me of a post from I don’t even remember when about how your wedding is just a snapshot of your life at the time, and you have had friends in your past that were super important, but aren’t in your life anymore and thus would be strange to invite to your wedding, and you’ll have friends in your future that maybe will be as or more important than the friends actually in your wedding photos, etc…which I found very thought-provoking and insightful. Wish I could remember the exact post. Anyway, the point is that your wedding (party) doesn’t have to be inclusive of potential future besties if you aren’t ready at the moment, which may be something to consider.

    • Liz

      Is your concern that she’ll be offended that you’re adding her last minute? Because I don’t think that would be the case at all. “You’ve been such an awesome support, I want to honor you,” sounds to me like a great sentiment.

  • Ashlee

    My mom seems very concerned that there will be four attendants on one side and three attendants on the other side. I am most certainly not. Somehow my wedding has been the one realm of her life where my mom can’t understand breaks from traditional expectations.

  • Amanda

    “There’s a good chance that, body-wise, none of them will be comfortable being in front of a crowd on that day” — WHOA. I am slightly offended on behalf of the postpartum/pregnant/trying to get pregnant friends. From this statement, it seems as though the letter writer is just making a blanket statement about the thoughts of her friends with regards to their bodies. From a postpartum lady, I would be highly offended if a close friend decided not to ask me to be a bridesmaid simply *assuming* that I am ashamed of my body after giving birth and would want to hide it. Because that is not the case at all for me, and might not be for her friends.

  • lauren

    I worried about the bridal party (specifically, my bridesmaids) for months because of cost issues! In the end, I asked everyone I was thinking about (total of 7) and I’m so happy I did. For me, their agreement to be part of my bridal party was their visible support of my marriage. That was huge for me and I didn’t want to put them in any other role. I was worried about the cost but realized that their support was more than worth the price of a bouquet and gift.

    BUT – that isn’t to minimize the cost. I totally did the “hold 1 stem” thing mentioned above (spider mums – so many people thought it was a cool idea). It cut costs and was cute too. As for gifts – I did a small compact mirror for each person that they could keep in their purse (with their name on it) and a heartfelt note. Every member of my bridal party thanked me for the note – and we all had a bit of a moment which I really cherished. The mirrors were $10 each from etsy. All in all, so affordable but super meaningful.

    I was also worried people would say “really? 8 bridesmaids?” We had 150 people and, for some reason I was worried that 8 is “too many.” Here’s the thing – there is no such thing as too many when you are talking about people who are important to you. Everyone has an opinion but, on this issue, say “eff that” and go what works for you and your partner. Really – this is a very, very, personal decision.

    So – long comment to say…ask them, there is no harm is having too much support for your marriage and you’ll figure out the cost issues later. You won’t regret it.

  • E

    I really wanted to honor the friends who had been there for me the most consistently over the last 10 years. The women who had been there through all the ups and downs before my husband came along (and then after too). Some friends come in and out of your life, some you are closer to now, some are more enthusiastic about wedding planning, but I really wanted to honor the friends who I had counted on for emotional support (and vice versa) over the years. And because they had always been there for me in the past, they were really supportive during the wedding.

  • Kara Davies

    My bridal party choices were relatively easy.

    My bestie since kindy was my matron of honor (i was one of her 5 maids),

    my first interwebz friend (same website where hubby and I met) was one of my ‘maids,

    my other really good friend was my other maid.

    3 ladies that knew me through different stages of my life that I regarded as sisters. Done.

    My younger two lady cousins were our candlelighters.

    My best lil pal from chuch was my little princess, she carried the end of my 12’ veil.

    All my ladies were within relatively easy flight or drive from me.

    Hubby had a bit more fun selecting his guys. His two groomsmen of choice weren’t able to fly to Seattle from Australia (just too expensive) so he asked two friends from his missionary kid childhood who were both Stateside to be his groomsmen. His brother was best man. My brothers were our ushers. My youngest cousins had baskets of programs to hand out (the role I had at their parents wedding).

    For my ladies, I bought necklace and earring sets from Jacques Penney (JC Penny) that were on sale. I bought them before I had my engagement ring (!). They were simple silver and cubic zirconia sets that would be just the right amount of bling on the day. My ladies looked stunning in them!

    Please note the boy band pose struck by my husband’s groomsmen. He didn’t know what they were doing behind him. This still gives us the giggles 6.5 years on! (And yes, my girls and I are all in David’s Bridal gowns. Hubby and menfolk are all in tuxes from a local tux rental shop.)

  • Chiara M

    I had a VERY similar dilemma when I was picking my brides women. I thought, “it’ll look too crowded with all of them up there with me.” And then I called my wise recently married friend, who said “having a big bridal party was the best part of the wedding, because everyone was so much fun!” And then I remembered that I LOVED being her bridesmaid. I griped about the price of the dress, but planning the bridal shower was FUN. And walking down the aisle was FUN.

    And so I thought, invite them all! ALL OF THEM! Like Liz said. And so far I haven’t regretted it. I’m not married yet, but I don’t think I will regret it. Especially since when we went dress shopping together, they were all there and that was awesome.

  • mags

    I have to comment on the second question, even though Liz was spot on with her answer. I’ve been a bridesmaid long distance and I’ve been a bridesmaid 7-weeks post-partum and I loved both experience. No, I didn’t help plan or even attend the bridal shower, but I think my friends didn’t mind. That’s not why they asked me. And I did feel a little uncomfortable having just had a baby and then standing in front of people as a bridesmaid (in my dress, two people assumed I was pregnant — so, yes, I definitely felt self-conscious) but I felt better being a bridesmaid than not because I knew my friend was honoring me and I had extra opportunities to hang out with someone I love who I don’t see nearly enough (especially since being knocked up).

    If you choose just the sisters that’s fine (I didn’t have a wedding party at my otherwise traditional wedding and found other ways of honoring those near to me, spoiler: I still got people gifts), but please don’t not ask someone you would love to have as a bridesmaid because they’re pregnant/just had a baby/live far away. If my friends had done that, it would have broken my heart!

  • CER

    M and I had 5 people each, but really it was 10 people there for all of us (they stood in a half-circle around us and all but 1 are mutual friends). I used the past/present/future guideline that I saw some place for both choosing my attendants and guest list- some were important to me in the past (though maybe less close now), some were important to me right now, and some I hope to be more close with in the future. Also, 8 of our 10 attendants were guys (we each had a best man). Please don’t feel like you need to stick to traditional gender lines when choosing the people to stand with you. Oh- regarding cost- we provided flowers for the attendants and ties for the 8 guys and asked everyone to wear a gray-scale suite or dress (which we made sure they already owned or were ok with buying). It looked great :-)

    • Jess

      Seconding the forget the gender line. I had a friend do the “groomslady” thing. It was awesome, and she appreciated getting to stand on the side of the person she was close to. They just had her in the same dress as the bridesmaids, but in black.

  • kyley

    Re: Having too large a party:

    I had 7 bridemaids, 1 bridesman, and 2 10-year-old bridesmaids. My husband had 13 groomsmen. You know what? It was awesome. These are the people we love. Our wedding was a celebration of our community and these people are our community. I absolutely would not have done anything different.

    Of course, there are certain logistical and expense-related issues. Here’s what we did: no bouquets! I had one (made at whole foods the morning of the wedding and omg it was so beautiful) but my bridesmaids did not. It felt like a frivolous expense, and they all looked absolutely stunning without them.

    We also let everyone pick out their own attire. I said “pastel colors and short” for dresses and my husband said “navy blue suit” and everyone looked like themselves and stunning. One of my bridesmaids spent literally $10 on her dress at good will; another spent $300 at jcrew. They both were happy and equally beautiful. (Maybe you like matching, and that’s fine too. The key for this option to work is that you have to say you don’t care, and then you have to actually not care.)

    Lastly, we did not have everyone stand up there while we had our ceremony. That would have felt a little maddening and claustrophobic. We had them walk in before us, and then sit down in the first few rows.

    One piece of caution: it is a little chaotic to get ready with your mom, mil, and 11 bridesmaids all in one (admittedly very large) room. It probably would have been wise if I found a way to schedule some quiet time in the midst of all that chaos and nervous energy. But on the flip side, it was so very special to have everyone together like that all morning.

    You do you, lady. Don’t worry about what your wedding is “supposed to” be. Just do what makes you happy and what honors your loved ones in the best possible way.

  • Erin E

    I did something that I read about in a far, far back post on APW… I skipped the bridal party for simplicity’s sake and then sent an e-mail to about 13 girls that I love, telling them how grateful I was to have them in my life and asking them to be the “Something Blue” of the wedding day. They all brought a silly or fun blue accessory to the wedding and during the reception, they put them on and we took a ton of pictures together. I loved everything about this choice: I got to honor a lot more girls than I could have had as bridesmaids, they thought it was a fun idea and no one had to pay for the expense of dresses and attendant gifts. AND, the pictures of us are some of my favorites of the whole wedding.

    • Krys

      I LOVE this! We’ve decided on our wedding party and I’m in the process of “proposing” to them which is very exciting! BUT I feel horrible about “neglecting” other really great lifelong friends. I suppose they’ll understand we’ve decided to only invite immediate family and be honoured to be included in that small circle (because, after-all, they are family!). Alternatively, I’d have a MOH and 3 bridesmaids (my Fiance is having two friends stand for him, but he’s already inviting a third and my little brother could be a fourth) and no guests!
      My mother mentioned maybe making my gf’s honorary bridesmaids but I love the idea of asking them to be my “Something Blue” and having them involved as much as they’d like to be during the planning process and wedding day! Thank you!

  • Kelsey

    I was one of 9 bridesmaids this summer (including 3 grooms sisters) and it was a great thing in some ways–like splitting costs 9 ways instead of 6 for the bridal shower and bachelorette party gave us more freedom with our budgets. We were also able to divide and conquer. Not every single one of us was involved in every single detail. 2 of us took charge of shower planning, 2 others helped the bride with her DIY crafting (a skill the ones planning the shower could not assist with) and another 2 handled the bachelorette party, etc. I’m not going to say being part of a 9 person bridal party wasn’t stressful, because it was, but in the end it all worked out in a way that without everyone involved it wouldn’t have.

  • AL

    Sorry Liz but UK brides don’t ‘have to’ buy their bridesmaids’ wedding dresses anymore than we ‘have to’ do favours, throw the bouquet , etc. I didn’t even need to discuss this with my ‘maids – they all just assumed they’d be buying their own.

    I wonder if you heard this from one of the awful wedding websites we have over here? Honestly it’s like they’ve teleported some upper middle class English lady from the 1950s and taught her how to use WordPress.

    Just thought I’d mention this incase some other UK bride was worried she’d just offended all her best buddies by not splashing out on their dresses.

  • picardie.girl

    Re: this part: “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.”

    I don’t know that this is necessarily universally true. I can absolutely imagine someone who is a good friend, and who with all the will in the world, is just unable to do what they said they could do, but who also doesn’t say anything to you (the bride) until too late. Not everyone is quite so matter of fact!

    So, choose carefully. Pick the people you want to honour, and who will be fun to get ready with and/or will help you be calm on the day, and will support your relationship then and afterwards, but be realistic about those people. Just as we don’t change magically when we become brides, neither do our friends when they become bridesladies. If you think there’s a chance your friends will say yes and then when it comes down to it, possibly let you down a bit because of their new families (people often underestimate how much babies will affect their lives), then it would be prudent to canvass that with your partner, and depending on your relationship, with them.

  • MDBethann

    Flowers are easy: I was in a friend’s wedding and she had 10 ‘maids. We all carried single flowers. Done and done.

  • Sharon M.

    After witnessing the craziness of my brother’s 14 person wedding party, I didn’t really want a bridal party, but my husband wanted a best man, so I asked the best man’s wife to be my matron of honor (we’re all friends here)
    I tried to get the best man to wear the black suit he already had, to match his wife’s dress (I let her choose whatever she wanted), but he insisted on buying the same charcoal grey suit. I had them wear similar ties (same colors, different patterns), which they both did up with a Trinity knot.