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How to Pick Your Bridal Party

Get ready to start hashtagging #squadgoals

A bride and her bridal party
It’s time for some real talk about your bridal party. Look, on the best day, to-do lists give us mixed feelings. On wedding-lead-up days? Constantly nagging you to call back the baker, confirm your hair trial, figure out where your fiancé nonchalantly tossed the rings, stop procrastinating about telling Gran you won’t be having a priest … oh, HI, STRESS. There you are.

Enter the wedding-community support system, or what the rest of the world calls the bridal party. This is the squad who will be there when you need a third or fourth or fifth (you get it) hand. Or, for when you need an ear to cry to because that is not the shade of champagne you ordered. Or, to act as the buffer between you and the dreaded Other People’s Opinions About Your Shit, about which there will be many, and which are harder to ignore than you think.

In other words, you want to think carefully about who you have in your corner, not only because you’ll need their support (whether it’s emotional or physical), but also because being in the bridal party package can be a lot to ask of a pal. The short answer to the process? Think about what you want, think about who you want, think about what they want.

At the same time, remember that selecting who stands next to you at the altar, showing their support, is a beautiful way to honor the people who have been amazing friends to you and your partner. Asking them to share the moment with you so intimately is a way to show them—and the world!—your gratitude.

What’s the “Bridal Party” job description?

Newsflash: Not everyone—often even your closest friends—will have the same expectations as you do about what a bridesmaid, honorary bridesmaid, matron of honor, groomsman, bridesman, or junior bridesmaid (and whatever else you’ve got up your sleeve) actually does. Some folks would only presume that they show up on time, look presentable, and stand at the altar with you. Other people expect their ladies and gents to throw them three parties and take on half the DIY projects. See the potential problems?

Make a complete list of what you’re really asking your bridal party to do. Knowing thyself is key here! Don’t tell your maid of honor to skip the pre-wedding festivities, when you really expect a shower and bachelorette or else. Be as honest as possible, then ask yourself how much the friends you have in mind can reasonably take on. For instance, if your MOH just gave birth to triplets, a weekend-long bachelorette in Vegas may not be in the cards. When you finally get your gals (and/or guys), have a preliminary talk to see where your ideas overlap. (That doesn’t mean handing the list to them with a pat on the back and a “good luck,” ahem.)

Money, money, money

Ah, the touchiest of the touchy subjects. First, do yourself a favor and don’t Google “What do bridesmaids hate about being a bridesmaid?” because that’s a bucket of anxiety-worms you do not need. We’ll summarize it for ya: Overpriced everything. Even if you’ve made the decision to get next-level with your wedding budget (and why not! You do you!), remember that your ladies and lads may not have the funds to spend on your nuptials—and the many events that can lead up to them. Whether it be personal budgeting, like saving for a down payment, or financial straits, like student loan obligations, you definitely don’t want to put your besties in a tough or awkward situation.

Who’s picking the dress? What’s the price range? Are you mandating all bridal party members come to the events, buy the same shoes, purchase special accessories, and get their hair done? Is your wedding out of town, which means flights and accommodations? Are you hoping for a weekend in Paris for your bachelorette? Who pays for what? While you shouldn’t be dictating and delegating to the point where you’re sending out invoices for your plane fare (please, please don’t), mediating your expectations with everyone else’s before the trip is planned will save you some serious grief.

And remember, there’s nothing bad, wrong, or unreasonable about cutting out all financial obligations for your bridal party. One hugely amazing and important reason to ask someone to be in your bridal party is to honor them. When they stand at the altar with you, it’s a way of saying, “Hey, look how important this person is to me! Look how much they’ve supported me in my life and my relationship! Kudos to them!” That could mean having the wedding party pick their own dresses or suits (or wearing ones they already own), nixing pre-wedding soirees, treating your people to accommodations on the weekend of, etc.

Let’s talk politics

Except we mean the white dress kind, not the White House kind (we hope). It’s true that there may be people in your life that will expect an invite, if you’re having a bridal party of any serious size. Sisters, brothers, close cousins, and your sister- or brother-in-law are some common wedding party contenders, for instance. While you obviously aren’t obligated to ask them, think about the possible repercussions (as unreasonable as you may think they are) and honestly ask yourself if you’re ready to accept that. It could mean anything from losing a friendship to a year of having to mediate your nosy aunt’s emails demanding why Cousin Carly isn’t on official Team Wedding. Once you make a decision, stick to it. Don’t torture yourself with “maybe I should haves” down the road. You’ve got a wedding to plan!

OKay, you have a candidate. Now, think of her (or Him)

It deserves saying again: Put yourself in their shoes. Where are they in life right now? Are they financially able to meet your expectations? Are they preoccupied with other big personal events in life that will interfere with what you’ve got planned, or add to their stress levels, such as planning their own wedding, having a new baby, etc. Or, is there some emotional baggage, like a divorce or contentious relationship situation, that makes the lovey-dovey wedding prep stuff seem like the hardest thing in the world for them to do right now? Take it all into consideration when you’re crafting your requests.

Have a conversation

If you’re skipping someone for the above reason, it may warrant a chat. If you’ve been best friends since third grade and they’re not in your party because you (very considerately) anticipated that their divorce would make it too difficult for them, try talking it out with them before you set things in stone. They may be hurt if they get zero explanation, or you may be completely reading the situation wrong and being in the wedding party would be just the distraction and fun time needed to get their mind off their home problems!

Or, consider paring down your initial job description to make things emotionally easier—no dress shopping or lovey-dovey stories or cutesy gushing. Ask them to be there for you, as they always have, to stand next to you as you launch into this new phase of your life, which will also, as always, include them—and that’s it. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.

How did you pick your Bridal party? What worked and what didn’t? What do you wish you’d known, before you started asking people to stand up with you?

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