Wedding Party Alternatives by Meg Keene First of all, I wanted to thank you all for your many responses to my “Family As Wedding Party” post. They were wise and insightful. I should have stated at the get-go that this post was about our particular planning process, and reflected our particular situation. It was in no way a judgment of those of you who are not particularly close to your families or consider yourselves to belong more to a family of choice than a biological family. I understand all this, for sure. The classic wedding party works for a lot of people, and is fantastic. For those of us who it doesn’t quite work for, I’m trying to open up options of different ways to approach the issue. I thought I’d share some of the ideas from the comments that I found particularly thought provoking. A Bride In Exile said this: My fiance and I wanted to keep things small, and I’ve definitely gotten the feeling that one of my non-bridesmaid friends was hurt that I didn’t ask her to be in the wedding party. I feel terrible about it. I think if you’re closer to your family than to any of your friends, the family as wedding party concept is a great one. But it’s definitely not for everyone. I love my family but they are also a pretty stressful bunch, and I know having my friends around will make the day much more fun. But if I had to do it again I might just ask all of my friends if they’d like to hang out with me in the bride’s dressing room, rather than trying to pick among them and decide who gets to wear the special outfits.Of course! On our wedding day our focus should be to surround ourselves with people that love and support us. I think it’s most helpful to first think of who those people are for you – are they family? Are they friends? Maybe your an introvert and you’d really rather just have some time alone. Once you’ve figured that out, then you should tackle figuring out what will work best for you. Maybe it’s really important to you to have people were matching dresses and stand up with you – its traditional and its pretty. Or, maybe you’d rather have people support you by doing readings, or giving toasts. Or, perhaps you just want to have all of your guests participate in the ceremony by adding responsive elements. Whatever works for you, this thought process might be more helpful (at least for those of us struggling with the traditional notion of bridal parties) then just picking some people and picking some outfits. Angie said:I have a number of other women I’m very close to and while I want to find some special time with them, I don’t want to burden them with matching dresses and mandatory hair appointments. So I’m thinking that I’d like to carve out an hour or so to spend with those women that I’m close to, to honor them with time instead of titles and obligations. I’m encouraged to find this community with other like-minded women.While I’m not at all saying that being in a traditional wedding party is a burden (I’ve done it and loved it). I do really love this idea of finding ways to spend time with and honor the important people in your life on your wedding day, even if you decide to skip the bouquets. I like the idea of carving out time before the ceremony just to get grounded, and to surround yourself with people who love and support you during that time. The Lovely Ms. Peonie talked about wanting the ceremony to be personal, in a way that I really understood:We were adamant that the ceremony was between us and the officiant, no one else. My Mum gave a reading and walked down the aisle with the bridesmaids and my cousin and The Boy’s cousin also gave readings. I wanted my close friends involved and around me on the day, but not too heavily. We also are striking a balance with this. Our families will stand up, but we’ll be alone under the chuppah with our Rabbi. Finding a way to balance the personal aspect of a marriage with the communal support aspect of the marriage was for us key. Finally, Rebecca had some great insights on how they worked to include everyone that was important in their lives in different ways:There was no way I could include in the wedding everyone that I am close with in my big fat Greek family! So, instead of choosing readings and people to read them, we let them self-select and opened up the mike to our gathered guests — to contribute words of wisdom or thoughts during the ceremony. We warned our close family and friends that we were going to do that, so they arrived prepared. I don’t think any of my family members felt that they weren’t an integral part of the day. We saw the bridal party as a way to include those who are special to us even though they’re not family. Because we didn’t think twice about having equal numbers, everyone who stood up with us will be in our lives for a long time and, if not, they helped shape who we are and should be there anyway. We didn’t emphasize the point, though, by having them introduced at the reception or a special dance with them, etc. Also, for the only really close family member that didn’t have a formal role (my sister in law), we made sure to give her a corsage.I hope all this has helped those of you who, like me, are struggling to find ways to include the people that are close to you in a way that makes some emotional sense to you, if the standard wedding traditions don’t quite gel. Meg Keene Founder & Editor-In-Chief Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.