You’ve got the ring, circled the date, and snapped up that stunning setting — now, it’s time to decide who will stand next to you as you exchange vows.
Choosing your wedding party is a way to honor those close to you and symbolically welcome your betrothed’s family and friends into your life.
There’s no formula for selecting the perfect few to support you as you start the next chapter of your lives together, but there are some tips and tricks to avoid common pitfalls and hurt feelings.
Small can be sweet
Jaclyn Watson, proprietor of Hyde Park-based Jaclyn Watson Events, says she thinks brides and grooms have the most success with smaller parties.
“I feel like eight to 10 is a lot,” she said, although that’s a number she’s seen prominently in past years.
More recent couples are beginning to “scale back,” keeping things closer to three to five members on each side, Watson said.
At weddings with about 150 guests, that’s a good number, she said.
Larger parties can get expensive — “eight to 10 flower arrangements, eight to 10 gifts, eight to 10 rooms. It really adds up quite significantly and quickly,” Watson pointed out.
Too, the bigger the bridal party, the more likely tiffs can arise.
Some couples opt not to have a bridal party at all.
Lizzie Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette maven Emily Post, author and co-host of the podcast “Awesome Etiquette,” remembers a wedding at which she was a guest that didn’t include a bridal party.
“I went to one of my best friends’ weddings. I was ticked off she didn’t have any of us as her bridal party,” but Post realized quickly the intimacy in standing up there sans maids or men, just two people.
“It’s about them and the two of them getting married and doing what they need to do to feel married on that day,” she said.
Watson said she’s worked with couples who have chosen people close to them of the opposite gender as part of their parties — think bridesmen or groomsgirls.
“We had a bridal party this year that called it a ‘tribe’ instead of a bridal party,” Watson said.
Who’s on the list?
If couples do opt to have attendants, it’s important to pick the right people.
“One of the thoughts I always give to my couples is the fact that when they’re choosing a bridal party, don’t choose just because they’re your friends. Choose people who have had meaning in your lives and people who will be able to represent you in that day and in the coming months,” Watson said.
That means choosing people who are trustworthy, who won’t be “absentee” members but will be able to support the couple through planning bachelor or bachelorette parties and preparing for the big day, and who represent important parts of the couple’s lives, both together and separately.
It’s also crucial to consider whether these people will continue to be part of the couples’ lives — they’ll be in all the photos, and it’s important that the story behind the picture remains sweet.
Lizzie Post calls including your partner’s family members in your bridal party “an olive branch,” even if you’re not close.
“It’s a kind thing to do,” she said.
And if friends’ or family members’ feelings might be hurt if they don’t make the cut, couples can find another job for them, from performing readings during the ceremony to making toasts at the reception, or manning the guest book or gift table.
Finally, if bridal parties are expected to travel or purchase expensive outfits, finances may be an issue for some party members. If it’s important for the couple to have those people there, it’s polite to pay for those things yourself, Post said.
“I think it’s nicer when you make choices that people are going to be able to participate in,” she said.
But don’t overstep your boundaries when advising your bridesmaids on their looks on the day wedding day.
“In the old days, it used to be that the bride dictated everything. Nowadays, if your friend is pregnant, you don’t make her feel bad about that. If she’s just gotten a haircut you don’t love, you don’t tell her to change it,” Post said. “I think that you make requests based on things like coordinating the outfits and controlling the hairstyles, but you don’t tell someone to grow their hair out for a year.
You don’t try to change a person. You allow them to dress accordingly.”