One of the most exciting parts of the wedding planning process is selecting your wedding party. While you’re probably excited to buy matching robes and pop bottles at your bachelorette party, deciding who, exactly, you want to ask to be your bridesmaids can be challenging.
From family members to childhood pals, work connections to new friends, high school besties to college roommates, there are a lot of people to consider for your bridal party. If you’re having a hard time choosing how many bridesmaids you should have, we’re breaking it all down so that you can select your wedding party with ease.
So, this begs the important question: How many bridesmaids should you have?
First things first. Before we jump into how many bridesmaids you should have in your bridal party, let's quickly cover what, exactly, a bridesmaid does.
Bridesmaids have a few different responsibilities before and during the wedding, including:
Now that you know what a bridesmaid does, let's jump into how to determine how many bridesmaids is the right number for your big day.
Traditionally, the number of people in your wedding party is determined by both the number of guests invited to your wedding and how formal your event is. If you’re having a formal wedding with 200+ people, you can have up to 12 attendants, as well as a ring bearer and a flower girl. If you’re having a smaller, more intimate wedding or a less formal wedding, you’d cut that number down proportionally. (The average number of bridesmaids hovers around six.)
Again, this is just a general rule of thumb—and there are plenty of brides that throw that rule of thumb out the window and have as many (or as few) attendants as they want. How many bridesmaids you have at your wedding is 100 percent your choice—no matter the number of guests or formality of your event.
That being said, consider how many people would be standing at the altar versus in the crowd, and how everyone will fit at the front of the wedding ceremony space to help determine how many bridesmaids to ask (or where to have them stand for the “I dos”). For example, if you're only having 25 people at your wedding, it might feel a little off balance to ask 10 people to be your bridesmaids—and have all 10 of them stand next to you at the altar.
If you're having men in your wedding, it's hard to consider how many bridesmaids to ask to be in your wedding without also considering how many bridesmaids and groomsmen you want to round out your wedding party.
Some couples feel strongly that they need to have the same number of bridesmaids and groomsmen for a cohesive wedding day look. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with having equal numbers on both sides, it can result in selecting (or cutting) people that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Try not to feel stuck in the idea that you and your SO need the same number of attendants; that way you can both select exactly who feels right on your big day—without trying to add or eliminate people based on what the other person is doing.
If you’re worried about unbalanced photos—don’t be! Modern photographers are pros at coordinating uneven parties; with their handiwork, you won’t even notice the mismatched numbers in your photos.
While you’re selecting your bridesmaids, remember: You don’t need to have only bridesmaids. Many couples are bucking tradition, including all of their best friends and closest loved ones in their wedding party, regardless of their gender identity—and we are here for it.
Is your brother the closest person to you? Instead of having a maid of honor, ask your brother to be your man of honor. Is it hard to imagine saying your "I do's" without your best guy friend by your side? Include him in your bridal party and ask him to be a bridesman. And if you're the groom? Don't be afraid to ask your sister or female bestie to be a groomswoman.
Bottom line? Having bridesmaids, groomsmen, bridesmen, and groomswomen in your wedding party allows you and your partner to have the people you care about most by your side at your wedding—so don't be afraid to buck tradition and think outside of the box.
Many couples choose to have their siblings or close family members (think cousins or step-siblings) be a part of the wedding party—even if they aren’t super close—because there’s a good chance that they'll still be a part of your life come your five, 10, and 20 year wedding anniversary. If you have a lot of siblings (or, if you don’t love the idea of including them as bridesmaids), opt for other roles such as ushers or wedding ceremony readers, so that they’re still showcased on the special day. Traditionally, plan for one usher for every 50 guests, but you can always add more if you need to assign extra roles.
At the end of the day, this event is about you and your SO. Your wedding party members should be composed of those who support your love story and will celebrate your bond long after the wedding day is over. Just because you were in someone else’s wedding (or a pal is hinting that he or she wants to be in your party), that doesn’t mean that you need to ask him or her to be a bridesmaid. Consider how often you talk to that person on a monthly basis, how many times you’ve hung out one-on-one, and how he or she would fit in with the rest of your bridesmaids. If you rarely speak or only hang out in a group, don’t stress about just inviting him or her as a guest.
Some couples pay for things such as outfits, bridesmaid hair and makeup, lodging, and transportation on the big day, but, at the bare minimum, you’ll be purchasing gifts for your party (to not only ask them, but also to thank your bridesmaids on your wedding day). Items such as robes, necklaces, water bottles, and hairpieces can really add up. Before asking your entire sorority to stand by your side, make sure that you’re comfortable with all the costs involved in having a big party, so that you don’t have to forgo things such as day-of gifts due to the costs adding up.
As mentioned, you can have any number of bridesmaids that feel right to you—and that includes having no bridesmaids at all. Plenty of couples opt for omitting a wedding party altogether for a variety of reasons—to avoid hurt feelings or people feeling left out, to center their day more around their own bond, or just to keep things simple. So, if the thought of bridesmaids stresses you out or doesn't feel right for your big day? No worries; having zero bridesmaids is totally fine.
(If you choose to go bridesmaid-free, just make sure to have some friends and family on-hand to help you get ready and/or to ensure that you don’t forget your bouquet before walking down the aisle.)
Another question—when it comes to bridesmaids, can you have too much of a good thing? Or, in other words, how many bridesmaids is too many?
In a short answer—you can never have too many bridesmaids!
Just like it’s okay to have no bridesmaids, it’s also okay to have as many bridesmaids as you want (even if your mother-in-law hates the idea). If you can’t narrow down your close friend list—or just don’t want to—feel free to have a large wedding party. While it’s helpful to consider the amount of guests in relation to your party size (12 bridesmaids might seem strange if you’re having a small wedding), it’s ultimately up to you if you’d like a big party.
It is important, however, to be conscious of how a large wedding party might affect the relationships of those you don’t choose (the pals not asked might feel more hurt if half the guest list is standing at the altar with you). Consider not only your individual relationships, but how your friends will all mix together. The last thing you’ll want to deal with on your wedding day is bridesmaid drama, so choose accordingly to make sure that everyone will get along.
While deciding how many bridesmaids you should have might feel stressful, all that matters is that your number feels right to you. The only rule here is making sure that you feel loved and supported on your wedding day, whether that means that you’ll have 20 bridesmaids by your side or none.