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 act as your bridesmaids can be challenging. From family members to childhood pals, work connections to new friends, there are a lot of people to consider. 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?
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 or less formal wedding, you’d cut the number down proportionally. Again, this is just a rule of thumb and isn’t strictly adhered to in modern times. It’s your choice how many (or how few) attendants to have on your big day, no matter the number of guests or formality.
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”).
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 that, 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 personally-set restrictions. If you’re worried about unbalanced photos—don’t be! Modern photographers are pros at coordinating uneven parties, and you won’t even notice the mismatched numbers in the photo.
While you’re selecting your bridesmaids, remember: You don’t need to have only bridesmaids. The traditional roles have been altered for the modern age, and we are here for it. Don’t leave your best guy friend or brother out. If you don’t like the idea of them being groomsmen, consider asking them to be bridesmen (or on the flip side, if you’re having groomsmen, don’t be afraid to ask a sister or bestie to be a groomswoman). This way, they can stand on your side (literally) and support you on your big day (and they’ll match your side as opposed to your partner’s).
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 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, 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 them 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.
While the average amount of bridesmaids is around six, you can have any number that feels right—or no bridesmaids at all. Plenty of couples opt for omitting a wedding party altogether to avoid hurt feelings and center their day more around their own bond. 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.
Just like it’s okay to have no bridesmaids, it’s also okay to have many (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.