After getting engaged, one of the first steps that couples like to take is to ask pals to be a part of their wedding party. While it’s exciting to select your VIPs for the special day, it can be tricky to decide who should stand by your side. Your bridal party will be by your side from the bachelorette party to the altar, so the stakes are high. If you’re wondering how to choose bridesmaids for your big day, we’re breaking everything down so that you can select with confidence.
When deciding who to select as a bridesmaid, the first step is to consider your wedding size. If you’re having a small, intimate ceremony with twenty or so people, a bridal party of 10 bridesmaids might seem a little strange (and could cause some hurt feelings if the few friends in the audience feel left out). Think about how many people would be standing at the altar versus in the crowd, how they’ll fit in the front of the ceremony space, and whether or not you want the same number of bridesmaids and groomsmen.
It’s no secret that weddings can be pricey, not just for the couple getting married but for their chosen wedding party, too. Not only should you be conscious of the costs that you're asking your bridesmaids to pay (such as for bachelor/bachelorette trips, lodging, and their outfits on the big day), but be receptive to how much you plan to dish out for each maid. Some couples pay for things such as outfits, hair and makeup, lodging, or transportation on the big day, but, at the bare minimum, you’ll be purchasing gifts for your party (to not only ask them, but to thank them on your wedding day). Things such as robes, necklaces, water bottles, and hairpieces can really add up, so make sure that you’re comfortable with those costs before asking every sister in your sorority to stand by your side.
No matter what your relationship looks like, there’s a good chance that your siblings will be in attendance at your wedding. The reason that many couples choose to have them be a part of the wedding party (even if they aren’t super close), is that they'll probably still be in the picture come time to celebrate on your fifth, 10th, and 20th wedding anniversary. If you have a lot of siblings (or don’t feel comfortable giving them all the ultimate roles of honor), find other ways to incorporate them in the ceremony, such as serving as readers or ushers. Keep in mind this also rings true for your partner’s siblings; so, for example, if your partner has a sister, you should consider asking your future sister-in-law to be a bridesmaid.
When it comes time to determine which of your friends will stand by your side, it can be tricky to narrow down a list of pals. From childhood friends to your college best friend, work relationships to neighbors, you probably have a lot of important people in your life. While some people are expected (such as your lifelong BFF or twin sister), others are more challenging when determining whether they belong in a matching gown or just on the guest list.
A few things to consider are how often you talk to them on a monthly basis, how many times you’ve hung out one-on-one, and how they’d fit in with the rest of your bridesmaids. A good rule: If you speak rarely or only hang out in a group, chances are, they’re not really one of your close friends—and, as such, don’t need to be in a bridesmaid dress.
Being a bridesmaid is a privilege—but it’s also a responsibility. Your bridesmaids aren’t just the people that will stand by your side on your wedding day; they should also be by your side in the weeks and months leading up to your wedding day—whether that’s by going wedding dress shopping with you, prioritizing your pre-wedding events (like your bridal shower or engagement party), and providing emotional support if and when you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
It’s a tall order—and not every one of your friends will be able to fulfill it. Before you ask someone to be your bridesmaid, make sure they’re the kind of person who can (and will!) show up for you throughout the process.
In an ideal world, you’d be able to ask exactly who you want to be in your wedding without causing hurt feelings, but the reality is that this isn’t always the case. Whether it’s your lunch group from work or the friends you get brunch with on Sundays, chances are that you’ll be faced with having to pick and choose from different groups of friends. If you leave one person out, you can bet it will cause some strife, so it’s a good idea to really consider the ramifications of group dynamics.
A good solution is just choosing one or two people from different friend groups to act as the “representative” for that section of your life. However, if you’re looking to ask the majority of your group, you might want to think twice. If you have the budget (and space at the altar) to add in an extra bridesmaid, so as not to leave anyone out, consider it for the sake of your friend group, or opt to eliminate them altogether. It seems harsh, but when you return to normal life post “I do,” you’ll be glad that you didn’t cause stress amongst your pals.
Some couples lean heavily on their wedding party for help with tasks leading up to, and on, the day of the wedding (like stuffing wedding invitations into envelopes or helping to set up the ceremony space on your wedding day)—whereas others manage everything pretty much on their own.
If your idea of bridesmaid duty involves lots of help, more bridesmaids might be a good idea; that way, you have enough hands to make sure everything gets done.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to select your wedding party. Don’t feel like you need to ask someone just because you wore a bridesmaid’s dress at their wedding, or because they expect to stand by your side. While the average amount of bridesmaids is between four and six, you can have any number that feels right, including no bridesmaids at all. Remember, there’s no rule here, so do what really feels right. It’s important, however, to be conscious of your choices and how they’ll affect your relationships and group dynamic. 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. If you’re on the fence about a pal, or really feel like you want to add someone, do it. Trust yourself and you’ll have a solid group of babes helping you get ready on your way to “I do.”
When choosing your wedding party, don’t feel like you’re limited by gender. If one of your dearest people is a man, there’s no reason they can’t stand by your side as you say your “I do’s!” Bridesmen—which is the male equivalent of bridesmaids—are becoming more and more popular. And if the closest friend or family member in your life is a man (for example, your twin brother or your childhood bestie), you could have a man of honor in place of a maid of honor.
While the bridesmaids make up the core part of your bridal party, they’re not the only people you should consider. If you have any special children in your life (like a younger cousin or your best friend’s daughter), you may also want to add “choosing junior bridesmaids and/or flower girls” to your wedding planning checklist.
Whether an important child in your life gets the title of junior bridesmaid or flower girl will depend on their age. Generally, junior bridesmaids would fall in the tween or teen category (for example, 10 to 15)—while flower girls are generally younger (between 2 and 7).
Still have questions about how to choose bridesmaids? Here are a few FAQs to help you navigate the process:
How many bridesmaids can you have in a wedding party? You can have as many—or as few—bridesmaids as you want in your wedding party. If you have 10 close friends that you want in your wedding party, great! If it feels better to keep your bridal party small—and only have your sister and your childhood BFF—that’s also fine. It’s your wedding and your bridesmaids; do what feels right for you!
Can someone be a bridesmaid if they can’t attend pre-wedding events? If there’s a legitimate reason a bridesmaid can’t attend your pre-wedding events, like the bridal shower or bachelorette party (for example, if they live on the opposite coast and can’t afford to travel for multiple events), that’s understandable. But if you have a bridesmaid that just doesn’t want to attend, you may want to think twice before asking them to be in your wedding party.
Do you have to have bridesmaids? If the thought of choosing bridesmaids stresses you out—or there’s really no one you want to be in your wedding party—not to worry. You absolutely don’t have to include bridesmaids in your wedding.
At the end of the day, the event is about you and your SO. Ask those who support your love story to be a part of your wedding party, because they will not only celebrate you on your wedding day, but for years to come.