How Do You Decide Your Wedding Party

Full wedding party on ship deck

It’s a decision that can brighten the day, break hearts, and leave you feeling regretful all at the same time. Choosing the people that stand beside you on your wedding day is a huge responsibility. It’s such a big decision that I began a list back in college when I didn’t even have a boyfriend. That list changed a bit throughout the years, but when the time came to marry my sweetheart, it suddenly became a reality. Don’t worry, you don’t need to start a list ten years beforehand to have enough time to narrow it down. You just need to follow a few guidelines that’ll make it a little easier.

Set a Number

Bride and bridesmaids

It’s up to you how many people you want standing on each side. You can have none, you can have six, you can have 26, it’s really your decision, but knowing this number up front will help you pare down your list of potentials early.

First, keep in mind the more attendants you have, the more details you must manage. Most weddings see bridesmaids and groomsmen in a coordinating dresses and tuxes. Whether you’re the bride or the groom, you’ll be in charge of deciding what they wear and, in some cases, in charge of paying for it. Less can go wrong when you’re looking for the same dress in three sizes than if you’re looking for one in 10. Additionally, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, and the rehearsal dinner usually include the attendants so it might be difficult organizing these while balancing the schedules of many people.

Don’t forget to consult your fiance when coming up with this number. The groom may have five brothers and two best friends, while the bride may have just a couple close friends. If you want the sides to balance (which they don’t have to if you don’t mind), then you will both need to come up with ideas of how you can get your perfect number. My husband and I both had many people we call best friends. If left up to us, we might’ve gone wild and had 16 people on each side. However, we knew 16 people was too many to keep up with and too many to buy gifts for so we both decided just eight was more acceptable for both of us.

Think First, Ask Later

Since I had my trusty list for such a long time, it seems like I already had a rough draft of who I wanted going to stand beside me at my wedding, right? True, but I still had to mull it over again multiple times. Once you ask someone to be in your wedding party, the question is already out there. You can’t take it back even if you decide they may not be in your life forever. Be patient and think through each person you’re considering. Sometimes at the beginning, you think a friendship will last, but it might not work out that way, so don’t dive in headfirst. Ask yourself if this person is going to be around when you reach your 50 year wedding anniversary. If you aren’t 100 percent sure their friendship has some staying power, then consider letting them slip to the guest list.

The Sibling Conundrum

Sisters posing together

Family is going to be in your life for a very long time, even if you only see them a few times a year, and some people are very close with siblings and cousins. There is almost no question, then, when family gets bumped to the top of the wedding party list. However, this isn’t true for everyone. Don’t stick have family in your wedding just because you feel obligated. I wasn’t as close to my sister-in-law when I got married so I gave her a job as a greeter instead of having her in my wedding party. This way she was still a part of the wedding even if she wasn’t a bridesmaid.

Some people even have the issue of having too many siblings. In the era where step-families are increasingly common, it’s not unheard of to have six or seven brothers and sisters. If you only want four attendants on each side, how do you choose who gets to stand with you? Choose someone if you’re close to them, but otherwise, don’t invite anyone just because you think you must.

Choosing Your Co-Pilot

Best man with the wedding rings

One of the hardest decisions is often choosing the top billing, the Best Man and Maid of Honor who will be right with you holding the rings or your bouquet (and usually planning all of your pre-wedding events). Many people pick a best friend, sibling, or other family member, but it’s your wedding so it’s up to you. My friend has two best friends, which made the stressful decision of Maid of Honor eat at her for days. She finally decided on her cousin instead, so she didn’t have to put one friend in front of the other. You can even choose to have multiple Best Men or Maids of Honor if you feel it fits you and your wedding party.

You Don’t Have To Return The Favor

When you’ve been invited to be in a wedding in the past, it always feels like you should return the favor! But your wedding isn’t a time to worry about others’ happiness. Just because you were in your college friend’s wedding ten years ago and you haven’t spoken since then doesn’t mean you have to track her down and give her a special spot. Remember different brides have different weddings. Your friend may have had eight bridesmaids and you only want four. There’s no rule book that states you have to stretch your budget and stress yourself out just because you stood in someone else’s wedding. If the person confronts you about this decision, explain yourself as clearly as you can.

No matter what you do, there may still be some hurt feelings when someone doesn’t make the cut for the bridal party. Just do your best to communicate with everyone honestly and openly and they will hopefully understand. You can even appease some of those hurt feelings by giving those you’ve left out other roles, like being an usher, greeter, or reader. They will feel special with a title and you won’t be as stressed, so it’s a win for everyone!

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