How Many Bridesmaids Should You Have?

5 bouquets with colorful flowers and ribbon.

After you get engaged and finally sit down to plan your wedding, one of the first things you’ll think about is how many bridesmaids to have in your bridal party. Bridesmaids, while largely symbolic, are still an important part of the ceremony. And let’s face it: they can be a big help in preventing the bride from losing her mind during the wedding planning process.

Depending on your age when you get married, you’ve probably gathered friends from all stages of your life, from elementary school to coworkers. Out of all these wonderful friends you’ve made over the years, you probably have a good idea of who you’d like to stand beside you as you say your vows to the person you love the most. But how many friends is too many? Are there any set rules? Here’s what you need to know about the official rules on bridesmaids—and why we think it’s totally okay to break them.

Traditionally, it Depends on Your Guest List

Bridesmaids walking in long gray dresses against a green landscape.

If you are really dead set on doing things “by the book,” then here are the rules you need to know.

Traditionally, you choose your number of attendants by how many guests are invited to the wedding, taking into consideration how formal your wedding is. For example, if you are going to have more than 200 guests at a formal wedding, it’s appropriate to have up to 12 attendants (and one ring bearer, one flower girl, and one usher for every 50 guests). The smaller your wedding, the smaller the attendant list. So, if you have a wedding with 100 guests, you would cut the number of attendants in half to six instead of 12 and opt for only two ushers.

These rules are fine, but they don’t take special situations into consideration such as having eight best friends or only having one really great friend. The original role of the bridesmaid was to wear a similar outfit to the bride so that she would “trick” any evil spirits that may have wished to harm the bride and groom. Since tradition isn’t the most reliable source of practicality, we think it’s completely okay to ditch it.

There’s No Set Amount

A bride surrounded by 4 bridesmaids with large pastel bouquets.

The truth is that it doesn’t really matter if you have the “correct” amount of bridesmaids. You can have one or 12—or have a different number of attendants than your partner. You can even have a member of the opposite sex be your attendant.

The hard part about having bridesmaids is that you have to choose between friends, which can get difficult. However, if you don’t want to have 10 people standing up beside you at the wedding (which is completely understandable) you can still make your close friends feel included in the wedding by asking them to man the guestbook, usher, or lend their specific talents to the celebration in other ways. And remember: being a bridesmaid in someone else’s wedding doesn’t make you obligated to ask them to be a bridesmaid in your wedding.

Choose to Have no Attendants at All

A bride and groom in front of their clapping wedding guests.

There’s a myth when you’re planning a wedding that you have to do things a certain way—but modern weddings are all about flexibility and bending the rules. While traditionally brides have had bridesmaids and grooms have had groomsmen, there’s no reason why you need to follow tradition just because you feel forced.

Some brides and grooms just want a simple ceremony without any muss or fuss and adding more people into the equation can complicate planning with scheduling and logistics. Some brides or grooms may have been married before and don’t want to have the traditional ceremony because they don’t feel it’s appropriate or because they’ve already done it the traditional way. And some brides and grooms are older and their friends may not be interested in putting on a bridesmaid dress after a certain age. Whatever the reason, it’s completely okay to have your ceremony just be focused on the two of you.

Choose the People who Mean the Most to You

A bride in a lace dress being greeted by her excited bridesmaids.

When you’re trying to narrow down how many bridesmaids you want to have, a good rule of thumb is to think about the people who have meant the most throughout your life. Who has been there for you in every stage of your life, no matter how far away you’ve lived or how busy they got? Who did you want to tell when you started dating your future spouse? And lastly (and maybe most importantly), who do you think will be there for you in the long haul? Inevitably, friends grow apart as life gets busier, but who out of all your friends do you think will stand the test of time? As you’re trying to choose which friends or family members should be your attendants, these are a few things to consider.

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