How to Choose Your Bridesmaids

An Indian bride with her bridesmaids in pink saris.

You got engaged—congratulations! The wedding planning process is probably set to begin, whether you’re thinking of having a short engagement or not. In typical wedding fashion, you’ve probably given thought to how you can honor the friends and family in your life who are good options for your bridal party, but most women go into this stage with a bit of apprehension. After all, there are often more women who could be your bridesmaids than there are spots beside the bride.

These days, couples have found wonderful ways to creatively respect their friend groups during the wedding, from bucking tradition and having more bridesmaids than groomsmen to having no bridesmaids at all to avoid the labels. All the options are on the table, but here are a few things to guide you to the perfect group of women beside you at the altar.

Is there a clear maid of honor and do you need one?

A bride in a lace dress laughing with a bridesmaid.

Choosing a maid of honor (MOH) out of your bridesmaids is easy if you have, say, one sister—but it gets dicey in a group. One of the ways people rationalize this choice is choosing either one’s closest friend, or the friend who will most enjoy or naturally manage event planning like a bachelorette party. This second rationale can nicely smooth over hurt feelings by not making the decision about closeness (a subjective term) and instead about a practical skill. You don’t have to justify to anyone who your MOH is, but it can be nice to have an easy-to-explain reason.

Some people may say no…and they are still your friends!

You may have perfectly calibrated your four bridesmaids to your husband’s four groomsmen, only to find out that one of your closest friends simply cannot be at the wedding. Life throws unexpected wrenches into our lives, and expecting a close friend to prove her love by being free on one particular Saturday afternoon is really too much in most cases. If this happens to you, find someone else to ask, but also find a way to reach out to that friend who said no. If you can have a good heart to heart, you’ll both feel better about the fact that she can’t be a part of the celebration.

Can you split up friend groups without hurt feelings?

A group of female friends laughing on a rooftop.

It’s easy to say you are “close” to a friend or that you and your cousin are “not that close,” but feelings can easily get hurt when you choose bridesmaids through this method. If you have three first cousins but are only close with one or two of them, think hard about whether you want to “split up the group,” so to speak, and have only two of them as bridesmaids. This could deeply hurt the feelings of the third cousin. You are the bride, and it is ultimately your choice, but one wise and diplomatic method of choosing is to say “only sisters,” “only first cousins and sisters,” or “only my college friend group.” This way, girls who aren’t chosen see very clearly why you chose that many bridesmaids and why they themselves aren’t included.

Consider fewer bridesmaids and more “roles” in the celebration

Some brides opt to have a very small bridal party, but to also ask friends outside that circle to participate in the wedding. This can include having someone sing at the ceremony, read a poem or a passage from a sacred text, usher, do your makeup, or MC the reception. If this request is accompanied by a heartfelt note about the value of your friendship, there’s a good chance they’ll recognize and understand that you are appreciative of them and want to honor them.

Someone may not like your choices…but you’ll both get through it

In most cases, a bride never finds out if someone wished they were a bridesmaid; generally, everyone seems to note that the bride is busy with a lot of things and she would never intentionally slight someone. However, if word does get back to you that someone is sad they weren’t chosen, you don’t have to feel bad. You are faced with a very odd situation of having to essentially “rank” your friends, with some making the cut and some not. Rather than changing your mind, try to get ahead of the problem and talk with your friend. Validate your friendship, but let them know you’ve gone in a different direction with the bridal party. It doesn’t take a ton of time, and it will mean a lot to them.

With these understandings, you have the ability to choose a bridal party that is meaningful to you. Once you’ve worked out who will be your bridesmaid, you get to move on to other parts of wedding planning with a group of trusted friends for advice, which can be one of the most satisfying parts of the planning process.

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