One of the first decisions you’ll make about your wedding is the makeup of your bridal party. Few wedding decisions are as rife with emotion (and sometimes a little familial politics) as this one. Here are some tips for staying sane and choosing the women and men who will stand with you.
Pick a number.
Before you start asking, decide how large your wedding party is going to be. A general rule is one groomsman/bridesmaid per 50 guests. Large bridal parties are usually found at more formal weddings. If your fiancé has already chosen his groomsmen, use that number as a guide, though you don’t have to match exactly if you have more or fewer people who you’d like to ask to be your attendants.
Make a list.
Make list of who you’d like to ask. Put a star next to the people who are “must haves” — those friends and family members you can’t imagine celebrating your wedding without. Also make note of the people you “should” ask. Choosing your bridal party can be complicated by family politics. Your sister(s) and future sister(s)-in-law may be expecting to be asked. Some cousins may also be expecting to be asked. When it comes to sisters, it’s usually best to include them unless there is a serious problem in your relationship. Remember that blood is thicker than water, and avoiding conflict could be the key to a happy and relaxing wedding day. (And, if you need a bargaining tool with Mom on other aspects of your wedding, this could be it.)
Once your list is set, compile a “reserve” list of people you’d like to ask if someone on the A-Team says no.
Think about relationships.
Choose people with whom you’d like to share your wedding day. Your grade school friend probably won’t remember the pact you made when you were eight to be in each other’s weddings — unless you’re still close and part of each other’s lives. Choose people you’re close to now rather than friends from many years ago who you’ve lost touch with. You also don’t have to ask every friend for whom you served as a bridesmaid.
Will you be asking your bridesmaids to attend every party and shower as well as help you with dress shopping, favor assembly and invitation addressing? A friend who lives several states away may not be able to fulfill the role you’ve envisioned for your bridesmaids.
Will you be asking bridesmaids to perform important duties without your involvement? Make sure the people you choose are reliable and organized. The last thing you need is to be hounding them all the time to get things done or scrambling at the last minute to finish a task that didn’t get completed.
No matter how much you’ve asked of your bridal party, remember to say thank you to them. Most couples give their bridal party members a gift of some sort to thank them for their friendship and support throughout the wedding process. Not sure what to give? Some quick ideas:
Maid/Matron of Honor and Bridesmaids: The most traditional gift for bridesmaids is one most are sure to love: Jewelry. Many brides choose to give them something dressy that they can wear on the wedding day and anytime they want to go a little more glam. Another common bridesmaid gift is something monogrammed, like travel bags, glassware, or other accessories. Personalized gifts are a fun way to give something unique to each girl – remember that the gifts you give don’t have to be exactly the same. Think of each person’s interests and hobbies as you shop.
Best Man and Groomsmen: The two most common groomsmen gifts seem to be flasks and cufflinks, both of which can be personalized. If you give a flask, it’s fun to fill it with the recipient’s favorite libation or to include a gift certificate to his favor liquor store. Cufflinks can be worn on the wedding day. Other types of barware – from glasses to tools – make fun gifts for the guy who likes to entertain. Or, think of his hobbies – golf, sports, hiking, travel, woodworking, etc. – and find a gift that complements something he loves to do.