After the guy and the dress, perhaps the most important decision you’ll make is your bridal party. Few wedding decisions are as rife with emotion (and sometimes a little family politics) as this one. Here are some tips for staying sane and choosing the women (or 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 to have 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.
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 with whom you’ve lost touch. 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.
Consider your friends’ lives.
If you know a friend is having some financial trouble, be honest about the cost of the dress you’ll be asking the bridesmaids to buy. Remember that she’ll also have travel costs if she’s coming from out of town. If you can’t imagine your wedding without a specific person, consider paying for her dress. And, it’s always nice to arrange for accommodations for out-of-town bridal party members.
Be sure to also think about the things happening in your friends’ lives. Demanding jobs, pregnancy, children, health issues, and relationships can take up their time and energy, making participating in your wedding more stressful for them than fun.
If you know someone was expecting to be your bridal party but isn’t — or someone asks you why she’s not — be honest. The most likely reason someone wasn’t included is because you were limited to a certain size party, not because you don’t like that person. Find other important roles for special people to play — readings, performing music, handing out programs, etc.