Weddings

Bridal Party Etiquette: Who to Include

Choose your bridal party carefully for a drama-free event

By Jen Whitten

Bridal Party in Purple Wedding Attire
Photo by John Partridge PhotographyBookmark and Share

Unless you live the life of a fairytale princess, your wedding is your one chance to dress in a gorgeous gown and be the center of attention while marrying the man of your dreams. Before getting lost in tulle-covered reveries, however, you must select who will stand beside you on your special day, as well as help you with the planning details in months leading up to it.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Make a list of all the potential bridal party members and narrow it down after considering the expectations of family and friends.
  • Reliability should be a top priority when considering bridesmaids and groomsmen.
  • The number of bridesmaids is typically equal to the number of groomsmen. Discuss with your fiance to make sure the number works for both of you.
  • Being a bridesmaid can be expensive because of clothing costs, contributing to bachelorette party costs and travelling to the wedding. Consider your friends' financial situations when choosing your bridal party.

Step 1:

Consider your options. Although blurting out the news of your pending marriage and asking someone to be in the bridal party feels like the most natural thing in the world, resist the urge. It is far easier to ask than it is to withdraw the invitation.

Step 2:

Decide on the size of the bridal party before asking anyone. The size of the wedding party be in proportion.

Step 3:

Make a list of your family members. Do you have sisters or close female cousins? Don't make any selections right now; just write them down.

Step 4:

Consider his family. While the logical place to start is on your side of the family, do not neglect your future in-laws. Does your fiance have a sister? Will you soon have a new stepdaughter? Even if these are not your best pals, they are about to be family. Inviting them to be part of your bridal party is not only a nice gesture, but it lays the groundwork for a new familial bond.

Step 5:

Think about your friends. Who among them supports your relationship with your soon-to-be husband the most? Who is there for you when you need her without fail? Add these friends to the list.

Step 6:

Have a reality check. Is the size of your list much longer than the number of available bridal party spaces? This is normal. It's also why you haven't started asking people yet.

Step 7:

Evaluate the list. If anyone on the list is not close to you, cut her. Consider cutting anyone who's having financial difficulties. Bridesmaid dresses and hair appointments are expensive; putting extra monetary strain on those who can least afford it diminishes the honor of being asked.

Step 8:

Seek advice. Get input from your fiance, mother, best friend or wedding planner when in doubt. A little outside perspective can often make all the difference in the world. If you absolutely cannot cut the last extra name from the list, then discuss adding an extra bridesmaid with your fiance, since he will likely need to choose an additional groomsman to keep the wedding party even.

Step 9:

Talk to your friends and family who will not be part of the wedding. Obviously, you are under no obligation to contact someone you have not spoken to in years to let her know she won't be a bridesmaid, but close friends and family members deserve more than a quick email (or worse, nothing at all). Schedule a time to talk to each person alone when you will not be rushed. If you're cutting your close friend over financial difficulties, be open with her about how much you want her next to you at the ceremony, but that you do not want to put extra strain on her bank account. This places the ball in her court to remove herself from the the bridal party. If there's a friend you must cut for another reason, be honest, but be tactful. For example, if she is not in the wedding because you must add your future sister-in-law to smooth family relations, explain that. A true friend may be disappointed at first, but she wants you to be happy on your special day. Consider asking her to participate in the ceremony another way. Remember, the way you go about having this conversation will make all the difference to your relationship with your friend and her feelings about your wedding.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Be honest about your relationship with each person you consider. Your childhood best friend might have seemed like an obvious choice when you were kids dreaming about your future weddings, but if you have not spoken in years, then she is an easy cut.
  • Include anyone who cannot be part of the bridal party by giving her a role in the ceremony or reception, such as singing a song or giving a reading.
  • Always remain composed if someone declines your invitation. They still care about you; they just have other obligations.
  • Never invite someone to be a bridesmaid because she throws a temper tantrum or tries to guilt-trip you. You don't need the extra drama of a difficult bridesmaid.

About the Author

Jen Whitten is a freelance writer and worked in the event and wedding planning fields.

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Once you determine your approach to the bridesmaids' dresses, follow suit with their flowers. Formal affairs may call for smaller simpler versions of your bouquet. For a more casual wedding, bridesmaids may carry different arrangements, each highlighting different colors from your bouquet.

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Wedding Glossary

PASHMINA

A wrap of fine cashmere wool that women drape over their shoulders to keep warm when wearing formal attire. A common bridesmaids gift.

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