(Consider this your bridal party FAQ)
You and your partner won’t be the only ones standing up at the altar on your wedding day. Your wedding party—bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, and ring bearers—will be up there, too, supporting the two of you as you exchange your vows. That part may be easy enough, but deciding who gets a spot on the team? Not so much.
We’ve rounded up the answers to 11 major questions that might be running through your mind to help you narrow down that list of VIPs.
Nope. While even wedding parties are traditional (and make that arm-in-arm walk down the aisle a little easier), there’s no rule saying you’ve got to have the exact same number of people standing on each side of the altar. For an uneven wedding party, have two bridesmaids walk down the aisle with one groomsman, or have an extra groomsman walk solo at the beginning of the processional. You could also have the men and women process separately if you’re unsure how the groupings will look. Consider setting out seating or lounge furniture for the wedding party to sit on at the altar, which will mask a big difference in numbers, or have a mix of bridesmaids and groomsmen standing on each side for a more even split, regardless of how many more men than women there might be.
The number of maids of honour or best men (or best women/groomsladies or men of honour) is totally up to you. So if you can’t decide between your sister and your BFF, or if your groom has two brothers, give them both that title. This will also ease some of the responsibilities of the role by dividing it between two or more people. When it comes to toasts, they can either all speak individually or write toasts together for speeches that are dialogues instead of monologues.
If you have a small wedding party or simply can’t decide which friend to nominate, you can definitely go without a maid of honour. However, you will want to make sure those maid of honour duties (like planning the bachelorette party) are distributed among your ‘maids so nothing gets overlooked. One bridesmaid may stand out as more of a leader when it comes to planning, but you don’t have to give her a different title.
Of course, just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean all of your besties are, too. You can buck tradition as much or as little as you want when it comes to including your best guy friend in your wedding party. Instead of bridesmaids, consider ditching the labels and simply asking each of your closest friends to stand by your side during your ceremony. You could have him wear a suit that matches the groomsmen and a tie that matches the bridesmaids’ dresses, or simply give everyone a color scheme and a style and let them go to town. (Pro tip: A gray suit happens to look fantastic with a blush shirt.)
While many brides do opt to nominate their sister(s) as maid of honour, there’s no hard-and-fast rule saying you absolutely must. Especially if she’s younger, you might want to give that title to a friend who will be able to fill the role more fully. If you don’t ask your sister to be maid of honour, you may still want to set her apart in some way, whether it’s with a special accessory, a different bouquet, or the seat right next to you at the head table.
Younger children usually fill the role of flower girl or junior bridesmaid, but if the child in question is your own daughter, by all means make her the maid of honour. Of course, she probably won’t be able to fulfill all of the maid of honour’s duties (especially if she’s of elementary-school age or younger), so consider also asking a close friend to serve as “deputy maid of honour.” She’ll be able to include your daughter in planning your bridal shower, as well as cover the responsibilities your daughter may be too young to take on.
Including your future siblings-in-law in the wedding party is always a good idea. After all, they’re almost family, and snubbing them could start you off on the wrong foot. However, including them in your wedding party will depend on the size you’re envisioning, as well as family relationships. If the two of you are happy to have a huge wedding party, by all means include all of your siblings on both sides of the aisle. But if you’ve got your heart set on only three or four attendants each, don’t worry. You can always include your siblings in the ceremony by asking them to serve as ushers, inviting them to escort your grandparents down the aisle, or having them do readings as part of the proceedings. And make sure they all have corsages and boutonnieres to denote their VIP status.
Ideally, you should ask your friends to be in your wedding party within a few months of getting engaged—especially if you’ll be getting married in 12 months or less. But before you send out those “Will You Be My Bridesmaid?” gifts, think about your guest list, which will help you determine how big of a wedding party you’ll want. For a small wedding (we’re talking 50 people, max), having eight bridesmaids and eight groomsmen will feel totally off balance—and will leave those few remaining friends wondering why they didn’t make the cut. However, if you’re thinking you’ll have almost 200 people in attendance, you can go larger with your wedding party without making the pews at the church feel empty. Whatever size seems right for you, make sure to ask everyone at the same time—especially if the potential bridesmaids and groomsmen are in the same social circles.
Child attendants are usually between the ages of four and seven, though they can go up to age nine or so. Those over age nine are often promoted to junior bridesmaid or groomsman. If the kids are under four, you run the risk of them not taking direction well or (understandably) getting shy or nervous in front of a crowd and abandoning their duties. If you have a range of ages, ask the older children to act as leaders, helping the younger ones down the aisle. And don’t forget those gummy-bear bribes under their parents’ or grandparents’ seats up at the front.
A junior bridesmaid is a younger member of the wedding party who falls squarely into that age gap between “flower girl” and “bridesmaid” (usually about eight to 16, or whatever ages you feel are appropriate). She might be a younger sister or sister-in-law, a niece, a cousin, a daughter, or a close family friend. Essentially, if she is important to you and your partner and she falls in the age range you’ve determined, she’s the perfect candidate.
While including younger women in your bridal party is a great way to honor them and acknowledge the important role they play in your life, a junior bridesmaid isn’t a “must-have.” So if there aren’t any special young women in your life who you’d like to include, don’t sweat it. On the other hand, if there’s a little guy in your life you’d rather include—go for it. Most important thing to remember: It’s your party, so include (or don’t include) whoever you want.
Having a great group of bridesmaids to support you as you’re planning your wedding is an incredible asset, but be wary of taking advantageof their friendship or going beyond the boundaries of bridesmaid duties. The best rule of thumb? Don’t ask your bridesmaids to do anything you aren’t willing to pitch in and help out with yourself. If it’s better left to the pros, do just that.
Don’t ask your bridesmaids to pay for anything beyond the scope of their own duties, and don’t have them handle your dirty work (e.g., fighting with your partner or in-laws, or firing a vendor). They are there for support and love, and to offer a helping hand—to an extent.