One of the biggest, and often most difficult, decisions that you have to make when planning your wedding is deciding on who will be in your wedding party. This decision is extremely important as they will play a major part in how your day turns out. However, making this decision can be more difficult than you think and, if you don’t handle it well, can end in tears.
To begin with, before deciding who is going to be in your wedding party, it is important to work out exactly what the role of the wedding party is. By understanding this, you will be able to choose people who are suited to the task.
The over-riding role of the wedding party is to support the bride and groom. Each member of the wedding party should be available in the lead up to the wedding to help the bride and groom prepare for the big day, whether it be helping them resolve a catering crisis or picking up the suits from the suit hire shop.
The head bridesmaid and the best man also have particular duties which they traditionally carry out on or before the day. This can include things such as paying the celebrant (on behalf of the groom) or organising the hen’s party.
At the reception, the wedding party (especially the groomsmen) often have more public roles, such as doing speeches, reading out the telegrams and e-mails and handing out the wedding cake.
For a more extensive list of the specific roles of the various members of the wedding party, click here.
To begin with, there are no hard and fast rules as to who should comprise your wedding party. A good place to start is with the two of you deciding how many people you want to include in the wedding party. This will partly be determined by the size of your wedding - for example, a large wedding can accommodate more than 3 bridesmaids whereas a small family gathering may be better suited to just two attendants each. You should also keep in mind that the more attendants you have, the greater the cost as each one needs to be attired, transported etc.
The next difficulty lies in deciding who should fill the roles – should it be friends or family or a combination of both. This is often a difficult decision as there are usually a few people expecting to be asked. You need to remember however that this is your day and you need to be happy with the decision.
Many brides and grooms-to-be ask their siblings as well a best friend. However, if you have several siblings of both sexes and a couple of really close friends, the wedding party can start to get a bit out of control. Of course, while you would love to include everyone, it’s not usually feasible to have a wedding party that includes half of your guests! So how do you choose?
Now you shouldn’t feel obligated to ask your sisters or brothers nor to ask someone whom you have been an attendant for in the past. But be warned - these people may very well be expecting to be part of your wedding party so you will need to think about how you are going to approach it. Everyone knows a horror story of the friends who fell out over not being picked to be a bridesmaid so don’t let that be you. A good way to choose is to think about who was the first person (outside of your parents, of course) that you told about the wedding, who was really pleased and keen to help out? Is the friend who you spend all of your time with now perhaps a better choice than your friend from school who you haven’t seen since you were 16? There is no need to include everyone as by inviting guests to your wedding you are showing them how important they are to you. The wedding party doesn’t have to be your ‘best and only’ it can be your close friends who were keen to be involved.
Think about who has the right personality to be around you for one of the most stressful events of your life, who is going to enjoy being part of the day, love having their photo taken, want to run around after you and help out. It is also good to pick someone who will get on with the other attendants and make the day fun. Don’t ask your best friend who is painfully shy and hates to be the centre of attention as they will be walking down the aisle, having their photo taken and probably have to make a speech – why put either of you through it. A nice approach to this could be to tell them you would love to have them but understand that it might be too much for them. Also you can include siblings in your special day without them being in the wedding party. For example, it is great to have friends and family acting as ushers or doing readings.
We asked a few brides about how their bridal parties worked out.
Lynda told us that she really regretted having four bridesmaids as it made it very difficult to organise and her sister was nothing but a pain on the day. “She kind of resented that I had gotten married before her and spent most of the day and photos looking angry. Years on, we still laugh at her frown in the wedding shots but I really wish that I had involved her in some other way” recalls Lynda.
Rachel said that she loved her bridesmaid. She and her husband John had decided to just have one attendant each as the wedding was pretty low-key. She had two sisters and he had a brother and sister so they decide instead to just have one of their close friends each and get her sisters to do readings, John’s brother to be the MC and John’s sister to be a flower girl. This way everyone felt involved and John and Rachel could enjoy the day without any stress “Organising friends was far easier than getting all of our siblings to get on!”
Another bride, Caroline told us that here was never any question that she was going to have her sisters in the wedding party. She had both her younger sisters and a friend while Steve, her husband, had three close friends. “It was great as Steve’s mates were really lovely with the girls and I think by the end of the day they each had a crush on each other! This made the photos look fabulous as everyone had a great time which was exactly the look we were going for”.
Susanne always regretted not having a wedding party. “We had decided that it wasn’t necessary as we had a very small wedding. However, on the day I really missed having someone with me to get excited/nervous with. I feel a bit jealous when I hear others stories about the fun they had with their bridesmaids and seeing the group photos. We had a great day but if I had to do it over I would have one”.
From talking with these brides, it is obvious that there is no formula that is going to work for everyone. A wedding photographer who we spoke to told us that, from his point of view (ie getting the best photos), it is usually best to have people in the wedding party who already know one another. They are more likely to get on and they tend to have more fun, which is reflected in the photos. It can be difficult to get an energy into the photos when the wedding party don’t know one another. He has also had occasions where family in the wedding party were reluctant to “play along” with the things that the photographer wanted and complained more about having to have their photos taken!! You don’t want to feel like you need to get the photos over and done with quickly just because some members of your wedding party are bored only to regret later on that you didn’t get enough shots.
While it sounds a bit trite, it is true that this is your wedding day and it only happens once. While we are not suggesting you upset anyone, you need to choose the people that will make the day best for you and not choose out of a sense of obligation. Make sure that you choose people you are going to make you feel relaxed and let you concentrate on the things that are really important – getting married and having fun!
- Don’t choose someone because you feel obliged to – choose people who will be best to support you and make your day special.
- If there are people who you think are expecting to in your wedding party who you aren’t going to choose, let them know beforehand and, if possible, give them other roles on your day, such as being an usher or doing a reading.
- You don’t have to have a “best” man or “chief” bridesmaid , however, if you don’t you will need to split up the traditional roles across your wedding party.
- Choose a size of wedding party to suit the size of your wedding – if you are having 20 guests, it’s probably not worth having eight people on each side of the wedding party!.
- If people aren’t happy about not being included in the wedding party, don’t let it get you down – this is your day and you have the right to have it exactly as you want it.