Everything You Need to Know About Having a Bridal Party

Planning on having bridesmaids? You should have a handle on the etiquette.
by The Knot

Managing your bridesmaids is no easy task (and it's pretty much inevitable that issues will arise). That's why it's important to have a hold on the etiquette before everything begins so you can navigate the potential chaos. Find everything you need to know about successfully having a bridal party, below. 

There's no rule of thumb on how many bridesmaids you can have. 

No, there's no such thing as too many bridesmaids and you shouldn't be concerned about proportions (so go ahead and scrap that x amount of attendants to x amount of guests "rule"). Also, you don't need an even number of groomsmen to bridesmaids unless you're seriously concerned about optics—but we think it'll look just fine either way.  

It's okay (and even helpful!) to inform them what their duties are.  

A fun and unthreatening way to let everybody know what her bridesmaid duties are (and/or what you expect of each of them) is to send out an email detailing all to-dos and other essential information. That way, everyone is privy to everyone else's duties, and no one will feel as though she's been directly targeted. Most people will find it helpful to have their responsibilities explained, because they might be fully in the dark (especially if this is their first rodeo). Be sure to include a huge "thank you" to everyone for being a part of the wedding early on in your message—your ladies will be much more receptive to a grateful-sounding summons.

You should feel comfortable nudging anyone who's given you a vague answer (and be okay with it if they say "no"). 

If someone isn't enthusiastic about the prospect of being in your wedding—say, your future sister-in-law—try not to feel slighted. (She probably has her reasons and it has nothing to do with you.) If you need to nudge her to finally get an answer, simply call her and tell her that you're selecting the dresses ASAP, and if she's not comfortable with the idea of being a bridesmaid, you'll understand. 

Let them have a say when it comes to their attire. 

There's no real etiquette on how much a bride should involve her bridesmaids in the choosing of dresses, but the more input you allow them, the better. It's important for your ladies to like the dresses and feel comfortable. Either round up the bridesmaids and try to collectively agree on a style and shade, or talk to each bridesmaid separately and ask for her preference. On the first shopping trip, you may want to take just your maid of honor along to scout things out, and then when you narrow it down to a few styles, bring in the rest of the crew to try on the dresses and give opinions.

They should expect to pay for their own dresses.

Bridesmaids are generally expected to pay for their own wedding day ensemble (shoes and jewelry included, unless you're planning on gifting those). Talk to your bridesmaids individually about any financial concerns, and tactfully work out a solution that suits both of you—maybe you'll pay for half or all of the cost, or you can set up a payment plan. Above all, try to choose a dress that's reasonably priced, or consider letting your attendants choose their own gowns. Give some color/style requirements (black and ankle length, for example) and ask them to show you the dress for final approval (just in case it's a little too risqué for your taste).

Your bridesmaids are expected to pay for travel and transportation (with one exception). 

Generally, the attendants are responsible for paying their own way, just like they pay for what they'll wear to your wedding. And usually, if you have out-of-towners in for your wedding, you'll be able to reserve a block of rooms at a discount, which ought to help them save some cash. Going halvesies is perfectly fine, but know that you and your family shouldn't be expected to pay. However, if you plan to spend the night in a shared hotel suite with your ladies on the eve of your wedding, expect to cover the costs for that. Your bridesmaids may have already split a room with a plus-one (or each other) for the duration of their stay, and they shouldn’t have to pay for yet another room. You should also pay for wedding party transportation from the ceremony to the reception (and to the ceremony, if you're all getting ready together at a different location).

There are several ways you can line them up. 

But it can get sticky. Do the height thing if you care about the optics for pictures (although your photographer can position everyone to look great even if they're out of height order). That might save you some grief. If you go the other route, though, handle the "you're important to me" approach with care so you don't ruffle anyone's feathers. You can always arrange the girls in order of how long you've known each bridesmaid: family first, then friends, and so on, but you can probably see how even this plan has the potential to hurt feelings. (You can even let the attendants decide the order themselves.)

There's no correct way to seat your wedding party at the table(s). 

Technically, the head table is boy/girl—starting with the best man next to the bride and the maid of honor next to the groom. But you don't have to do it that way. You could put the women on the bride's side and men on the groom's, or let everyone sit wherever they want. And don't forget to factor in everyone's plus-ones—you could have the wedding party sit at tables around your reception with their plus-ones in groups that make sense (your siblings at a table with your parents, or your cousins at a table with other relatives). Young children in the wedding usually sit with their parents at another table.

You should get them gifts to say "thank you."

Think of it this way—your bridesmaids are majorly putting themselves out for you, and you owe it to them to show your gratitude by gifting them properly. Many brides give out gifts at the rehearsal dinner. Sometimes it's something the girls can wear on the day of the wedding, like jewelry or shoes, or you can say thanks with a gift certificate to a spa, monogrammed PJs or robes, or a cute tote bag filled with special gifts handpicked with each bridesmaid's interests and tastes in mind. As for a price range, it depends entirely on your budget. We think spending anywhere from $25 to $100 is a safe bet.

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