Does Your Sister-in-Law Have To Be a Bridesmaid? Here's the Tea

Exactly how to handle your wedding's ultimate nepo baby.
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
Jenn sinrich headshot
Jenn Sinrich
The Knot Contributor
  • Jenn writes articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in planning advice and travel.
  • Jenn also writes for a myriad of other large-scale publications, including SELF, Women's Health, and more
  • Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Jenn worked as an on-staff editor at, American Baby, Fit Pregnancy and FreshDirect.
Updated Jul 26, 2023

One of the most exciting parts of planning your wedding, especially in the early stages, involves choosing who will be your bridesmaids—the group of friends and family members who will stand by your side on your wedding day. If your soon-to-be spouse has sisters, chances are, you'll have a sister-in-law bridesmaid; however, experts point out that the decision of whether or not to ask your sister-in-law to be your bridesmaid is a personal one.

In this article:

Should You Ask Your Future Sister-in-Law to Be a Bridesmaid?

Of course, it's a nice gesture and creates a warm and inviting start to the new family bond that's being created, however, event planner and senior coordinator at LOLA Event Productions, Michelle Vining, doesn't believe that it should be an etiquette requirement to ask your sister-in-law to be a bridesmaid. "There should be factors that are considered including whether or not she is the mother of the ring bearer or flower girl, whether or not she has a good relationship with the groom, and whether or not her presence will have you more on edge versus relaxed and enthused for the big day to come," she says. "These are reasons that I would suggest avoiding the wedding party invite and maybe giving her another role in the wedding instead."

Kelley Nudo, Client Manager for Momental Designs, agrees, adding that if you have built a strong relationship with your future sister-in-law, she should be asked, but otherwise it is perfectly fine not to add her to the round-up. "In the event of multiple future sisters-in-law, however, and you are considering including some sisters but not all, this could create some drama or hurt feelings," she adds. "Ultimately, the ball is in the bride's court, and she gets to make the final decision."

Is It Rude to Not Make Your Sister-in-Law a Bridesmaid?

If you wind up choosing not to make your sister-in-law a bridesmaid, you might be wondering if you'd be coming off as rude. First off: There's no real tradition surrounding the concept of asking your sister-in-law to be a bridesmaid. The concept of having bridesmaids is relatively new. So, the short answer is no, it's not rude to choose not to make your sister-in-law a bridesmaid. However, it truly comes down to one key factor and that's how it's all communicated.

"If the bride doesn't ask her sister-in-law and there has been no discussion, it could come across as a slight," warns Keith Willard, event planner and owner of Keith Willard Events. "People love to gossip, and even if the bride and the sister-in-law don't really care, others could learn about the circumstance and create drama where there really isn't any."

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The first factor to consider when deciding whether or not to ask your sister-in-law to be a part of your wedding is your relationship with her. Are the two of you close? Did she ask you to be a part of her bridal party? Next, it's a good idea to consider whether or not she has children who she'll need to tend to on the big day. "Being a bridesmaid is a time commitment, especially on the wedding day, so answers to these questions will go a long way in figuring out whether or not you should be asking the SIL to be a bridesmaid," he says. "When in doubt, ask in a way that makes it clear that there is no stress about relaying exactly how she feels."

How to Tell Your Sister-in-Law They Aren't in the Wedding Party

If you plan not to have your sister-in-law as part of your wedding party, here are some tips for how to break the news to her gently.

Explain that you want to keep the wedding party small.

Not everyone wants a boatload of bridesmaids. Perhaps you want to keep your wedding party on the small side; and maybe you even have a few sisters of your own to include. "Explain to your sister-in-law that you've chosen your nearest and dearest, whom you've known for a lifetime, to be with you throughout the morning," Vining says."This allows you to give everyone else who could have been a contender to spend their morning and afternoon as they please and to wear what they want."

Reference keeping a modest budget.

At the end of the day, the more people who ask to be a bridesmaid, the more expensive, notes Nudo. "A big bridal party means more flowers to be bought, more hair to be done, more gifts to be given, and potentially more drama," she says. "If the reason your future sister-in-law did not make the wedding party list is due to budget, she will hopefully understand—not to mention, being a bridesmaid can come with a hefty expense for her, as many bridesmaids are asked to chip in for showers, host bachelorettes, buy expensive gowns, etc." With cost-saving in mind, hopefully your future sister-in-law won't be too disappointed to be able to avoid the extra responsibilities that come with being a bridesmaid.

Detail the importance of her other roles.

If she has kids that are going to be flower girls or ring bearers that may need a bit of management throughout the day, explain that her role will be critical to your day, and you don't want to pull her away from such an important task, notes Vining. "This way, they will have her as a comfort and her full attention versus her being pulled away for getting ready and portraits and standing at the altar for the entire ceremony."

Invite her to be part of the wedding house party.

A wedding house party is an additional group of friends or family members who you'd like to be part of the wedding party, but are not able to for whatever reason (preference included). This would be a lesser, yet still an honorable, role to ask your sister-in-law to fill. They still get to be part of something involving your big day, however, the role comes with less restraints and fewer responsibilities.

How to Ask Your Sister-in-Law to Be a Bridesmaid

If you do decide to invite your sister-in-law to be a bridesmaid, here are some creative ways to pop the question, according to experts.

Set a date.

Joan Wyndrum, founder and owner of Blooms by the Box recommends planning a lunch proposal for all your bridesmaids, including your sister-in-law. "Just before dessert, give them a heartfelt speech and surprise them with a gift box," she says. "This is a great way to show your appreciation for your sister-in-law to be part of your life and wedding."

Send flowers.

If you don't live close, or would prefer not to ask your sister-in-law in person, you could always send flowers. If you go this route, Wyndrum recommends sending the blooms with a personal note expressing how much you love her brother and that having her as a bridesmaid would be an honor for you. "This gesture will show her that you respect her and recognize the importance of her relationship with her brother," she adds.

Give a small gift.

A small "proposal gift" is usually a great way to solidify the deal, notes Willard. He suggests gifting something that can be worn or seen. "Recently a bride had keychains made out of pennies that had the date stamped into it," he says. "Super unique, and I saw several of the bridesmaids take the penny and put it on their necklace or bracelet."

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