How to Choose Your Bridesmaids

They're your support group, your A-team, your wedding-day front line. Here's our crash course to creating your perfect bridal party.
by Joanna Saltz

Bridal parties can range anywhere from a single maid or matron of honor to more than a dozen attendants. Think about how many guests you're expecting and the formality of the event. While some wedding experts agree that a good rule of thumb is to have one groomsman and one corresponding bridesmaid for every 50 guests, it's definitely not a mathematical formula. Loosely, all it means is that a large wedding party fits in better at a large, formal wedding. So if you're planning a small, intimate gathering, you should opt for a smaller bridal party. Read on for more essential pointers:

More isn't always merrier.

The more bridesmaids you have, the greater the potential for complications. You'll need to get more people to agree on a dress, decide on a shower date, and coordinate all the other joys of bridal party-dom. If you're on a limited budget, think about who has to pay for all those bridesmaids bouquets. That's right—you.

Blood is thicker than water.

If you're close to your sister and future sister-in-law, the thought of not including them in your wedding party, probably never even occurred to you. But if you suffer from a serious Jan Brady complex, the thought of asking your sister (or sister-in-law) to be a bridesmaid probably ranks right up there with having a football hit you in the nose. Still, it's usually worth including family just to avoid unnecessary conflict. Think of it as having more bargaining power when you're battling with your parents over the guest list.

Try not to make hasty assumptions.

Don't write off some friends simply because you think they don't have enough money to afford that Vera Wang bridesmaid dress you have your eye on. If you want to ask a friend you know is having financial difficulties, you can always tell her that you'd love for her to be a bridesmaid, but understand the financial difficulties. If she has to decline, promise to find something else for her to do in the wedding.

A bridesmaid doesn't have to be a woman.

Despite the prevalence of feminine pronouns in this guide, if your best friend is a guy, there's no reason why he can't be in your wedding. Today, many couples are including members of the opposite sex to stand by them. In these cases, a man on the bride's side is simply called an attendant or bridesman, while a woman on the groom's side can be called a groomswoman.

No, you don't have to return the invitation.

Just because someone asked you to be in her wedding doesn't mean that you must have her in yours. There—we said it. This isn't a dinner party invitation that you need to reciprocate. Don't ask the college roommate you haven't spoken to in years just to return the favor. Weddings are no time for quid pro quo.

You can have two maids of honor.

There's no reason or rule that says you can't. If these are the two women you feel closest to, of course you want them both by your side on your wedding day. Just be aware that they may squabble over honor attendant duties: who gets to hold the ring, the bouquet, stand right next to you, sign the license, and so on. Just tell them both what you specifically want each to do.

It's OK to have uneven numbers of groomsmen and bridesmaids.

There's no law of symmetry when in comes to wedding parties—no planned out Lord-of-the-Dance routine that requires everyone to have a partner. Don't put yourself under the added pressure to fill positions, should they be empty. Once you make up your mind about your bridesmaids, you'll want to get the word out. There might be nothing worse than a friend who assumes she's going to be a bridesmaid when she's not. If you're afraid of hurting someone's feelings, remember that, as cliché as it sounds, any true friend will understand whatever decision you ultimately make.

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