This Is How to Pick Your Bridesmaids for Your Big Day

They're your support group, your A-team, your wedding day front line. Here's our crash course on choosing the right people.
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Jun 03, 2022

Figuring out how to pick your bridesmaids can feel overwhelming, especially if you have a large group of friends you suddenly have to narrow down. The good news is that bridal parties can range anywhere from a single maid or matron of honor to more than a dozen bridesmaids, so you can accommodate as many or as few friends as you want. But even once you finally settle on how many bridesmaids to have, you'll need to consider a few other details, like your wedding budget, what everyone should wear and if you want to include family members before officially asking them to be part of your special day. Read on for important tips to remember (and outdated advice you can forget about) when deciding how to choose your bridesmaids. And remember to take a deep breath—we promise it's not as tough as it seems.

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Choosing Your Bridesmaids FAQs

You'll have a lot on your plate during the wedding planning process and choosing who will stand next to you on the big day is one of the most important tasks, but don't worry! We have all the answers to your frequently asked questions about how to pick your bridesmaids.

How many bridesmaids should I have?

Old-school wedding experts might say there should be one groomsman and one corresponding bridesmaid for every 50 guests, but this definitely isn't mandatory. Don't get us wrong: You can have as many (or few) bridesmaids as you like. You may have 18 besties you can't imagine getting married without—and that's awesome. But don't feel pressure to ask every one of your friends to be in your bridal party. According to The Knot Real Weddings Study, the average wedding party size is roughly four on either side, so you can use that as a guide when you decide how many bridesmaids to have. Depending on formality, go larger or smaller. For a smaller wedding with around 50 to 60 guests, we recommend no more than four bridesmaids. For a larger wedding of 150 guests or more, wedding parties with 10 to 12 bridesmaids are more appropriate.

Just keep this in mind: More isn't always merrier. The more attendants you have, the more details to organize—picking flattering wedding outfits, planning a bach party to accommodate 12 busy schedules, determining a bridal shower date and so much more. If you're on a limited budget, it's best to have a small bridal party since brides are responsible for some bridesmaid expenses. This includes the group's bouquets, thank-you gifts, day-of transportation, accommodations and possibly their hair and makeup.

How far in advance should I pick my bridesmaids?

Choosing your bridesmaids is one wedding task you don't have to do right away. Once you've asked someone to be in your wedding party, you can't go back. So while it may be tempting to ask all of your friends to be in your wedding party the minute you get engaged, don't. Picking who's going to be in your bridal squad is important, so don't rush the process. Give yourself at least a month if you can to mull over the options. The rule of thumb is to ask between eight months to a year before your wedding. That way you have plenty of time to organize activities with your bridesmaids.

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Do all my attendants have to be female?

There's no reason why your best guy friend or brother can't be in your wedding party. So many couples ask members of the opposite sex to stand by them. In these cases, a man on the bride's side is called an attendant or bridesman, while a woman on the groom's side can be called a groomswoman. It's really up to you—what's most important is you include your favorite people, regardless of gender.

When it comes to the dress code, there are no hard-and-fast rules about how to dress your bridesmen. They can look just like the groomsmen or match their suits to the bridesmaid dresses. Just make sure they're comfortable with whatever you want them to wear.

Do I have to ask someone who asked me?

When you're deciding how to choose a bridesmaid, you might feel guilty about not wanting to choose someone who had you as their bridesmaid (which is completely understandable). If you need a gut check, ask yourself this question: Will I be just as close to this person in five years as I am now? As far as we're concerned—and hear us out on this one—it's okay to not reciprocate the bridesmaid offer. But remember to treat the situation with care, compassion and sensitivity. If they want to talk to you about why they aren't in your wedding, be completely honest. Explain that it was a tough decision, but you really felt like you should have the people closest to you at this point in your life in your bridal party and how there were lots of other special people (including him or her) that you had to leave out.

How should I ask my friends to be my bridesmaids?

Once you've finalized your crew, you have to officially ask your loved ones to be your bridesmaids. Typically, brides ask their friends and family by giving a bridesmaid proposal gift, which can be as simple or extravagant as you want. You can gift personalized pajamas with your bridesmaids' names on them, write a heartfelt note in a card or surprise them with a bridesmaid proposal box of spa-themed goodies. No matter how you pop the question, asking your bridesmaids is a fun way to show your loved ones how much you value them in your life and share how grateful you are that they're joining your wedding journey.

Other Bridesmaid Selection Considerations to Keep in Mind

When it comes to selecting your 'maids, it's okay to take your time and give the decision some thought. Here are a few tips to consider.

Choose responsible attendants.

The bridesmaids you choose should be fairly responsible and trustworthy since you're going to rely on them for some big wedding planning tasks. They should be good at providing emotional support too because there might be a few prewedding meltdowns. (It also helps if they're great at staying organized and knowing what you like, since they'll be planning your bach party.)

You should also set expectations about the level of involvement you want your bridesmaids to have in your wedding. For example, if you want a very involved wedding party, it may not be the best idea to ask friends or family who live far away or have extremely hectic schedules.

It's okay to have an uneven wedding party.

If you're wondering how many bridesmaids are normal, there's no law of symmetry when it comes to wedding parties, so don't put pressure on yourself to fill positions just to even things out. Our tip: Talk to your wedding photographer if you're worried about how your photos are going to look. They'll have some great ideas about how to take amazing photos with your uneven wedding party.

Assign people other roles.

If there are a lot of people you want to include in your bridal party but can't for some reason, consider having a house party (and we don't mean the college frat kind). This Southern wedding tradition was created so the bride could involve friends, extended family or anyone else close to her, without designating them as an official bridesmaid.

This group doesn't have as many responsibilities as the bridesmaids, but you can give them other roles, like usher, ceremony reader or candlelighter. There are a lot of other options as well. Maybe you have a musically inclined friend who would love to play something at the reception. Or what about that friend who is an amazing writer? Have them pen a poem or meaningful essay to share at your ceremony.

You can have two maids of honor.

If you're struggling between two people for the maid of honor role, choose both of them to be your right-hand women. Assign them their maid of honor duties equally and make sure to play to their strengths and interests. If one maid of honor is super organized and loves to plan things, put her in charge of scheduling the bach trip. If the other maid of honor loves being crafty, she'll be a huge help with making the bridal shower party favors or welcome bags.

When it comes down to what order the maids of honor process during the ceremony, that is up to you and them. You don't want anyone to feel left out, so talk with your honor attendants about how they want to be included in the ceremony.

Include your family.

If you're close to your sister, the thought of not including them in your wedding party probably never even occurred to you. But if you don't consider your sibling a bestie (it happens), it's usually worth including family to avoid unnecessary conflict and hurt feelings. The same goes for in-laws: Even if you're not particularly close to your partner's sister, try to fit them into your bridal party as well. Siblings are around well past your 10-year anniversary and chances are you'll become closer to them over the years.

If you come from a big family and you want to include young attendants, ask teenage family members to be junior bridesmaids and younger family members to be flower girls or ring bearers.

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