Top Tips to Choosing Your Wedding Party

They're your support group, your A-team, your wedding day front line. Here's our crash course on creating your perfect wedding party.
by Jessica Zaleski
Wedding party in an industrial area
photo by Apaige Photography

Choosing who will stand up with you on one of the most important days of your life may seem daunting, but don’t worry—we’re here to walk you through the steps. So take a deep breath, we promise it’s not as tough as it seems.

Think twice before you ask.

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 favorite friends to be in your wedding party the minute you get engaged, don't. Take your time. Give yourself at least a month, if you can, to mull over the options. Then ask yourself this question: Will I be just as close to this person in five years as I am now?

Tip for the taking: If you're on the fence about asking someone to be in your wedding party, consider how they'd fit in with the rest of your attendants. If you don't think they'd mesh with your crew, leave them off the list.

Set honest expectations.

What sort of a role do you want your wedding party to play? Is it important to you that they help to address wedding invites, shop for your day-of attire with you and attend all of the prewedding parties? Or will it be enough for them to wear what you choose and show up on your wedding day? 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. You may be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Tip for the taking: For friends who can't commit for whatever reason (they live out of town or are busy at work), let them in on just a few wedding prep activities, like an invitation stuffing party complete with wine and pizza.

Include your brothers and sisters.

Not to sound like your mom, but think about it: Even if you're not particularly close to his sister or her brother, siblings are going to be around well past your 10-year anniversary, and chances are, you'll become closer over the years. If you come from a big family and you can't possibly include everyone, draw the line at teenagers. Instead, make them a part of the ceremony by asking them to pass out programs or seat guests.

Tip for the taking: Traditionally, it's ladies on one side and guys on the other, but feel free to break that rule and have them stand on either side of the aisle.

Consider the size of your wedding.

You can have as many (or few) bridesmaids and groomsmen as you like. The average wedding party size is four on either side. Use that as a guide when you decide. Depending on formality, go larger or smaller. For a smaller wedding with around 50 to 60 guests, have no more than four, but for a larger wedding of, say, 150, you could go up to 12 if you really wanted. Just keep this in mind: More isn't always merrier. The more attendants you have, the more details to organize —flattering tuxes or dresses, a bachelor or bachelorette party with 12 attendants who have busy schedules, wedding party gifts and so much more.

Tip for the taking: If there are a lot of people you want to include in your wedding party but just can't, give them other roles, like usher, ceremony reader or candlelighter.

Call him the man of honor and her the best woman.

Guys can stand with the bride and women can stand with the groom. It's really up to you—what's most important is that you include your favorite people, women and men.

Tip for the taking: There are no hard-and-fast rules about how to dress them. You can dress your groomswomen in tuxedos or dresses (or even rompers), and your bridesmen can look just like the groomsmen or they can match their suits to the bridesmaid dresses. Just make sure they're comfortable with whatever you want them to wear.

Choose responsible honor attendants.

The best honor attendants are friends who are responsible (since you're going to rely on them for some big wedding planning tasks and to hold on to your expensive rings) and good at providing emotional support, because there just might be a few prewedding meltdowns. (It also helps if they're super-fun, since they'll be planning the bachelor and bachelorette parties.)

Tip for the taking: If your best friend isn't always the most dependable person, it's perfectly okay to have two best men or maids of honor. Pick your unpredictable BFF and another friend you can rely on for the big, important duties.

Don't ask someone just because they asked you.

Weddings are no time for quid pro quo. You don't need to ask someone to be in your wedding because they asked you to be in their wedding. Don't ask the college roommate you haven't spoken to in five years just to return the favor.

Tip for the taking: 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 you feel closest to at this point in your life standing up for you, and there are so many of those people (including him or her) that you had to leave out some very special ones.

Research other roles.

You might need ushers to lead the guests to their seats at the ceremony, plus a few people to light candles and distribute programs. But 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.

Tip for the taking: Think twice before offering your friends obscure, not-so-needed positions, like guest book attendant. (Would you want to do that?) Most people would be happier with a VIP corsage and a reserved seat at the ceremony.

Kids aren't required.

If there are no children you two feel particularly close to, you don't need a flower girl and/or ring bearer. And if you have many children you want to include, feel free. Have three little flower girls instead of one and give them each their own basket of flower petals ( boys might enjoy throwing flower petals too!). Or have your two little ones walk down the aisle as pages. They can bear the ring, hold a keepsake or carry a "Here Comes the Bride" sign.

Tip for the taking: Having an adults-only wedding? You can still have kids play their roles at the ceremony and not allow them at the reception. If you do that, consider setting up a room for kids with a babysitter during the reception and have some fun foods and activities planned.

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