You’ve got the ring and set the date. The next critical component of your wedding planning to-do-list is to choose the ladies who are going to be your solid-as-a-rock support team on your wedding day and who will be with you every step of the way until you take your first steps down the aisle: Your bridal party. You would think that creating a short list of your closest female friends and family members would be easy, but for many brides, the stress over the bridal party selection process rivals that of the Bachelorette heading into the final rose ceremony.
Do you include your former best friend from high school who still lives in town but who you rarely see anymore? What about your fiancée’s little sis (who’s 13)? What about your cousin who you grew up with and spent every holiday with but who is also bitter about her recent broken engagement?
To help you decide who you want by your side as you plan your wedding, and who will value being a part of your wedding in return, follow these five expert tips.
- Don’t Rush Your Decision. The moment you reveal to your best friends that you’re engaged, you may be tempted to add, “And I want you with me on my wedding day! Will you be my bridesmaid?” but force yourself to wait and put the time into thinking through who you can rely on to support you during the ups and downs of the wedding planning process, and who will still be a part of your life when you celebrate your silver anniversary. By waiting at least a month post-engagement to issue your bridal party invitations, you give yourself time to consider all your options.
- Set a Limit. Wedding etiquette sets a limit on bridesmaids at 12. While you don’t necessarily need the same number of bridesmaids as groomsmen (what man wouldn’t want to walk down the aisle with two ladies on his arm?), you should set a limit on the size of your bridal party. Base your decision on your budget, family size, and your groom’s input. Taking this step will help to protect you from the scope creep of acquaintances and extended family members vying to be part of the bridal party.
- Include Your Siblings. Unless you are estranged, your sisters should be part of your bridal party. If they are under thirteen, ask them to be junior attendants. If you come from a big, mixed family and have biological sisters, half-sisters, and stepsisters, be as inclusive of them all as you feel is appropriate, depending on how much of a role they play in your life.
- Don’t Forget Your Fiancée’s Picks. You may have a close-knit group of ten ladies that you know you want to be in your wedding, but what about your fiancée’s four sisters? Make sure you ask your fiancée what women are important in his life and include them in your bridal party. You should have the chance to ask him to invite your closest male family members and friends to be part of the groomsmen party too, but draw the line at asking him to include your college ex who is still your close friend. After all, you wouldn’t’ want to spend your wedding day with his ex, would you?
- Consider How Your Squad Will Meld. You may love the idea of uniting women from various periods of your life together for your wedding day—like your cousin who lives in Rome, your best friend from high school, your college roommate from California, and your best friend at work. Consider, however, how comfortable a group of strangers will be collaborating and working together to support you while you plan your wedding. Remember that not only will you all spend time together on your wedding day, but they will also likely need to work together (without you) to plan your bachelorette party and possibly your bridal shower. If you don’t think your disparate friends would ever be friends with one another, or if you know one of them (bless her heart) tends to be a diva, factor such dynamics into your decision.
Remember, these rules represent best practices and bridal etiquette, but in the end, they are guidelines. If you can’t stand the thought of leaving out a friend who would take your bridal party number to 13, include her. If you have a sister who you know would hate every second of being part of a bridal party, have a conversation with her and agree together that she’ll support you another way. What’s most important is that while you plan your wedding, you have the support of the women in your life who have been there for you every step of the way so that you can take your first steps down the aisle with them by your side.