– Ask a Real Bride – How Should I Choose My Bridesmaids?

My 7-year-old daughter recently looked lost in thought. When I asked her what she was thinking about, she said, with a great deal of concern, “Mom. Who do you think my bridesmaids will be?” Even the littlest girls understand that choosing your bridal party is like solidifying your inner circle: whether we admit it or not, to many of us, those bedazzled bridesmaid robes are the grown-up equivalent of the elementary school friendship bracelet.

Ask a Real Bride: How Should I Choose My Bridesmaids?
My bridesmaids and I almost ten years ago! I had my sister, future sister-in-law, cousin, and college roommates. Image from Kallima Photography

In all seriousness, it’s a big decision that carries symbolic weight, as well as real-life responsibilities: your bridesmaids are your best friends, but they’ll also be your advisors, party planners, personal assistants, and more in the months leading up to the wedding.

So how’s a bride to choose? I surveyed around 100 brides to learn how they made their choices, if they had any regrets, and to share their advice. I hope their experiences will help you choose the perfect “I Do Crew” for you!

Is there an Ideal Number?

Ideal number of bridesmaids | how to choose bridesmaids

Before we get down to details, let’s start with the basics: you probably want to think about keeping your number of bridesmaids somewhere between 4 and 10. 55% of our brides were in the 4-6 range, and 34% had 7-10. Anything higher than that can appear overwhelming at the altar, and can lead to some other issues, as our brides explain below:

The More, The Merrier? Maybe Not…

“Less is in fact more here.” –Sarah H.

Why? Because the more people you involve, the more you have to accommodate: from schedules to feelings to budgets, everything from the bachelorette weekend to the rehearsal gets a little more complicated with a larger party. Even hair and makeup, transportation, and pictures become more challenging as your bridal party grows!

“It gets difficult to accommodate everyone’s schedules for events!” –Jess W.

“More people to communicate all the details to, but there are ways to do it effectively.” –Jenny P.

“Having to buy gifts for them all and find housing!” –Amber R.

There are definitely ways to have a large bridal party and still have a wonderful wedding experience, but take into consideration that more bridesmaids does mean more to juggle.

Is Matching a “Must?”

What if you and your groom can’t land on the same number? According to our brides, matching numbers isn’t a must!

does the number of groomsmen have to equal the number of bridesmaids

I would recommend limiting the lopsided-ness to 1 or 2 people: you don’t want to have a small party of 3 on one side, and enough people to field a soccer team on the other.

One way to potentially even things out: mixing up the gender! I recently attended a wedding where the bride’s brother served as her “man of honor,” and the groom’s two sisters stood with his groomsmen. It wasn’t traditional, but it was meaningful, and I’m okay with breaking tradition as long as there’s intentionality. What do our real brides think?

can men stand on the bride’s side

So they aren’t quite as progressive as I am, but I predict this is one trend that’s about to get very popular!

Who Should You Choose?

It’s time for the nitty gritty: who makes the bridesmaid cut? I hope our brides’ recommendations, and their regrets, will help you choose!

how to choose bridesmaids

Family First

“Family is always the best option.” –Olivia R.

“Your family will always be your family.” –Katie P.

Though it’s slight, a majority of our brides agree that sticking to family members is the safest choice for your bridal party. Sisters, cousins, and future sisters-in-law are guaranteed to be part of your life forever, so it makes sense that they be the ones standing by you on your big day (and forever in your wedding album).

should I only have family in my wedding

Another reason to limit your bridal to family members (and future family members): you avoid opening the Pandora’s box of choosing among your friends! By not including any friends, you ensure that no one feels excluded or singled out.

“I think when people have larger parties you run the risk of hurting people’s feelings because someone ends up feeling left out, like, ‘why did she choose that friend, but not me?’” –Anonymous

“As a 33 year old bride, I’ve accumulated a lot of friend groups in different cities, and I didn’t want anyone to feel left out.” –Anonymous

friends in bridal party | how to choose bridesmaids

Forever Friends

But…some of us DO have friends that feel like family! How do you decide which friends to promote to bridesmaid status? The key word here is “forever.”

“Choose your lifelong friends; the ones who have been there since the beginning, and who you know will be in your life forever.” –Tiffany P.

“Choose ‘forever friends’” –Grace T.

Of course, it’s hard to know which friends will be “forever,” and which ones will fall out of touch. This is especially true if you are a recent college graduate with a lot of sorority sisters, roommates, and close friends. Though it’s hard to imagine now, you might find that once proximity vanishes, so does your relationship. Since I don’t have a crystal ball, the best I can do is share two questions to help you process your decision.

Ask Yourself These Questions:

“Will whoever you choose fight for your marriage when things get crazy?” –Amber R.

Your bridal party stands with you on your wedding day, and you want those same people standing up for you and supporting you on all the days that follow. Will the women by your side be the ones you turn to for advice and encouragement? Will they offer a listening ear and a helping hand in the years to come? Do you respect their advice and value their perspective? Those are the people you should choose!

“Am I making this decision based on pressure or fear, or love for the person?” –Anonymous

If you’re only choosing someone because you feel pressured due to family politics or potential friend drama, think again: I predict those bridesmaids won’t be your besties in the future! Go with your gut and choose the girls you love!

One thing you never want to get in the way of a great friendship: their experience of being in your wedding. While there’s sure to be stressful moments, you can ensure that your friendships survive your wedding–I’ve got six tips for you here.

The Big Fear: People Feeling “Left Out”

Ok, let’s address the big dilemma every bride faces when choosing her bridesmaids: what if someone feels hurt that they weren’t chosen? Deep breath, sister. There IS a chance you’ll hurt someone in the process. Take a look at these results:

feeling left out of a wedding party | how to choose bridesmaids

But, the “left out” number is still smaller than the number than the “wish I could GET out” number:

have you ever wanted to say no to being a bridesmaid

I’m no statistician, but here’s my interpretation of these numbers: yes, there’s a chance someone will feel left out of your bridal party if you don’t ask them. However, there’s a greater chance that someone would prefer to sit it out in the pews than stand next to you at the altar! Being a bridesmaid comes with significant costs and commitments, and not everyone is eager to sign on to that role. Consider the fact that some people wish they could say “no,” and let that knowledge free you to only ask the people you really, truly want to have by your side.

Sidenote: is it ever ok to say “no” when someone asks you to be a bridesmaid?

Absolutely. If you are in a demanding season of life (think: rigorous schooling, high stress job, pregnancy, nursing, tight budget) you can most definitely decline the responsibilities that come with being a bridesmaid. Express your desire to simply celebrate with your friend on the big day. Definitely attend the wedding and give a thoughtful or generous gift!

Other Ways to Include People

The title of “bridesmaid” isn’t the end-all, be-all role for the wedding day: there are lots of options for honoring and including friends in our wedding!

Other Ways to Include People

“Invite them to the bachelorette party or bridal shower!” -Tiffany P.

“We’re having a close friend do a reading at the wedding, and seating him at the head table.” –Lauren M.

“Ushers, handing out programs, or even walking the dog down the aisle!” –Grace T.

The Bottom Line: Your Bridal Party is Forever

That’s a little dramatic; obviously, the only person who you’re promising to love and cherish ‘til death do you part is your future spouse. But you do want the people who surround you to have a permanent place in your life, too. Whether you end up with 2 or 12 bridesmaids, I hope they always play a special part in your story!

Have a Question for our Real Brides?

Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, be sure to refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all of your registries in one place!

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