Choosing who will stand up with you on one of the most important days of your life may seem daunting, but don’t worry, I’m here to walk you through the steps. So take a deep breath… I promise it’s not as tough as it seems.
1. 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? Will this person add to the day or make this day harder?
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.
2. SET HONEST EXPECTATIONS.
What sort of role do you want your wedding party to play? Is it important to you that they help 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.
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.
3. INCLUDE THE 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.
Traditionally, it’s ladies on one side and guys on the other, but feel free to BREAK THE RULES and have them stand on either side of the aisle. My sister did this for her wedding. She had our mom, myself, our two brothers, one of their wives, and her longest friend. These are the ones that have stood by her in her life the ups and downs… Those are the ones you want to be apart of this moment.
4. CONSIDER THE SIZE OF YOUR WEDDING.
Don’t get me wrong: You can have as many (or few) bridesmaids and groomsmen as you like. That said, the average wedding party size is roughly five on either side, so you can 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. Trust me some of the biggest wedding parties have caused the most unnecessary drama and also seem the hardest to get focused. Think herding cats.. It’s not easy.
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 candle lighter.
5. REMEMBER THERE AREN’T RULES.
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 you include your favorite people, regardless of gender.
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.
6. 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.)
Consider this: 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. AND assign duties so not everything falls on the responsible one.
7. 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.
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.
8. 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 write a poem or a meaningful essay to share at your ceremony.
Think twice before offering your friends obscure, not-so-needed positions, like guest book attendants. (Would you want to do that?) Most people would be happier with a VIP corsage and a reserved seat at the ceremony.
9. KIDS AREN’T REQUIRED.
If there aren’t any children either of you 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!). Girls can bear the ring, hold a keepsake or carry a “Here Comes the Bride” sign.
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.
10. A FEW MORE THINGS TO THINK ABOUT.
Although it’s traditional for the bridal party to consist of the bride’s best gal pals and the groom’s best male mates, some couples opt to include close friends of the opposite sex. Or, in some cases, it could be a family member such as a brother or sister that the bride or groom might want to stand beside them. Regardless, having a Man of Honor or Best Woman as part of your special day is a choice that should be 100 percent up to you. It is totally acceptable and appropriate for your best friend of any gender to be there for you in your wedding party.
However, even though it is acceptable, it can be tricky to navigate. If you’re wondering how to make it work, here are a few tips to keep things running smoothly.
Regardless of whether it’s the groom wanting his sister or a female friend among his attendants or the bride with a friend or her brother, their outfits should be coordinated to match the other groomsmen or bridesmaids. Some women might be comfortable wearing a tuxedo or suit, but it’s also okay for her to wear a dress that matches the suits worn by the men. Or, another option is to wear a tuxedo with a skirt. She can also carry a bouquet instead of a boutonniere. The same goes for any man among the bridesmaids. His tuxedo can match in color and style, and his boutonniere can complement the bouquets. Either way, it should be made clear that a male bridesmaid is actually with the bridesmaids and not the groomsmen and vice versa.
A male bridesmaid or female groomsman should stand on the same side as the rest of their respective party members in the wedding pictures. They’re there to support whoever asked them to take part and to do that, they should be by that person’s side in photos.
Help me out by letting them know about your situation in advance. That way they can think up poses and photo ideas that work well for everyone, so nobody gets left out.
AT PRE-WEDDING PARTIES
There are a few different parties that take place leading up to the wedding. Some like the Jack and Jill party are co-ed and all are welcome, but many others traditionally aren’t, such as the bridal shower.
Typically it’s the bridesmaids’ job to plan and execute the bridal shower, and these are often very stereotypically feminine or girly. For example, lingerie bridal shower parties are quite popular, as well as tea parties. But if you have a man as a bridesmaid or Man of Honor, you want him to feel comfortable when he’s in attendance.
This goes for any women on the groom’s side as well. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are known to get pretty crazy. Many people even choose to go to strip clubs and casinos. However, if you have a member of the opposite sex in your wedding party, you might want to rethink your original plans depending on what everyone is comfortable with. Deciding on how to do this will depend on what everyone is comfortable with. A male bridesmaid might prefer attending the bachelor party, and a female groomsman might prefer going to the bridal shower, or you can just choose to keep all of the parties co-ed.
Before the wedding, there are various activities that take place, like tuxedo fittings, wedding dress shopping, and bridesmaid dress shopping. Any gender of the wedding party shouldn’t be expected to attend if they don’t want to or don’t feel comfortable, but also might not want to be left out. In this case, talk to them! See what they would prefer to do. If your Man of Honor doesn’t want to go to his tuxedo fitting with the bridesmaids or alone, he might want to go with the groomsmen instead. Also, make sure that the other members of the bridal party involved are aware and accepting of the circumstances. It’s the bride or groom’s decision to include this party member and the rest should be prepared to respect that.
AT THE CEREMONY
Nothing particularly needs to change about the walk down the aisle with a party member of the opposite sex, but you may want to just check with your friends and family about the details. It’s common for the groomsmen to walk the bridesmaids up the aisle, arm-in-arm, but it may feel strange for your bridal party members (frankly it may even feel weird for man-woman pairs too). If this is the case, each attendant might walk up the aisle alone if they prefer.
Obviously, regardless of the bridesmaid or groomsman’s sex, they should always stand on the side of their friend or family member at the ceremony, just like in photos.
The best advice I can give you is: Step out of tradition and do what is best for you and your people.