Full disclosure: I didn’t want to have a bridal party at first. I have several best friends and didn’t want to have to choose. And well, when you’re having a very small wedding, isn’t everyone there kind of fulfilling that role? (“I have SEVEN best friends,” I told my fiancé. “If I have seven and you have seven, how many people are honestly going to be sitting out there as guests at that point?”) I didn’t want to make anyone feel left out...but I also didn’t want to make anyone DIY neon glitter birds’ nest table numbers with me or buy a dress she hated. Because if there’s one thing Hollywood has taught me about bridesmaids, it’s that everyone thinks being a bridesmaid is a huge pain in the ass...and also, to not be asked is a totally offensive snub.
Because I didn’t get it, I wanted to just avoid the whole thing. But Eric looked pained when I told him I didn’t see the point of having a bridal party, and even my own mother accused me of trying to “reinvent the wedding” when I told her I wasn’t into the idea so, well, I figured I’d acquiesce, as wedding planning is about picking your battles and I can think of way better battles to fight.
If you’re stuck on how to choose your bridal party, as I was, here’s my advice: think about what purpose the bridal party will serve in your wedding. Because it’s so common to have a bridal party, a lot of people don’t really think about the bridal party’s function. But...why do we have them? Is this special team of women in matching dresses who are distinct from the rest of your guests just there as decoration? Or is it something more? Once you figure that out, I found it’s much easier to decide who to ask.
Here are some ways you might approach thinking about your bridesmaids*:
Bridesmaid as BFF 4-EVA. Some people consider being a bridesmaid a sign of friendship, and if that’s how you are, your choice might be easier! But know that your bridesmaids don’t have to be your best friends since forever, and don’t feel pressured to ask lifelong friends if you don’t feel like they are the right fit. Knowing someone the longest -- or even being family -- is not necessarily guaranteed admission to the bridal party.
Bridesmaid as pseudo-planner. If you’re DIYing your entire wedding, you may need the support -- and, frankly, the hands -- of your friends to help you pull it off. So if you expect your bridesmaids to be on the front line of decorating, you should probably ask your wannabe Martha Stewart friend...not the friend who ate paste in grade school and now works 80 hours a week at a corporate law firm.
Bridesmaid as your right hand woman. Weddings and an impending marriage can be stressful and overwhelming; it might be good if you have a team of people who know you, your insecurities, and your family drama, and who know how to support you when you start to come unglued.
Bridesmaid as a VIP. When I was choosing my bridal party, I thought of the tacky dress as an all-access pass. Who did I want with me at every event during the weekend, from the rehearsal dinner to the lazy Sunday recap over brunch? While everyone on our little guest list is important to me, there are certainly friends I tell my good (and bad) news to first, and who I talk to nearly every day. Having them in the bridal party sort of felt like making sure they were the first to know everything that was going on.
Bridesmaid as marriage godparent. What really helped me choose my bridal party was to not think about my friends’ relationships with me...but to think about their relationship with my relationship. I wanted bridesmaids who would stand up for our wedding and, ultimately, stand up for our marriage. These are the friends I could call in five years and say, “My relationship is struggling and I don’t know what to do”...and they’d know me, Eric, and our history well enough to support me and to fight for us. There’s something really powerful to me about the word “witness” and I love the idea that it’s one who has personal knowledge of something. My hope is that the bridal party is made up of the people who will always have personal knowledge of our relationship as we all age, change, and grow.
Who doesn’t want to be a bridesmaid? The final thing I considered was who was indifferent, busy as all get-out, or could be a part of our wedding in other ways. I have friends who, in their free time, do things like read at church, sing for crowds, or motivate everyone to get on the dance floor. Just because they weren’t going to be in the bridal party didn’t mean we didn’t love them and want them involved in a special way in our wedding.
So once I started thinking about it this way, making the decision was simple. And, like everything else about weddings, once I just made the damn decision, it simply became the right one.
*Bridesmaid, bridesman, groomsman, etc. In this day and age, I’m going to assume we’re not just talking to or about the ladies here, but for the sake of this post I’m just going to stick with bridesmaid.
Rachel Wilkerson is a writer and community manager living in sin in Houston, TX. She also happens to be planning her wedding! You can see more of her writing on her brand-new blog The House Always Wins. Follow her on twitter @RachelGettingIt
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