How to Choose Your Bridesmaids

(There needs to be a small disclaimer placed at the beginning of this one because I don’t want anyone to come away with the wrong impression or hurt feelings. I had GREAT bridesmaids who were helpful and kind. The generalities in this post are just that. The specifics are in my situation and in others that I was witness to.)

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Know who is standing beside you before you choose them. (This means bridesmaids!)

Remember how I told you that last point was the most important? Scratch that. This may be.

Choosing bridesmaids is probably one of the touchiest things, ever. It can be touchy for the bride, who may be having to make some serious decisions about who to include (while considering a budget, a limit on number of attendants, etc.) and somewhat stressful for those waiting to be chosen (cost, responsibilities, “will she or won’t she choose me?”).

I want to stress to you how important it is that you pick the right people to be in your wedding. I cannot say enough about what a challenge it can be whenever you have uncooperative attendants or people who really have no desire to be in your wedding, nor your best interests at heart. Please exercise your best judgment in this area.

Example #1: You have a dear friend that you met later on in life, perhaps in college. You think it would be appropriate to ask said friend to be in your wedding, but you do know a few things about her and you are on the fence about it. 1) She is never on time. 2) She regularly forgets appointments, plans you have made, to feed her pet iguana, etc. 3) She is jovial and just busting at the seams because you, her dear pal, are getting married.

I am tellin’ ya right now, that is a “sitchy-ashun.” You love this friend and would love for her to be in your wedding. There are a few factors that come into play here. You know that the friend is not going to be one to devote most of the necessary time and energy to helping you put together showers and other tasks associated with the wedding. You know this. But the friend loves you and wants to be there with you, to support you on this very important day. It comes down to your choice. If you can deal with the fact that tasks that may be assigned to her in all likelihood will not be done, then you can go ahead with it. However, you must remember this later on. Things are going to get hectic and you have to keep in mind that you knew from the beginning that this friend was not going to be a very reliable participant.

I think it is important to weigh the following factors:

  1. Length of time that you have been friends
  2. Reliability
  3. How important it is to you that this person is in your wedding
  4. Availability
  5. The Close Family Conundrum

Not necessarily in that order. For some people, #1 is a really good way to cut your list down. Sometimes #1 and #5 play in to one another and you have choices to make there. What if you have 5 sisters? Do you have all 5 sisters as bridesmaids? This does something really awful to my brain. As someone who does not have a sister I cannot begin to work that one out, so you’re on your own.

Let me just give you a few bad examples from each of those points.

1. Length of time that you have been friends — A young woman includes a couple of girls who were her first best friends — in kindergarten. Nevermind the fact that they weren’t friends once they got to junior high, or high school. And completely forgetting that bit about how they haven’t spoken in years. For some reason, these two agree to be in the wedding. They spend every moment the bride is out of the room criticizing decisions she has made about her wedding, her appearance…you name it.

I understand honoring the friendship that you had, but I think if you haven’t had any major contact with the person in the past 5-10 years, you need to really consider if it is the best idea. Yes, you may love them no matter what, but I’m serious, this can get really ugly, really fast. People can change a lot in that amount of time and if you haven’t remained in some kind of contact then you may be in for a nasty surprise.

2. Reliability – If the person forgets to feed their iguana, chances are they will forget to bring the sorbet for your punch, the date of their dress fitting, and when/if they are supposed to be present at your rehearsal dinner. We’re talking about a dead iguana here, people. If you love them so much that you can deal with them being in your wedding and really taking on no responsibilities…GOOD FOR YOU. Like I said earlier, you have to remember this later in the game when things get crazy and you NEED every spare pair of arms that are available. And then you can’t hold a grudge against the person because you knew from the beginning they weren’t going to be any help. Just keep it in mind :)

Or maybe it’s not that at all. Maybe they live far away and just won’t be able to participate the way a person who lives in the next town over would. You can’t fault them for that. Just know what they are capable of and be okay with that before asking.

3. How important it is to you that this person is in your wedding — This is one of the few things that I will pull the “It’s your day” line on (because it’s NOT just your day; this is a family and community celebration of a commitment you are entering into with another human being…it’s not just a big party that’s about you in a fluffy white dress so get over it). I had a few different family members and friends suggest that I include certain individuals in my wedding party. On the surface they may just be helpful suggestions, but the ones I received were so so SO far off the mark I cannot begin to describe them to you.

Please do not let anyone bully you into including herself/someone else in your wedding. You will be unhappy and will likely be resentful of their heavy-handedness.

A big regret I have is not including two very dear people to me in my group of bridesmaids. One is a friend who lives thousands of miles away, the other is my closest cousin. Leaving the first off the list was my decision because I thought it was asking too much of a person who lives so far away. Leaving the cousin out was based on some of the suggestions I was receiving (that if I included that particular cousin it would be wrong for me to not include others). I really wish I had asked both of them.

What I did do was ask a handful people who have meant very much to me over the years to be in my wedding. Most of them said yes. One of them didn’t call, write, email, or reach out to me in anyway for over a year. I have no idea what that was about. Another agreed and then canceled when she found out that I did not vote for Obama. Then after that she acted like nothing. One told me, “I don’t know if I’ll be in town that weekend.”

In the end I think a lot of those things worked out for the best. Now I can see that if some of those people had been present and beside me the entire day of my wedding, I might have been miserable.

I really think this whole thing may call for me finally writing about how, at times, I am the worst person at picking friends and how I end up in these really awful relationships with females. Sad, I know.

Make sure their presence is important to you and that you aren’t making your decisions to please other people.

4. Availability – There is really nothing bad to say about this one, it’s simply a fact of life. Keep in mind where your potential bridesmaids are in their place in life. Do they have a job or schedule that might prevent them from being present for important things leading up to the wedding (fittings, showers, parties, etc.)? Is it possible their schedule might even prevent them from being there on the actual day-of? Are they newly married themselves? New parents?

A lot of cost comes along with accepting the responsibility of being a bridesmaid. Not everyone will be able to afford it and you need to remember that when you are asking and planning various things (dresses, accessories, shoes). If you are not planning on paying for their dress and other expenses yourself, you may need to rethink things a little. There is no need to put any undue stress on a person.

It is a tough spot though, because if you make a judgment call here and decide not to ask someone based on where you think they are, you risk hurting them. One thing I did was ask each person individually, and with those that I knew this might be an issue with I tried to be very understanding and work with them. As it happened, these were the people who didn’t end up in my wedding.

5. The Close Family Conundrum – I was at a wedding this summer where I witnessed a sister-of-the-bride muttering (not so under her breath, I could hear it easily from where I stood) about how her sister was being so “ridiculous” about taking pictures after the wedding because she was “stupid and traditional” and didn’t want to see the groom before the wedding. Well, aren’t you just a ray of sunshine.

Sometimes I’m thankful I was the only girl.

Again, if you have sisters, I don’t know what you do. I think in most cases, unless you have a huge age difference, you have to have them as bridesmaids. Then if you have a ton of friends you want in the wedding, you have a huge wedding party or put your friends somewhere else. All I know is family is family and sometimes #5 trumps #3. And pray that your sister isn’t pulling this kind of stuff behind your back and badmouthing everything you’ve done for your wedding.

. . .

One last piece of advice. Be okay if they say “no.” You never know what is going on in someone’s life. They may have a reason for declining that you will never find out about. Personally, I would rather someone tell me that they can’t be a part of my wedding than be there grudgingly and half-heartedly. Either you’re in or your out on this one, bridesmaids.

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I hope that helped someone! After this one, I plan on addressing the bridesmaids as well in their role. It is such an important privilege, to stand up with someone on this special day. Once again, let me know if there is anything you’d like me to talk about in this series. I don’t know everything, but I did learn a lot in planning my own wedding. (I’ll be handling the question from last week’s comments soon!)

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3 Responses to How to Choose Your Bridesmaids

  1. Becca says:

    Well, this post pretty much sums up my feelings about it.

    I went through a lot of bridesmaid stuff. I originally asked three girls, and then added a fourth and then one of those girls was going to be out of country so I had to replace her and then later I added a 5th.

    My sister is 19 years older than me so I did not have her be my maid/matron of honor. At the time I wasn’t as close to her as I had been and she’s also disorganized when it comes to planning so I made her and my sister-in-law honorary bridesmaids. They are both in their 40s and I am pretty close to them.

    The drama was because one of my bridesmaids was never around but wanted to be involved, but never offered to do anything, so she made me feel really bad when I had no idea. She also criticized a lot of my choices, but later said my wedding was very me… so she criticized me, basically. We are still friends, but I’ve had to put some breathing room in our relationship.

    Now, my best friend was the maid of honor for a girl, who promptly ditched her after she got married. That happens often, apparently.

  2. rachel says:

    man, i hope i was a good bridesmaid! i had no idea what i was doing or what the expectations were! the first time, i just supported my friend as much as i could. i was the only local bridesmaid, so if she asked for it, i did it. even flew to ohio with her to plan things, and then again for the wedding!

    the second time, the biggest thing i remember doing was the shower (with one of the other bridesmaids) and taking a lot of pictures!

    the third time, i almost had to buy two dresses, cuz the first wedding didn’t work out, but the bride was kind enough to pay for the second dress. the biggest thing i did for her was her bridal portraits and taking pictures at the showers, etc.

    man, i hope i didn’t blow someone’s expectations! i have no clue what the role is “supposed” to be. i just tried to be as easy going and supportive as possible, and to make myself available to help as much as i could.

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