How to Pick Bridesmaids Like a Pro

Bride and bridesmaids in pink dresses posing with bouquets at wedding day. Happy marriage and wedding party concept
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Are you newly engaged and starting to plan your wedding? First of all, congratulations on finding the person you want to spend your life with.

Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life, so it makes sense to put some serious thought into who will be in your wedding party. Bridesmaids have responsibilities, so think about the people who will be the best fit for the role as well as your relationship with each person.

Tradition vs. Reality

Some of the old rules of bridesmaid selection created even more stress during wedding planning. In the past, brides and grooms were expected to have an equal number of women and men in the bridal party to balance the lineup at the altar and for each person to have someone to walk with after the ceremony. However, that isn’t always what’s best for the event, so you don’t have to balance it to make it perfectly even.

Another old rule is that you should have a certain number of bridesmaids per number of guests. That is also unrealistic, although it might be awkward to have 12 bridesmaids if you only have 50 people in attendance. It’s still up to you how many you have based on your wishes and relationships with the people involved. If you want everyone in attendance to be in your wedding party, it’s completely up to you.

First Things First

Before you start making your list, you need to determine how many bridesmaids you’ll want in your wedding. Here are some things to consider:

  • How much space you’ll have at the altar
  • Cost for each person in your wedding party
  • How many people will attend the wedding
  • Size of families on both sides

Make Your List

Now it’s time to make a list of prospective bridesmaids. Jot down some notes beside each person’s name, such as how long you’ve been friends, your relationship with her, whether or not the person needs to be the center of attention, if she has created drama in the past, and how much time she has for the responsibilities.

Here are some additional things to consider when making your list:

  • Can the person afford to be in your wedding? You’ll need at least a rough idea of how much it will cost per person.
  • Is the person reliable, or is she always late? You can determine this based on her punctuality in the past, if she consistently stands you up, or if she says she’ll do something but never follows through.
  • Does she have time? Someone who has a new baby or job may be preoccupied with her new responsibilities and not have the time you need for her to commit to wedding preparation.

Family Matters

If you are having a difficult time making a decision but have to limit the number of bridesmaids, think about your relationship and who will be around long after the wedding. In many cases, family comes first because they’ll be the ones who are still there, no matter what. However, if you come from a large family, you may have to limit the number of relatives in your wedding party.

Here are some criteria to help narrow down the number of family members:

  • Select only those who are adults.
  • Choose family members who live in your area.
  • Select a sibling over a distant cousin.

Remember that there are other positions of honor for younger family members or people you’d like to include. Perhaps they can hand out programs, assist with seating, or make a toast at the reception.

Expectations and Responsibilities

You need to determine what you expect from your bridesmaids. Do you want them to be actively involved in the planning and dress selection? Or do you want them to concentrate strictly on their role in the ceremony? Do you expect them to participate in a special dance or skit during the reception? When choosing your wedding party, consider each person according to your expectations and the responsibilities they’ll have.

Man of Honor or Best Woman

Is your best friend or closest sibling the opposite sex? Traditionally, wedding parties had men on one side and the women on the other. However, that is no longer the rule. You may choose someone of the opposite sex to stand up with you during your big day.

Multiple Maids of Honor

The maid of honor should be the bridesmaid you feel closest to. If you find yourself torn between two people, you may choose to have two maids of honor. Make sure you are clear on what you expect from each of them and try to even out their responsibilities before, during, and after the wedding.

Proposing to Your Bridesmaids

In the past, brides would simply pick up the phone and ask their friends to be in their wedding. Now it has become a much bigger production. Brides typically "pop the question" to the people they want in their wedding party. This adds to the excitement of the honor.

Creative ways to propose to bridesmaids:

  • Have flowers or a gift basket delivered to each prospective bridesmaid with a card asking, “Will you be my bridesmaid?”
  • Invite the girls to your home or out to dinner and give each of them a balloon with the bridesmaid proposal. You can also propose a toast with personalized wine glasses that include their name and the proposal.
  • Give each person a piece of jewelry in a design that relates to your relationship and a note asking her to be your bridesmaid.
  • Wrap a bottle of wine or champagne with a personal message about why you’d like her to be your bridesmaid.
  • Personalized bridesmaid care package. This can be a cosmetic bag with lip balm, tissues, a hairbrush, and chocolate.
  • Give each girl a personalized “Will you be my bridesmaid” picture frame with a photo of you and her from a happy occasion.
  • Have a scavenger hunt party. Have enough clues to keep them guessing until they get to the “prize,” which can be a personalized box filled with small things you know they’ll like. Don’t forget to attach a handwritten note asking them to be your bridesmaid. Some of the items in the box may include a photo frame, monogrammed handkerchief, necklace, or another item that pertains to your relationship.

Hurt Feelings

After the excitement of selecting and proposing to your bridesmaids, be prepared for some hurt feelings. This may come from someone you aren’t able to include as a bridesmaid, or it may be someone who wants to be your maid of honor. Whatever the case, it is important to be prepared, but remember that you can’t make everyone happy.

Here are some things you can do to limit the hurt feelings:

  • Have an explanation prepared for those who express their thoughts.
  • Avoid saying you like someone else more or you feel closer to another person, even if that’s the case. You can mention their location, a family obligation, or that you’re limiting the wedding party to adults only. Plan what to say so you won't have regrets later.
  • Express how much you value your friendship, and you didn’t want to put extra demands on her during this time of her life.
  • Have other positions of honor for those who weren’t selected to be bridesmaids. Keep your request positive and express that you value her friendship. For example, you might tell her that you’d like for her to be in charge of the reception table after the wedding because she has such a warm and welcoming personality.

Be Understanding

Don’t be upset if someone turns you down to be your bridesmaid, regardless of the reason. The person might not have the money or the time it takes to be a bridesmaid, or she might be too self-conscious to walk down the aisle in front of a church full of people. Graciously accept her wishes and let her know you hope she’s able to attend the ceremony and reception.

If You Don’t Get Asked

Someone you know might be getting married, but you’re not asked to be a bridesmaid. Don’t take it personally. The bride is under a tremendous amount of stress coming at her from all sides, and she doesn’t need friendship drama right now. Take the high road and offer your assistance if you’re able to do something. Your understanding, kindness, and generosity will go a long way toward cementing your friendship.