How to Decide on a Wedding Party Size

Bridesmaids and groomsmen lined up for photos

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Some brides dream of a huge wedding party. They think that with so many friends to help, wedding planning will be a breeze, the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties a blast, and they won't have to worry about offending that second cousin who made them a bridesmaid (even if they did make all their attendants wear a pink muumuu).

But before you get on the telephone to ask everyone in your address book to play a part on your wedding day, consider the ramifications of having a small army at the altar with you.

The Cons of a Big Bridal Party

  • More expensive: While most bridesmaids and groomsmen pay for their attire, accommodations, and airfare, the bride and groom's expenses for each attendant do add up. Everyone will need a bouquet or boutonniere, an attendant gift, and to be included in the rehearsal dinner. There also may be other expenses such as wedding weekend activities, special accessories, and the cost of renting additional limousines.
  • Less personal: While there are the occasional brides who may have 10 BFFs, odds are most of us don't. Thus, a big wedding party will invariably include people that you don't know as well or aren't as close to you. Some of the most amazing parts of planning a wedding are daydreaming with your closest friends, and that intimate conversation that can only happen in small groups of people that have known each other for a long time. Also, think about how you'd feel being asked to be one of three bridesmaids versus being asked to be one of 12. The first is far more meaningful.
  • Herding cats: While for the most part, your wedding party will be helping you, at significant points, you'll be telling them where to stand, how to dress, and when to show up. With a large group of people, this can be a bit like "herding cats"—unruly and frustrating. The relaxed bride knows three magic words: simplify, simplify, and simplify. This rule applies when it comes to your bridal party.
  • The expense for them: Keep in mind that you're asking these individuals to spend a considerable amount of money. Even if they don't feel very close to you, they may feel obligated to say yes. The gracious bride and groom will consider this.
  • Size of the ceremony site: Anything less than a very large cathedral will have a difficult time accommodating a large wedding party. If you're committed to having a large wedding party, you'll have to look for a large site.

What's the Magic Number?

There is no minimum number of bridesmaids and groomsmen you need, other than the nicety of having someone around to help you and give you moral support. You can have as few as you want. Many brides these days have only one attendant, partially because they have too many friends to include some and not others. It's important to weigh all your options before deciding on the appropriate number of attendants for the size and style of your wedding.

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