Not only must they look lovely in coral satin and dance a mean Macarena, knowing how to pick your bridesmaids will keep you sane and smiling from the engagement to the after party. Whether it’s just one sister or a gaggle of gal pals from all different stages of your life, your bridesmaids will be among your biggest supporters on the big day. Choose them wisely.
Determine the size
There is no hard and fast rule as to how many attendants you should have (a good estimate is one attendant for every 50 guests), but consider the approximate size of your wedding in relation to the bridal party. A wedding of 50 does not need a dozen bridesmaids, but a wedding of 400 could use more than one. Talk the groom about how many attendants he’d like on his side, but keep in mind that the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen does not have to be perfectly even. Also consider your budget to help determine the number of bridesmaids: More ladies means more bouquets, bridal-party gifts, hair and makeup styling and anything else you plan to provide.
Consider the relationship
Sisters, sisters of the groom, and other close relatives such as a favorite cousin get priority. Such gestures are greatly appreciated and may help avoid any potential conflicts or hurt feelings. When it comes to friends, consider the nature of the relationship and the person’s role in your life. Think about whom you truly want to be there to support you on the big day, or who would be happy to do so. A childhood friend may have close ties to your past, while more recent besties from college, work or other phases of your life as a single gal may know your present self the best. Also, consider how the women you’re considering get along with each other. Two cousins engaged in a lifelong feud may make matters difficult for the rest of the bridesmaids (and you).
Think about her situation
If a friend is moving to another country, starting a rigorous graduate-school program, recently unemployed or maybe even getting married herself, it might not be a great time for her to devote herself to your wedding. If you think you’re going to need a lot of face time with your girls, an attendant who is not readily available may not be the best choice. If you would still like to include her, don’t assume that she definitely won’t want to — despite her crazy schedule, she may be thrilled to make time for some prenuptial fun. Have a casual chat to gauge her interest before extending the official bridal-party invite. If being a bridesmaid doesn’t work out, she may prefer to be involved with another way, such as giving a reading during the ceremony.
Don’t feel pressured
Almost every bride will have that one person whom they feel they should ask to be a bridesmaid but really just doesn’t want to. Before you give in to the fear of hurting someone’s feelings, think about what you want and figure out a tactful way to make that happen. Tailor the bridal party to what you think is best, not because you feel obligated to invite a certain someone into the mix. Just because you were a bridesmaid 10 years ago for a sorority sister does not mean that you have to reciprocate. Most importantly, don’t let anyone invite herself into the bridal party — after all, it’s your wedding.
Be prompt and considerate
Of course, you’ll want to spread the good news of your engagement before you even think about the bridal party. But most brides have had an idea of who they would want to include, oh, forever. Do not extend any official bridesmaid invitations until you have given it some thought and are absolutely sure of the decision, but don’t put it off forever, either. Friends and family who suspect they’re in the running will want to know whether or not they should start practicing their processional walk — and you’ll be able to put any bridal-party anxiety behind you and move on to other aspects of wedding planning. Once your attendants are confirmed, you may want to make it known so any nosy coworkers or middle-school classmates don’t go on thinking they’re going to be asked to be a bridesmaid.