Your wedding party isn’t just a collection of your favorite friends and family who you’d like to celebrate your big day with. They’re your team. They’re your helpers. They are the people you are going to come to rely on time and again.
Or, maybe you’d be just as happy with your team wearing what you choose and showing up on time on the big day while you handle most of the heavy lifting. Either way, some careful thought should be put into the decision.
We’ve gathered up some tips on how to choose your team wisely and what is generally expected of everyone, so you’ll have the right people by your side on your big day.
The Maid or Matron of Honor
Your maid of honor (or matron of honor if she’s married) is responsible for organizing the bridal shower and the bachelorette party, helping the bride get dressed, holding the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony, arranging the bride’s train and veil if applicable, signing the marriage certificate, and making a toast at the reception.
The maid of honor is also more or less in charge of the rest of the bridal party, ensuring everyone is on the same page with what to wear, when to be where, and more.
Sisters usually trump friends when it comes to maid of honor – and bridesmaids – but not always. If you have two sisters you may opt for a friend to be the maid of honor.
The bridesmaids help with a variety of pre-wedding tasks and help the maid of honor organize the shower and bachelorette party. They also may be assigned small tasks at the wedding.
When choosing your team, set honest and realistic expectations. Do you want your bridesmaids to put together decorations with you, go to dress fittings with you, and so forth? If so, you should make that fairly clear up front.
You should also consider where these ladies live and how much time they have. If you have a bridesmaid who lives in another state and has four kids and a demanding job you can’t realistically expect her to show up for stuffing envelopes.
If you have a friend you’d like to include in the wedding but are skeptical if they’re up to the task you can always choose to include them in another, special way, such as reading a poem or a giving a speech at the wedding.
Also, remember that it takes a lot of time and money to be a bridesmaid. Keep this in perspective, and help them help you by giving lots of notice regarding dates and deadlines. And, try not to give them too many tasks on the actual day of the wedding once the ceremony is over – this is a time for them to enjoy and to make memories too.
The Best Man
The best man is primarily in charge of organizing the bachelor party, but he also provides overall support for the groom, helping to keep him calm and relaxed, ensuring he gets to the ceremony on time, and he often is in charge of holding the rings. Like the maid of honor, he also signs the marriage certificate and makes a toast at the reception.
Another duty the best man might have is to coordinate with the rental shop on the groomsmen tuxedos, possibly picking them up and returning them afterwards.
The best man should be someone fairly responsible, who isn’t going to party too hard at the rehearsal dinner to then not make it to the ceremony the next day. (This should also be true of the maid of honor). Once again, siblings typically take priority, but not always.
Groomsmen used to also double as ushers, helping guests to get to their seats, although this isn’t traditionally done as often anymore. Tasks groomsmen might be assigned to could be rounding up relatives for photos or helping to transport gifts from the venue to a parent’s car.
If you’re planning on doing a “getaway vehicle” – the car decorated with shaving cream, empty cans, with “Just Married’ written on the back – the groomsmen usually take care of this.
Beyond that, the groosmen just have to handle getting measured for their tuxes and showing up to the bachelor party, rehearsal dinner, and wedding on time.
How Many is Too Many?
So, how many bridesmaids and how many groomsmen are acceptable? The average is four on each side, but you have to do what’s right for you.
You may want to take the size of the wedding itself into consideration and use that as a marker for how many wedding party people to have. If you’re having a smaller wedding close to 50 people you probably don’t want to have more than four attendants on each side. If you’re having a grand affair of 200 or more guests, feel free to up the number of people in the wedding party to eight or ten on each side.
On the other hand, some people choose to forgo all bridesmaids and groomsmen and just have the maid of honor and the best man. If you feel like you have to choose between 15 bridesmaids or hurting a lot of people’s feelings this could be a good way to go.
Don’t Be Afraid to Think Outside the Box
Don’t feel like you have to keep the number even on each side. It’s perfectly acceptable to have four bridesmaids and five groomsmen, or vice versa. A groom can always walk two bridesmaids down the aisle, two bridesmaids could walk together, a groomsman could walk with a flower girl, or the formation will otherwise work out.
Have a male friend you’re particularly close to? There’s no reason you can’t have a “bridesman.” If the groom is particularly close to his father he might choose him as his best man, and so forth. It’s your wedding!
Kids at the Wedding
Many people do choose to include children in the ceremony, and they can be a wonderful addition to the wedding party. Bear in mind, though, that kids can also be quite unpredictable.
Just like you don’t need to have a matching number of bridesmaids to groomsmen you also don’t need to have both a flower girl and a ring bearer. Feel free to have one or the other, or both, or neither.
Flower girls traditionally wear a modified version of the bridesmaids’ dresses and scatter petals down the aisle. The ring bearer often doesn’t have the actual rings, which will be with the best man, and this is probably the safest bet.
If you have a young girl in your family who’s a little old to be a flower girl you could make her a junior bridesmaid. Like a flower girl she would probably wear some version of what the bridesmaids are wearing, but would forgo the flower petals.
No kids in your family or friends you’re especially close to? Skip having kids in the ceremony. Want kids in the ceremony but not at the reception? This is also allowed, and quite common. Depending on how many kids you’re dealing with you may want to consider hiring a babysitter for the reception to make everyone’s lives easier.
A Final Note
Try to choose friends and family who are likely to be in your life for many years to come, and not just someone you hang out with often because she happens to be your neighbor.
Friends come and go over the years as people move, change jobs, or just grow apart. When you look back on your wedding photos five, ten, or more years from now, can you picture your team there looking on and reminiscing over the great memories with you?
Choose carefully, and take some time thinking about it. You don’t have to decide the second you get engaged. And you don’t have to ask someone to be in your wedding just because you were in theirs. Remember, there are always other ways to make people feel included by inviting them to pre-wedding activities or giving them a special job at the ceremony or reception.
Follow your instincts, choose your team, be realistic with your expectations, and then relax and enjoy your day!