Help me choose my bridesmaids!
January 11, 2012 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I absolutely hate the idea of choosing people to stand by my side at the altar. I have friends from all different stages of life whom I care for very much (childhood, high school, college, grad school, work, etc.) and I loathe the idea of "picking" some and not others. What do I do?

As a little more background, I'd be perfectly happy with having a bridal party of three, which would include my two sisters and my future sister-in-law. But my fiance really really wants a large wedding party (he's had a certain 7 guys in mind for YEARS).

It's true that I am closer to some friends than others, but in all honesty I don't have a very clear idea of 4 friends that jump out as being besties. I'd say I have a good friendship with a large group of people, but an intimate, ongoing friendship with very, very few. There's no specific friend that I call when I'm having a rough day -- I talk to my parents, my sisters, or my fiance. There's a group of 3 people I have in mind from HS and we were VERY close at the time, but now it's 10 years later and I talk to one of them frequently but the other two maybe once or twice a year, if that. Although we had a very close relationship at one time, we weren't very good at maintaining it, and I can imagine it might even be an insult to the friends I see more regularly these days if I were to ask these women to be my bridesmaids.

In any case, my thought was that I would just pick family members, like cousins. We don't have a very close relationship on an individual level, but we have a close family and I would be happy to have them in the wedding. One of the issues I see with that is that they might feel strange because they wouldn't want to reciprocate (one of my cousins is getting married soon and I'm not in the wedding party). I don't care at all about this, but I don't want them to feel uncomfortable. The other thing I worry about is that it looks a little pathetic. I mean, it is a little sad that I don't have a close group of friends. Finally, my fiance really doesn't like this cousins plan, because he envisioned the wedding party as a group of our friends who would be able to have a lot of fun together at the various events, not cousins who are in some cases 15 years younger than his friends.

Finally, I don't plan on asking much from my bridesmaids. My sisters will help me with whatever planning/organizing I have to do and I want my bridesmaids to wear whatever they want.

I just feel like this is a pointless exercise that will only result in me or other people's feelings being hurt. Nothing feels right. Any advice is welcome.
posted by murfed13 to Human Relations (28 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Skip bridesmaids altogether, or just ask your sisters. It's ok to have just family standing up with you. Don't even begin to worry about how it looks or whether it's reciprocated.
posted by mochapickle at 5:20 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I've been to more and more weddings with 'mismatched' wedding parties (one side has more than the other), or without a real wedding party at all.

Alternately, I have been to weddings where some people are designated as "ushers" - they seem to be on the same 'friend level' as the wedding party, they wear tuxes, and they escort special family members to their seats before the wedding party comes down the aisle. If your fiance could identify three groomsmen and 4 ushers (who could escort your grandparents or your grandmothers and mothers), you could have a balanced party.

It sounds to me like you are feeling a little vulnerable because your fiance has a close group of friends and you don't. Have you expressed this to him? He needs to be willing to compromise on his vision of the wedding party as being both large (14 people) and only comprised of friends who can hang out and party.
posted by muddgirl at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2012 [10 favorites]

Why don't you send the word out that you want four more ladies to round out the bridal party? Let your friends know that you understand it's a financial burden so you don't want to ask anybody who isn't in your immediate family.

You could ask people to nominate themselves if they want to be in your wedding party and feel comfortable standing up with you on your big day. They'd weed themselves out.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:24 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

You don't have to have an even number of people next to you to the number of people next to your fiance. Your fiance can have his 7 guys and you can have your 3 sisters. They don't need to escort each other down the aisle. They can each enter in from the sides or do other configurations.

Finally, my fiance really doesn't like this cousins plan, because he envisioned the wedding party as a group of our friends who would be able to have a lot of fun together at the various events, not cousins who are in some cases 15 years younger than his friends.

It sounds like he wants to have all of your closest friends have fun at a lot of events. It's possible to do this without framing it as "we're the wedding party at these events." It can just be, these are events for our best friends, in the wedding party or not.
posted by cairdeas at 5:25 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

The numbers don't have to match up...but if that's important, maybe your fiance could "triage" his seven guys into groomsmen/ushers. (On preview, what muddgirl said.)
posted by candyland at 5:27 PM on January 11, 2012

I wish I never had bridesmaids. I only had two. Asking them was a mix of my insecurity of not having anyone standing next to me (and my husband was confident in his choices) and my regret at not having kept in better touch with these two people that I had a long history with.

I wish I had the confidence from the start to have been okay with not having a bridal party.
posted by spec80 at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

There's no problem with mismatched wedding parties, but usually it's like one side has 5 and the other 6, not 3 and 7.

If you can't convince him to reduce his list, then make a list of all the people you would consider having as bridesmaids. Cousins, old friends, new friends, etc. Then cross off anyone you don't talk to regularly. Then cross off anyone you wouldn't feel comfortable sharing intimate information with now. Hopefully you'll have your list narrowed down pretty well by that point.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2012

My wife and I didn't have bridesmaids or groomsmen at all, and I feel very strongly that that was the right thing to do. Most people's weddings are not improved by introduction of another type of status hierarchy for everybody to feel upset at and stressed by.

You can still have "a lot of fun together at the various events" without a wedding party. At the wedding events, you can spend time with all of your guests!-- or at least all of the guests that you like, or all of the guests you have time for, or whatever. You can still have a bachelor/bachelorette party. You can ask some other friends to help you make programs, some different friends to help usher people to their seats, some other friends to help you make toasts, and some other friends to stay up past midnight with you baking hundreds and hundreds of mexican wedding cookies for favors.

Ultimately, this is something you have to work out with your fiance, of course, but I just wanted to put in a word for not having a special "wedding party" hierarchy at all.
posted by willbaude at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2012 [6 favorites]

The point is that if it's important to you guys have the wedding represent your life and what's important to you, then it should do so. It shouldn't be shoehorned into a symmetrical mold if that's not what the reality is. And it's not wrong or lesser somehow if it doesn't fit that generic mold.
posted by cairdeas at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't think you should feel bad - most people don't have 7 close friends they'd want to stand by them at their wedding.

I think that either your fiance has to compromise on his number, or you have to compromise on how close you want your bridal party to be to each other and you. I mean, sure, you can do it mis-matched but it sounds like your fiance has a very specific idea of how he envisioned the whole thing going down that doesn't really account for both of your situations regarding close friendships. Unless he has some specific ideas on who could be your bridesmaids (for example, friends who are friends with his 7 and are reasonably close to you) I'd try to pare it down to three or four people each.

Personally I'd go with not having a wedding party at all.
posted by sm1tten at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just skip the wedding party. What a headache.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

We were lopsided - three of my best friends from various periods of life stood for me, and then he had five guys, two friends, three of our siblings. You don't need to match. For our bridal dance, we had people dance with their own partners (save for my pre-teen brother who was more than happy to not have to dance), and our "head table" was a big round table that also included spouses, save for his two older brothers who were happy to sit with their families. We did some creative finagling for the recessional, and divided up tasks equally, and it all worked out. We were happy, several other family weddings since ours took the idea, and all of our attendants and their partners thanked us for making everything so drama free and uncomfortable.

Ultimately - it's your wedding. Do what you want. You don't have to do something because you're "supposed to." That's bunk.
posted by librarianamy at 5:35 PM on January 11, 2012

My husband had three groomsmen, I had five bridesmaids and a flowergirl. It's no big deal at all.

(In fact it got adorable when the 6-year-old flowergirl stole one of the groomsmen in the recessional that we had forgotten to practice, so my teenaged brother ended up with two attractive bridesmaids in their 20s and made a hilarious face at the camera.)

Have the people who would give you a kidney.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:43 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

You're right. This is a pointless exercise. Do what you want. Seriously, I wish that's what someone had told me back in the day.

My wedding was pre-internet, and I was the first among my friends to get married, so I was just operating off the wedding magazine guides. I really didn't know anything about offbeat or non-traditional weddings, or even traditional weddings with a twist. And I only wanted my best pal as my bridesmaid. Then my mom said, "But you can't have your pal and not have your (one biological) sister! Then my dad said, "You can't have your pal and your sister and not have your two step-sisters (from dad's current marriage)!" Then my mom said, "You can't have your pal and your sister and your two step-sisters and not have the two step-sisters (from her current marriage)!" And that's how I went from having one bridesmaid to having six.

Let's just say I didn't have the force of personality at age 24 that I have now.

posted by BlahLaLa at 5:49 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't do it. I didn't do it, and no one seemed to care at all. I promise. You can skip it. It will be OK.
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:04 PM on January 11, 2012

A friend of mine got married and I didn't make the cut as a groomsman. Didn't offend me in the least. I still got to go to all the fun wedding party stuff, and I also didn't have to rent a tuxedo or take pictures or dance with his sister. (Just kidding.) Any friend of his that cares whether he is part of the wedding party or not is an asshole. Dude should compromise and cut a couple of his friends.

Second theory: contact your potential "second string" bridesmaids in a group email or out for drinks or something. Tell them "I'd love for you all to be in the wedding party, but I only have room for 3 after my sister, my cousin and Bestie Louise. Who wants to join in, and who wants to beg off?" The only downside is if they all say no.
posted by gjc at 6:26 PM on January 11, 2012

he envisioned the wedding party as a group of our friends who would be able to have a lot of fun together at the various events

It's cool that he's had an idealized vision of what the "various events" around his wedding will be like, but it sounds like he really hasn't thought this through now that he's actually planning a real wedding. What are these events he had in mind? Was he planning a "Wedding Crashers"-style weekend of touch football games at his summer house? Does he think that anyone (including the seven guys he's had in mind "for years") is really going to be able to participate in something other than the bachelor/ette party, wedding shower, and rehearsal dinner that LOTS of non-wedding-party people will be attending? It sounds like he doesn't fully grasp that you two don't actually have a tight integrated group of 14 evenly-gender-balanced friends who are going to be available for their special set of VIP events happening in celebration of your wedding... and that he's not yet able to balance his continued desire for that with the fact that trying to somehow make it happen is causing you, his lifelong-partner-to-be, significant discomfort.
posted by argonauta at 6:34 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Have the best man stand up with the groom and the have each bridesmaid escorted down the aisle by two groomsmen. I didn't read all the comments in case someone else recommended this too.

I've been to loads of uneven bridal party weddings, this isn't odd. Some people have more close friends or family than others.
posted by magnetsphere at 6:38 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make your own rules, do what works for you. Girls can be ushers too, and you can invent other roles (doing readings, for instance). The "wedding party" can be defined as loosely as you want it to be. There is no need for an equal balance of blokes and girls - especially bearing in mind that you're going to have to find room in the mix for your male best friend and his sister and someone's 5 year old niece and then it just gets stupid...

Anyone who gets snippy about not being asked to be a bridesmaid is someone who doesn't deserve to be a bridesmaid, in my opinion. Anyone who actually cares about you just wants you to have a lovely wedding day - and whatever part you ask them to play - or not - is fine.

Do what makes you happy.
posted by finding.perdita at 6:39 PM on January 11, 2012

At my wedding, we had the guy's 2 best friends and my 2 brothers as ushers/groomsmen/bridesmen. They got to (had to?) wear the tux, show people to their seats, hand out programs, etc., but as soon as the bridal march started, their responsibilities were over. And honestly, it was perfect (for me). No extra dress shopping, no coordinating shoes, no awkward matching of bridesmaids with groomsmen. So do what you and your fiance want. Your wedding doesn't need to be symmetrical.
posted by specialagentwebb at 7:17 PM on January 11, 2012

At my friend's wedding her husband had one more attendant than she did, so I got to walk down the aisle with a guy on each arm. Ooooh yeeeeeah. (It entertained the guests greatly when we kind of hammed it up) Nothing wrong with mismatched parties.

Also at her wedding, she had some people she sort of wanted to be attendants but her parents weren't keen on it (they were male friends and her parents weren't ready to handle co-ed "bridesmaids"), so she had one of them escort her mother down the aisle and the others did readings -- that way they were highlighted in the ceremony but we (more or less) kept symmetry in the actual wedding party. That might be a good way for your fiance to manage some of his "extra" groomsmen?
posted by olinerd at 7:46 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Everyone has mentioned fantastic configurations that work. I'd also like to second your inclination to not just include "randoms" to even out or fluff up the bridal party. I think most people don't really want to splash out for a single use dress and all the kerfuffle that goes into participating in someone's special day. I was happy to be in the "second ring" at lots of my friends' weddings. The one where I was maid of honor was beautiful and fun, too, but way more work for me.

The sisters sounds special and lovely. Go with that. Anything else will feel forced and your choice is above reproach. Congrats! It's a fun party -- the best!! Try hard not to let the details get in the way.
posted by amanda at 8:11 PM on January 11, 2012

I had my best friend of nearly 20 years, my best friend of 10 years and my incoming sister-in-law as my maids. My sister-in-law did a reading and my other friend was our officiant. My husband had wanted more groomsmen, but I didn't really want it to be lopsided. So, we asked our "runner ups" to help in other ways -- wedding music, cake makers, hair and makeup, etc. Everyone felt involved and we had the excuse to have group wedding events including all our friends without having everyone up at the altar with us!

I agree with the general response here -- DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! You want to be surrounded by those who make you calm and feel loved on your big day!
posted by beloveddoll at 10:42 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

People who aren't going to be standing next to you in neat symmetrical rows as you say your vows can still be "in your wedding party," for what it's worth. The wedding party is whoever the couple says it is. At our wedding, my sister was my best man (scandalous!), my wife's sister was her maid of honor, and we had our close friends doing other things (performing the ceremony, ushering, doing readings, etc), and invited them all to the classic "wedding-party-only" events anyway. It's fine. No one's judging you on any of this; it's your day.
posted by Mayor West at 5:08 AM on January 12, 2012

My solution was to make all my five little nieces "junior bridesmaids", and just have my sister sign as a witness. No-one, but no-one appreciates the dressing up and pomp and circumstance of a wedding more than little girls who wish they were princesses.
posted by LN at 6:47 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Data point: I didn't want to pick bridesmaids either. So I didn't. There was no wedding party; my younger sister walked down the aisle ahead of me and a few friends read poems or played music for the ceremony. It was great.
posted by Cygnet at 8:03 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just to approach the question from another way since non-traditional, non-matchymatchy, no wedding party, etc., have already been addressed: you could choose one friend from each stage of your life as a symbolic thing, and this is something that's easy to explain; everyone understands that the choice is difficult anyway, and it seems to me that this arrangement makes it even easier to avoid hurt feelings. If you want exact matching numbers, though, you'd need to combine either childhood and high school, or college and grad school.

Regarding your high school friends, the ones you talk to a couple of times a year would be very unlikely to feel upset that they aren't bridesmaids if you speak so seldom, so I'd say it's safe to go with the one you talk to frequently with no hurt feelings. You don't give much information about the other friends so it's hard to say, but who do you speak with/see/depend on the most often from those stages of your life?
posted by taz at 10:40 AM on January 12, 2012

There is nothing wrong with you having 3 people on your side and your husband having 7. Do what *you* want to do. I still regret choosing one of the people to stand up with me because I thought I should do it.
posted by thatone at 7:31 PM on January 13, 2012

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