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How to... choose your bridesmaids

You've told everyone you love you're getting married, and basked in the afterglow of announcing your engagement on Facebook. Now what? Your closest girlfriends are probably wondering if they've made the bridesmaid cut, and there's no need to keep them waiting. By choosing your bridesmaids early, you make it easier to shop for wedding supplies. You're also more likely to get help from those you've welcomed into your wedding party.

List your closest friends

The only people who should be standing beside you on your big day are the people to whom you are closest – not the friend your mom wants you to pick and certainly not the folks you think will look best in photos. Make a list of the people who have been there for you through thick and thin. If the list isn't too long, then you already know who your bridesmaids are. If you end up with 20 people, though, you'll have to do some narrowing of your choices.

Choose reliable people

Your bridal party isn't just about choosing people you love; it's also about choosing those who have stuck with you. If you have a friend you adore but who is a little flaky, think twice about including her. Otherwise you might find she's missing in action, having a meltdown, or otherwise unprepared on the big day.

Ask for support with your marriage

The traditional role of the bridal party was to stand beside the bride and endorse her marriage. Marriage is no easy undertaking, and you're going to need support from your friends. Choose only people who support your relationship and who take marriage seriously. The friend who says, "if it doesn't work out you can just get divorced" has no place in your bridal party.

Make it gender-neutral

If your brother is a best friend or your best girlfriend is actually a guy, there's no need to exclude him. Contemporary bridal parties are often mixed-gender affairs, and the men in your life deserve as much love as the women.

Make the big announcement

Once you've selected the women - or men! - who will stand beside you, it's time to ask them to be in your bridal party. A lovely card or even a small gift is a great way to surprise them with the request. Steer clear of big, dramatic announcements. These scream “bridezilla”. And although you want your bridal party to care about your wedding, it's not fair to treat the selection process as a pageant. Make it low-key and your bridal party will rest easy knowing that you're not going to lose your grip on sanity as you plan your wedding.

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