Photo: Ryan Phillips Photography
We've all been to that wedding: The one where the processional seemingly lasted longer than the ceremony itself because the bridal party was just so darn big. But if your list of close friends tops into the teens, you may be facing a similar bridesmaids situation, unless you're willing to make a few (or 10) tough cuts.
Who should you cut from your bridal party? And who should make the cut? That's not always a clear cut answer, says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., psychologist, friendship expert, and creator of The Friendship Blog, who points out you'll be making these tough decisions during a time when you may already feel frenzied and downright overwhelmed. But it can be done, and we're here to help you make the best calls you can.
First, says Jaclyn Fisher, owner of Two Little Birds Planning in Philadelphia, it's time to crunch numbers. "While there are no set rules when it comes to choosing the number of attendants in your wedding party, the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen is typically proportionate to the size of your wedding," she explains, adding that large, formal weddings more often have bigger bridal parties, while couples hosting smaller, more intimate fetes often have just a few gals and guys by their sides.
Figure out the number that works for you and your wedding and commit to sticking to it. But with that number in mind, it's time for the tough(er) work. You love all your friends, of course, but you should pick the bridesmaids who will most behoove your big day, Levine says.
"Choose bridesmaids with whom communication is easy as opposed to people who will be combative or passive-aggressive," she suggests. "And consider whether [each potential bridesmaid] is reliable, dependable and supportive," she says, before you invite anyone to join the party. Anyone who doesn't hold these important qualities, she says, shouldn't make the cut.
Beyond that, Levine says, "the bride should think about whether she'll one day look back at her wedding photography and barely remember the women surrounding her. Are these people to whom she feels close and connected as kindred spirits or are these people to whom she is tied merely because of situational circumstances?"
Of course, there are some women who should never be excluded, no matter how close you may be: Your sisters. Warns Fisher, "Unless there are extreme circumstances, sisters should be asked to be bridesmaids, including your future sister-in-law. Not asking them will likely cause family drama and put a strain on family relationships for years to come." And no one wants that.
If you're still struggling to make a cut, be practical. "Make sure your expectations are realistic," Fisher says. "For example, if you want your bridesmaids to be super involved in the planning, from dress shopping to stamping invitations, you'll want to consider geographically close pals who have the time to devote to your planning."
And remember, just because a friend doesn't make the bridesmaid cut doesn't mean she can't still participate in your wedding day. "You can express how important that person has been in her life and how difficult it was to make a short list but she was constrained by cost, numbers, whatever," Levine says. "Then, you might find some other special role that the person can play at the wedding and go out of your way to seat the person somewhere where she feels special and comfortable."