If I Was a Bridesmaid in a Friend's Wedding, Does She Have to Be in Mine?

Do you have to return the favor?

Updated 10/20/19

Photo by Caroline Lima Photography

Getting asked to be a bridesmaid in your friend's wedding is super exciting. Someone you love is getting married, and you get to be a part of the fun. And when it comes time to plan a wedding of your own, you’ll have to make the same decision and decide who to include in your wedding party. If you were a bridesmaid for someone else, do you have to return the favor and make her one of your bridesmaids as well?

Choosing your wedding party can be fun, exciting... and hard. How do you choose between family and friends from all of those different stages of your life? Do you have to include your fiancé’s sister? What about your brother’s girlfriend or your favorite cousin? And will all of those people even get along? It can definitely feel like decision overload. Then throw in the married gals who have asked you to be bridesmaids at their weddings in the past, and the list of bridesmaid options might seem never ending. But don’t freak out—here’s how to narrow it down.

First, sit down with your partner and decide how big you want your wedding party to be. Your sides of the altar don’t need to be completely even, but it might look awkward to have four people on one side and 10 on the other, so decide on a size you’ll both stick to. If you would much rather have a smaller bridal party (especially if you’re having a more intimate guest list), no one will be offended if your sister and sister-in-law get the nod, but your friends don’t. However, if you’re planning to go all out and have a massive bridal party with a dozen people in matching dresses (and tuxedo-wearing groomsmen to match), it might be worth it to add one more person to the list to avoid hurt feelings.

With size in mind, pick your VIPs. These are the women (and perhaps men) who you have always known would be your bridesmaids (or bridesmen), whether it’s your sister, your lifelong best friend, or a coworker who you instantly clicked with. The no-brainer, “Yes, she should be a bridesmaid!” women are easy to identify, and there’s no question about whether you’ll include them.

Finally, move on to the people who asked you to be bridesmaids when they walked down the aisle and consider when they were married, as well as your current relationship with each of them. If the wedding was fairly recent (we’re talking three years or less), it’s polite to ask her to be a bridesmaid in your wedding too. If the wedding was more than a few years ago, you’re not obligated to reciprocate unless you want to. However, if you’re still friends after all those years, you should still invite her to attend your wedding as a guest. And just how close are the two of you, anyway? If your friendship has flourished and thrived over the years (even if she tied the knot right after college and now you’re pushing 30), she’s probably already on that VIP list you just made.

But what if you have grown apart significantly or had a falling out? Even if she got married last summer, no one will force you to include her—and she’ll probably understand why she didn’t make the cut.

One situation where you should 100 percent return the favor and have your friend be a bridesmaid at your wedding? If she is married to one of your siblings, is your partner’s sister, or is your own sister. She’s family, so if she included you in her bridal party, you should include her in yours too.

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