Figuring out how many bridesmaids to choose (let alone who to choose) can be ... well, complicated. Sometimes choosing bridesmaids can feel like you're the captain of the kickball team, trying to decide on the top five or 10 of the most eligible players for your squad. But just because you have a lot of close friends or family members doesn't mean they all need to stand by your side on your wedding day. There are plenty of ways they can be there for you that don't require a hand-picked chiffon dress or a rehearsed stroll down the aisle, and let's not forget your bachelorette party can be big or small as you want.
For most brides, if you're in the four to six bridesmaids range, you should be just fine. Of course, that doesn't mean you're locked into that range. If you find yourself breaking out in a stress sweat over how many bridesmaids to have in your bridal party, take it from professional wedding planner Manda Worthington: "This is your day, and you can have as few or as many bridesmaids as you want by your side."
Meet the Expert
Manda Worthington is the owner and creative director of Mae&Co Creative, a destination-based styling and planning company specializing in intimate and high-end weddings, events, and elopements.
Don't get caught up in what other people are doing or worried about how your bridesmaid pictures might look based on how many participants you have. The point is to be with those you love, and ultimately, your wedding-party size is up to you, but there are a few things to consider when coming up with a set number to stand by your side at the altar.
Read on for tips to choose how many bridesmaids to include in your wedding, straight from a professional planner.
What Is the Average Bridal Party Size?
The number of bridal party members in a ceremony largely depends on the size of the wedding itself. Typically, three to five is the range people fall into, Worthington explains, adding that there are a number of factors that play into how many people you may have. "Definitely, the size of the venue, the number of guests in attendance, number of close friends and family members you want to play a part, and the atmosphere you are shooting for," Worthington says, all affect the number of bridal party members you will have.
How to Decide Bridal Party Size
Your bridal party is made up of the people you want to be first in line to see you get married. "It’s also the people brides want to be able to depend on, laugh with, and cry with through their whole wedding process," she says. "So, if you have a group of five close friends who make you feel that way, then go with five! If you have one 'ride-or-die' friend, then go with just one!" Don't feel like there are rules that you have to follow when deciding on how many of your friends to include in your wedding party, and certainly don't let anyone pressure you into making a decision that doesn't make you happy. The best course of action is to follow what feels right to you and choose those you truly want to stand by your side as you get married.
There Is No ‘Correct’ Number
The bottom line: You don't need a certain number of people in your bridal party. You don't have to choose an odd number or an even number or a certain number, like five, because you've been to (or have been a part of) other weddings where that was the case. It's not a numbers game, and there's certainly no hard-and-fast rule you should abide by when it comes to how many people you want to lead the way for you down the aisle.
"Do you," advises Worthington. "Don't be influenced by what you have seen others do, what you think you are expected to do, or whatever 'normal' is. This is your day, and you can have as few or as many as you want by your side."
How to Decide Who to Leave Out
Of course, cutting down your bridal party is easier said than done. Like many aspects of your wedding, you may need to sit down and make a list of potential bridesmaids. You will likely have a few who are "must haves" as bridesmaids, and a few others that you realize maybe shouldn't be there. It's important to remember that there are many other important roles that can be served by those who aren't bridesmaids. You can have some non-bridesmaids help out with selecting wedding flowers or sampling wedding cakes. Also, some of your pre-wedding social events can be open to more people than just your bridesmaids.
The Wedding Party Doesn't Need to Be Even
The only time anyone might notice that one side has less than the other is when it's time for them to walk down the aisle—which, by the way, your guests aren't really paying that much attention to anyway, because they are sitting there fidgeting in anticipation, waiting for you to walk down the aisle.
If you're nervous about how your group photos will look with an uneven bridal party, ask the photographer to stage different setups and poses, so it's not just a straight line of people standing beside one another.
If You Were Their Bridesmaid, They Don’t Have to Be Yours
There's no rule that says you have to select your bridal party members based on who asked you to be a part of their bridal party in the past—and you definitely don't have to extend the invite to someone just because you stood by their side some years ago. If you're still close with them, go for it. But if you haven't spoken in a couple of years (or more), it's going to be a little awkward rekindling your friendship while you're in the midst of wedding planning.
Should You Have Your Future Sister-in-Law as a Bridesmaid?
You should not feel obligated to select your future sister-in-law as a bridesmaid. Ultimately, this really will depend on your relationship with them. If the two of you are close, then it certainly would be appropriate to have them on board. Conversely, if you're not close at all, having them as a bridesmaid may be awkward, particularly if they're not close with any of your other bridesmaids. Vice versa, your future sister-in-law may not be comfortable being your bridesmaid, either. If this is the case, then you may want to include your spouse-to-be in the discussions, so your spouse (and family) aren't caught off guard. There are plenty of other important roles that your future sister-in-law can serve on the big day.
You Don’t Need to Have a Bridal Party
You absolutely don't have to have a bridal party at all. Even without an official "bride tribe" you can still have a booming bachelorette party and invite all your besties—who may even be happier in the long run, seeing as you saved them from having to spend money on an outfit they might never wear again. On the other hand, do you have someone in your life that you can't imagine leaving out? By all means, ask them to join your bridal party along with the rest of the bridal party members!