For many years, it was fashionable to have a big wedding party, with all of your sisters, brothers, cousins and besties included as bridesmaids and groomsmen. In fact, in the South, it's still tradition to automatically include your brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law who are married to the bride and groom's real siblings in your bridal party. Add up all those people and you may end up with a REALLY big wedding party.
The bigger the wedding party, the more stress there is on the wedding couple. So you might just wonder why and how the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen got so large. Believe it or not, like so many things, the tradition dates back to Roman times, when the law required 10 witnesses to be part of the wedding ceremony. And all the bridesmaids wore white, like the bride, to confuse evil spirits.
Fortunately, nowadays there are no rules that dictate how many people have to stand up for you, and most states don't require more than two witnesses (although that varies by country — many require two for each person getting married). So couples have the option of having as many, or as few, attendants as they wish, based solely on their own preference.
My observation, from the many weddings I've planned, is that younger brides and grooms generally choose to have bigger wedding parties than older couples (35 and up) getting married. That may be because it's the time of life when so many of their friends are getting married, and asking them to be in their wedding parties, so they feel they need to reciprocate the honor when it's their turn to tie the knot. There's also the basic fact that younger adults travel in larger packs — when a group of 20-somethings head out for an evening on the town, they're far more likely to go out with a whole bunch of other friends. If you look at the size of older groups, it's usually just two or three couples.
The big question, for many brides, is how many bridesmaids she actually NEEDS for her wedding. And my answer to that is definitely ONE. Yep, one. You need one friend to bounce ideas off during the planning, one friend who will make sure you go do something ridiculous for your bachelorette, and one friend who will help you get ready on your wedding day, and stand next to you as you take your vows.
You CAN have as many friends and family members in your wedding party as you like, but keep the following things in mind before you start asking all your friends to participate:
Bigger means more expensive for the wedding couple, with flowers, gifts, etc.
If you're having a small wedding, a huge wedding party can look lopsided in the pictures.
More people and personalities sometimes means more drama.
You should absolutely have however many people in your wedding party as you like, but just remember that bigger doesn't always mean better. Sometimes it just means more work for the bride and groom!
See More: 30 Ways to Style Your Wedding Party
*Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of * How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.