While some brides opt to include all of their friends in the wedding party (a dozen bridesmaids do make for incredible photos!), others choose to keep the group more intimate or skip the wedding party altogether. The choice is totally up to you, but either way, there's a good chance you've got a few friends who don't quite make the cut — but still mean the world to you. Since you still love these ladies (and gents!) more than anything, you might find yourself looking for other ways to include them in your wedding celebration. Well, you're in luck! We spoke to wedding planners across the country for their favorite ways for brides to include their non-bridesmaid friends in the wedding — you'll love what they came up with!
Use her expertise as you're planning.
While you're working out the details of your wedding, include your girlfriends in similar ways to your mom and bridesmaids. "If you're bringing in outside items to your wedding like wines or desserts, have a tasting party," says Anne Book of Anne Book Event Design. "Host a wine tasting night to pick which bottles you'll be ordering by the case, or pick up cupcakes from your bakery and have sweets and champagne. I always recommend bringing a friend or two to see table mock-ups or tag along on final venue walk-throughs," says Stacie Shea of Stacie Shea Events. "Just be sure to choose the friends who will really cheer you on over the ones who are more opinionated!"
Any moment when you're looking for a second set of eyes is a great time to bring in your close friends.
Recruit her to help welcome guests.
Assembling welcome bags? Local friends are the perfect people to turn to for both choosing items and assembling the bags. "Include some of her favorite local establishments as recommendations in your welcome letter, with a note like 'My college roommate says you should check out Frosty Freeze for the best ice cream in town!'," says Stephanie Frazier Grimm of Couture Parties.
Party together before the wedding.
This one's a no-brainer: "Invite her to all of your pre-wedding events (engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party) to really make her feel like part of the celebration," says Roey Mizrahi of Roey Mizrahi Events. Depending on the event, you could also involve her in the planning — bridesmaids aren't the only ones who can throw bridal showers, after all!
Honor her at the rehearsal dinner.
While bridesmaids and the maid of honor usually speak at the reception, the rehearsal dinner is a great time to have other friends participate. "Ask your friend if she'd like to make a toast while you're all getting excited for the big day ahead," suggests Amy Nichols of Amy Nichols Special Events. Adds Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali, "If you're doing a blessing at either the rehearsal dinner or during the reception, you could ask her to offer the blessing, too."
Invite her to get ready with you.
"Just because she's not a bridesmaid doesn't mean she's not an integral part of your posse, so invite her to join you and the wedding party as you're having hair and makeup done," Mizrahi recommends. And if it's in your budget, adds Nichols, "Splurging to pay for her services is a great thank-you gift for all her support!"
Include her in the ceremony.
"If they're not standing beside you at the altar, but are important parts of your life, consider asking them to do a reading during the ceremony," says Mizrahi. This is a great way to include her in your actual marriage, too. Adds Grimm, "You could also ask friends to serve as greeters, handing out programs as your guests arrive."
Give her right-hand woman status.
Every bride needs a fabulous friend by her side during her wedding day. "Bring her with you to your final dress fitting so she knows how to bustle your dress," says Phillips. Emily Campbell of Bella Design & Planning recommends having her stick by your side throughout the morning, available to help with your veil or dab away tears, until it's time to head down the aisle. "And be sure to include her in the ceremony program!" she says.
Opt for a non-traditional processional.
If you're having a small wedding party (maid of honor and best man only), invite your girlfriends to be part of the ceremony without the formal "bridesmaid" title. "They could wear similar colors, process down the aisle, and sit in the first few rows," Nichols explains. Emily Butler of Karson Butler Events calls these "Friends of Honor." "You could send them down the aisle with a corsage or small nosegay, then have them sit instead of standing at the altar, and can dedicate time at the beginning of cocktail hour to grabbing formal photos together," Butler explains.
Ask her to greet guests at the reception.
"Having a friend to welcome guests as they arrive at the reception is a wonderful, personal touch," says Phillips. "You could also have a friend encourage guests to sign your guest book. Dress her up in a similar color to your bridesmaids and give her a lovely corsage to make her stand out." A friend stationed by the guestbook is especially helpful with a more interactive design. "If there are a few steps, or the guestbook isn't quite as straightforward as an actual book, having a friend explain the steps (as well as engage with people!) will ensure you get the results you really want," says Alicia Falango of Alicia K Designs.
Mix up the head table.
Instead of dining alongside your bridesmaids and groomsmen, use dinner as a chance to spend some time with your close friends who aren't in the wedding party. Explains Isabella Sikaffy of Florabella Studios, "It's a wonderful way to honor a different group of friends, as well as allow your bridesmaids and groomsmen to act as 'hosts' of other guest tables."