How to Choose Bridesmaids for Your Wedding Party

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One of the first things I started thinking about after getting engaged (after my wedding invitations, of course) was who I would be choosing to be my bridesmaids. I was the first in my group of college friends to get married, and I hardly knew anyone else who had recently gotten married, which meant I had no input or advice from anyone on how to choose my bridesmaids. So I got to work creating my list, literally, a day or two after I had gotten engaged.

You might consider this decision to be proactive and good planning. However, I’m here to say that choosing your bridesmaids can be put on the back burner for a minute. And here’s why: from the moment you are engaged to the moment you get married (whether that’s 6 months or a year and a half) a lot changes. And I mean a lot! Regardless of the stage of life you are in, time is moving quickly and that means friendships will constantly be shifting and changing. Girls that I considered myself close to at the beginning of my engagement were girls that I later considered to be more along the lines of close acquaintances, rather than lifelong friends.

Let me address one thing first; a lot of you are probably wondering, “In the end does it really matter?” Truly, no. If you have some girls you love and others not so much standing next to you on your wedding day, is that really what you’ll be remembering and focusing on? Probably not! Hopefully you’ll be building your marriage and thriving with your new spouse. However, I still think it’s important to take a few things into consideration when choosing your bridesmaids, so below I’ve included some pointers that will hopefully help you with how to choose your bridesmaids.

Determine how many bridesmaids you will have in your wedding.

This is the first thing that you need to do! Some couples are super set on having the same amount of bridesmaids and groomsmen, and others don’t seem to mind; I was one of the later. My husband ended up having five groomsmen and I had seven bridesmaids. The photos still turned out beautifully, just so you know! If you are going to have three bridesmaids as opposed to eight or more, your thought process for how you choose people might end up being completely different. If you will have less people in your wedding party, you are obviously going to be choosing the people that are extremely important to you, and if you have a lot more not all of them will be your very BEST friends. And if they all are your best friends, then that’s amazing!

Will you have three bridesmaids or will you have eight or more?! The amount of bridesmaids you choose for your wedding party will impact how you choose them. Photo by Noi Tran. 

Will you have three bridesmaids or will you have eight or more?! The amount of bridesmaids you choose for your wedding party will impact how you choose them. Photo by Noi Tran. 

Consider your sister(s) for bridesmaids first.

I have one sister, so I made her my maid of honor! If I had more than one sister, the others most likely would have been bridesmaids. There is no magic formula to follow for which sister will be the maid of honor (if any) and, if it’s going to cause too much conflict if you have multiple sisters, I recommend picking a close friend to be a maid of honor instead. Anyway, my point is that sisters make excellent choices for bridesmaids, and I would have highly regretted not having my sister in my wedding party. If you have a terrible relationship with your sister for some reason, then maybe your viewpoint on this is a little different, and that's ok too.

Write down a list of your closest friends to begin narrowing down your choices for bridesmaids.

Will your bridesmaids be lifelong friends, friends from college, or current work friends? It's up to you to narrow them down! Photo by Noi Tran.

Will your bridesmaids be lifelong friends, friends from college, or current work friends? It's up to you to narrow them down! Photo by Noi Tran.

Once you decide the size of your wedding party and take sisters (or other close relatives) into consideration, you need to decide which of your friends you want to include as bridesmaids! This can be an extremely tricky part of the process, especially because it can be largely based on circumstances. Maybe Stacy from work has been a best friend of yours for about 8 months and you see her every day, but you haven’t known her as long as your friend Jessica, who you only see once or twice a year but consider one of your closest life-long friends.

You’re going to have to make decisions between these people, and it gets even harder if you get engaged in college and have a bunch of roommates or housemates that you are close to. In my opinion, it’s best to think in the long-term rather than short term. Definitely invite Stacy to your wedding, but maybe having her as a bridesmaid isn’t the right call. Take time to weigh the pros and cons for each option. Remember, these are people that are going to be a) spending money to be part of your wedding and b) dedicating a lot of their time to you as well!

Here’s what my list of seven girls ended up looking like (and my maid-of-honor has been included in my seven): one was my sister, three were lifelong friends that I had knows since 6th grade or earlier, one was my sister-in-law, and two of them were college roommates.

Remember to take budget into account when choosing your bridesmaids.

This is something that a lot of people don’t give much thought to, but it is extremely important to take into mind how much you will be asking your bridesmaids to spend on different things you are planning, and that includes everything that happens before the day of the wedding as well! Your bridesmaids will most likely be paying for travel, their dresses, a bachelorette party (or trip, if that’s your style), gifts, and other miscellaneous items you may not even realize! Being a bridesmaid is a huge commitment, and it can cost anywhere from just a couple hundred dollars to more than $2,000. WHEW! Take a look at this Buzzfeed article to read a couple of stories from girls that have been bridesmaids before and how much they spent on everything.

If you are throwing a low-cost wedding with affordable wedding dresses and aren’t throwing a huge and expensive bachelorette party, it will be much easier for your college, single, and newly-married friends to afford being in your wedding. At the average age people are getting married today, most of their friends are not completely financially stable and don’t have the ability to pour a lot of money into being part of a friend’s wedding. I know all of this sounds kind of crazy, but it really does need to be talked about! If you are throwing an all-out party of a wedding that’s more high-end, it might be a good idea to consider allocating some of your wedding budget to helping your bridesmaids cover expenses (such as their wedding dress) if you’re asking them to purchase one that will cost $250 or more.

Also, make sure you’re leaving room in the budget for bridesmaid’s gifts, because you definitely need to remember to tell your girls thank you!

Taking budget into consideration when choosing your bridesmaids is really important! Finances are definitely a factor that should not be overlooked. Photo by Noi Tran. 

Taking budget into consideration when choosing your bridesmaids is really important! Finances are definitely a factor that should not be overlooked. Photo by Noi Tran

When officially asking your friends if they want to be bridesmaids, be upfront about your expectations and what will be required, as well as giving them a way to gracefully say no if it won’t work for them.

Like I mentioned earlier in this blog post, agreeing to be a bridesmaid in a wedding is a huge commitment, and you don’t want friends who aren’t excited about being a bridesmaid or can’t afford to be one (because both of these things will cause a lot of stress and unhappiness in the long run). It’s a good idea to be very upfront with all of the girls you are considering as your bridesmaids. Tell them what dress you are thinking about and how much it will cost, and tell them if your bachelorette party will be at your Aunt Kathy’s lake house (inexpensive) verses Las Vegas (definitely more expensive). Also make sure to let them know what you think you will need help with, and what you’re going to need from them in terms of time.

You need to provide a way for your friends to graciously say no if they are not able to be a bridesmaid in your wedding; and you need to remember that if they do say no you should not take it personally.

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Choosing your bridesmaids can feel like such a daunting task! Just remember to give yourself time to make the decision, and definitely don’t rush it! Also, I wanted to make sure to add this final point: If one of your friends doesn't like your fiance or visa-versa, it might be best to not have her in the wedding. But, I’ve obviously only done this process once, so I don’t consider myself an expert by any means ;) If you have any questions feel free to drop them below and I will do my best to get back to you. 

Overall, your bridesmaids need to be people that you are going to love having next to you on your wedding day; and they should love standing beside you as well! Photo by Noi Tran.

Overall, your bridesmaids need to be people that you are going to love having next to you on your wedding day; and they should love standing beside you as well! Photo by Noi Tran.