How To Pick A Bridesmaid

First things first, and this may shock you: If you were a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding, you are not obligated to select her as a bridesmaid for your wedding. Might she be offended? She might. Or might she be relieved at not having to buy another bridesmaid’s dress and matching shoes? She might. Might you be offended at having a non-participatory, un-invested absentee bridesmaid? You betcha.

Weddings are a lot of work. You are about to host what may just be the biggest party you’ll ever throw. Your attendants are meant to be your team, your helpers, in this ambitious endeavor.  There are a lot of reasons not to pick someone as your bridesmaid. A sense of obligation is one reason. Picking only those who will look good in your chosen bridesmaid dress is another.

You may be one of those brides tempted to select bridesmaids based on looks. (You know who you are.) You want bridesmaids who will look good in that skinny strapless dress, or who all look the same and will ensure gorgeous group photos for you to stare at for years to come. You will likely find however, that every time you look at your pretty wedding pictures, you will see only the tiny little furrow in your brow that formed when you realized during the week of your wedding that those pretty, skinny, fabulously tanned women you selected were merely acquaintances and not actually friends. That furrow will come from you having to do all the set up by yourself because your bridesmaids decided not to take off work the Friday before your wedding. The dark circles under your eyes will come from you and your mother being the last ones left at the reception, picking up trash while your bridesmaids flirt at a bar with the groomsmen. That furrow in brow will be there as soon as you realize that your wedding is not as important to them as it is to you. 

“She would never do that to me,” you think.  Well, actually her disengagement from the wedding process isn’t something to be taken personally. Her dedication to your wedding will be exactly proportional to her dedication to you. You haven’t spoken to her in eight months, but you expect her to be in tune with your needs, your relationship with your mother and your newfound appreciation for the color turquoise? She just had her second baby but you want her to be able to throw you an all night bachelorette party? She’s your brother’s new fiancé and she doesn’t even know your middle name? Pick your team carefully, girls, this is a rough show.

When you’re trying to decide who should be a bridesmaid, there are two considerations to keep in mind: Cost & Team Work

With regard to cost, it is expected that you will include your bridesmaids and their guests at the rehearsal dinner. If you decide that you simply must have eight or twelve bridesmaids, consider that you will be adding 16 or 24 guests to the bill that your future in-laws will be picking up for the rehearsal dinner. Imagine taking 16 or 24 people out for dinner. It’s a significant cost and one to seriously consider since you will be imposing it upon someone else.  Additionally, it is traditional to thank your bridesmaids with a small gift. These gifts are often presented at a bridal tea that you or your mother will host, or sometimes at the rehearsal dinner. On average, bridesmaids gifts are $20-$50 each.  For eight bridesmaids that would be a minimum of $160 for gifts, and at least that much again to host the bridal tea. A larger bridal party will actually cost you a lot more money, at a time when you are trying to stay within your event budget.

What you may want to consider even more is what you will expect from your bridesmaid team.  Typically bridesmaids assist with, or are responsible for, some or all of the following:

  • Selection of gowns, invitations, décor and wedding vendors

  • Addressing and mailing wedding invitations

  • Throwing an engagement party, bridal shower or bachelorette party

  • Accommodating out of town guests (picking up from the airport, transporting from hotel or friend’s home to wedding venue, creating and/or delivering welcome packages, etc.)

  • Attending, planning and/or coordination of the wedding rehearsal

  • Purchasing, being fitted for, and wearing the selected bridesmaid’s gown, shoes & accessories

  • Set-up and decoration on the wedding day

  • Ensuring the bride is taken care of on the wedding day (gets to the salon on time, to the wedding site on time, has an emergency kit on hand, manages small crises for the bride as they arise so the bride can stay calm, etc.)

  • Full participation in all traditional ceremony and reception events, such as the first dance, the throwing of the bridal bouquet, etc.

  • Any necessary clean up after the event

So many brides use their weddings to make a public show of honoring the women that are important in their lives. We consider someone a good friend so we feel we honor her by including her as a bridesmaid. It is sometimes so difficult to draw the line between bridesmaid-worthy or not, that we wind up with a far larger wedding party than we can manage or afford.

Sometimes brides pick a new friend or nice work colleague just to make sure they have the same number bridesmaids as groomsmen.  That is another reason not to pick a bridesmaid. Even numbers are not necessary. All of the men in your party will be happy to have a woman on each arm, and the women will be just as happy to be escorted by two men. Alternately, the groomsmen and maids can warm up the isle for you by processing on their own.

One wise bride I know selected only one woman to stand up with her (her sister as maid of honor), and asked other close friends to be “Mermaids” rather than bridesmaids. The Mermaids threw her a shower, helped her pick out her gown, addressed envelopes and helped her decorate the reception venue. They and their dates sat in the front row during the wedding…and they wore what ever they wanted to wear to the wedding. It was a win-win all around.

Pick a posse of beloved sisters who will take care of you as you plan to embark on your marriage journey. Your wedding is one of life’s rare opportunities to be surrounded by only people who love you.  That alone should make it one of the best days of your life. Picking your bridesmaids well will mean the difference between a terrible, stressful day, or one of the best days of your life.