Planning a wedding comes with the often daunting question of who should you ask to be your bridesmaids. You don’t want to offend anyone but you also can’t have half the town. Do you choose sisters over friends? How many should there be? Do you have to ask someone who asked you? Here we’ll explore expert tips on how to choose bridesmaids for a perfect day.
Define Your Bridesmaids’ Duties
The tradition of bridesmaids dates back to the Roman Empire, when they had the onerous duty to ensure the bride’s safety, and ward off evil spirits.
Bridesmaid etiquette today also bestows duties, although perhaps not quite so dramatic, and choosing the right bridesmaids and maid of honour can be just as important as picking out the perfect wedding dress.
First you need to determine what you expect from your bridesmaids before deciding on who to ask. This will help you choose the right people who are able to support you in your vision throughout the wedding planning process and on the day.
Some bridesmaids’ duties typically include:
Before the wedding:
- help plan and lead the hen night (bachelorette party, bridal shower, whichever you prefer)
- help the bride choose her dress and accessories
- give advice on things like wedding venue, theme, décor, food and drink
- go with the bride to hair and make up rehearsals
- run wedding errands
- visit and help decide on suppliers with the bride
On the day of your wedding:
- help the bride get ready and assist with dressing her
- help ensure everything runs smoothly and on time
- handle any minor incidents that may occur
- be part of wedding photos
- dance with groomsmen or single guests during the reception
When choosing your bridesmaids, consider who you know you can rely on to meet these responsibilities, as well as who will be an emotional support during this exciting, but often stressful, time.
Pro Tip: Be clear and upfront with your bridesmaids about their specific roles so they can decide if they want to accept your offer, and to plan accordingly. Provide them with a list of tasks so that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
How To Choose Bridesmaids
Choosing just a few people from a group of friends and close family members is not an easy task, particularly if you have a large family or a big friendship group.
Keep in mind that those you choose will be with you throughout this special experience, so choose wisely. A good bridesmaid needs to be supportive, responsible, and reliable.
Start by creating a list – include your best friend, sisters, other closest friends and closest family members.
Then consider points such as:
- personality traits, strength of relationship with you and other members of the bridal party
- their ability to juggle responsibilities as a bridesmaid – availability for bridesmaid dress fittings, bridal shower, pre-wedding events and duties, their distance and schedule
- if they will be comfortable in the spotlight, probably splashed on Instagram and Facebook too
- if they will be able to afford the costs of being a bridesmaid
- ask yourself – Why do I want this person in my bridal party? and, Do I envision that I will still be taking to her in 20 years time?
- avoid choosing people who never encourage you, who are insensitive to your feelings, or might be fussy about wearing the bridesmaid dress
- discuss with your fiancé too, it’s his day as well so get his views on your choices before your final decision
- trust your instincts!
Pro Tip: According to Brides.com, open communication is key. Be honest with each candidate, explaining the reasoning behind your decision.
How Many Bridesmaids Is Appropriate?
There’s no clear answer on this, no rights or wrongs. It depends on the type of wedding you want and the dynamics you want to create. Do you want to keep it intimate with fewer bridesmaids, or have a larger group?
Some key tips to keep in mind are:
- Wedding venue – the size and layout may play a role in determining the appropriate number
- Keep an eye on the budget – dresses, accessories, bouquets, and other associated costs will be higher with a large bridal party
- The more the messier – a larger bridal party means more opinions and more coordinating schedules and outfits
Pro Tip: According to a survey conducted by The Knot, the average number of bridesmaids is 5 but ultimately, this is your big day, so choose as many or as few as you desire!
Find Other Roles For Close Friends
Friends who aren’t in the bridesmaid selection can still play important roles in your wedding. Ways to ask them to be involved:
- give a reading or speech
- serve as ushers, attendants, greeters
- help with wedding planning or DIY projects
- be in charge of the guest book or photo booth
- playing an instrument or singing a song
- be a flower girl
- be a ring bearer (or their child or pet)
- be Master or Mistress of Ceremonies
Pro Tip: Make friends feel appreciated and involved, even if they are not directly part of your bridal party. Let them know their support and love are invaluable.
Deciding The Balance Between Bridesmaids And Groomsmen
While an even number of bridesmaids and groomsmen may look aesthetically pleasing in photos, don’t let that be the sole deciding factor in choosing your bridal party. A wedding should reflect your fondness towards those around you, it’s not about the numbers but the friendships you hold dear.
Pro Tip: Choose your bridesmaids and groomsmen together with your fiance, to consider the different personalities on both sides for a more cohesive and enjoyable event.
How Far In Advance To Choose and Notify Your Bridesmaids
The ideal time to choose bridesmaids is several months before the wedding, to allow for various factors, such as:
- likely availability of your chosen bridesmaids
- their location and travel requirements
- the time required for bridesmaids’ dress selection, fittings and alterations
- the time required for them to make arrangements for time off work, sitters for pets etc.
Try to choose and notify potential bridesmaids at least 6-8 months in advance, allowing enough time for each to plan ahead.
Pro Tip: Find unique ways to ask them to be a part of your wedding, for example personalize gifts, or an invitation that incorporates something special about each person.
Be Certain Before Asking
Making the right decision when choosing your bridesmaids is a significant step, and can dictate the way your wedding celebrations will go.
While you may have a lot of friends, not all of them will make the best bridesmaids. You’ll want people who can take on the responsibilities and be a support to you. They must be willing to put you and your ideas first, even if they wouldn’t do things the same way as you.
Pro Tip: Once you’ve asked somebody you can’t take it back, so take your time to get it right.
1. Do my bridesmaids have to wear matching dresses?
While many brides choose to have their bridesmaids wear matching dresses, it is not a requirement. You could choose to have them wear a similar colour, or a similar style, or to wear whatever they feel comfortable in.
2. Do you have to ask someone who asked you?
If you’ve been a bridesmaid for a friend, it’s natural that you feel you ought to ask her to be yours in return. But remember, it’s your special day and, yes, it is all about you. Don’t pressure yourself into choosing people out of fear of hurt feelings. Your wedding day is not a people pleasing contest; it’s a celebration of love with those you feel closest to.
3. Do I have to ask my future sister-in-law to be a bridesmaid?
While it may be a friendly gesture it is not mandatory. It depends on your relationship. Also discuss with your groom, to gauge how your future sister-in-law feels about it too.
4. Should I give my bridesmaids gifts?
While it is not necessary, it is a nice gesture to give your bridesmaids a small thank-you gift and keepsake for being a part of your special day.
5. Can I have a male friend as one of my bridesmaids?
Why not?! You could have a man of honour or a bridesman. It’s your day, do it your way!