A question we’ve received lately is how many bridesmaids a bride should have and whether there is there a ‘normal’ amount? And, what are my bridesmaid’s responsibilities?
The quick answer: there is no ‘normal’ amount. You should have as many as you would like, as makes sense, and is reasonable.
Once, I was an attendant in a wedding with 11 bridesmaids. Although having that many ladies together before the wedding to celebrate the bride was fun, organizing that many was a pain. Not only was the processional extra long (the pianist had to play three songs while the bridesmaids were walking down the aisle), but none of the church’s pews were large enough to hold us – requiring us taking up two pews and pushing back where guest seating began even further (a problem in a big wedding). There also wasn’t enough room at the altar for all of us to stand. Despite the minister’s recommendation that we create an ‘arc’, our group ended up looking like a messy mass of ladies at the front of the church. Most disappointingly, this mass prevented me from seeing the couple during the ceremony.
Moreover, this couple decided that they wanted symmetry, and that they therefore needed 11 groomsmen. I remember hearing that the groom struggled to find 11 men he wanted to participate in his nuptials.
Another time, I was one of three bridesmaids. The smaller size of the bridal party didn’t make it any easier to wrangle because the other two bridesmaids were pretty uninterested in being involved in the wedding. The altar was also too small for three bridesmaids and I ended up standing behind a tree, once again missing the ceremony.
You see, it’s not the number of bridesmaids that matters. Rather, it’s the logic of that number. Here’s what goes into that logic:
The size of the altar: if it’s small, it’s unlikely that the altar will accommodate a large number of bridesmaids. This requires you to seat you ladies during the ceremony, possibly taking up the first few pews that are normally set aside for family.
The length of your aisle: planning a long walk? Remember that each of your bridesmaids also need to make that trek. If you’ve a lot of attendants, consider sending them down the aisle in pairs to cut down on the amount of walking time and ensure that your ceremony stays on schedule.
Dressing your ladies: more ladies = more opinions. Be prepared to make a semi-autocratic decision when it’s time to dictate what your attendants will wear on your big day.
Gifting to your ladies: more ladies = more ‘thank you gifts’ = more $. Can your budget handle thanking a double-digit-sized bridal party?
Pre-wedding plans: most brides like to spend time with their attendants before they walk down the aisle. We encourage this, finding that it’s a great way to have some fun and calm a bride’s nerves. But, remember that the larger the party, the more people you have to organize and fit into a space together. If you plan on having your dozen bridesmaids with you as you dress, you might need a suite and not a small hotel room.
The number of groomsmen your fiancé plans on having: if you want symmetry at the altar, you’ll need to ensure that your groom can conjure up men to match your ladies.
The people you actually want in your wedding party: yes, it’s tons of fun to have yourself and your relationship be the center of attention around the time of your wedding. However, everyone is celebrating you no matter what, so it may be unnecessary to have every single one of your friends, cousins, and female family members as a bridesmaid. People who might appreciate being excluded from being invited to be a bridesmaid:
Mothers of young children: they’re busy and might like being able to care for their child prior to the ceremony.
Friends or family members who are in school: participating in a wedding can be expensive. Students might find the cost of a dress, accessories and the celebrations in your honor beyond their reach.
Friends who don’t know your other bridesmaids: being the odd-man-out can be uncomfortable. If, for example, you met all but one of your bridesmaids in your sorority, you might consider whether the one friend you met elsewhere will really have fun standing by your side, or if she’ll feel out-of-place.
Our advice is to choose the number of attendants that your wedding can accommodate and to surround yourself with ladies who will be joyful, helpful, and kind on your wedding day.