After considering budget and priorities, a planning timeline, and a theme, the next decision for those planning a wedding is the makeup of the wedding party. Should you keep it small or invite all your best friends? In other words, are you looking for a couple witnesses or a reunion in matching outfits?
Small or Large?
In my research for an upcoming wedding book, most brides told me they’d selected just a few close friends, because it was less fuss and less expense.
A larger wedding party means more coordination. Somebody needs to ensure the entire wedding party gets fitted for wedding attire, for example.
In terms of expense, wedding etiquette requires wedding party members receive thank-you gifts. You would typically invite all wedding party members to the wedding rehearsal and to the rehearsal dinner. In addition, larger parties can mean a bigger transportation bill for those using a limo or other rented vehicle to transport the wedding party between the ceremony and the reception.
However, if a higher budget doesn’t scare you, a larger wedding party may solve such dilemmas as choosing between a childhood best friend and a current bestie.
Family or Friends?
Fair or not, families often expect a say in weddings. Remember, though, that the final decision lies with the wedding couple. Firmly but politely say no to including anyone who doesn’t fit your plan. You might ask them to serve as guest book attendant or usher instead. Younger family members can serve as the ring bearer or flower girl (they can be helped down the aisle by an adult, if necessary).
Don’t worry about having an uneven number standing up for the bride and groom. Instead of recessing in pairs, you could have the wedding party recess in single file, or do what I saw at one wedding: one groomsman escorted two bridesmaids down the aisle, all grinning ear to ear!
Male or Female?
It’s becoming more common for brides and grooms to ask friends and family members of opposite sexes to represent them. Don’t assume, however, that a bride’s male friend must be a groomsman. Several brides I interviewed broke the gender barrier, having a male friend stand with the women. My husband and I traded college friends, with my male buddy joining the groomsmen and my husband’s female pal being a bridesmaid. Another bride mixed the genders on both sides, while another had an extra woman on the male side, wearing a dress that matched the men’s suits.