Selecting Your Wedding Party

One of the many decisions you’re faced with when planning your wedding is choosing who else besides your intended will be involved in the ceremony. This may be an easy one for you; maybe you were your sister’s maid of honor and you know she’ll be yours or your best friend is the only person you can imagine standing by your side. But sometimes it’s not that simple. Feelings get tangled up as you try to decide between family and friends. Throughout this article, we’ll give you tips for getting through the messy stuff, but first, let’s go through what a wedding party entails and what it does not—and why it’s important in the first place.

A wedding party can consist of (but does not have to include) a maid of honor (matron if she’s married), one or more bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids, a best man, one or more groomsmen, junior groomsmen, ushers, one or more flower girls, one bell ringer and one ring bearer.

Choosing your honor attendant is the most important, as this person is standing beside you on your big day. But this person holds many other duties including planning your bachelor or bachelorette party, organizing showers, assembling favors, witnessing your marriage license in states that same-sex marriage is legally recognized, helping you get ready, holding your bouquet during vows, fixing your bustle or train, making a toast at the reception and generally support your well-being through an exciting but stressful time. There are no rules on what gender your honor attendant needs to be or what you should call it (man of honor, best woman), but for our purposes, we’re going to stick with best man and maid of honor. When you select your honor attendant, do it with care and concern for your needs first—not their feelings. You need a responsible individual who won’t let you down through this important time. Let’s say you have a dear childhood friend who you never know will even show up to your next lunch date. Have him or her do a reading or man the guest book, perhaps.

Bridesmaids and groomsmen aren’t necessary, but they’re wonderful to have. They will help your honor attendants plan events for you, assist in other small tasks on the day of the wedding, flick lint off your suit and lend a hand wherever it’s needed. How many should you choose? Well, that all depends on the size of your wedding. The smaller the wedding, the smaller the wedding party. You don’t have to have even numbers on each side, and you can mix and match the sexes. Bridesmaids don’t have to wear frocks and groomsmen might be more comfortable in 4-inch stilettos. Of course, all attire will be approved, if not hand-selected, by you. You’re likely to feel some stress when picking your bridesmaids and groomsmen, but remember, you can’t please everyone and this is your wedding. Just don’t extend the invitation to anyone until you’ve made your final choices. Otherwise, you’ll have some very hurt feelings to mend.

Junior bridesmaids and groomsmen are more of a formality—meaning they’re not going to be very helpful, but it’s a great way to include special children too old to be flower girls or ring bearers. The average age of the junior attendants is 8 to 14. They don’t attend the adult functions (bachelor and bachelorette parties), they don’t pitch in for spa treatments for the bride or groom, and if the bridesmaid dresses are sexy in any way, these kiddos need a more youthful version.

Your groomsmen can serve as ushers to escort guests to their seats, but what if you don’t have any groomsmen—or bridesmaids, for that matter? This is a perfect opportunity to include friends you couldn’t honor as attendants. (Psst, these guys or gals get boutonnières and corsages, too.) While not a requirement, ushers help keep the line of guests flowing into the ceremony. Have one for each 25 guests. These helpers sit with the rest of the crowd when their duties are over.

Other options for your wedding party are the flower girl(s), who can make an adorable pair or fly beautifully solo, sprinkling petals down the aisle or demurely carrying a pomander ball; the ring bearer; and the bell ringer, which honors the tradition of ringing a bell to signify the coming of the bride (or brides).