You've done the hardest and most important part. You've chosen your groom out of the billions of other men in the world. Phew! Now, you just need to choose a handful of your best girlfriends to be bridesmaids on your special day.
Simple, right? Well, for some of us, that can almost feel just as daunting.
Think about it – there's your BFF and your sister, obviously. But then there's also your roommate, your childhood best friend you've drifted a little apart from, your future sisters-in-law, your guy best friend, your work friends, your cousin, and, shoot - also that girl from high school who asked you to be a bridesmaid last year even though you still aren't so sure why. How do you narrow it down? How many bridesmaids is too many? Here's a few things any bride should consider when deciding how many of her friends she should pop that bridesmaid question to.
What's Everyone Else Doing?
U.S. brides today have an average of between 4 and 5 bridesmaids in their wedding*. Some brides have more than that. Other brides have WAY more than that (in 2015, one bride set the world record - with 168 bridesmaids in her wedding!). Still others don't have any bridesmaids at all or opt to only have a maid of honor. There aren't any hard-and-fast rules dictating how many bridesmaids you should have - It's totally up to you and how you envision your perfect wedding!
Number of Guests
Are you having a huge, lavish wedding with 200+ guests? Or will it be a more intimate affair with just 100 or so in attendance? It's not uncommon for large weddings to involve 10 or more bridesmaids. However, if you're having a smaller or more informal wedding, it might look strange to have a large crowd of people standing near the altar and just a few sitting in the pews.
Remember to also think about the size of the ceremony stage itself – if it only has room for three or three friends to comfortably stand beside you, you might want to have a smaller number of bridesmaids. (Or instead, you could have the entire bridal party be seated in the first pew during the ceremony.) Conversely, if the stage is enormous and you only have one or two bridesmaids there with you, it might look a little empty.
Think About Money
Having a lot of bridesmaids can get expensive. Bridesmaids are often expected to pay for their own dresses, but there's still the cost of bouquets, accessories, hair, makeup, and bridesmaid gifts that'll likely be coming straight out of your budget. With so many separate costs involved in planning a wedding, having fewer bridesmaids is an easy way to save a bit of cash. But if your dream wedding would be incomplete without your 10 closest friends there with you every step of the way, that expense is priceless.
Photos Last Forever
Truly, the photos taken of your special day will last a lifetime. If you don't think your friendship with all of your potential bridesmaids will last quite that long, that's something major to consider while you're narrowing down your list. A big group of bridesmaids can look pretty amazing in photos, but so can shots of just you and your three closest friends. It's totally up to you. And remember, you don't need to have an even number of maids or the same number of bridesmaids and groomsmen – unless you really care about having that symmetry in pictures.
More Yeses to the Dresses
It's hard enough deciding on that one perfect dress for yourself. Now, think about dressing a bunch of different body types, finding one dress that's flattering on all of your bridesmaids, and having them all be happy about it. Easier said than done! It's simpler to find a dress that fits the budget, taste, and body type of all of your bridesmaids when there's only a few of them.
If you do decide to have a larger group of bridesmaids, you might want to consider giving your bridesmaids a couple dress options to choose from or allowing them to find their own dress within a certain color scheme. If you do this, just remember to require them to run any and all purchases by you first – you don't want anyone dressed in hot pink when the color you were going for was blush. (That sounds absurd, but it actually happened to a friend of mine. I'm shuddering just thinking about it.)
Leaving People Out
Unless you go the 168-bridesmaid-route, chances are there's going to be a few friends of yours that don't get to be bridesmaids in your wedding. Though it might seem like the best way to make sure everyone's included is to make your bridal party large, the opposite can actually be true. If a semi-close friend doesn't get asked to be one of four bridesmaids, that's easily understandable. If they don't make the cut for 15, that could feel a bit more personal.
You may also want to consider the balance of family and friends in your wedding party – for example, if you have a lot of sisters, you might opt to limit your bridesmaids to strictly family and involve your friends in other ways.
It's definitely important to try your best to not offend anyone. Regardless, "she'll hate me if I don't" isn't a good enough reason to ask someone to be a bridesmaid. And being a bridesmaid in someone else's wedding doesn't automatically mean you need to include them in your own wedding party either. Think about the people you're genuinely closest to and go from there. Carefully consider people's feelings, but at the end of the day, it's about you!
How to Involve the Ladies Who Didn't Make the Cut
There are plenty of other ways to make sure that friends or family not involved in the wedding party still feel included and important in your wedding. Make an effort to involve them more in your pre-wedding events. Bridal showers and bachelorette parties needn't be limited to only bridesmaids – often they're way more fun with a big group!
For the actual wedding day, you might like to ask other close friends or family members to dress in your wedding colors, and/or provide them with a corsage. With those simple additions, they become part of your wedding rather than just another guest – even if they're not part of the ceremony itself.
Remember: It's Your Wedding!
Guidelines and suggestions can only get you so far. You know which of the women in your life will help calm you down, who will remind you to have fun and live in the moment, who will make you feel adored, who will make you confident that everything's under control, who will make you feel completely supported. In the end, it's only you who knows who you need to surround yourself with on your special day, and you'll never regret sharing your big day with the people you love most.