One of the first decisions you will make as an engaged couple besides your date and venue will be who’s in your bridal party! It can be hard to narrow down the list, especially if you have lifelong friends from high school, college, work, or even family that are like best friends. Where there’s no “rule” for who to include and who to not, I can share a bit of insight into my approach from when I was in your shoes 7 years ago.
Remembering that your wedding is one of the biggest, most significant days of your adult life, you want people there to support you. That’s the whole POINT of a bridal party - to surround yourself with people who will support and help you create amazing memories on your wedding day AND pledge to live life with you in the days after, both good and bad. I chose people that were vital parts of my childhood and high school years - my best friends that stayed the test of time. I chose people that were also close to me at the time, having moved to a new town and made friends there the past year. Has my friend group changed since? Of course. But I have no regrets with who I chose to be involved in my wedding day because they were so significant in supporting me through different seasons of my life.
If you are very blessed with lots of friends that fit into all of those descriptions above - don’t panic. It’s perfectly ok to have a big bridal party. Because I was on crutches freshman year in college and commuted the rest, I didn’t make many close friends in college, which was a big reason I could keep my bridal party to 5 women. But if you find yourself including 8 or more, that’s ok!! I’ve photographed bridal parties up to 12+ on each side! All it takes is a little more planning ahead! Hopefully these tips help (speaking from my experience as a wedding photographer AND 1 or 9 bridesmaids in a friends wedding a few years ago!)
What if the Maid of Honor or Best Man isn’t good at planning?
If your “best friend” isn’t quite on top of things and the thought of them coordinating something like a shower or bachelorette party seems laughable, just have an honest conversation with them. Being the Maid of HONOR doesn’t necessarily mean the Maid of Responsibility. Ask them what they would LIKE to do and realistically could do. Being your best friend, they should understand, and feel honored that you want to make sure their responsibilities play to their strengths. If there’s someone really “type A” in your bridal party that would LOVE to plan and organize, have them be the logistics. Your maid of honor can still make decisions and offer the ideas, but there’s nothing wrong with having someone else be the “do-er.” Your Maid of Honor can still HONOR you by sharing a toast at the reception, getting you a special gift, reading a passage at your ceremony, come with you to dress fittings to learn to bustle your dress, or any other important job you feel is appropriate!
How do you easily share the cost of things?
Ideally, when your shower or bachelorette party is being planned, your bridal party would split the cost and responsibilities evenly, including spreading your expenses (like tickets, travel, meals, etc) evenly among them as well. When I was a bridesmaid in a party of 9, the amazing maid of Honor, Mary, used a shared Google Sheet to keep track of expenses and who paid for what. We were like a little business, submitting receipts and everything! (this job doesn’t have to be your maid of honor either! Find your “accountant” among the group and they will eat this up.)
At the end of each event, Mary would take the total spent by everyone and split it 9 ways. She would then “invoice” us if we still owed for our portion of the total expenses, or “reimbursed” us if we spent more than our share. For things like going out to eat where everyone pays for themselves, she would pay for the brides meal and we would reimburse her for our part of it. Having people set up with Venmo or PayPal accounts made transferring money super easy!
What if everyone lives far apart?
Start. Planning. Early. It might seem crazy to commit to a weekend a whole year out just for a shower or a bachelorette party, but doing so will increase the chances that everyone can be there. And if they can’t? You as a bride have to have grace for those who can’t financially commit to traveling in for every event. Your friends are going to spend hundreds on their clothing and their share of all the fun events before the big day, so you can’t begrudge them for wanting to cut down costs by not buying a few more plane tickets. If possible, host them at your apartment or house to cut down on their losing expenses!
Another great thing to consider is WHERE to get your gowns or tuxes/suits. While it may be tempting to shop local (and in any other case, yes! Do it!), this is one decision that may be best handled by a big box chain store like David’s Bridal or Men’s Warehouse. You can decide the color, the style (if you want), and any accessories, and then your girls or guys can go to the nearest franchise store (bonus points if you choose a place within an hour of each of their homes!) and ensure everything will match. Shipping times at these stores are usually a lot faster too, which is always good!
How do you make sure wedding day isn’t chaos?
Talk to your vendors and come up with a plan. Your photographer is a HUGE part of managing your bridal party - mainly because we are with all of you the entire day long! Timelines are SUPER important the more people you add into the mix, so talk with your photographer, wedding coordinator, and DJ to make sure all parts of the day mesh with each other, and then be proactive communicating the info to your bridal party. If you know the guys (or girls!) won’t read a detailed sheet, consider making a version just for them that says where they have to be, when, when they have to be dressed, when pictures are and where, and when they are “done” with responsibilities (after the grand entrance, usually). It’s usually a good idea to give this info out at the rehearsal dinner, that way no one loses it ;)
Remember, these are the people you love the most, and with open communication and planning, I promise that having the squad there, however big and crazy, will be as sweet and as fun as you are imagining it to be! Check out some of the fun memories my couples shared with their big bridal parties!! And be sure to check out other blogs fulls of similar great advice for planning your wedding!