Choosing to marry your partner was easy. Choosing your wedding party? Not so much. Your wedding party is a huge part of your wedding, and there are a whole lot of moving parts to juggle. From when and who to ask, to how to navigate the inevitable tricky situation, look no further: we’ve got your wedding party etiquette questions answered.

When and how should we ask people to be in our wedding party?

While it can be tempting to ask your besties right after you post the “I said yes!” photos, don’t jump the gun. Wait until you’ve nailed down the basics of the wedding (date, location, rough number of guests) as well as your full list of VIPs. You’ll likely want to ask everyone in your wedding party at around the same time. 

Once you’ve got the basics settled, ask your VIPs ASAP. To give them time to take off work and save some money for the event, ask at least six months before your wedding date. If your entire wedding party is local to the wedding venue, you can ask them closer to the wedding date.

Before they accept, your wedding party should have a good idea of the cost and time commitment involved in being part of your wedding. Be sure to let them know that they can reach out to you if the money/time commitment ever becomes too much.

How exactly you ask them is up to you. Craft them something cute, or simply give them a call. Make it personal and fun!

How much is too much to ask of my wedding party?

While your wedding party wants to help and support you as best they can, it’s a good idea not to ask too much of them. A good rule of thumb: don’t ask them to do anything you wouldn’t chip in and do yourself. For instance, don’t ask them to help out with any family drama or anything far beyond their general duties.

Think about your relationship with each individual. Only ask them things you believe they would genuinely be happy helping with.

Do we have to have the same number of groomsmen and bridesmaids?

There’s no rule that says the numbers have to match, but you probably don’t want to have 10 bridesmaids and 2 groomsmen. Talk with your partner about how you want your wedding to look and feel, and about who you really want to include.

As for the ceremony, you can definitely manage the difference in numbers. If you have a couple more bridesmaids than groomsmen, for instance, you can have the extra bridesmaids walk down the aisle together, or simply have everyone walk down by themselves.

My friend included me in her bridal party. Do I have to include her in mine?

As awkward as it is, no, you are not obligated to include her. You have a lot of factors to think about when choosing your bridal party, and returning favors shouldn’t be one of them.

Remember, of course, this means that whoever you include in your bridal party is under no obligation to include you in theirs.

How do I break it to one of my good friends that she’s not in the wedding party?

Unfortunately, not everyone you love and adore can be in your wedding party. You’ll probably end up leaving out someone who might have expected to be included.

Let her know as early as possible. Make sure she knows that it was a hard decision, and re-emphasize how much she means to you. If possible, include her in the wedding some other way. Consider inviting her to the bachelorette party/bridal shower, to be an usher, or to do a reading at the ceremony.

Can I ask my friends who aren’t in the wedding party to come dress shopping with me?

Inviting a non-bridesmaid friend to come dress shopping can be tricky. While there are no rules as to who can come wedding dress shopping, take some time to think about any possible mixed messages you might be sending. Besides, the more voices in the room while you’re dress shopping the more confusing the process is likely to be. To simplify things, consider keeping the party small. Just ask your sisters, mom, or closest friends to join you on the dress hunt.

How much can I dictate my bridesmaids’ attire?

Choosing your bridal party’s look is one of the most fun parts of planning the wedding. But you should never risk making your bridesmaids uncomfortable. For instance, if you’re really set on everyone wearing an expensive accessory, buy it for them.  If you want to choose their shoes, pick a few different heel heights. If you want to choose the dress, be aware of different body types and comfort levels. If you don’t need everyone to look identical, consider giving them a fabric sample to match along with some guidelines on length and style.

As far as hair an makeup goes, if you want everyone to get theirs professionally done, you should factor that into your own budget. Otherwise, simply ask your bridesmaids to wear their hair and makeup a little fancier than they would normally.

What if my maid-of-honor isn’t living up to her duties?

First of all, talk to her. Figure out what’s going on in her life, work, family, and otherwise. It’s possible the responsibilities really are too much for what she’s got going on right now. If it seems like she’s overwhelmed, by all means, do not “fire” her. Give her the opportunity to step down on her own accord. Make sure she knows that you won’t hold it against her if she decides the responsibility is too much right now. If it seems like she wants to remain your maid-of-honor, ask your other bridesmaids to step in and help out, or help out yourself.

Yes, wedding planning is stressful, and you will need a lot of support during the process. But make sure you’re not getting wedding tunnel vision. Reciprocate as much support as you can to your friends and family. Check in often and make time to talk about their lives. Remember that your friendships are far more important than this one day — no matter how spectacular it’s going to be.

Do I have to include my sister-in-law in the bridal party?

If you and your partner aren’t close with one another’s siblings, it can be tricky to decide how to honor them at the wedding. Talk with your partner and make your best judgement. If it seems like his sister won’t mind how she’s included, consider making her an usher or giving her a reading at the ceremony. If you think it’s going to cause a rift to leave her out of the bridal party, consider including her. Building a good relationship with your new family is definitely worth a little awkwardness at the bachelorette party.

Can we have more than one maid-of-honor or best man?

Of course! If you have multiple siblings or best friends that you can’t choose between, by all means, give them all the honor. They can split the responsibilities and none of them will feel left out.

Can my daughter/son be my maid-of-honor/best man?

Of course. Just keep in mind the duties involved in being the maid of honor / best man. If your son or daughter is teenaged or younger, consider making them a junior bridesmaid or groomsman, flower girl, or ring bearer.

Do I have to choose a maid-of-honor or best man?

If it doesn’t feel right to have a #1 VIP, go ahead and skip it. Just make sure that your wedding party or family members fill in the leftover responsibilities.

Can we have groomswomen? Bridesmen?

Absolutely! Traditionally the bridal party is split by gender, women on one side, men on the other. But feel free to forget tradition. Choose the people that mean the most to you to stand beside you on your wedding day, whoever they are.

Should we give everyone in the wedding party a plus one?

The people in your wedding party are your VIPs. Since they will be carrying a lot of the responsibility throughout, it would be nice to offer all of them to bring along someone special. If you really don’t have enough space to allow the single wedding party participants to bring plus ones, at least invite the spouses and significant others.

How can I best honor my wedding party?

To honor their wedding party, lots of couples have the DJ or band introduce the wedding party by name at the reception. You can also honor them in the VIP section of your wedding website with a photo and a blurb about what they each mean to you.

What’s your biggest wedding party etiquette question? Let us know in the comments below!

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