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Selecting Attendants

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

It's a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by caring, familiar faces at your wedding ceremony. But, if you come from a large, close-knit family and have a wide circle of friends, selecting who will be standing beside you at the alter can be a true test of diplomacy. Here's some advice to keep everyone happy.

Shoshana Kopp Brady is a Certified Wedding Coordinator and Event Planner, from Bloomington, Indiana. She works closely with engaged couples preparing for the big day.

She comments, "Closest friends and family should be the first consideration when deciding on attendants for a wedding. These are the people who know you best and around whom you are most comfortable. Choosing between friends can be difficult and might require explanations to the friends the bride or groom did not choose. However, once everyone understands the situation, things should run smoothly."

Shoshana adds, "At times, political situations arise where individuals try to assume the role of a bridal attendant. Some brides don't want to cause friction and add the person to the party while others keep with their original plan. The day belongs to the bride and groom and should be everything they would like it to be."

Ordinarily the bride and groom select two to six attendants and the ring bearer/flower girl. The actual number of attendants may vary, depending on the size and formality of the wedding. A good rule of thumb is to have one groomsman and one corresponding bridesmaid for every 50 guests, but this isn't set in stone.

A large wedding party traditionally signifies a formal wedding. So if you're planning a small, intimate gathering, ten bridesmaids might be a bit much. More people can mean more complications--in terms of coordinating schedules and making sure the attire is ordered.

Your own budget plays an important role in deciding how many attendants you should choose. In terms of expenditures, it's customary to purchase a wedding party gift for each attendant and bouquets for the bridesmaids.

For their part, attendants will be responsible for the costs of wedding attire, as well as the pre-wedding parties and possible travel expenses.

You need not ask someone to be in your wedding simply because they had you in theirs. Shoshana notes, "Reciprocation is not necessary in choosing a bridal party. However, the bride may wish to explain her decision to friends or family whose feelings may be hurt if this is the case."

Before rushing in and asking your top candidates, think about what you expect from the attendants. Will it be hands-on help, such as preparing invitations and tying ribbon favors, or simply moral support on the big day? Will multiple out-of-town trips be required for dress fittings? Keep in mind, it may not be realistic to have high expectations from friends with especially hectic schedules or those who live far away.

"Communication is key. Brides should be very open and communicate with the entire bridal party as far as expectations, schedules, accommodations, attire, pre-wedding events, and wedding day itinerary," says Shoshana.

What happens if you're the bride and your best friend is male or you're the groom and your best friend is a female? There's no reason why he/she can't stand next to you at the wedding using the more generic title of Attendant, rather than groomsman or bridesmaid.

Don't be too concerned if you haven't got the same number of bridesmaids as groomsmen. There's no rule dictating the numbers must be equal.

There are plenty of other roles good friends and family can play in your wedding. Here are some possible suggestions:


Program distribution

Candle lighting for the ceremony

Guest book attendant

Gift table attendant

Favor distribution

Poem reader

Soloist or musician at ceremony or reception

Birdseed or rice distribution

Junior bridesmaid (typically girls ages 8-15)

Finally, senior family members and those less agile could be singled out with a special mention in the program or given a corsage or boutonniere.


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