One of the (many) wedding decisions that will need to be made is the answer to this question:
Who will be my bridesmaids and Maid of Honor?
Outside of choosing your spouse-to-be, this ranks pretty high on one of the most important wedding decisions! Here are our best tips for how to select your bridal party.
5 Things to Know About the Historic Traditions of the Bridal Party
Before we proceed, what are bridesmaids and why do you need them?
It’s common to go along with commonly accepted wedding traditions ‘just because that’s the way things are’---but it’s important to understand why you do what you do. By connecting to the historic significance of wedding traditions, you will feel more connected and in control. Here are some interesting facts about the concept of the bridal party.
Bridesmaids are an ancient tradition. “According to Mental Floss, the tradition of having bridesmaids goes way back to Ancient Roman times — the law at the time required for 10 witnesses at the wedding. This is thought to be the seed that planted the bridal party tradition.” (Read the article “Where Did The Tradition of Wedding Parties Come From.”)
The Maid of Honor was selected because of upstanding character. “The maid of honor was also supposed to be women who had a respectable standing in the community, someone who represented "fidelity and obedience" and the upholding of qualities considered important in a wife, perhaps thinking that the bride would receive these qualities by osmosis. More than just a close friend or beloved family member, the woman was a role model.” (Read the article “Where Did The Tradition of Wedding Parties Come From.”)
The bridesmaids had to keep the bride safe. “During the early history of bridesmaids, ‘maids were tasked with not only attending to, but also protecting the bride from evil—whether that meant spirits or bandits. In ancient Rome, it was believed the bad spirts would descend upon weddings so bridesmaids wore similar outfits to the bride to confound the evildoers. And in many cultures throughout history, brides presented their grooms with a dowry of money, furniture, and other riches, which made them targets for robbers (and exes!). Again, bridesmaids served as “decoys”, so that said bandits wouldn’t know who the actual bride was.” (Read the article “The History of Bridesmaids”)
Bridesmaids helped with tasks–and still do today. “Early bridesmaids were expected to help decorate the wedding day feast and make party favors for the guests. Victorian era bridesmaids made party favors out of white ribbons, lace and flowers.” (Read the article “Bridesmaids Throughout The Years: How The Bride’s Leading Ladies Have Evolved Over Time”)
The concept of dressing alike has changed over time. “Back in olden times, bridesmaids wore similar dresses to the bride, frequently wearing veils to cover their faces. This may have stemmed from Queen Victoria at her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert, where she and her attendants all wore white. As time went on in the history of bridesmaids, the main goal of bridesmaid attire was not to outshine the bride. In this first half of the 20th century, bridesmaids were frequently bedecked in hats and gloves; later on, puffy sleeves and shiny satin were de rigueur. Moving into the 21st century, brides became more keen to let their bridesmaids choose their own dresses and mix and match styles.” (Read the article “The History of Bridesmaids”)
5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selecting Your Bridal Party
Now, onto the tips…here are 5 things to consider as you begin to think through how to select your bridal party. Ask yourself the following questions.
Do you feel like they will continue to be an important part of your life for years to come? As you begin to make your list of potential bridal party members, take some time to consider the role that varied individuals play in your life. While it’s more important to focus on the depth of the relationship (instead of the length), you should determine whether this person is here to stay. If you don’t see this individual in your life for the next few years (at a minimum), seriously consider if you want to ask them to be a bridesmaid. They will be in many of your wedding photos, which will last a lifetime. And there’s nothing worse than having a fair-weathered friend in all of your important shots.
Do they support you and your relationship? While they don’t have to be #1 fans of your significant other, the people in your bridal party should be supportive of your happiness. Jealous friends? Nope. Someone who will steal the spotlight from your relationship? No, thanks. People who have tried to sabotage your relationship in the past? On to the next. Surround yourself with people who are genuinely rooting for you and the success of your marriage. Friends and family who aren’t as supportive of your relationship might still be able to play a role in the wedding, but they don’t need to be standing next to you at the altar. Save this role for your cheerleaders. When the road gets hard with your marriage in the future, you’ll want to go to the members of your bridal party for support.
Will their personality be fitting for the type of energy that you need around you for the big day? Depending on your personality, you may be more sensitive to this one than others. Even if you care deeply for a friend, it doesn’t mean that they will make a good match as a bridesmaid. As you think through how to select your bridal party, consider the personalities of those closest to you. While it’s common to become friends with people who are opposite from you (i.e. introvert + extrovert), does this individual feel like they are too different from you? If this person gives you anxiety, brings toxic energy, or tends to get wrapped up in their own drama then they are probably not going to be the right choice. From the pre-wedding activities, up to the reception, the people in your closest circles should help to bring you peace, confidence, and joy.
Are you doing this for someone else? It’s important to check in on your intentions. If you’re selecting a bridesmaid because a family member (like Mom) wants you to, then it might not be the best idea. The individuals in your bridal party should be people who you have a genuine friendship with, and not just because they are a distant cousin, or a childhood friend. Or you might feel pressured because this individual had you play a role in their wedding. If the reason that you’re asking someone to be a bridesmaid is because you were their bridesmaid, that isn’t good enough. Keep in mind that relationships change over time, and that’s ok. Each wedding is unique from the other, and there are many different factors at play. If you feel like someone is expecting to be a bridesmaid but you decide to go in another direction, have an open and honest conversation with them. If it’s a relationship that will go the distance—they will understand.
Do the numbers make sense? Make sure to talk to your significant other about the number of groomsmen that will be present. (This can be especially helpful if you’re trying to choose between narrowing down or adding more people!) While the numbers on Team Bride and Team Groom don't have to be perfectly aligned, it will be easier. Oftentimes the groomsmen and bridesmaids will pair up when walking down the aisle, or when entering the reception space. But more importantly, the photos will also look more balanced with the same number of people on either side of you. You should also consider the size of your nuptials. If you are having a smaller and more intimate wedding, then the size of your bridal party should reflect that. If it’s an extravagant and very large event, then go big! No matter the size you select, don’t feel pressured. At the end of the day, this is about you and your significant other.
5 Tasks for Your Bridesmaids and Maid of Honor
As you start to narrow down your potential options for the bridal party, start to think about the actual roles that they will need to play. While each individual might have strengths and weaknesses, this is why figuring out a group that will complement one another will be most helpful.
Provide support before the wedding day One of the ways that you might underestimate the role of your girls will be how you will need to lean on them as you prepare for the big day. It’s important that you have a sounding board, outside of your fiancé, to discuss the wedding details. There are decisions that your significant other might not need to be involved in but you’ll appreciate having another point of view. So whether you’re gabbing, griping, or cheering— make sure you have emotional support.
Help add balance to your life In many ways, your wedding planning will consume you. It’s important to have girlfriends around you who can help take your mind off it—even if for a little bit. When you feel like you need a break from the wedding planning process, ask them for a ‘night-off’ of wedding talk. Get out and do something fun and save any wedding-related conversations for another day.
Assist with the Bridal Shower If you’re having a Bridal Shower, your bridesmaids will likely do a lot of the heavy lifting. (Often in partnership with a close family member, like Mom or an aunt.) They should align on the vision that you expect for this special day, and then help with execution. From favors, to games, to documenting gifts that you’ve received, there are many ways that your bridal party can support. Be honest about the types of things that you expect for them to do, and make sure that you have a good plan in place beforehand with clear roles and responsibilities. Remember: they also have their own lives so don’t become a Bride-zilla! Having these discussions before the wedding planning gets too stressful will be incredibly helpful (so that there aren’t assumptions or surprises.)
Plan the Bachelorette party The Maid of Honor will likely play the biggest role in your Bach party. Whether your party ends up being a wild night out, or a spa day, they should take the lead. And if you have a Matron of Honor (a Maid of Honor who is married) then they can partner on tasks, in addition to help from the other bridesmaids. Consider this task carefully as you weigh who should help to get this important role! Think about life seasons, availability, and distance as they could all play important factors with the pre-wedding activities.
Lend a hand on the wedding day On the big day, their duties will begin as you are getting ready before the ceremony. From helping to buckle up your heels to hand-delivering a letter to your spouse-to-be, they should be punctual and present. Throughout the day, they might need to check to make sure you’ve eaten enough or help hand you the lip gloss when it’s time to reapply. Up until the bride and groom exit the reception space, they should be willing to help out where it’s needed.
We hope you enjoyed these tips for how to select your bridal party. Choose the people that feel like they will add to your experience, versus take away. This is an important season of your life and it will be that much sweeter if you’re able to share it with the right people by your side.
[Photoshoots in the spotlight: Lauren + Zachary in Houston and Suleka + Guilermo in Miami, Florida.]
The Joy Team