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Wedding Party Composition

Trying to organize a wedding is not a small task regardless of the size, especially when it comes to the wedding party. For some reason, it seems like even the closest of friends tend to get a little tense when it comes to a wedding. Because of this, the bride and groom generally have some adjustments to make to ensure their wedding goes off without a hitch.

Even though the wedding party typically consists of brothers, sisters, and best friends, one of the most important decisions you will need to make is finding rliable people. Although it would be wonderful if every brother, sister, and best friend got along and could be relied on 100%, this is usually not the case. This means that the bride and groom are often faced with tough choices when it comes to choosing and then keeping things organized.

Unfortunately, having someone not show up for a gown or tuxedo fitting, rehearsal, or simply showing up late is a common occurrence, which makes things difficult for the couple getting married. Not only do they have to find the missing person but also they have to give a gentle reminder of the importance of making it to fittings, dinners, and so on. To avoid having to deal with this type of problem, you can take your time and choose wisely.

Another problem that many couples face is that family members and even close friends often assume they will be asked to be in the wedding. While it is true that the people closest to you should be the ones standing up with you on this big day, again if they are not the best choice then you will need to make some tough decisions. If you find that a sister or friend is not the right choice to be in the wedding party, you might need to have a soft but candid conversation explaining why you are not asking them. However, you can find other roles in the wedding that would include them but not put so much responsibility on their shoulders.

For example, if you have a younger sister that you love dearly but she has a very busy career or school finals coming up, then you know her being fully committed would be difficult. To avoid causing hurt feelings, you can be honest with her, telling her that the level of responsibility might be too much with all she has going on. In most cases, she will understand and graciously accept another role.

The best thing you can do

Other problems can arise when the bride chooses her attendants too quickly. One typical result is having too many bridesmaids. "It occurs when brides in their moment of exuberance over getting engaged tell all their friends and invite them to be in the wedding," says Dunson. Months later when the reality of planning a wedding to accommodate twenty attendants hits, the bride realizes her mistake. She knows she must ask one or more to step down, but how to do it without compromising friendships? "The gentle thing to do is to find another role for the girl or girls and then fess up to it," says Dunson. "The bride needs to be honest and say, 'I'm sorry, I invited too many girls, I goofed but I really need (emphasis on the "need") you to be an usherette or whatever.'" The next step is to make reparations by spending time with these girls doing something other than planning the wedding. "They need to see that the bride's asking them to step down has nothing to do with their friendship," says Dunson.

The second problem is what Dunson calls the cold bridesmaid. What is a bride to do when one of her bridesmaids or the maid of honor suddenly grows distant, unreliable, or exceedingly negative? "This is where asking an attendant to step down can become a friendship-breaker, and a bride needs to proceed with caution," says Dunson. She suggests that the bride, if at all possible, speak face-to-face with this attendant, and suck it up. "If you're old enough to get married, you're old enough to deal with all the problems that arise when planning a big event," she says. Again the approach needs to be honest and diplomatic. "Tell her you've sensed a change, ask her if she wants to discuss something, if perhaps she is too busy to be an attendant and wants to be released from her obligation," Dunson advises. Often enough, the problem can be ironed out this way. If not, then itŐs time to say goodbye. "Sometimes friends show their true colors during the wedding plans," says Dunson, "Typically it's the friend you haven't known for very long who will suddenly change and you don't care if friendship is lost when you ask her to step down," she adds.

Barring any of the above problems, Dunson explains that choosing the perfect wedding party isn't all that tough and offers a few simple guidelines:
  • The traditional rule of thumb for attendants was one attendant for fifty guests. Few brides adhere to the rule these days. It's okay to invite many guests and have few attendants; it's okay to do it the other way around. Just be certain to choose wisely.

  • Mixed gender attendants are perfectly acceptable. Brides are asking brothers to stand up for them; grooms are asking sisters.

  • It's okay to have an uneven number of attendants in the wedding party, more girls than guys, or more guys than girls. Try not to have numbers that are too unbalanced.

  • Being asked to be in a wedding is not a socially reciprocal event. You are not required to ask someone to be your bridesmaid simply because she asked you to be one.

  • Junior attendants are youngsters 12 to 15 years of age who can't carry the responsibility of being a full attendant. They are part of the wedding party and need to be treated accordingly without dressing them up like miniature adults (for girls, no strapless bodices or gowns slit up the sides). Butterfly toe rings, wedding angel charms, sweetheart boxes, clock key chains, and silver plated yo-yos are great ideas for thank you gifts your junior attendants will treasure.

  • Flower girls and ring bearers are 4 to 6 years old. Children three and under, though adorable, are really not able to cope with all those wedding expectations, and never allow a proud mommy to pressure you into thinking otherwise. Don't forget to thank the little ones, too with a guardian angel necklace, an embroidered handkerchief, a teddy bear toss, or a sturdy keepsake train or tractor bank.

  • This is a biggie: Brides need to be KIND to their bridesmaids. This means asking, not demanding; choosing gowns that flatter everyone and realizing that they are friends, not Barbie dolls to be dressed up. Then thank all the attendants with the kind of gifts they'll appreciate: a silver plated tussie mussie, or a silver Victorian locket for the bridesmaids; monogrammed cufflinks, a leather flask, personalized pilsner glass or a solid brass Zippo lighter for the groomsmen.
  • Gail Dunson is an international protocol consultant, certified in all matters of etiquette.


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