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Stressing over which friends and/or relatives will be bridesmaids? Choosing a bridal party is no laughing matter. Review these deciding factors, and the selection process will be a breeze.


1. How many maids?


One of the first things to consider when selecting your bridal party is how many guests you’re planning to invite. While bridal parties can range anywhere from a single maid/matron of honor to more than a dozen attendants, most wedding experts agree that a good rule of thumb is to have one groomsman and one corresponding bridesmaid for every 50 guests. (This doesn’t mean, though, that you have to go ask a stranger to be in your wedding just because your fiance has one more attendant than you do. Life will go on if you have uneven numbers of groomsmen and bridesmaids.) Also, a large wedding party traditionally signifies a formal wedding. So if you’re planning a small, intimate gathering, 10 bridesmaids might be a bit too much.


2. More isn’t merrier


Speaking of size, remember that the more bridesmaids you have, the greater the potential for complications. In other words, you’ll need to get more people to agree on a dress or decide on a bridal-shower date. And if you’re on a limited budget, think about who has to pay for all those bridesmaids bouquets. That’s right — you.


3 Blood is thicker than water


If you’re close to your sister or future sister-in-law, the thought of not including them in your wedding party probably never even occurred to you. But if you suffer from a serious Jan Brady complex, the thought of asking your sister (or sister-in-law) to be a bridesmaid probably ranks right up there with getting a football in the nose. Still, it’s usually worth including family members just to avoid unnecessary conflict. Think of it as having more bargaining power when you’re battling with your mom over the guest list.


4. No backsies


You don’t need to ask someone to be in your wedding just because she asked you to be in her wedding. Don’t ask the college roommate you haven’t spoken to in five years just to return the favor. Weddings are no time for quid pro quo. Period.


5. Location, location


What do you expect from your bridesmaids? Will simple moral support suffice, or do you expect them to be your personal Pollyannas, addressing wedding invitations and tying tiny ribbons around your wedding favors? If it’s the latter, think twice about asking friends who live far away or who have extremely hectic schedules. You don’t want to find yourself getting frustrated with a friend you knew wouldn’t be able to give you all the help you wanted.


6. Don’t assume


Try not to make hasty assumptions. Don’t write off some friends simply because you think they don’t have enough money to afford that Vera Wang bridesmaid dress you have your eye on. If you want to ask a friend whom you know is having financial difficulties, you can always say something like, “I’d love for you to be a bridesmaid, but I understand the tough time you’re going through now. If you can’t do it, I’d love to find something else for you to do in the wedding.” (Or, you can offer to pay her way if you can’t stand the idea of her not being in the wedding.)


7. Guys count


A bridesmaid doesn’t have to be a woman. Despite the prevalence of feminine pronouns in this guide, if your best friend is a guy, there’s no reason why he can’t be in your wedding. Today, many brides (and grooms) are including members of the opposite sex as attendants. In these cases, a man on the bride’s side is simply called an attendant or bridesman, while a woman on the groom’s side can be called an attendant or a groomswoman.


8. Other honors


Still stuck? Keep in mind that there are plenty of other roles good friends can play in your wedding if they don’t make the cut — do a reading, hand out programs or perform a song.


9. Spread the news


Once you make up your mind about your bridesmaids, you’ll want to get the word out. The only thing worse than a coworker who thinks she’s invited to your wedding is a friend who assumes she’s going to be a bridesmaid. If you’re afraid of hurting someone’s feelings, remember that, as clichéd as it sounds, any true friend will understand whatever decision you ultimately make. And finally, the sooner you make your decision, the sooner you get to check off one more box on your endless wedding checklist.


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