The old saying is true, you can pick your friends, but you can't pick your relatives. Well, you can pick your bridesmaids, but you can't keep everyone happy. If you're one of those people who are fortunate enough to truly want to include everyone in your bridal party that you are "obligated" to include, at least according to everyone else, then good for you! This decision should be very easy for you! For the rest of the world, there are a lot of factors to consider when choosing your "bridal posse" for the big day.
Traditionally bridesmaids consist of those closest people to you that are around the same age and are female. Most commonly this includes sisters and best friends. And the wedding party can range in number from two to four individuals.
Now days, anything goes! This is great when you can't say no to anyone or feel you need to include everyone. Or maybe you truly want twelve bridesmaids in your wedding! That's OK!
Perhaps you're such a trailblazer you'd like to include your best guy friend as a "Man of Honor" or "Bridesman". Why not? Who says your best dude can't stand on your side instead of hanging out on the other side of the alter or chuppah?
Let's go back to that word, obligation. What would make you feel obligated to include certain people in your bridal party? Well, for starters, some people will outright ask or expect that they're going to be included! How about when your fiancé's best friend's wife responds to the news that the two of you are engaged with the comment: "Oh great! Now I get to be a bridesmaid!"
Or how about when your mother expects you to include her old childhood friend's daughter simply because you guys are around the same age? Or how about someone whose wedding you were in attendance as a bridesmaid, but you've sort of lost touch over the years and hardly talk anymore?
This is probably the toughest element in your selection process. For most brides-to-be, there's going to be at least one tough call to make when it comes to casting the roles. You can keep everyone else happy and include everyone you feel expected to include. Or you can choose only those you truly want to be part of your day.
When deciding whether or not to include the "obligatory" individual, ask yourself if having that person as a bridesmaid would really effect your experience that negatively? Maybe an extra set of hands would help when it comes to planning.
If you said yes, I really don't want that person to be part of the experience then maybe you should consider graciously declining their offer or the suggestion of the family member pressuring you. If you don't like this person, chances are your other friends or family members you are including won't like them either. After all, they're going to be trying on dresses together, shopping for things together, and planning your shower together. Do you really want to ruin it for everyone else?
Perhaps you can kindly explain that you are flattered that they've offered to take part in something so special to you and that you consider it an honor that they would consider being part of your big day. But that you have already promised these positions to girls you grew up with, certain family members, those who you've served for their weddings, etc. If you aren't that close with them to begin with, maybe they'll understand why you'd like this opportunity left to those who are the closest to you.
Are you shelling out the bill for all of the bridesmaids' gowns, or would you need your gals to be able to provide their own funds for the experience? What about travel expenses? Who lives far away? How much planning do you need assisted with? Do they have the time to devote to your needs? Consider what is going to be part of the bridesmaid role for your particular wedding and then ask yourself if the individuals you've selected can accept that responsibility.
Be upfront with your ladies of choice as well. Let them know how much you'd love them to be part of your most important day, but that it's not in your budget to provide all of the expenses. Be clear with what expenses and time requirements are needed.
Be realistic with yourself too. If you're finding that your choices in bridesmaids are backing out due to the demands you're placing on them, perhaps you're setting the standard too high. What's more important to you, having the most elaborate wedding gala since Charles and Diane, or having your nearest and dearest by your side when you say "I do"?
Your Responsibility to Them
If you can't say no to anyone, or are the most popular bride to ever walk down the aisle, are you able to organize such a large number of attendants? Is your husband-to-be able to come up with the same number of attendants for his side?
Make sure to show your appreciation for all that they've done with a bridesmaid gift. Traditionally, a set of jewelry they can wear for the day is the most common. Luckily now days, anything from embroidered wraps, cosmetic totes, even flasks are popular!
The bottom line is that this is your day. While there's probably not a way to keep everyone happy, and you don't want hard feelings on your most special day, it's still your wedding! Be honest with yourself and courteous to the feelings of others, and you'll know you've done your best.