By: Revanche

Announcing Not The Bridal Party

March 15, 2011

After much deliberation, I’ve made my decision.  We’re thinking a small ceremony, very small, followed by a big casual shindiggy foody thing where the formality doesn’t matter so that plays a role in my decision as well. 

PiC has four groomsmen, one of whom is his best man, and I will have a maid of honor. As such, I’m renaming it the Groom’s Party.

He doesn’t want to be imbalanced but I think it’s silly to not have his best friends stand up for him if he’s always known precisely who he wanted just because I’m lame and don’t have the numbers to “balance” them.

Besides, if the bride has 4 attendants and the groom has 1, everyone looks at the bride like she’s a high maintenance such and such.  If the numbers are reversed, it’s suddenly d’awww, and neat, and that’s pretty cool. Whatever.  Grooms get away with almost everything.  Just go with it.  Besides, *evil grin* it’ll be fun to have that weird visual dissonance, won’t it?


And it’s not just because I’m lame.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking on this.  Too much time, in fact.  And will probably spend more time thinking about it. 

It’s one of those things that seems like it should be a simple choice if it’s right. And if it’s not then I should just make the simplest choice possible because the convoluted one will probably make me and everyone around me unhappy.

For some people, I think the answer is obvious.  For me, it’s just not.  I can’t easily name the two, three or four closest girlfriends and ask them to do this thing *gesticulating wildly* and stand beside me on my wedding day.  I have multiple small circles of friends with whom I’m very close for different reasons.  How do I pick? And if I redefine “closeness” as “my go-to people” which is my practical side coming out, well, those are my dudes. That could be awkward? (Or hilarious… and their girlfriends could be annoyed.)  Also, my go-to people aren’t interested in wedding planning. They’re more like go on missions to aid people/quest for food kind of people. 

So then the typical construction of a bridal party might go something like this: the female siblings on either side are obligatory, cousins may be, childhood or college classmates may be.  A bride may have run out of fingers on one hand and moved on to the next and that’s before she’d gotten to friends she was closest with at that point in life! There are all sorts of expectations and potential for hurt feelings and resentment wrapped up in the convention of picking the bridal party.

And in my experience, after all that spazzing over picking people to stand by your side and support you through a stressful process to get you to the wedding day, it may not quite feel worth it, having seen things from the back stage, as it were.

I’ve played the role of the bridesmaid nearly a dozen times now. My rule is if I’m your bridesmaid, you are my bride. And if you are my bride, I take care of you, along with fellow bridesmaids (is that genderist phrasing?). You are asking for support, probably two parties and maybe a silly-dress-wearing, during a time of great importance and transition in your life.  We are sharing an important time in our friendship and it should be joyful.  And it was awful to see other bridesmaids crap on that.

I have observed some bridesmaids choose to rant and whine behind the brides’ back when they feel inconvenienced; they choose to remain unhappy instead of being honest to resolve conflicts; they choose to be disingenuous and force the bride to try to appease them instead of dealing with whatever stressful situation is at hand. And yes, the brides know when you’re acting a fool behind their backs. They’re not idiots.

Yes, we all know of the ever-vaunted Bridezillas and I’ve backed out of bridesmaiding for Those Brides. What I don’t think people talk or know about are the bridesmaids who fail their task of just being supportive in a reasonable manner. The bridesmaids who are in it to look good in front of an audience, or for a free party and flings.  There are those ‘maids and it’s not as few and far between as the “But It Wouldn’t Happen Here” crowd might think. My brides have been basically reasonable. Stressed, but reasonable. And yet, some of their attendants still found ways and means to crap on them.

I didn’t accept the job if I couldn’t observe my rule.  I’d only ask the same.  But when’s the last time someone was willing to be honest enough to say, “I’m sorry but I don’t think I can be your bridesmaid because I think you’re asking more than I can give?”  Seriously, blunt honesty is the biggest gift you could give me during any time of stress.

While I don’t think that the people I might pick if I could pick freely would be those bridesmaids, I realize that there are other factors at play, including obligatory invites that force an unnatural dynamic and a process of picking, and not picking, that can produce unexpected results.

My conclusion then is that for a very small wedding, I don’t truly need attendants, I need one person to help me with the dress and with some preparations and emotional support, and by keeping it to one person in the actual “party”, I don’t have to juggle the rest of the politics of choice.  It’s choice avoidance, in fact.

There’s a bit of me that’s sad that I won’t have a group of friends to support me throughout but being as far away as I am, perhaps I would not have really benefited from the group dynamic as much as I would have been stressed by having to be the organizer once again.


My choice, then, is to simply ask one friend, my oldest friend that I’ve known for many many years though we’re not daily friends, to be there for me as my maid of honor.

She’s -surprise!- expecting.  I didn’t know this when I picked her so it slightly changes things in that we couldn’t agree on what was more important.

Me:  Uh, no, you and the baby are way more important!  You don’t have time for this!
Her:  Are you kidding? I need something to do that has nothing to do with the baby!  You know I’m going to travel wherever it is no matter what, so don’t even.
Me:  Ok ok ok, we’re just going to do combo everything, then. 

Our agreement is this: I am asking her, as my first choice, to help me with planning the wedding if she feels up to it, as much as she feels able and to be emotional support. If, at any point, she’s overwhelmed or fatigued, she has absolute free pass to back out, she has only to tell me.  She doesn’t have to make a speech if she doesn’t have to, she can wear anything she likes, anything she’s comfortable in. If the wedding is later in the year, she’ll have an infant a few months old so I have no idea how she’ll feel about clothes at that point.

For her part, she’ll help with anything she can, and if I ever feel like she’s either not “doing enough” (her words), or if the above traditionalist pressure causes problems and I have to unask her, she will completely understand and help from the sidelines or backstage. [For the record, no.  Not happening. But that she would consider the possibility and offer it up?  That’s a friend, right there.]

I think that’s the best compromise I could ask for.  And I think I can be at peace with this Groom’s (Groomal? Groomish?) Party.

15 Responses to “Announcing Not The Bridal Party”

  1. I’ve been to plenty of weddings where people of different genders stood up on both sides, so if you want dudes of honor on your side, go for it. But an unbalanced party is fine too!

    Our parents dictated that my sister stand for me and DH’s brother for him. I think his mom was miffed that we didn’t include his pre-teen sister in the wedding party too. Who knew that we were supposed to? But she got over it. (And she stood for DH’s brother’s bride.) Relatives are tricky beasts who can’t be pleased no matter what you do.

  2. eemusings says:

    I will probably either use T’s nieces, or my dudes. They’re all currrently single, so that’s not an issue…although who knows in a couple of years!

    Nearly had a meltdown yesterday when I sneakily did some wedding googling. The more I think about this, the more I think I’ve made the right decision to take this verrrrry slowly…need lots of time to find photographer, venue, dress and all that jazz in our shoestring range (bearing in mind I don’t have my own car and don’t have normal days off (ie Sat/Sun!) Although hopefully I’ll have a new job or new schedule in a year or so.

  3. I can imagine my family getting all up in arms of who will be in or not in the bridal party. I have 9 girl cousins on my side alone…

    Weddings can be such tricky things, esp. navigating the families…

  4. EclecticSoul says:

    I’m sorry, but if parents aren’t paying for the wedding, their opinions should be kept to themselves. I mean, I will entertain suggestions if they have ways for us to save money or if they have other awesome ideas. But, trying to dictate who I should have in my bridal party? I think not. And I love my mommy. But if I’m funding, you don’t get input on that. 🙂

    There is nothing wrong with having an ‘imbalance’ in numbers. I think people get too caught up in ‘tradition’. Do what you want, not what people think you should. That’s my motto.

    I don’t even want a bridal party. Too much hooplah and worry. Did you buy your dress yet? Why not? Have you gotten fitted? Blah Blah. And plus, if I ask folks to be in the wedding, I wouldn’t ask them to purchase their dresses. I would carry that cost. That’s just my personal feeling.

    But anyway, I want it to just be me and my groom. I’m not saying this because I have no close girlfriends, because I do. I also have two sisters who are my very best friends. But I just want simple, simple, simple. But if the groom wants to have a best man or ‘groomish party’ (very funny), then by all means he can and there will certainly be an imbalance.

    Sorry for the long post. Just had to comment. I enjoy your blog by the way, and read quite often.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Gah, I can relate to the pros of not bothering with bridesmaids. I don’t have any sisters (just a brother), but on my mom’s side, I have 6 female first cousins, but am not planning to ask any of them to be in my wedding. And among my “closest” g/fs (I use that term loosely), our little group of 4, there was so much drama involving their 3 weddings that I don’t have the patience for the 4th, my own! And if I ask friends that I haven’t known as long, I’m sure someone or another will have something to say about it. Sigh. My future groom’s cool with not having bridesmaids/groomsmen all together so maybe we’ll pursue that option for our sanity! (This stress doesn’t even include the many opinions my mom has shared even though my parents are not contributing financially.) I’m already stressed and we haven’t even begun planning.

  6. pennysbasket says:

    Your writing style is great: made me smile a lot. And also it made me remember my wedding. I had three friends standing up on my side, and my husband had one! 🙂

  7. psychsarah says:

    I love that you’re doing your wedding, your way. I had my brother stand up with me as a “bridesman”, because DH asked his two oldest, dearest friends and his brother, and I wanted to do the same (we’ve always been close). It was cool. My brother escorted the two bridesmaids (which were like sisters to him-we’ve been friends since grade school) and everyone commented on how nice it was. You gotta do what makes you happy-family and others will judge no matter what you do, do please yourself!!

  8. Shelley says:

    I think it sounds perfect – the whole lot. I was thinking how ‘special’ your maid of honour would feel surrounded by all those men…but if she’s pregnant it’s not quite the same thing! To me, a wedding is about you and your husband-to-be, with a little consideration if possible for immediate family members. Everything else is just decoration. You do what you want with your day and it will be wonderful.

  9. I never understood the balance game either. People even freak on the number of guests suggesting they should be balanced too.

  10. Revanche says:

    @nicoleandmaggie: That is true and I always joked I’d put Robin in a dress. I still might but it would defeat the simplicity of it all. 😉

    But dictation makes me really grumpy. I guess that’s my ‘zilla trigger. Treat me with respect, dammit.

    @eemusings: You know, it’s been hilarious how some things have fallen in without much effort really, and we just can’t move for beans on others.

    You’ll figure out who and what when you figure out what you need them for, I think.

    @fabulouslyfrugal: Oh boy.

    @eclecticsoul: Thanks for commenting!

    And I agree with you on the dress thing. Paying for them, I mean. To be fair, I was her BM and I don’t think she expects me to pay b/c she didn’t for my dress & we were/are both on small budgets but I will offer. At the moment, I just don’t know what my MOH will want to do – so it’s totally up to her whether or not she even wants to be fully present in the sense of being all gussied up and stuff. Like I said – she’s going to be a new mommy and I feel that’s far more important than her placement in my wedding. I would like her to be nearby of course but I want her to be comfortable and such.

    LOL my parents aren’t saying Word ONE on the bridal party – they don’t care about that. Oh, well, Mom’s advice when she was lucid was always: “Pick the people who are going to take care of you. Don’t be stupid and just pick decorative bridesmaids.”

    The things that will upset her will be the guest list and probably the traditional stuff that we cut, and that’s because she doesn’t realize anymore how much things have changed and she can’t adjust to that.

    @Kathleen: *deep breaths!* Believe it or not, this was the topic that bothered me the most in the sense that I couldn’t reach a resolution for the longest time. I felt stymied in the planning because I wanted to know who I could turn to during that phase. Still feels weird.

    @pennysbasket: nothing wrong with odd numbers at all 🙂

    @psychsarah: Now that’s really cute!

    @Shelley: We’ll be later in the year than her due date after all, I think, since we’re taking so long to PICK a date. 🙂

    @Asian Pear: The guests should be balanced? WE ARE NOT SEALS!!

  11. Yay for doing what you want rather than listening to what everyone says you “should” or “shouldn’t” do.

    We had a tiny “bridal party” – two each. I just called them both bridesmaids, but my MIL kept trying to tell T he HAD to name one of them a “best man” so it would be “fair to them” or some nonsense. She even emailed me and told me to “help him pick”, not realizing this whole not picking probably was my idea in the first place. Ug!

    Her final passive aggressive move was putting a listing in his hometown paper naming one of them be best man, even though we never officially did. (truth be told, he did the rings and speech, so I suppose he was essentially it).

    Anyway, sorry for the rant on your blog. I’m just always happy to see people do what they want!

  12. E.C. says:

    Best wishes on your impending marriage! I obviously need to take some time and get caught up on your life.

  13. Stephanie says:

    Well, just recently, I’ve been thinking about bridal parties, and realizing that a lot of my friends have a slew of bridesmaids, most of which are their close friends, mostly from college, mostly from their sorority.
    My plan all along has been if I get married, my sisters will be my bridesmaids, and any fiance’s sisters as well. And my sisters and I have it set up that each of us will be a maid of honor once (I was my older sister’s , my younger sister will be mine, and my older sister will be my younger sister’s).

    Anyway, I agree that it’s just hard to figure out how to pick just a few friends to be there next to you. And it also makes me sad because I’m not as close with my sorority people as other friends are, so I don’t have a flock of girls picked out.

    Anyway, I’ve had weddings on the mind a lot this week, between realizing I have to plan to go to two of them this summer, and dealing with a weird confusion with one of my bride-to-be friends about a get together that ended up being for the bridal party only.

    So yeah. I’m currently bitter about girls with super long bridesmaid lists. I just want my sisters. Is that so hard?

  14. Anonymous says:

    I attended a wedding one time where the bride had a “house party”. The party was an extenstion of the bridal party in some sort of way.

    THe party was comprised of close friends who helped along the way or were important to her. She asked the to wear a black dress of their choosing and had them sit at the front on her side.


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