Updated: Jul 22
Children want puppies, people getting married want wedding parties. We expect every delightful moment to be completely instagramable, without even the need for a filter. We never anticipate crying or stepping in their shit; yet it happens. As someone experienced in both wedding parties and puppies, I'm going to hit you with some hard truths; and help you decide if you really, truly want a wedding party (or want to be part of one).
There is a long list of talking points that should be hashed out before you commit to having, or being in, a wedding party. American culture portrays wedding parties as an award for friendship, with adorable little gifts and shrieks of excitement solidifying what you have always known -- you are part of the inner circle. However, being part of a wedding party is more of a serious obligation than an accomplishment. When that little personalized “will you be my bridesmaid?” gift is given or received, more often than not, neither side really understands the magnitude behind its meaning. Unfortunately, the obligation isn’t something people really talk about, or even think about. Yes, it is awkward to talk about money and commitment with friends; but do you know what’s more awkward? Ending up on a #Buzzfeed list of “top 10 worst wedding party stories”. It is so much easier to say “no” in the first place than to kick someone out, or have them drop out, in the middle. Not having the following conversations, or abiding by the following suggestions, can cause a lot of unnecessary drama, or even end a long standing friendship.
Talk about expenses with the wedding party. Everyone in a wedding party, on either side, has to consider most of the following expenses: dresses/suits and accessories, shoes, alterations, hair, make up, travel, hotels, meals, bachelor/bachelorette parties, novelty attire and/or decor, bridal showers, engagement parties, wedding gifts, and shower gifts. On top of these expenses for yourself, you have to factor in footing part of the bill for the bride/groom-to-be with the other wedding party members.
Figure out expenses for the soon-to-be married couple. Having a wedding party is an expense for you as well, emotionally and financially. Some expenses to consider are: rehearsal, rehearsal dinner (including the wedding party member’s partner), and gifts. Not to mention whatever money you spend on your elaborate proposal in the first place! Any small amount of money, when multiplied by 6 people, will start to add up . It also requires time and attention that you may not want to give.
Talk about time commitment with the wedding party. There is the bridal shower day/weekend, the bachelor/bachelorette party day/weekend, the rehearsal dinner, dress/suit shopping, attending any requested appointments (ie: tastings or fittings), and then the actual wedding. Keep in mind the need to be early and stay late for every event, both big and small. Triple the stress, time, and money spent if the wedding party member lives out of town.
Be ready for a shift in dynamics. The person getting married is the boss, and the wedding party, more or less, just has to play ball. A bridesmaid, for example, is signing up to be a maid to the bride… a MAID. So, the writing is kind of on the wall. Not every person, regardless of proximity or love, has what it takes to be bossed around; at the same time, not every person has the ability to be a level-headed dictator. If your friend is a controlling nightmare on the daily, do NOT be in their wedding; alternatively, if your friend is aloof, constantly unavailable, or down on their luck, do not ask them to be in your wedding. Yes, you read it right. Do not ask your friends with insufficient funds to be in your wedding. We have seen people literally go into debt in the name of being a good friend.
Prepare for inevitable drama. You should probably just go ahead and promise yourself and/or your wedding party a particular level of drama. Under no circumstances should you promise no drama. That is not an expectation that you can live up to. When groups of new people come together to drink alcohol in emotionally charged settings, there is drama. There is drama when even one of those factors is present; and the more people you have, the more drama ensues. See the below graph for further understanding.
Please note that by the time you have reached 6 people, including yourself, the chance of drama is over 100%; rapidly increasing with every additional person. This is science. Please also note that age and gender have not been factored in, because being douchey and self-serving knows no bounds.
Consider the size. More is not merrier. If you want to have your wedding party and your B squad at your bachelorette/bachelor party, please reconsider. If you are planning to have a huge wedding party in the name of not leaving anyone out, reconsider that too. If someone has requested an invite into your wedding party, thus putting you in a super weird position, please reconsider this most of all. It is really inappropriate for someone to ask that of you. It is OK if you feel like it is inappropriate, and even more OK if you chose not to accommodate that request. If you do accommodate that request, be prepared for feelings of resentment.
Think about the effects of mixing. Just as mixing alcohol is asking for trouble, so is mixing friends. The more you mix them, the more of a headache it will be. Of course, the people in your party should solely depend on your personal relationship with that person, but if you have the option to stick with one group of people, do it. The more people you have from different pockets of your life, the more difficult it will be to have a cohesive good time; and everyone will feel that separateness.
Let it be uneven. If you are having a traditional wedding ceremony, you have no doubt already thought about how absolutely devastating it would be for the number of bodies on either side of you to be asymmetrical. You have nightmares about how the pictures would look, and spend your time wondering who to add or who to drop to make your wedding party equal. But listen, uneven wedding parties don’t look bad. Not in pictures, and not in real life. My wedding party was uneven, with more girls on my side than dudes on my husband’s, and the pictures looked fine! In fact, there is a photo of my brother walking two of my beautiful bridesmaids down the aisle, one on each arm, and I have literally never seen him look happier. So, don’t worry about it. Let those bodies be an honest reflection of the people you wanted by your side at the time, and nothing else.
Talk about substances. Wedding events are not the time to make assumptions. Brides/grooms shouldn’t assume their wedding party knows being plastered at the ceremony would upset you. Although something like that could easily be assumed, it would be easier for the couple to just spell it out, or for members to just ask. When is it OK to drink? When is it time to be serious and sober? Talk about it.
Let your expectations, or questions, be known.
Will the wedding party need to pay for a bridal shower? Traditionally, the parents of the bride throw this event; but that is not always the case. I know it’s uncomfortable, but unless your parents beat you to it, you are going to have to ask them. I straight up shook my dad down for money while we were having dinner at a restaurant. Like a bride mob boss.
Are you (the bride/groom) open to the wedding party taking some creative licensing to make your events special, unique, and within their budget; or, will you be bummed if the events are not Pinterest-perfect? Be honest with yourself here.
Will the bachelor/bachelorette party be local, or require travel & hotel? Will it be one night or seven?
Can the cost of the dress be estimated, even if it’s just a ballpark figure? Are we planning to rent or buy suits? Can the dress/suit be ordered online? Are we going to purchase them from a franchise with locations across the country, such as Men’s Wearhouse? This could be crucial for your long-distance friends.
Will the wedding party members need to buy specific accessories or shoes?
Will hair and makeup professionals be offered and/or required?
Is this a destination wedding?
Will out of town wedding party members need to be present for all shopping, fittings, tastings, etc.?
Are wedding and shower gifts expected from the wedding party? Most likely, they will give gifts, unless the bride/groom insist otherwise.
Whatever you decide is fine. Whatever you feel is fine. Just be honest with your friends, your family, and yourself. If you have a wedding party, or are part of one, get comfortable with these conversations. Having these discussions is the only surefire way everyone involved will be able to look back at pictures in 10 years and still be happy with who they see.
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