Wedding Etiquette

Selecting Your Bridesmaids


Marilyn Woodman
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    These articles on wedding etiquette are not designed to cover every single situation that come up during a wedding, but to point out the general principles of wedding etiquette and offer some tips in dealing with awkward situations that often arise. 


    We would appreciate your sharing your experiences, and with your permission, we will be glad to publish them on this page, if we feel that it would be helpful to our visitors.  Please write us at to share with us.


    Wedding etiquette is really just a guideline based on tradition.  It actually the art of making those around you feel comfortable and accepted.  The most important part of etiquette is the latter--making those around you feel comfortable and accepted.  That requires putting yourself in their shoes, and it can be an especially tough thing to do when you are up to your elbows in wedding preparations.  It's a necessity, though--with the merger of two families, this is a big day for your friends and relatives too and your behavior, good and bad, will be remembered for years and years to come.


    You should keep certain things in mind in your selection of your bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid/matron of honor and best man.

The first and most important factor is the knowledge that you are more likely to know and associate with your relatives for the rest of your life than a friend.  In many instances and for many reasons, people are often closer to a friend, particular a life-long friend, than a sibling whom them might not even like!  There is a strong temptation to ask your friend to be maid/matron of honor or best man--if there is any chance that you might offend a relative--don't do it!  In this case, blood is definitely thicker than water.   There is no hard and fast rule in your selection, it's simply a matter of common sense.


    Please remember also that the Best Man and Maid or Matron of Honor are the two required legal witnesses to your marriage, and that it is traditional to ask the best man and maid/matron of honor to be godparents to your first child.  Again, it is not written in stone, but it is traditional.  If you are to be married by a minister of a particular religion, your Maid or Matron of Honor may have to belong to the same religion--you need to check before making your decision.


    The second important factor in your selection of attendants should be how much of a financial sacrifice participating you your wedding will be for them.  You would be surprised how many times people are actually relieved not to be asked, because of the expense involved.   Attendants are expected to pay for a gown they are not likely to use again, even if it would suitable for that purpose--people just don't go to a lot of formal occasions any more.  She has to pay for the shoes, which again, she probably can't use again.  She will have to pay for a shower gift as well as a wedding gift, and may have to partially pay for the shower as well.  There may be multiple showers, and she may be expected to provide a gift for each.   In addition, there may be transportation and housing expenses if an attendant lives out of town.  Any woman who consents to be a bridesmaid or maid/matron of honor in your wedding is doing you a terrific favor--please understand this and be properly grateful!


    Please, please, remember that it is your wedding, and don't let age and physical appearance stop you from asking someone to be your bridesmaid.  After all, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and if she is beautiful in your eyes, it's your wedding and that's what counts.  If you would like to ask a person who is perhaps on the heavy side, is pregnant, is not the most attractive woman, or is considered a little older than the norm--by all means ask them anyway--that is your privilege as the bride, and chances are if there any comments at all, they will be expressions of approval.


    You must use some common sense in the selection of the dresses and shoes.  While you may select what you want your bridesmaids to wear, consider the fact that they are paying.  It is only good manners to make a point of inviting and listening to any input from the bridesmaids regarding the color and style of the dress--they're going to have to pay for it and wear it, and they should be entitled to at least some input.  It would be a tactful and considerate act to select several dresses and present them to the bridesmaids for their opinions.  Be open and open-minded about the styles and colors, and especially about the price!  By the way, it is not strictly necessary that the bridesmaid's dresses either be alike, or the same color.  It is also not necessary that they wear anything at all on their heads, or that their shoes match the color of the dress.  Far better to have a comfortable bridesmaid on your wedding day because they're wearing their own shoes, and they like their dress!


    This also leads into a discussion regarding the bridesmaid or maid/matron of honor who seems to be "difficult" to deal with, after they have accepted. The signs are a person who is unable to keep an appointment and is difficult to contact, and always seems to be busy.  It is very likely that she's trying to tell you that for one reason or another she really doesn't want to be a bridesmaid in your wedding.  Before you take offense at her or her actions, please stop and think that her financial or personal circumstances may have changed since she agreed to be a bridesmaid in your wedding and she doesn't want to hurt your feelings by backing out.  This is especially true if the bridesmaid is a relative.


    In such a case, your goal should be to relieve this person of the obligation of being your bridesmaid way in advance of the ceremony, but the best way to do that is to try to lead her into asking you to back out.  You will do both of you a favor by having an open and honest discussion about the situation.  Considering the fact that your nerves are probably not in their best state, you might want to really tell her off, but please give her the benefit of the doubt and take the high road.  Remember, it may be your wedding, but it's not always about you. She even may start out the discussion insisting that she still wants to be a bridesmaid, especially if the reason she's uncooperative is financial.  Financial reasons can be a very difficult issue to discuss.  If your attendant is behaving as I have outlined above absolutely positively do not let her be a part of your wedding party!  If you do, you will cause yourself an incredible amount of grief that you don't need.  I'm not saying that you should make snap judgments, but if this person over a period of months has proven uncooperative, relieve them of their duties before the wedding, if you want to retain your sanity.


    There is another situation that you may be confronted with, and that is being forced into selecting a bridesmaid you hadn't planned on.  Do it!  Usually, it's a family member you don't know well, but for reasons unknown to you, you might be pressured into inviting this person to be a bridesmaid.  Unless the person is completely incompatible, obnoxious, or plainly doesn't want to do it either, this should definitely be a point you should gracefully concede on.  There is an exception, however; that is being forced into asking a child who is temperamentally completely unsuited for the role.  She may be too young, or she may have behavioral problems that would mean she couldn't be counted on to behave properly on your special day.


    A friend of mine solved the issue with an autistic child whose behavior was erratic at the best of times, and whose brothers and sisters were going to be in the wedding.  She very tactfully offered, at her own expense, to have the child dressed in the same dress the other flower girls were wearing.  She even drove the child and her parents to the fitting.  The child was also allowed to participate in the preparations, such as the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner, and she went to the bride's home that day to dress with the others.  The child then sat in a pew with her parents at the front of the church in the same dress, and it went a long way to soothing feelings that could have been ruffled.  The parents were well aware of the problems, but they didn't want their child slighted because she was different--and she wasn't left out.  In addition, the problem was resolved because the bride and bride's family got their way and the child was not in the actual ceremony, but in such a way that no feelings were hurt.  That is the foundation of etiquette!


    Your bridesmaids are obligated if asked to help pay for a shower for you, and your Maid or Matron of Honor is obligated to organize the shower and collect the funds from the bridesmaids.  If one or more of the bridesmaids are unable or unwilling to pay their share, she must make up the difference.  In addition, if a bachelorette party is planned, she may be required to perform the same tasks and obligations for it as well.  If you haven't understood before, perhaps you now understand what is involved to be your bridesmaid or Maid/Matron of Honor, and will treat them with the kindness and consideration they deserve!


Selecting the Best Man and Groomsmen or Ushers


    Selection of the Best Man is entirely the choice of the groom; if the groom asks for input from the bride she may offer her opinion, but the choice is most definitely his.  It is proper to ask ones father, a relative, or a close friend to perform this task; the Best Man may even be a Best Lady!  You should consult your church's regulations on such matters, however; for instance, in the Greek Orthodox religion, the Best Man is an important part of the ceremony and must also be Greek Orthodox.


    The number of groomsmen or ushers--a ceremony may have none, one or both--does not necessarily have to match the number of bridesmaids, but matching the numbers makes arrangements less awkward.


    Again, it is important to consider the feelings of your relatives in selecting groomsmen/ushers; the wrong selections can cause hard feelings for years to come.


    Traditionally, if a bachelor party is to be held, it is the obligation of the male members of the wedding party to pay for it, and it should be the obligation of the Best Man to organize it, as well as make up any financial differences between what he collects from the others and what it actually costs.  The Best Man and male members of the wedding party are obligated to pay for the rental or purchase of the attire they will wear at the wedding.  The attire is decided by the groom, usually with input from the bride. 


    If any members of the wedding party are coming from out of town, they are obligated to pay for their lodging and transportation while in town for your wedding, although the bridal couple and/or their parents may elect to pick up some of the charges themselves.


    The wedding party may properly be asked to transport the flowers or other small items used in the ceremony to the reception site, although they should not be asked to do anything else at that time, other than pose for pictures.


Now, on to Your Rehearsal Dinner! 



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