Not every wedding looks like Toula Portokalos’s in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
Some people get married on a beach with only immediate family in tow. Other couples have to move ceremony locations halfway through planning because their intimate 150-person guest list turned into 400 after their grandparents put in their requests for attendees.
There are several options and factors to consider when planning how many bridesmaids and groomsmen to have and how many people you want to share your first day as husband and wife.
The most important guests in most cases will be the wedding party. Some couples may only choose two to four of their closest friends, while others might feel the need to include a dozen each. Some wedding parties even exceed 40 members. The Wedding Planners, a planning company based in Atlanta, Ga., lists their largest bridal party as topping out at an impressive 72 members, according to Allweddingcompanies.com.
Think of your circles of friends and family. Typically, it is expected that if a bride or groom are on good terms with their siblings, they ask them to be in the bridal party, but aside from that, consider whose friendship you value most.
Another aspect to consider is your budget and whether or not you plan on asking your bridal party to pay for their own attire. Over the last decade it has become increasingly more accepted to ask for bridesmaids and groomsmen to foot the bill for their own dress or tuxedo. Just remember they’re probably just as strapped for cash as you, so don’t expect them to pay hundreds of dollars for those matching shoes, clutches, jewelry and dresses or tuxedos.
More food for thought: Even if you hang out with your roommate from the dorms often right now, it’s best to think about how close you will still be by the time the wedding rolls around. More brides than you might think end up regretting at least one of their choices for bridesmaids by the time the day actually arrives. Bridesmaids are there to help the bride throughout the process of planning and on the actual day. Think about who will help you be the most calm and relaxed on your big day.
Also, your party-hardy bar buddy who hasn’t quite learned to even take care of himself by the time he graduates college probably isn’t going to be the best pick for your best man. If you aren’t sure you can rely on him to get to the church on time, let alone with your wedding rings, move on to someone a little more responsible.
Even if the bride and groom limit their party members to three each, once you include a flower girl, a ring bearer, and the bride and groom’s parents and grandparents, the actual bridal party has grown to 12-15 people.
The first thing to do when starting any wedding guest list is to decide if you want all your guests to be invited to both the ceremony and the reception. Traditionally, American-Christian ceremonies were reserved just for close family and friends, and the reception was held so those who weren’t invited to the ceremony could still celebrate the marriage.
Any cultural or religion-specific wedding traditions can lead to a completely different guest list writing experience.
To save lots of headache, it is best to avoid a number at first, unless you have already landed on a ceremony and reception site that limits the number of guests. The Mission Theatre in Mission, Kan., like many other venues, charges different amounts for different wedding sizes, and may charge $5 to $10 extra per guest over a certain capacity.
Sit down with your fiance or fiancee and make a list between the two of you first. Then, share the list with your parents and allow them to add guests. This process turns out best when you go through it in person, so everyone can decide who should and should not be invited. Also, decide if you want to allow your guests to bring a date, as that could conceivably almost double your numbers.
Most importantly, this is the one day in your life where you’re in charge. Do what makes you and your fiance or fiancee happiest. People might act put out if they find out your special day didn’t include their presence, but they’ll understand a thought-out guest list, and it will make your day less stressful.