Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post From Stephanie, Part 1: Selecting Bridesmaids

Maybe it was my excitement to get married, coupled with, admittedly, what might have been premature planning on my part, but choosing Andrew's and my sisters, two of my cousins, and my best friend to stand next to me as bridesmaids was an easy choice. The thing was, there were tons of considerations after making that initial choice--none bad really, but definitely a few I didn't anticipate. Stephanie from I Found Him Whom My Soul Loves gets it. She was sweet enough to share her advice on choosing your wedding party. With no less than nine bridesmaids, I'd say she's more than qualified, wouldn't you?

Be sure to visit Steph's blog for her wonderful musings on married life in Ann Arbor with her sweetheart Michael (you can read their long-distance love story here) and preparations for their first baby boy!

When it comes to wedding planning, there are a few "big" decisions everyone makes before you get to go crazy with the smaller details. In my experience the man, the church, the date, reception venue, and the dress are all pretty important, big decisions...but there is another still that will greatly impact your wedding day experiences - and that is the wedding party.

Unless you've decided on a destination wedding and/or a very small guest list, the wedding party is typically something a bride and groom will spend a decent amount of time making a decision about. So how do you make such a big decision? Like anything else, you start with one thing at a time. Here are a few guidelines and tips I've prepared based on my own experiences having nine - yes, nine! - bridesmaids (and the 20/20 hindsight I acquired after the fact) in hopes that it may help some future brides out there.

Steph and her bridesmaids! Brian Powell Photography

Big or Small?

For some brides the answer to this question is simple. Depending on personality and your friendship situation, you may know right off the bat whether you want to keep the number of bridesmaids low or if you are going to be standing alongside 12 or 15 of your closest girls. But what about the rest of us? What if your numbers and the groom's numbers could go either way? Where do you draw the cutoff line?

Things to consider:

Budget - Sure, you don't have to worry about purchasing their dresses or shoes (thankfully that's one expense that is up to someone else to take care of!), but you do need to think about gifts for your wedding party (and don't forget about the groomsmen). Initially I wanted to pay for all of my girls to have their hair done and give them jewelry at the rehearsal dinner that they could wear with their bridesmaid dresses (in order to help them save a little money). With 9 ladies, however, this wound up being over our goal spending budget for the entire wedding party which would have left the gentlemen with...nothing. In the end I had to opt for a different game plan and could only afford to pay for my family members in the party to get their hair done. At the rehearsal dinner I gave all the bridesmaids a pair of earrings and a personalized/embroidered tote bag in one of our wedding colors so they could keep track of all their things the next day. I was pleased with what I was able to give but found a part of me wishing I could have done more for them - which would only have been possible with a smaller number of bridesmaids (because my budget wasn't going to magically grow larger).

Venue - This is one I didn't consider too much before choosing 9 bridesmaids. We wanted to have a head table with all the bridesmaids and groomsmen on either of our sides but in some venues a large party could severely limit your options. Consider the layout of the reception hall and whether or not the owners are flexible with their table plans (some places have pre-selected layouts you can choose from and won't be able to accommodate any curve-balls you through their way). Our venue didn't offer head table decorations but recommended a local vendor who supplied and set up whatever backdrops, linens, or decor you wanted surrounding your head table and cake table. This meant the size of our wedding party (combined with how our venue functioned) also impacted our decorations budget because we obviously paid more in head table decorations due to our large party.

Organization and Communication - Even the most organized, Type A bride can find herself a little overwhelmed as the big day approaches and unexpected situations may arise. When choosing your number of bridesmaids it may be helpful to consider your own personality as well as your friends' personalities. Can you easily and successfully communicate plans or delegate tasks to a large group of people who may or may not know one another? On top of that, do you have friends who can take direction and follow an itinerary easily or do they need a lot of hand-holding? The larger the party you have, the less time you'll be able to dedicate to relaying plans on an individual level. With a wedding party of 18 men and women we were unable to individually call or update people with every detail which meant we defaulted to email instructions of what people needed and where to be and when. This worked for most people, but we unfortunately had one bridesmaid who didn't understand our seemingly more distant, efficient approach and became offended and started to resent me for it. This could have easily been resolved quickly had I known, but a larger party usually opens up the door to more potential miscommunications which is something I didn't consider when selecting my bridesmaids and would recommend a bride be aware of.

Transportation - Are you planning to rent a limo (or two) for your wedding party? A trolley? Be aware of how much you're willing to spend on such transportation and what this means for your wedding party size. My husband and I didn't budget to pay for 2 limos which is what we would have needed for our 18-person party...but it was more important for us to have more friends in the party than to have a limo. We made do without one but depending on your wedding and reception locations it may seem more crucial for some couples to provide some sort of transportation. Figure out what your priorities are and plan accordingly.

Check back next week for more advice from Steph on how to balance family and friends as your wedding party selections are underway!

What about you? Any tips you'd add? Share your best ideas with us in the comments!

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