Bridesmaids, groomsmen, maid of honor, ring bearer, flower girl, best man. The job of choosing who will do what is daunting for both bride and groom. As with most things, there are literally thousands of variations. I think I’ve seen them all, when the very next bride comes in with yet another combination!

There is a preferred way to choose attendants, which I am glad to share, whenever I’m asked. Mostly, I try to inform brides of the socially acceptable etiquette in such circumstances. ‘Etiquette’ exists to allow others to feel comfortable and at ease. Following are some of the ‘most frequently asked questions.’

I have 10 friends that I’m very close to. Can they all be my attendants?

Young people seem to have a covey of friends, all of whom they treat with equal affection—but the answer is still no! The proper number of attendants is between two and six, plus a best man, maid of honor, matron of honor or both. The only exception is that you can have two best men (and two special maids: a maid of honor and a matron of honor). There may not, however, be two maids of honor or two matrons of honor.

My fiancé(e) has a sibling (same gender as myself) should I ask them to be my attendant?

While not a necessity, it certainly is a social nicety. Having your groom’s sister as one of your bridesmaids allows you to become a closer friend to her. What a nice way to become a family. The same for the groom and your brother.

Do I have to have my siblings in my wedding party?

Absolutely, if you have a same-gender sibling somewhere near your age, they must be included in your wedding party (hopefully as maid of honor or best man). Just have your parents to pull out their wedding album, and ask them how many of their attendants they still keep in contact with. Your friends may come and go, but your family is with you forever. It is not mandatory to invite half siblings (step-siblings) to stand in your wedding, but it is the nice thing to do. If they decline, you will have taken the high road and can be proud of yourself for doing the right thing.

What’s the difference between a ‘matron’ and a ‘maid’ of honor?

A ‘matron’ is married, a maid is a single woman. Even a matron of honor is considered one of the bridesmaids.

Ever since we were small, my cousin/best friend and I promised to be in each other’s weddings, but she has gained a lot of weight. Can I ask her to lose weight, or explain why I’m going to pass her over as an attendant?

Come on, people! This person is close to you, and to disrespect anyone is never acceptable. A good suggestion that makes every maid look better is to pick a fabric, color and texture you like and let each attendant have a dress made that flatters her shape.

Our dear friend has a drinking/drug problem, do we take a chance on them being in our wedding party?

It’s always important to make sure your fiancé(e), your parents (both sides) and especially you are stress-free the day of your wedding. Talk to your friend, they have an illness that needs attention. Your conversation and omission of them from your wedding party, while uncomfortable, may be the ‘kick in the pants’ they need to seek treatment.

What about children in weddings?

Ring bearer, flower girls and other children should be between 4 and 8 years old. Ages younger than this may present several problems: They may refuse to go down the aisle and ruin your plans; they may be so adorable they steal the bride’s thunder; they may be so cranky that they disturb others.

Having said that, I’ll tell you one of my favorite flower girl/ring bearer stories. The ring bearer was the son of the best man. The flower girl was very serious about her job and dropped the flowers, petal by petal. The anxious ring bearer tried with all his might to pick up the petals and put them in his pockets as he went down the aisle. Halfway down, the exasperated little guy bellows out, “Daddy, this brat keeps dropping her flowers!”

There are hundreds of situations that might cause you to ponder What’s the right way to do things regarding members of your bridal party? There are tons of printed guides out there, but the most important thing is to show those people in your life how much you care about them by including them in your wedding party. Have a loving, generous heart and try to put yourself in the other person’s position for a while by experiencing the joy or pain they would feel based on your decisions. Doing this, you’ll never have to consult an etiquette guide. You will have learned a vital life lesson: Always treat yourself and others with respect and never allow anyone, even those you’re not close to, to feel uncomfortable.

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