Making the ‘Small Bridal Party’ 2013 Wedding Trend Work for You

There’s no doubt about it: getting engaged is an extremely exciting event. There’s the flurry of attention, the initial feverish choosing of dates, and the selection of the bridal party. Within hours of donning the ring, brides may find themselves on the phone with every “close” friend they’ve ever had, asking them to be in the bridal party.

Amassing a huge bridal party might seem like a good idea in those first few days of wedding planning, but the likelihood is strong that a big bridal party will end up being a big mistake, which is why one 2013 wedding trend that’s gaining steam  is the small bridal party.

Here are three reasons to be conservative when putting together your group of bridesmaids and make this trend work for you.

1. Including only the closest friends and relatives helps to avoid awkward reshuffling later.

Many women have undoubtedly been on the other side of this situation before, and it’s one that brides should strive to avoid in the interest of keeping friendships alive. The situation: the bride, in her immediate excitement, calls twelve friends and asks them to be bridesmaids. They all agree. A month later, she realizes that the cost of bridal gifts alone will make a major dent in her budget, and decides to reduce the party to relatives and close friends.

We can all understand the need to save money, but there’s nothing more awkward than the phone calls the bride must make asking her friends not to be in the bridal party. It’s disappointing for the bridesmaids who are cut loose (no matter how gracefully they handle the situation) and embarrassing for the bride. Brides may be tempted to fib a little, too: “We’re keeping the bridal party in the family.” What happens, then, when former bridesmaids attend the wedding—only to find that the bridal party is, in large part, not made up of family members but friends? Ick.

Avoid this situation entirely by taking time to carefully think through each person you’d like to have in your bridal party. Don’t ask anyone to be a bridesmaid or maid of honor for at least a week after becoming engaged. A good rule of thumb is to include only close family and friends: sisters of the bride and groom, and perhaps two or three of your best friends. Limiting the bridal party to five or six members cuts down on the likelihood that you’ll need to reduce it later.

2. A small bridal party cuts down on wedding politics.

The thing about choosing a bridal party is that it can quickly get out of hand. Many women have friends that are part of a pair. This is particularly true for outgoing women, who may have multiple “close” friends from each social group: college, the dorm, Spanish club, her career…the list goes on.

Initially, brides may choose just one friend from each pair, then realize that this could be hurtful to the friend being left out. In an effort to be mitigate those hurt feelings, she decides to invite all the pairs to be bridesmaids. This, obviously, could snowball into a massive bridal party of twenty or more.

While some brides may want to deal with the politics of a big bridal party, it’s an unnecessary stress on the wedding planning process. The more people brides add, the more feel that they’ve been left out. Of course, everyone will be outwardly supportive of the bride’s choice—it is her day—but resentments can be long-lasting.

This is why sticking to a few people who have clear connections to the bride is such a successful plan. Just as choosing your sister to be maid of honor cuts down on bridesmaids feeling jilted, choosing those who are unequivocally close to the bride cuts down on others feeling bitter about why they weren’t chosen. While it’s not always nice to find out that you’re not as close with the bride as you may have thought, there’s no bitterness involved in watching family members and the oldest of friends attend the bride on her day.

3. A small bridal party means less cost and less complication.

It’s not a hard-and-fast requirement that brides give their bridesmaids gifts, but it is the classy thing to do. Bridesmaids spend lots of money throughout the course of wedding planning and the actual ceremony, and it’s a nice touch to thank them by giving them a gift; it’s especially nice to help them with those expenses or give them gifts that can be used again and again as well as on the wedding day. Fewer bridesmaids means that brides can spend less money on bridal gifts overall, or even give slightly fancier gifts.

In addition to lowered costs (for example, you might want to offer to pay for your bridal party’s salon services on the wedding day—having fewer people in the party instantly makes this more affordable), there’s less complication in a small bridal party. Brides don’t need to spend time during the planning process wrangling the schedules of ten other women with lives and plans. Furthermore, close friends and family members will already be attending most bridal events, so it won’t be an added hardship for them, either.

While it might seem tempting to invite every good friend to be a bridesmaid, the trouble this can cause is more than it’s worth for everyone involved. One final consideration: in ten years, how many of the people in a twenty-person party will still be close friends? Looking back, will you want them in your wedding pictures? Nobody can predict the falling-out of a friendship, but choosing your most loyal friends will help brides hedge that bet.

Small bridal parties are trending right now for many good reasons, including those listed here. Keep them in mind as you plan your 2013 wedding, and remember—the fewer bridesmaids you have, the more you can invest in them. Who can argue with that?

Harold Beaver is a sound engineer for a music production company. He got engaged with his high school sweetheart last May and they are currently preparing motifs, venue, invites with address labels, and formal wear for the big event. He confesses he will be composing an original track as his soon-to-be-wife walks down the aisle.

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