Please don’t have a million people in your wedding party.
There, I said it. I know you are the most popular and lovable person who ever lived, and you don’t want to exclude anyone, not even your sixth cousin because your fifth cousin is totally going to throw a fit, but I think you will make yourself crazy if you have a million people in your wedding party.
Hear me out.
Actually, no, hear this person out, the letter writer to Miss Manners who lamented, “I have 10 bridesmaids but only five groomsmen! What do I do?”
What you do is cut some bridesmaids. (Gently, with a plastic butter knife.) Or better yet: don’t field a wedding baseball team in the first place. Wedding planning, even for small events, can be days after days, weeks after weeks, months after months, of asking yourself “What do I do?!”
The more people you wrangle on your wedding day, the more times you’ll have to ask yourself, “What do I do?!” Not because your friends and family are terrible. But because there’s a 99.99999 percent chance they’re human beings.
Wedding parties mean different things to every couple. Some want their wedding party to represent a melding of two families, including siblings and cousins they’d like to have stand with them at the altar. Others build parties of close friends as their day-of witnesses; many mix some combination of the two.
But I strongly advise drawing the line at organizing a wedding party that looks like it could suddenly break into the full-fledged finale of a snazzy Broadway musical. Not because it’s tacky or gauche or any of those other judgy words people use to snoot at weddings that don’t adhere to their personal tastes — I would watch the fuck out of a choreographed wedding number! Let’s wash that man right into our hair! — but because wrangling wedding people is annoying and hard, even when you love them and they love you.
Something I didn’t realize before my husband and I planned our wedding was how many conversations wedding-planning folks are having at one time. Brides and grooms planning almost anything beyond a spontaneous trip to the courthouse are probably talking to a caterer, an officiant, a tailor, a florist, a baker, a DJ or band, a venue manager, a rental company and a photographer, plus a passel of parents, grandparents and extended family members, many of whom may be confused about whose wedding day it is (specifically, not theirs).
Wedding attendants, be they bridesmaids or groomsmen or bridesmen or groomsmaids (Patrick and I collected them all!), are whole people with whole people’s wants and needs, and they are going to have questions, opinions and feelings about your wedding. Some of those questions, opinions and feelings are going to be helpful and welcomed. Some of those questions, opinions and feelings — invariably shared with the best of intentions — are going to make you want to tear your hair out of your scalp in small chunks.
When you’re fielding 50 questions at once, that 51st question, whether it’s “Do you think open-toed shoes are too casual?” or “Should David’s Bridal have shipped my tie by now?” or “You ordered me a 100 percent vegan, gluten-free, paleo dinner, right?” can really be a doozy.
So don’t wrangle more people than you have to. One person might be upset that they didn’t get to be in your wedding. Sorry to that person. But five people, six people, seven people? Are not all upset they didn’t get to be in your wedding. If they are, I wonder how you became friends with so many five-year-olds.
Indeed, I would genuinely be surprised if any one person knows 10 people who are just dying to be in their wedding party. You might know 10 people who’d be happy to do it, or 10 people who wouldn’t mind doing it, but you just plain don’t know 10 people who are going to shit 10 tuxedoed bricks if they don’t get to be in your wedding party.
Take advantage of the fact that those other, say, five or six people, might rather take on the sole responsibility of getting a conga line started at the reception.
Because yes, your wedding is a show. Everyone’s wedding is a show, it’s just that some are performed for justices of the peace and some are performed for 400 people having chicken marsala for dinner later. But I’ve been to weddings where wedding attendants were treated like social achievements, badges of honor, accessories, or aesthetic complements to the altar tableaux.
That Miss Manners letter writer? Is on the verge of telling her fiance to scrounge up five people just to fill out some photographs. She’s going to drive herself into the wedding ground. The saddest ground. The ground where you’re putting on a show show, not a public commitment ceremony filled with people who love and support you.
I know this gets harder when you truly do have a ton of friends, or family members who think a blood relationship automatically snags them a spot in the wedding party. A thing they don’t tell you when you get engaged is how much wedding planning is an exercise in managing other people’s ability to find surprising new ways to be butthurt. But I think you’ll be a more relaxed wedding-planning and wedding-day person if you decide what you want your wedding party to represent for you and your new family and accomplish that with as few live bodies as possible, with sincere but firm apologies where necessary.
Of course, that tip doesn’t work if what you want your wedding party to represent really is “How popular I am,” which is all I can think of when I read that poor Miss Manners letter.
If a visual biography shared via taffeta-and-tuxes is seriously the point of your wedding party, at least make sure all your attendants are up to speed on the choreography to “Seasons of Love.”
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