Eight years ago, my husband Bill proposed to me in December at the Hotel Washington in D.C. (now the W Hotel) and then we went to my best friend Deedee's Christmas party. What a fun way to announce our big news! I got to show off my shiny new ring (of course I'd had a manicure in anticipation), and most of my favorite people were at the party. By the time the night was over, I was going to need an extended van to haul my wedding party around. I realized what I'd done the next day, but it was too late. I had two maids of honor (one I wanted to ask, and one I was afraid not to ask) and five more bridesmaids coming to Vieques Island from as far away as Arkansas, Chicago, and Seattle. What I did -- and it was totally unintentional you must understand -- was create a chaotic disaster to manage as my girlfriends drank their way through Puerto Rico (sorry, ladies).
At some point, the sheer size of your bridal party, especially at a destination wedding, dictates that you're going to need a trained lion tamer to deal with all of them once they get the rum punches going. I liken dealing with large wedding parties to trying to herd cats. It's very difficult and pretty much pointless. That doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad thing if you're the kind of person who thrives on chaos. But if you're a bride with some nerves as it is, it doesn't help to have your bridesmaids out of control the night before your wedding.
Historically, the wedding party was the group of gentlemen who helped the groom to capture his bride. The first usher and groomsmen job was to help the groom fight off the bride's attacking family. Later, women joined the party to assist the bride in decorating for her wedding feast and dressing for her wedding. Initially the women all wore the same attire as the bride because it was thought to create a protective circle around her. My, how times have changed...
More and more of my clients are opting to skip the wedding party entirely. Some just have a best man and maid of honor, but some are even eschewing that tradition in favor of not putting any responsibility (financial or otherwise) on anybody's plate but their own. A noble gesture, to be sure, but I often wonder if my more stressed out clients wouldn't have benefited dramatically from having a wingman with them through the planning process. As much as I joke now about my gi-normous wedding party, those girls came through on numerous occasions and helped me make almost 1,000 handmade Buckeye candies for favors for my reception back home. I didn't have a wedding planner, and I couldn't have done everything on my own.
If you want to have a wedding party, you should keep the following things in mind:
1. You do not have to include every girl or guy who had you as an attendant in their wedding. It would be nice to do that, but you cannot. Especially if you're one of the last of your friends to get married and you've already got 27 dresses in your closet.
2. The bigger the wedding party, the more money you will spend. I worked my girls' butts off, but I also treated for massages mid-planning, products from Elizabeth Arden, and a number of other little things to say thank you. It all adds up.
3. Try not to ask friends for whom the commitment would be financially difficult. There are exceptions to this (a lot of us help one or two friends subsidize their travel), but in general, don't ask somebody who you know can't afford the trip. And if you do decide to help somebody with their trip, keep that information to yourself.
4. The southern tradition of asking all your future sisters-in-law and your future brothers-in-law's wives to be bridesmaids has "gone with the wind." If you weren't friends with them pre-engagement, they can sit in the family pew in the audience just fine.
5. If you're going to have a big wedding party, remember that for the guys there are no clothing rental options. Not that you'd want a tux in the Caribbean anyway, but for a destination wedding, you kinda have to make everybody buy and bring their attire. Or you have to buy and bring it for them. I've seen clients handle it both ways. Either way, it's expensive.
To be fair, I should also point out the advantages to having a larger wedding party. Because I did have a lot of fun, despite my snarkiness now. More attendants makes for bigger and more elaborate bachelorette parties and showers, and more attendants give the bride and groom additional support if they need it. They look great in pictures, and it makes all of your friends feel special.
Remember that your wedding is about you and your fiancé, and at the end of the day, you should choose wedding attendants who you want to have with you on the biggest, most important day of your life so far. Don't let other people's desire to hold a spot in the limelight on your big day determine the size of your wedding party.
Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!
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