06/04/2012 11:40 am ET Updated Jul 08, 2012

When It's Time To Choose Your Wedding Party, Think Twice!

Becoming engaged and planning your wedding is fun and exciting at any age and there are no hard and fast rules as to what your wedding party should look like. In writing our book, "Love for Grown-ups," we found out that wedding parties of mature brides are as different as the brides themselves.

Let's start with the three authors of our book. Ann had her stepson and sister as attendants and her niece as a flower girl. Pat had her mother as her maid of honor and only attendant and Tish had her husband's seven year old daughter and five year old son as her entire wedding party.

One bride told us, "When I got married at 22 I wanted six bridesmaids and six groomsmen so it would all match up. When I got married again at 52 I had the seven women from my book club and my husband just had his brother as his best man." One bride had her dog as a ring-bearer, another had all five of her husband's sons in the wedding party -- in kilts!

One of the many wonderful things about being a mature bride is you can have the wedding and the bridal party you want. There is only one bride at the wedding and that's you! So here are a few words of wisdom to help you as you try and figure out who is walking with you down the aisle.

You don't need to have a traditional bridal party: as you can see from the above examples, you don't have to go with the traditional wedding party -- you can do whatever you want. Want your male cube-mate to be your maid of honor? Want six bridesmaids and two groomsmen? Don't want a bridal party at all? Go for it!

If you want your kids in the wedding be sure to ask them: some of our brides got engaged and immediately thought their kids (or his kids) would want to be included in their happy day, but this is not always the case. Little kids may be overwhelmed by the attention and some young adults may not want to be in a line-up of people at the altar, some may feel uncomfortable out of loyalty to their other parent, some would rather just be guests, and some (we hate to break this to you) may not come at all.

So ask them (no matter what their ages are) if they would like to be a member of the wedding party and make sure they know that if they say "no" it's ok with you.

Be careful of: "My son's girlfriend today -- tomorrow... who?" Many Garter Brides told us they made the mistake of including their kids' girlfriends and boyfriends in their weddings (and all the pictures!) only to discover after the wedding that these relationships had ended.

Gloria remembers, "Melanie had been our son Chris's girlfriend for four years. When my daughter suggested I ask her to be one of my bridesmaids it made perfect sense. The wedding was lovely, but three weeks later Chris and Melanie broke up. Two years after that he married Stephanie. Now, I can't display my wedding pictures because Melanie is in all of them. I wish I had just asked her to do a reading or something and not put her right in the middle of the wedding. "

Remember there are lots of ways to include people in your wedding without making them a part of the bridal party. Some of the Garter Brides asked their friends to sing a special song, do a reading, make something to eat at the reception, etc. Two close friends of Ann's couldn't be in her wedding party or attend the wedding, but one sent her a beautiful beaded handbag and the other sent her "something borrowed" -- her pearl earrings to wear. These thoughtful gestures made them very much a part of the wedding.

So remember, there are lots of ways to make your family, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends part of the fun, but not part of the pictures!

Who did you have in your bridal party?

Ann Blumenthal Jacobs, Patricia Lampl and Tish Rabe are the authors of Love for Grown-ups: The Garter Brides' Guide to Marrying for Life When You've Already Got a Life, a relationship guide for women over 35 on how to find Mr. Right, marry and find life-long happiness. The Garter Brides are a sisterhood of women who got married later in life and wore the same garter at their weddings! They offer tried and true advice on how to have the love and life you want.