Congratulations! You’re engaged. You’re also now likely experiencing a flood of emotions including excitement, nervousness and...stress. There is so much to get done and so many decisions to make. You’ll probably make a million decisions between now and your big day from venue choice to linen color to whether or not to seat your uncle and aunt on opposite ends of the room. One of the first decisions you make is a big one: Who should be in your bridal party?
This decision is typically made early on as you’ll want to give your party the option to opt in or decline before including them in the planning and other lead-up festivities. There are questions that range from “How many bridesmaids are too many?” to “Do I have to include my sister-in-law in the party?” The answer that is most important is this: You don’t have to do anything. Especially nowadays, people are having big and small parties, co-ed groups, and occasionally ditching the tradition all together.
We don’t recommend skipping the bridal party, though. This is the group that’s going to be helping you all day long. You won’t realize until that day, but you’re going to need a thousand different favors to make the day run smoothly. If you have given a clear role assignment to a few friends, they’re going to be ready and willing to step up to the plate. Without a bridal party, don’t be surprised if you end barking orders at your poor mother or another family member who then in turn drives you nuts with their inability to do it all.
So long as you have a few special folks who’ve agreed to help you get ready, stay on time, and keep you fed and happy, you’re bound to be grateful for the crew you selected. But, there’s one secret rule that should guide your selection process...
How close will you be in 5 years? 10 years?
While some people live by the “have you spoken in the past 6 months” rule, we find this to be a bit dated. With social media, cell phones, and texting, chances are you’ve had some contact with most of your friends (and even acquaintances!) in the last 6 months. Thinking about the (somewhat distant) future, on the other hand, is a bit more telling in evaluating a relationship.
This rule forces you to take yourself out of the “now” and think more about the “forever”, which is exactly what weddings are all about, after all. Some friendships seem deeply rooted simply because of proximity or convenience. Sure, you may have a “work wife” who you text with 7 days a week who knows everything about your life, but chances are that’s a friendship of convenience. When you both move on to new ventures, will she still be texting you about the new salad she tried for lunch?
This is also a practice in debating who is so close that no hurdle will break your bond. In 5-10 years one of you may have moved or started a family. If you have a BFF who you hit happy hour with twice a week, but who will ignore your phone calls once you might have a screeching toddler in the background, perhaps you leave him or her out of the party. Same goes for the friend who is incapable of keeping long-distance friendships. If he or she regularly talks about their “friends back in college” or “friends back in... [whatever city they came from]”, yet you’ve never met these folks, it might be a sign that they’re not in the friendship game for the long haul.
Of course, nobody has a crystal ball that allows them to see into the future. Some of these decisions will be based on gut feeling or a guess. But there are other indicators that distinguish someone’s likelihood of lasting:
How long have you been friends? While we don’t believe you should choose on this alone, if someone has stuck with you through your middle school awkward phase, chances are they’ll last through a cross-country move.
Are you related? You may hang out with your friend Rose slightly more often, but if you’ve been tight with your cousin Daisy since day one, and you bond more and more at every family reunion, she could be a better choice as she’s always going to be built into your life.
Do you catch up when you have nothing to say? Calling to chat logistics for a bachelorette party or to share the juicy gossip from your prior weekend isn’t necessarily indicative of what your futures hold. You never know how life may change, but if you already talk about everything and nothing at all, then you’ll be able to connect regardless of circumstances.
Do you feel you can be completely yourself around them? Over the course of the next several months you’re going to need to ask favors, “boss” these friends around, and make a lot of decisions that they might not agree with. Will they judge you? Gossip behind your back? Do you feel safe and secure that these friends will support you no matter what? Now’s not the time to be surrounded by people who make you feel you need to alter who you are. After all, they’re also going to be the ones helping you pee!
You may not be able to predict the future, but if your friend passes most of the above tests, it’s a pretty safe bet that they’ll still be around in another decade and, therefore, deserve to stand by your side for your big day. Of course, if numbers are important to you and you need to trim further, just remember that not everyone needs to be a bridesmaid (or bridesman). You can always ask your best buddies to do a reading, help with a special chore, or even wear a corsage or other indicator of their “elite buddy” status.