Wedding Party Etiquette & Guidelines – Bridesmaids & Groomsmen


Most of the bridal party hurdles tend to be with the bridesmaids.  How do we decide what they wear with all different body types and personalities and still get the look we want for our wedding party?  Who do we have to ask to be a bridesmaid?  When is it okay to fire a bridesmaid?  Tons of things can come into play and need to be decided.

First, some of the good news.  You don’t have to have an equal number of male and female attendants.  All attendants can walk solo or paired down the aisle.  Also, you can have two bridesmaids on the arms of one groomsman or have the solo extra walk down the aisle with another honored guest such as grandfather of the bride.  The same goes for the first dance at the reception.  If you want your party to join you as the song progresses then have the solo pair up with their date or an honored guest.

Second, it is okay to ask everyone to wear the same thing or whatever you want.  However, you must be considerate.  You can’t ask friends of different skin tones to wear the same color makeup.  You can’t force your friends to wear a hairstyle or dress that is uncomfortable for them.  It is okay to insist on a certain color or length but remember you chose your attendants as friends and family as they are.  Most issues such as what to do about tattoos or the cousin who doesn’t even own a lipstick can be handled discreetly and well ahead of the big day.  If a bridesmaid wants to change out of her dress after the ceremony but you want them to stay in it and be easily identified this isn’t unreasonable on your part but chances are there is a reason.  Make sure to talk to her about what she doesn’t like about the dress or consider slippers for all your bridesmaids to change into to make them more comfortable.

If a bridesmaid’s financial situation has changed since she was offered the role it is not appropriate to withdrawal the position from her.  The best solution is to talk it over with her.  She may have other resources available to her or have an idea.  The two of you may be able to find a suitable dress in a discount store.  If it is within your means, covering the rest of her expenses is a small price to pay to keep her in the wedding.  After all you chose her because you wanted her to have a special role on your special day, not because she had the money to be a bridesmaid.

Bridesmaids may wish to withdrawal for other reasons such as pregnancy or conflicts with other bridesmaids.  In all cases you should try to get to the bottom of the problems and be flexible in offering solutions.  You chose these women for a reason and should do everything you reasonably can to ease the process for them without compromising any of your own wishes.

You are not obligated to include anyone in the bridal party even if you were in theirs.  Chances are you aren’t still close to the college roommate who has you be a bridesmaid ten years ago and that is okay.  If she is still a friend make sure to invite her.

It is not okay to not include someone because you want a bridesmaid dress you know will not suit their body type or for any other visual reason.  The roles in your bridal party should be filled by the people closest to you who deserve them.  Be flexible with dresses and the like in order to include your closest friends.  A wedding is very much a visual performance and there will be plenty of photographic evidence of the choices you made.  It is first; however, one of the biggest days of your life and should be shared with those closest to you.

You want to make sure your attendants realize the cost of being in a wedding party before they accept the role.  A good start is to mention how much you appreciate all the costs they are putting out to share in your special day.  Gifting them with their accessories or allowing them to wear shoes they already own is a great way to help them cut costs.  Also be mindful of everyone’s situation when making dress decisions and planning hair and makeup.  Make sure to let your attendants know that no gift is necessary and you appreciate all they are already doing.  This will leave some more leave way for those who are a bit tighter financially.  If someone really can’t afford to be an attendant but you really would like them to be it is always possible to discreetly cover their expenses.  You don’t have to do it for everyone as long as you and your attendant can be discreet.

Quite the opposite may also happen and you may change your mind about wanting someone in your wedding party.  Perhaps one friend is causing trouble with all your other attendants.  Perhaps you had a huge fight.  Before choosing to fire them, ask yourself if you want to save the friendship.  Asking someone to step down may very well end your friendship.  As with all things do your best to find a solution that is more compromise.  If you really must ask them to step down do so discreetly.

When a member of your wedding party steps out there is always the issue as to whether you should replace them.  If all of your attendants haven’t confirmed yet and you are still in the very early stages of planning it is quite easy to do so.  If there has been quite a bit of planning but there is still enough time to get orders for dresses in and such without any juggling then it is still also appropriate to replace them.  In this instance it would be a nice gesture to help cover some of the unexpected costs for the newest addition to your wedding party.  If someone steps out or cannot attend last minute then do not replace them.  No one wants to feel like they are your last choice.

If your fiancée wants you to ask his sisters to be bridesmaids, the long term pros may outweigh the cons.  Even if you feel you don’t know them well enough it is a wonderful gesture to try to include them and a great way to get to know them.  If there are too many to make it practical or you really can’t come to terms with the idea try to include them in other ways such as asking them to do the readings at the ceremony.  However, if he wants you to have his female friend as a bridesmaid and you just don’t feel close enough to her consider having her stand on his side of the aisle.  Co-ed attendants are becoming more and more common.  Of course you can also have her do readings or be a candle lighter.  Be sure to get any of these special people who don’t make the wedding party a corsage anyway to let everyone know how special they are to the happy couple.


All of the rules of etiquette that apply for bridesmaids also apply to groomsmen.  In a perfect world the groom would be on top of all the appointments for the groomsmen and keep them all organized.  In reality it is probably going to be up to the bride or coordinator to make sure everything gets done on the other side of the aisle as well.  The good news is they will step up when it matters and not one of them will miss anything having to do with the bachelor party!

Things to remember for all of the wedding party

As a general rule you want to be considerate of people’s feelings and the wishes of your intended spouse.  Stand firm to what you want but avoid being stubborn or unable to compromise.

Every member of the wedding party should receive a gift from the bride, groom or couple.  Traditional gifts like cufflinks, though still a nice gesture have been replaced by personalized gifts, jewelry for the bridesmaids and even a bottle of scotch paired with a nice tumbler for the groomsmen.  Don’t forget gifts for the flower girl and ring bearer which can include a flower girl purse personalized with her name or just a really nice toy.

A wedding can be a production no matter how small and it is impossible to please everyone and still stay true to what you want.  With a little compassion, delegation and compromise your wedding party can be as happy as you are come the big day.