Rules You Should Break When Choosing Your Wedding Party

Perhaps one of the best things about weddings today is that there are no rules when it comes to planning and incorporating trends. That being said, there are a few things deeply rooted in tradition that couples normally stick to, one of them being how they go about choosing their wedding party. We’re used to seeing the classic, by-the-book groups of bridesmaids and groomsmen alike, but industry pros share what rules you should be breaking.

Emerging Rule-Breaking Trends

Typically, each soon-to-be spouse chooses 5-7 people closest to them, but recent trends show that’s changing. Emily Sullivan of Emily Sullivan Events says that some are even going the intimate wedding route. “I definitely see more people electing not to have a wedding party or keeping it really small.”

Better yet, disregarding the norms entirely gives couples plenty of room to get creative. Jamie Chang, wedding planning pro and creator of Passport to Joy, continues to see the growth of the altogether non-traditional wedding party. “It could be having mismatched numbers on each side, a combo of men and women on each side, people of various age ranges, or pets and kids. Couples are choosing to have those they really want by their side, whomever that is.”

Tommy Waters of The Renaissance agrees, “I personally get excited to see couples having a ‘man of honor’ or a ‘best woman’. If your best friend or family member is the right fit, let them fill that role!”

Removing gender from wedding parties not only allows you freedom to choose whoever you want to stand next to you on your wedding day, but also makes your day more inclusive. You may have friends of family that don’t fit into the gender binary of male-female, and ditching gendered wedding parties makes space for those loved ones.

Pros and Cons to Wedding Party Size

When it comes down to it, the overall size depends on how intimate the wedding itself is and what’s important to the couple. For example, Kylie Carlson of the International Academy of Wedding & Event Planning notes the positives of both. “Having a larger wedding party is great as you'll generally have more help during the planning process, and you might find that coordination and setup of your big day will be easier with more hands on deck. That being said, you'll have considerably more opinions and (unsolicited) advice than if you were to choose a smaller group.”

If your wedding day vision has some classic details involved, Leah Weinberg of Color Pop Events says to think twice about a small group. “One of the pros to having a larger wedding party is that you have a built-in network of people to get ready with on your wedding day. I recently heard from one of my brides who opted not to have a wedding party and after the wedding she realized how bummed she was to not have had a group to get ready with. It was something she didn't realize she missed (or wanted) until after the wedding.” 

According to Katherine Healy Brown, owner of Clover Events, “Keep in mind that the size of your wedding party can absolutely have an impact on your overall wedding budget, design and event flow. You may have a vision for the way your head table will look, but the shape of your reception space won’t necessarily be able to accommodate the size of the table you’ll need.  The size of your wedding party also has an impact on the amount of transportation you’ll need in order to move them from ceremony to photos to reception.”

Do Etiquette Rules Still Apply?

Deciding who will stand by you on your big day is one thing, but how important is etiquette in all of this? Let’s say that you were in the wedding party at a friend’s wedding. Does that mean you’re now required to extend the wedding party invite to them for your wedding? 

Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services says no. “While it's a nice gesture to return the sentiment, it's definitely not required. If both of you have a close relationship, then they'll likely already be a top choice regardless of whether or not you were in their wedding. Don't feel obligated to include them in your wedding party, but do extend a wedding invitation so there aren't any hard feelings.”

As for deciding who makes the cut, Waters adds that the spots you fill should be people that add joy and strength to your wedding. “The rest of the party may be filled with other people who have made a strong and positive impact on the couple's life. Working on filling the party together is such a nice idea for a lot of couples, especially if they are trying to keep the sides of an equal count.” Chang agrees, continuing that it comes down to choosing people that you’re closest to. “You want to choose people who know you and who you have a real connection with. These are people who won't fade away from your life down the road.”

While it’s common for some couples to stick to long-standing wedding party traditions, it’s completely okay for you to break some rules! Trusting your instincts and choosing people that will enhance one of the happiest days of your life is far more important than following the norms.


Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.