Always the bridesmaid, never the bride…until now.
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According to a 2015 survey, the average number of bridesmaids in the United States falls somewhere between four and five. Perhaps that number sounds accurate to someone who lives in New York or Kansas, but for me, an Alabama resident in my fifth year on the wedding circuit, that number seems awfully low. Clearly, the survey did not take into account all the Southern weddings I’ve attended in which the bridesmaids numbered a baker’s dozen. (And it definitely didn’t take into account the wedding in which my coworker is one of 22 bridesmaids.) Of course, though plenty of Southern brides opt for larger wedding parties, there are just as many who choose to keep it small. And while we’d love to hand you a bridesmaid calculator to keep it simple, there’s no method to the matrimonial madness. Instead, here are a few things to consider as you draft your bridal squad.

bridesmaids with rose bouquets
Credit: Nazariy Karkhut/Getty Images

You are not obligated to have any ‘maids at all.

Aunt Sissy might throw a hissy fit, but you’re entitled to a bridesmaid-free ceremony, if you so choose. Consider reserving special seats for your first ladies at the ceremony or incorporate them as greeters or readers instead. Remember, too, that you can include close friends in engagement parties and bachelorette weekend festivities even if you don’t ask them to stand by your side on the big day. (And they’ll likely appreciate the opportunity to celebrate you without having to shell out the money for a bridesmaid dress.)

You may have as many ‘maids/matrons/attendants as you wish.

If you’ve been blessed with both quantity and quality in the friends-and-family department and want to include every last one of them in the ceremony, do it! This is your day.

That said, it’s important to be mindful of your budget. Consider that the wedding party is traditionally invited to the rehearsal dinner; and it’s also in good taste to give your attendants plus-ones for the rehearsal dinner and wedding. So if you were hoping to keep the rehearsal dinner cozy and intimate, having 20 bridesmaids (plus their guests, plus the groomsmen and their guests) doesn’t make much sense.

The number of bridesmaids does not need to match the number of groomsmen.

Unless you count symmetry as a virtue ranked right up there with patience and charity, there is no reason that you and your partner must have the same number of attendants. You shouldn’t have to phone-in an old neighborhood acquaintance just so your groom’s friend Bobby has a gal to walk down the aisle. He’ll be fine.

Be gracious.

Regardless of the number of bridesmaids you decide to have, be thoughtful about the demands you make of them, from the cost of their dresses to makeup-and-hair requests. On the other hand, if you’re suddenly regretting asking 17 people to be bridesmaids, behaving like a total bridezilla is a surefire way to shrink your squad from 17 to zero.

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