Some brides are easily able to name a few close friends or sisters as bridesmaids. They don't have to worry about hurting the feelings of a half dozen other friends and cousins, thus avoiding the emotional turmoil that some brides experience when it's time to ask, "Will you be my bridesmaid?"
Rather than handpick just a few people from their beloved extended group, fearing hurt feelings and damaged relationships, some brides opt to have a larger bridal party.
A recent Guinness World Records report shared the story of a wedding with 126 bridesmaids! However, in most cases an extended bridal party is eight to 16 bridesmaids, with a corresponding number of groomsmen or ushers. No matter the number, you can be assured that a large bridal party calls for some specialized planning and considerations.
First, make a starter list of everyone you'd like to have in your bridal party. And, just as you might with your wedding invitations list, organize this list in tiers. For example, tier 1 is best friends and sisters. Tier two would be more distant friends, cousins, your fiance's sisters and so on. Once you have these names in writing, you can more easily assess how large your bridal party might be.
At this point, refrain from talking or posting about your bridesmaids until you have your list finalized. Too many brides, in the excitement of their engagement -- and perhaps fueled by an extra flute of Champagne! -- start inviting friends to be bridesmaids before they've even made their wedding budget, leading to awkward or potentially disastrous situations.
Kristin Rockhill, wedding planner and owner of Details of I Do, explains, "Being a bridesmaid comes with a price tag and a lot of responsibility. Some of your friends may not have the time or money to make that commitment."
While it would be rude and presumptuous to eliminate a friend you're your list because you believe she wouldn't be able to afford the bridesmaid expenses, you do have to practice sensitivity when it comes to budgets. At an early meeting, or in private conversations with you, they can confide their budget limits.
Decide what you can pay for. "Paying for the gowns or hair and makeup goes a long way," says Rockhill. "Your girls want to look their best and make you proud standing by your side at the altar but after all the showers, bachelorettes, gift-giving and party planning, the truth is they are spent -- literally."
With a large bridal party, you might opt to find less expensive alternatives, such as asking a hairstylist friend do your bridesmaids' hair as her wedding gift to you. With a large number of bridesmaids, that means a larger number of bouquets. Work with your floral designer to create pretty, budget-friendly bursts of blooms, and choose great thank-you gifts on sale online, on Etsy or at craft store sales.
Consider setting up a Facebook or Pinterest page for your bridesmaids to swap contact info, compare dresses and resources and make plans. "It's also a great way to make sure no one gets left out or misses bits and pieces of the conversation," says Rockhill. When the group bonds, they will work better together, and might even become friends. "Social media has so many great tools for wedding these days, even keeping track of bridal party duties, events and schedules! Create social media groups -- such as a closed group on Facebook, Instagram hashtags, Evite to keep track of who is attending and contributing what to events like dress fittings, brunches, bachelor and bachelorette parties," says Rockhill.
With a large wedding party, it can be easy for big personalities to take over. Don't let anyone get lost in the crowd, and take away the possibility of a power struggle. Instead, Rockhill suggests you give each person a task. "Assign individual tasks that also give them time to spend with you, like assembling favors, invitation stuffing or gown shopping," says Rockhill. "This takes away the stress and eliminates the possibility of having a bullying bridesmaid who wants to control everyone."
Sharon Naylor is the author of "The Bride's Guide to Freebies" and three dozen additional wedding books.