Beyond Bridesmaids: How to Include More Friends And Family In Your Wedding Party

Bridesmaid selection can be one of the most daunting and potentially damaging tasks a bride can face during the course of her wedding planning. The fear of resentment or hurt feelings among friends and family who didn’t make the cut is certainly understandable; some brides decide to forgo a wedding party altogether, or only appoint a single friend or sibling to stand beside them on their big day. Others opt to include as many people as humanly possible a la Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses. But one way to ultimately solve this bridesmaid conundrum is by finding creative alternative ways to include your nearest and dearest in the wedding ceremony, even if they aren’t toting matching bouquets. Here are a few ideas:

Witnesses: Two witnesses are required for a legal marriage ceremony in Canada. While filling out forms may not be the most romantic aspect of your wedding day, you can turn this bureaucratic procedure into a thoughtful gesture by appointing close friends or family members to the role. By including their names in the program or having your officiant call them up when it comes time to sign the documents, these close friends and relatives who didn’t quite make the cut for your wedding party will be less likely to feel like B-listers on your big day.

Readers: You know that kind of loud friend who you love to death but has a tendency to always steal the show? Instead of banishing her to the back row, let your pal take centre stage with a reading role. Not only will she be in her element, she’ll be able to contribute a meaningful portion to your ceremony by delivering a poem, religious passage or even a line from your favourite movie, a famous speech or any of the other boundless options for ceremony readings.

Ring Warmers: A ring warming ceremony can be a touching addition to the usual wedding fare. Include your nearest and dearest who aren’t standing up as bridesmaids by asking them to bestow a quiet blessing or happy thought on your wedding rings before they’re exchanged. Attach the rings to a ribbon so they don’t get lost and then pass them around the first few rows of guests or, if you’re having a  smaller wedding, the entire group of celebrants!

Pole Holders: Brides who are including a traditional Jewish wedding canopy or chuppah in their ceremony can honour friends and family by asking them to hold one of the four poles. Some pole bearers make a grand entrance by carrying the chuppah down the aisle and assembling it before the bride and groom arrive.

House Party: Everything is bigger in Texas, and weddings are no exception. When Jenna Bush, daughter of former U.S. President George W. Bush, tied the knot, she nixed bridesmaids altogether in favour of a 14-member “house party” (in addition to the maid of honour, whose role was filled by her twin sister). Predominant below the Mason-Dixon line, house parties are “a Southern tradition through and through,” says Texas wedding blogger Clare Liguori of Belles, Bouquets and Galveston Bay. ”The main difference between a house party member and a bridesmaid is that the house party does not stand up with you at the altar in the church; they sit with your family in the front row. There are lots of other duties that the house party can help you with: reading during the ceremony, attending to the guest book and gift table, handing out programs, serving cake, and just helping you get through the day. Other than the whole altar thing, the house party is just as much a part of the wedding party as the bridesmaids.”

Whether you decide to expand the roles of your ceremony participants or not, the biggest safeguard against hurt feelings is making sure your friends and family feel appreciated, even if they aren’t officially part of your wedding party. Pulling someone aside after the ceremony and personally thanking them for coming or including heartfelt welcome message in your program can go a long way.

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