Not only must they look lovely in coral satin and dance a mean Macarena, they'll keep you sane and smiling from the engagement to the afterparty. Whether it's just one sister or a gaggle of gal pals from all different stages of your life, your bridesmaids will be among your biggest supporters on the big day. Choose them wisely.
1. Determine the size
There is no hard and fast rule as to how many attendants you should have (a good estimate is one attendant for every 50 guests), but consider the approximate size of your wedding in relation to the bridal party. Also, keep in mind that the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen does not have to be perfectly even and consider your budget: more ladies means more bouquets, bridal-party gifts, hair and makeup styling and anything else you plan to provide.
2. Consider the relationship
Sisters, sisters of the groom, and other close relatives such as a favorite cousin get priority. Such gestures are greatly appreciated and may help avoid any potential conflicts or hurt feelings. When it comes to friends, consider the nature of the relationship and the person's role in your life. Also, consider how the women you're considering get along with each other. Two cousins engaged in a lifelong feud may make matters difficult for the rest of the bridesmaids (and you).
3. Think about her situation
If a friend is moving to another country, starting a rigorous graduate-school program, recently unemployed or maybe even getting married herself, it might not be a great time for her to devote herself to your wedding. If being a bridesmaid doesn't work out, she may prefer to be involved with another way, such as giving a reading during the ceremony.
4. Don't feel pressured
Almost every bride will have that one person whom they feel they should ask to be a bridesmaid but really just don't want to. Before you give in to the fear of hurting someone's feelings, think about what you want and figure out a tactful way to make that happen. Most importantly, don't let anyone invite herself into the bridal party -- after all, it's your wedding.
5. Be prompt and considerate
Of course, you'll want to spread the good news of your engagement before you even think about the bridal party. Do not extend any official bridesmaid invitations until you have given it some thought and are absolutely sure of the decision, but don't put it off forever, either. Friends and family who suspect they're in the running will want to know whether or not they should start practicing their processional walk -- and you'll be able to put any bridal-party anxiety behind you and move on to other aspects of wedding planning.