How To Select Bridesmaids

7 Ways to Navigate the Minefield

How to select your bridesmaids?

Here are some tips on how to sidestep the misunderstandings and tensions that often arise with this important decision.

If you think selecting your bridesmaids will be a piece of cake, remember what happened to Marie Antoinette. Yes, ladies, add the title of diplomat to your list of bridal duties-especially when choosing your wedding party. Who you ask (and don't) can be rife with turmoil.

Here are some tips on how to sidestep the misunderstandings and tensions that often arise with this important decision.

1. Stay tight-lipped

As tempting as it is to discuss the early stages of wedding planning with every friend, use discretion in discussing your bridal party. Sit down with your fiancé first to decide how large a wedding party you want, whom you want to include, and whether you want to have an equal number of men and women before you start telling anyone.

2. Yes, drum up the past

Chances are, anyone you'd want in your bridal party is someone you've known a long time. So, use this insight to your advantage to realistically gauge-and even predict-how this person will act in the course of your wedding planning and on the Big Day.

Was she responsible and eager to be of service to a friend in need? Was she selfish and resentful? Well-intentioned, but slightly scatterbrained? Does she have a new boyfriend whom she'll be draping herself over at your wedding when you need her help most? Is she likely to drink a bit too much and forget things? You get the idea.

Bottom line: low-maintenance friends and family members make stellar attendants.

3. Avoid bridesmaid burnouts

Another point to consider: Has your friend been asked to serve as a bridesmaid four times in the past year? If so, she may not be up for another round. She may even be suffering from the always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride syndrome.

Have a heart-to-heart with the one with a closet full of tulle and taffeta bridesmaids' dresses before you include her. Simply let her know you want her to be involved but will understand if she prefers to attend as a guest.

4. Be crystal clear about duties

When you ask someone to be an attendant, let her know your expectations right away. Is your college roommate responsible for making sure the guest book is signed? Is your sister assigned to collect disposable cameras from the tables at the end of the evening? If each bridesmaid will be assigned a specific task, put it in writing. A diplomat would.

5. Pay attention to your friends' finances

If a friend is watching her budget very carefully, you could put her in an awkward situation by asking her to spring for a $200 gown, $150 shoes, plus the cost of helping to throw a shower, bachelorette party, and so on. Either offer to pay for some of these expenses yourself, pare down your expectations or consider another (financially solvent) friend as a bridesmaid.

6. Skip the attendants

There's no obligation to have a large wedding party. Why not opt for no attendants, or choose just a maid or matron of honor? There are other ways to honor friends, such as having the one with a beautiful voice sing Ave Maria during the ceremony.

For example, actress Lisa Kudrow has a wide circle of friends, but didn't want to have 20 attendants. Instead, after walking down the aisle accompanied by her mother and father sans bouquet, 20 of her close friends walked up to Lisa and presented her with a flower. Then Lisa's mother tied the bunch with a large ribbon to make a beautiful bouquet to symbolize the actress' close ties to those important people in her life.

7. Always, always do damage control

If, after all is said and done, there is still even an inkling of hurt feelings, take the time to sit down with the offended pal. Whatever is behind your rationale, explain it calmly and clearly to your friend one-on-one. Erasing resentments is much easier when you're upfront early on.

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