You’ve probably seen that viral story about the woman who had a whopping 34 bridesmaids in her wedding. (Yep, you read that correctly. Thirty-four.) At first, it seems a bit crazy. But while having more than two dozen bridesmaids is certainly uncommon — the average number of bridesmaids and groomsmen is five each — it’s easy to see how it could happen. Many couples have difficulty whittling down a long list of family and friends to fit a standard-size wedding party.
“I want to keep my bridal party on the smaller side, but I’m worried about offending or hurting some of my close friends by not asking them to be a bridesmaid,” says Alison, a 32-year-old bride-to-be. It’s a common (and totally valid!) concern, but thankfully, inviting someone to be a part of your wedding party isn’t the only way to get them involved. There are plenty of ways to include super-important friends and family in your wedding so that they feel special — and so that you don’t end up with 34 bridesmaids.*
One way to get a large friend group involved in your wedding is to enlist them in wedding-planning help, but in a fun (and non-obligatory) way: Host a taste-testing party to figure out your signature cocktails or dessert table offerings, and invite your closest friends who didn’t make the wedding-party cut. Have nieces or cousins who are a tad too old to be flower girls? Invite them to join you for pre-wedding manis and pedis so they can get some quality time with you before the big day.
Get younger family members (think: pre-teen and teenager) involved in the ceremony by giving them important tasks, like handing out ceremony programs or ushering people to their seats. And, of course, don’t hesitate to ask close friends or family to be a part of the ceremony in a meaningful way, either by reciting a poem or blessing, doing a reading, performing a song, carrying the chuppah, lighting a candle — or officiating the whole thing! Some couples also gift small boutonnieres or corsages to close friends who aren’t in the wedding party, a subtle gesture that honors your relationship. Think of it as the VIP treatment, wedding-style.
*Unless, of course, you want 34 bridesmaids. In that case, bring it on!