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Nine Bridesmaids in Blush & Bashful: When Your Family Wants to Pick Your Wedding Party

By Amalah

Oh Amy, I’ve been engaged a month and I can already tell my family and I are not going to be getting along until the wedding is over. My fiancé’s mom is amazing and told me (and meant it) that I could do whatever I wanted, it’s my day. My mom said the same thing and clearly did not mean it. So far I’ve been given less than helpful “advice” and guilt trips on several topics. Most I’ve been able take in stride and realize my mom is trying to help even if she is going against the “you can do whatever you want” she told me.
The only thing that is currently still bothering me is the bridesmaids. I told my mom we haven’t finalized how many people we were having but at a minimum I’m having my friend that introduced me to my fiancé’, my sister and his sister. She was not happy with that and told me I have to have my sister-in-law as well. I have been in both my brother and sister’s weddings and my sister-in-law is someone that includes everyone. My mom and sister both think I’m going to upset her if I don’t ask her. I am over a decade younger than her and she’s only been in the family 3 years, when I call her house she will only answer the phone if my brother isn’t there and the first thing she tells me is my brother isn’t there. I would be ok with having her but I feel if I have her my brother-in-law should be a groomsman and my fiancé’ doesn’t really want to include in-laws which I understand. If I go with the “I was in her wedding so I need to ask her to be in mine” mentality, I still have 2 other friends I have to ask and that gets me up to 6 bridesmaids, which is just a far bigger bridal party than my fiancé and I want in the first place.
How do I upset the fewest people? I know it’s supposed to be my day but my family tends to add drama where it really doesn’t need to be so I’m trying to avoid as much as possible.
Trying to avoid being a bridezilla

Well, as I’m sure you know (after consulting every wedding etiquette book out there), there isn’t a hard and fast rule to defer to on this one. The bridal party is *technically* the bride and groom’s final call, but like All Things Wedding, it’s also one of those things that a lot of brides and families end up compromising on.
I can safely make this guess though: there’s probably no completely drama-free solution that ends with you NOT asking your sister-in-law. Even if she isn’t upset that you don’t ask her (and she very well might not care at all…being a bridesmaid involves a lot more work than just showing up, gift in hand, and not everybody is jumping at the opportunity to wear expensive matching dresses and plan shower games and be at your beck and call for a weekend, believe it or not)…your mom is clearly set on making this a Thing. She will make this a Thing, mark my words, even if your SIL is completely okay with not being in the wedding.
So here’s where you prioritize. What do you want MOST of all? Upsetting the fewest number of people? A small wedding party? Or just the blessed illusion that you’re calling the shots at your own wedding?
If your priority is avoiding family drama, you’re probably going to have to suck it up and compromise here. You certainly won’t be the first (or the last) bride who includes an in-law or a distant cousin for the sole purpose of not rocking the family boat. You can try talking about the issue one more time — maybe mention your fiance’s preference for no in-laws, or claim that including an in-law on your side will cause problems and drama on HIS side. Or, you know, talk to your sister-in-law openly and directly (gasp!) and find out first-hand if your mother is really speaking for her in regards to hurt feelings or an expectation of being in your wedding.
If it’s a small wedding party…well…from the impartial-third-person sideline over here, that’s a tough sell, even for me. You mention two more friends you’d like included, which is a party of FIVE, which is…already not small. Going from five to six doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, compromise-wise. Digging in your heels over five vs. six might make you look a little petty, like you’re DELIBERATELY snubbing your SIL. (I know you’re not! I’m just very experienced with Drama Queen Families and the way things get blown all out of proportion.)
I DON’T think that including your SIL automatically means including your brother-in-law, by the way — that’s going for completely unnecessary symmetry. Unless someone thinks HIS feelings will be hurt by not being asked, and oh haaaaaaa, how funny this situation is once you reverse the sexes, no? Women and weddings. Sigh.
If, more than avoiding the dreaded Thing, this is about avoiding the damn Guilt Trips and having control over your own wedding…I do feel you on that one. I can make a reasonable guess that even if you dig your heels in and state that sorry, no in-laws in the wedding party, the end, there will be other guilt trips down the road. Feel free to stick to your guns on this one, but remember that there’s rarely any real precedent-setting when it comes to weddings and families. Your mother isn’t going to open her mouth to kvetch about the rehearsal dinner invite list or the fact that you don’t want your neighbor’s sister’s cousin to bake your wedding cake and think, “Oh, well, she didn’t listen to me about the bridesmaids, why bother saying anything now?” Just doesn’t work like that. ESPECIALLY if your family is paying for the wedding, in part or in whole. Pick your battles, essentially, and figure out what are the absolute most important, most-worthy-of-family-angst sticking points for the wedding, and let the rest roll off your back.
(For the record, I had my sister-in-law in my wedding, along with just one of my four brothers, her husband. They are now divorced. I see her much more often than my actual brother who is frankly, not a nice person anymore. And Jason hasn’t spoken with his best man in close to eight years now [he forgot to take the day off work and left in the middle of the reception]. Today, our choice of a wedding party elicits little more than an eyeroll [seriously, he left! to go work a shift at Pizza Hut!] — if we can even remember who was in the wedding party vs. who just attended without looking at photos. In other words, I know this seems like an ULTRA-IMPORTANT thing right now, but it really isn’t. You’re marrying him, not the wedding party.)
One last idea, in the name of compromise…is there another role you could assign to your sister-in-law that would “include” her in the day? Could she do a reading during the ceremony, man the guestbook or other wedding-planner-type duties? I’ve attended weddings where a relative or not-quite-best-friend type person did everything from lighting candles, distributing favors, playing the piano during the cocktail hour, etc. You might find your solution if you get a little creative and think outside the bridesmaid box, so to speak.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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