What you are about to read is a complex merge of our personal experiences and professional experiences as a photographer. All situations appearing in this blog post are purely fictional. Any resemblance to any real bridal party, now or in the past, is completely coincidental.
Let’s get straight to it! In Do Weddings Smarter, we are urging you to seriously and thoughtfully consider what your goals are for your wedding day, and maybe shedding a little light on how to reach those goals from our experiences as seasoned wedding photographers!
GOAL: When choosing whom you will include in your bridal party, most brides and grooms want to give a position of honor to those who hold a very special place in our lives and hearts! You want them to be able to stand with you, to enjoy the day with you and to know that you treasure them beyond just a “normal” relationship.
Many times, it’s a brother or sister that holds this special place in our lives, so it’s an obvious choice to include them. Then, of course the brother or sister-in-law is special to us to and so we want to include them, so they become part of the bridal party as well. Then, there’s the darling nieces and nephews (children of said sister maid of honor and brother-in-law groomsmen) that you’ve always dreamed would be a part of your day, so they get the honored position of being ring bearer or flowergirl!
REALITY: While in theory, this sounds great because everyone is included, can I share with you what I see over and over again from a wedding photographer’s perspective? The first thing you have to know from a photographic perspective is that the youngest person in the group (ring bearers and flowergirls) have the POWER! They are in charge! So, what happens is that the children who have had unusually late nights at rehearsal dinners and celebrations and such, get woken up early so that they can be with everyone else while they are dressing, get put into clothing that they are not typically used to and may not be the most comfortable, skip their naps because of the events of the day and THEN we begin taking pictures. These little nieces and nephews who are normally little well-behaved angels, are now the ones who won’t come out from under the bride’s dress for pictures, are crying, etc. Though not the case for every child, this is especially true with the little ones ( 4 years and under). Let’s talk about the parents. By then, the parents haven’t had the chance of kicking back and relaxing while getting ready like the other members of the bridal party have. See, they’ve been trying to keep track of all of Johnny’s parts to his suit, making sure beautiful niece doesn’t ruin her cute little curls, trying to keep precious nephew from rolling in the dirt, etc. Then, we expect them all to stand still and smile for the pictures! When the children don’t cooperate, it also adds stress to the parents, who desperately want their kids to be cooperative and the pictures to turn out well. When the children have reached the end of their cooperation, who is the next person who usually steps in to take care of them? Their grandma or grandpa who is at the wedding, otherwise known as mother or father of the bride (or groom). Even though I am so sure that grandparents don’t mind a bit, can I tell you how many times I’ve seen the father of the bride outside entertaining/watching the children run around during the reception? I’m sure that he loves to do that, but in my opinion, as a parent of the bride or groom, I think that I would love the chance to visit with family and friends that I may have not seen for some length of time. Overall, you can see how having an entire family in bridal party may make for a challenging day for all and what started out as a great intention, sometimes has consequences that are unseen.
With that said, here are some thoughts and ideas about how to honor the people in your life that you love most in a way that will make the day ultimately enjoyable for them as well!
-Choose whomever in the family unit is most important to you and be sure to include them in the bridal party! If you want both the children and your sister, for example, let the brother-in-law be an important of your day but not in the bridal party. Having someone NOT in the wedding party may bring a little relief to everyone’s day. For example, he may be able to bring the kids at a later time when they’re actually needed, he can be nearby during pictures to comfort and entertain the little ones while they’re not needed for the pics, and if they are tired (or bored) during the ceremony or reception, they can sit down with him (instead of hanging on mom’s skirt while she’s giving a speech or being disruptive during the ceremony).
-Honor that special person who may not be in your bridal party by creating a part of your day just for them. Perhaps they could give a toast, do a scripture reading, or welcome everyone to the reception. Be sure to include them if they are special to you, even if they’re not in the bridal party!
-If small children are present at the wedding you might want to consider contacting a nanny agency or babysitter to take the little ones somewhere and entertain them as the night gets long and the kiddos get tired, so that mom & dad can still have a great time! If you are having a destination wedding, be sure to talk with your event coordinator about this service, they may have some great recommendations. I have also seen guests bring their au pair’s with them to destination events, so that they can enjoy the entire event on their own.
I hope this has given you some things to think about and I would love to hear how you are dealing with the tough decisions in putting together your bridal party. What factors have gone into the decisions you are making?
Here’s one of my favorite flowergirl images ever! I love this image not only because it’s beautiful, but because it’s my daughter and her two little friends when they were at such a sweet age.