Do I need bridesmaids? 4 reasons to have a wedding without a bridal party

Original photo by Nick Nguyen, remixed by CC license.
Original photo by Nick Nguyen, remixed by CC license.

This question comes up again and again from engaged couples: do I need bridesmaids? Am I weird if I don't have bridesmaids? Is it mean that I don't even WANT bridesmaids? Even more generally, do I need to have wedding attendants at all?

The answer is nope: you do not need bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower children, flower grandmas, ring boys, ring bears, or any other wedding attendants on your wedding day. Here are four reasons why not having bridesmaids is not only just fine — it can be awesome!

1. You don't need their help

Now, I don't mean that you don't need help with your wedding — I mean that you don't need BRIDESMAIDS to have helpers. One of the common reasons why people choose to have bridesmaids is because they want help with their wedding. They want a crack team of DIY manual labor. They want someone to hold their bouquet. They want someone to go shopping with. Well, here's the deal with that: bridesmaids are not henchmen. If you need help with your wedding, you need to ask explicitly for help.

2. They might not help anyway

Sure, bridesmaids might help you with your wedding… but they also might not have the time or interest. You can skip having bridesmaids and just make explicit requests ("Do you want to come over and have pizza and do a wedding invitation assembly line while we watch old rom coms?") instead of a vague one ("I want you to be a part of my wedding in ways that may or may not involve a special dress, helping me do things, organizing wedding showers, and maybe other things"). If you need help, ask for help. Don't confuse having bridesmaids with having help.

3. Avoid drama

Oh lordy, if I had a dollar for every email I've gotten from readers about bridesmaid drama, I would be typing this from my gilded chair with a designer cat on my lap.

Now, I'm not saying everyone is doomed to bridesmaid drama, but we all know that friendships can be complex, and wedding planning is stressful, and there are a million and one things that can go wrong. You asked the someone to be a bridesmaid when you were wasted and then realized you barely know them! You asked this person to be your bridesmaid, and that person got offended that you didn't ask them! Someone agreed to be your bridesmaid and then got side-blinded by a life crisis and has to drop out.

It sucks, and wedding planning can be challenging enough without having to Google "how to fire a bridesmaid."

4. You certainly don't need them for pictures

We've featured tons of weddings without a bridal party and you know what? They're all gorgeous. Do not a plan a wedding based on how you want things to look on Pinterest. (I'll take that even farther and say don't plan your LIFE based on how you want things to look on Pinterest — it's a recipe for frustration and disappointment.)

Want a few examples?

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Andrea & Angelo's rock 'n' roll, leopard-print, Italian feast wedding
Photo Session
Kat & Scott's gamer geek gathering (with a side of wedding)
Untitled
Dawn & Benjamin's off-the-grid forest handfasting
IMG_9455
Amber & Matt's irreverent and elegantly gothy wedding

If you need more proof that you do NOT need bridesmaids (or any other wedding attendants) at your wedding, you should check out our archive of folks who had no wedding party.

And PS: for those of you who are like "Having bridesmaids was the best decision I made"… that is awesome! This post isn't meant as an attack on those who choose to have bridesmaids — most of y'all have fabulous experiences. We just want to make sure that those who are considering not having them at all know that it's a great option, too.

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  1. Cheers to this! FH and I are not having a bridal party. We are very low key people and just want our friends to relax and enjoy the party.

    We're going to invite some people to get ready with us, but that's the extent of it. My friends have already been very helpful on their own time, and it makes me feel so happy. It really simplifies things, too.

    Thanks for posting this!

    5 agree
  2. We're not having a bridal/grooms party either. Something about choosing friends to stand next to me but not say anything and wear the same colors felt odd in my book. Instead, I asked some friends to be "on my team" ahead of the wedding. These are people who I would go to the ends of the earth with, who are rock stars, who will absolutely listen to me gab about the wedding and want to go try on dresses together.

    Since then, "the team" has been upgraded to "the council" because I have no idea what I'm doing and their input is enormously helpful. Some of the council will sing at our wedding, some will read passages, some will probably wrangle guests, one may marry us as the officiant. It's been a great system so far, and we'll be sure to acknowledge them in the wedding.

    6 agree
  3. We had a back-and-forth about if we were to have wedding parties. I did; he didn't.

    I really wanted to make sure my best friend, who lives in another country and I only see face-to-face every year or two, was in the wedding and knew she was the. most. important. person in my life, aside from my spouse.

    He didn't want them for, basically, the reasons cited above.

    When it came down to it, we had my bestie and spouse's brother for us, which worked out. We asked them to do minimal things day-of and relied on our larger community. Was the wedding party absolutely necessary? No, it completely was not. We could have managed just fine without them in an official capacity.

    I agree very much with the post in that manual labor is most certainly not a reason to have someone be in your party. I would say evaluate the why and make your decision. Then see who you would want to be in those photos, smiling alongside you, for the years and years and years you'll be married.

    If you think you can look at the picture and say "I may not talk to them anymore (God forbid), but damn did we have a good run." if something goes wrong, consider it. If not, I would re-evaluate. Of course, your mileage may vary.

  4. Points #1-3 definitely happened before our wedding. Looking back now, I probably could have done without the bridal party but I don't regret our choices. I honestly didn't expect them to help because why would they care? It isn't their wedding, it is mine and my fiance's responsibilities. Although, I did wish they would spend one or two afternoons before the wedding just for friend time. Oh well. I accepted the fact of what happened before the wedding but we ended up parting ways with nearly all the attendants a few years after the wedding. Friendships do change with time and life events–sometimes it gets weaker and other times stronger.

    1 agrees
  5. We are having some of our best friends dress in each of their favorite colors and then direct body traffic and manage the event the day of. I wouldn't have had them dress any differently at all but initially on friend had a melt down over NO WEDDING PARTY, so I compromised. Now I regret it, but nobody else seems to care, so I'm sure it will work out great. I've also had friends I was not counting on at all really step up, so it makes me extra glad we aren't doing an official bridal party.

  6. "No bridal party" was one of the first decisions we made the night we got engaged. The primary reason was that my bestie lives in another country and it would have been difficult to plan around the possibility that she couldn't make it. We briefly considered having a Maid of Honor and Best Man, but my husband doesn't have one friend that he's particularly closer to than the others and he felt like he couldn't leave out his brothers without causing family drama. But there's two of them and so my anal-retentiveness dictated that I'd need a second person — his sister, so she's not left out. But then my brother might feel left out, so I'd need a third 'maid and I didn't know who I'd ask. I just foresaw it snowballing into a big anxiety attack.

    But then I realized that the tradition of a bridal party didn't mean anything to me. I didn't want a shower or a bachelorette party, and I didn't want anyone to feel pressured to help me with the planning. That meant there wasn't much for them to do except show up on the day-of and be, essentially, decorative human beings. It felt somehow wrong to ask people to spend money on a specific outfit and hair/makeup appointments for that purpose. This way, I didn't have to worry about choosing dresses people hated or making sure everyone was at the right place at the right time. It simplified things and our siblings all said, "Oh, thank God" when they found out.

    Instead, we asked two close friends to give readings during our ceremony. Our parents and siblings helped us with some of the last-minute DIYing the day before, and I invited them to get their hair done with me if they wanted to. There's nothing wrong with having bridesmaids if you feel like that's an important way of honoring your relationships with those people, but cutting it out made the process a zillion times easier for us.

    3 agree
  7. I have bridesmaids, but before I chose them, I read this OBB article: http://offbeatbride.com/2010/09/bridesmaid-henchwoman . I thoroughly thought out my expectations and wrote a joke-y "contract" about my expectations when I asked them: they choose their own dresses while I provide accessories, they don't have to make a toast or help with DIY, bachelorette party/shower is nice but not necessary, etc. That was nearly a year ago, I've kept my word, and it's been drama-free. I'm serious; "cross my heart and hope to die," it's been drama-free.

  8. We're not doing a wedding party. Neither of us really felt any need for people in matching (or non-matching but coordinated, or even uncoordinated) dresses standing up there in a line. My sister, who would definitely be my maid of honor if I had one, knows that, and will obviously be involved in the wedding anyway. Of the other three people I would have asked, one is being our day-of coordinator, and the other two reacted pretty much with "You're not having bridesmaids, are you? I mean, I would stand up there with you, but. . .", so I think they're just as happy too.

    I realized that the one thing I really wanted was some photos with some of my closest friends, the sort you get with a bridal party. So I think we're going to do some flower arranging in the morning, including making flower crowns for the people who would be bridesmaids, and then get some photos with them during the portraits. For us, that seems to be hitting the important parts while skipping the parts that none of us care about all that much.

    4 agree
    • Hah, I definitely got the "You're not having bridesmaids, are you? I mean, I would stand up there with you, but. . ." from my friends. I don't blame them, being a part of the wedding party is expensive and often stressful!

      1 agrees
    • I really like this middle ground approach. We're having a bridal brigade and on the day I'd like to have something (like a boutinere or floral wristlet) that designates whos part of this extra special group. Someone suggested they could all wear blue, so they're my 'something blue'…like it but not sold.
      We're also planning a photobooth, so at one point or another I plan on getting photos with various groups of friends.

  9. We made the "no wedding party" decision really early; it's been a huge relief. I've even had several vendors do a happy dance when I mention it!

    I had a wedding party the first time around, and it mostly added financial cost and drama. This time around, the focus is all on us and the "community support" element will come from everyone who comes out to celebrate with us. We'll likely have a few toasts for people who want to say something, and we'll work in roles in the ceremony for people we'd like to honor.

    We've had a tiny bit of push back from my future mother who really wants to see her other two kids up there with us, but I think she'll come around pretty easily. Everyone else is just excited!

    1 agrees
  10. I love this. We've been discussing this whole situation, because he doesn't have a lot of reliable close friends, and I feel pressured to put my sister in my wedding party even though we are not very close and I know she will just stress me out the day of.

    1 agrees
  11. The first decision that we made was also NO wedding party. I really couldn't imagine who I would ask. We want to avoid drama at all costs. I don't really need a wedding party. Our ceremony is going to be short and informal.

    But, I still plan on asking a few close friends to help with some small diy projects, and I'm sure they will help without having to buy a matching dress.

  12. No bridal party here and I am SO RELIEVED.

    Fusband has nearly no close friends, so we definitely couldn't do the symmetrical thing (not that that matters AT ALL), whereas I have too many friends whom I'd want to be there by my side that I couldn't possibly choose a top [x]. Plus I want people to just be able to enjoy the wedding without a ridonkulous amount of expectation and pressure put on them.

    Instead, I've asked some friends to come get ready with me and one of my friends has offered to play the ukelele at our wedding. I'm already feeling so loved and so blessed. :3

    1 agrees
  13. Yes! We aren't having attendants and we're really happy with that decision. We love our friends, but ultimately it seemed like one more thing to put on the to-do list, you know? We've found other ways to honor our sisters and a couple of friends, and I know my sisters are THRILLED to not be bridesmaids.

  14. The bride wearing the gown with the blue flames at the bottom looks AMAZING and I must know where she got her dress! Was it custom? Did she dye it herself? These are the questions that haunt me now.

  15. Had only a matron of honor and best man my first time around. The world did not end, though the marriage did, and I'm relieved that it was only her and not a chorus telling me "We always hated him."

    This time around, being my second marriage, it's a much more low-key deal and I'm not having any attendants. Fiance – even though it's his first – just doesn't see the necessity of having any. He's already got me, so he doesn't need to do a bridal raid with his fellow villagers. ;P

    2 agree
  16. We're possibly going the middle route. Since we both have large groups of friends, but no clear besties, we're not having bridesmaids/groomsmen. Instead we are having a 'bridal brigade', a group of his/hers/our friends who are taking on either specific (like making our cake, being videotographer) roles or just being general supporters/sounding boards/day of helpers.
    We are having a few events where we're trying to get all the brigade together, like a couples shower, but there still may be a few missing til the day of.

  17. We're not doing a wedding party either, for so many reasons! So my fellow less-conventional ladies: what did you do for someone to hold the bouquet? My mother would but she doesn't like being the center of attention, none of us have sisters, and I don't know that I have a BEST girlfriend (though I have lots of ladies I love.) Thoughts?

    • We had a small table next to the officiant during the ceremony. It actually made for some lovely photos! My day-of-coordinator held the flowers during the first dance.

      1 agrees
    • I'm having a kissing ball hanging off of my non-dominate wrist (so it won't jostle and bump all over the place). No need to worry about where it is and keeping it hydrated or anything like that. Just slip on the wrist and it's out of the way enough for the ring exchange and hourglass ceremony.

  18. I have been a bridesmaid 4 times and it. was. awful. My decision not to have bridesmaids was based primarily on my not wanting to put anyone else through that. My Mom was especially horrified I didn't even want my sisters (who I am very close to) to be my bridesmaids. She even passive aggressively said, "Well, I just thought you loved your sisters…"

    I called them up that night and asked if they were hurt I wasn't having bridesmaids. Nope. They were both relived. They (and another close friend of mine) have been a great help and we are all getting our hair done together the morning of the wedding.

    I don't feel like I've missed out on any of the bridesmaid things, because I haven't had any shortage of people to shop with, or show wedding plans to, or help with projects when I ask. The beauty is I know they're helping or hanging out with me because they want to, not because it's expected. And I have also saved A LOT of money by not having to buy a bunch of dresses, shoes, accessories, etc.

    4 agree
  19. I'm actually a little surprised at the title and emphasis on bridesmaids, as in female members of the wedding party, and the use of 'bridal party' on this particular site. Lots of us future brides will have both female and male attendants (hate that word too but it is more inclusive) and perhaps folks who identify as neither.

    That being said I agree that no one needs attendants. My partner wants them more than I do, but it won't hurt me to have them so I will compromise. At first I wanted even numbers of women and men, but i realized that doesn't matter as much as having an even number total (odd numbers bother me). So we might have like 2 women and 4 men.

    • I’m actually a little surprised at the title and emphasis on bridesmaids, as in female members of the wedding party, and the use of ‘bridal party’ on this particular site.

      Interestingly, when we get this question from readers it's never "should I have attendants" or "should I have groomsmen" or "should I have a wedding party?" It's always "should I have bridesmaids?" or "should I have a bridal party?"

      My theory is that if you're a person who's having a mixed-gender wedding party, you're already way past the point of wondering if it's ok to not have attendants.

      I think it's important to remember that we have readers who come in to our community at a varying levels of nontraditional… some are just starting to consider going off the beaten path (asking "do I need bridesmaids?") and others are already WAY into the woods, beating their own path with their gender neutral wedding parties, officiant-less weddings, and tentacle-covered headpieces. 🙂

      7 agree
  20. My husband and I decided that we'd each have what we ended up terming "a special friend" stand with us as best man and lady of honor. It was nice because they are people we've been friends with for ages and it felt important to have them with us during the ceremony. But other than showing up not naked and hanging out with us while we got ready, we really didn't expect anything of either of them. Each gave amazing toasts too.

    But we didn't want to deal with corralling/herding groups of attendants, and since we were planning a wedding from 300 miles away, it was a relief not to have to worry about those logistics. We did end up having certain friends and family help with specific tasks: my cousin read a poem, my husband's friend who has awesome audio equipment lent it to us for playing music, we hired another friend as our photographer, and one of my high school classmates took charge of gathering together gifts and cards and getting them to my parents. Another dear friend of mine designed the adorable logo we printed on the front of our programs. One friend's wife lent me loads of craft supplies so I could DIY some decor.

    There are lots of ways for friends to help and feel special and part of your day without assigning them to be in a bridal party! 🙂

  21. Thank you! We're not planning on having a wedding party (for many reasons) but it still feels odd to go that route. And so any articles and examples that support the possibility of an ensemble-less wedding make me feel more okay with it.

    1 agrees
  22. We're probably having a Maidtron of Honor and a Best Man, but that's it. This is partly because I'm a big introvert and he's an extrovert, so we have opposite issues that both make the whole thing a big pain. It would be a big stretch for me to find any more people I would really want up there with me, and I'm not excited about spending time even with a group of three or four people even though I like all of them (I'd rather do one-on-one time). He, on the other hand, would have a hard time cutting his list of "best" friends down to even ten people.

    It helps that he has a pretty strong idea of the criterion for choosing the two "major" attendants. For him, it's not about picking the "best" friend, or the person you've been friends with the longest, or the most available and helpful person. Instead, it's the person who was the first and/or strongest proponent of the relationship. This helped make the choice extremely clear for both of us. I hadn't thought of it this way before I met him, but it makes sense – it's not about standing next to the bride or groom individually, it's about supporting the relationship and the marriage itself.

    I mention it because if anyone else wants to keep it down to just one attendant on each side but is having trouble figuring out how, this is both an easy to way to make the choice, and a good justification to give to people who otherwise might get hurt/offended/dramatic. I've mentioned it to a couple of people who got just a tiny hint of sadness when I mentioned that I had chosen an attendant (who was not them), and it helped a lot for them to hear that the choice had nothing to do with quality/quantity/specialness of friendship, but rather about a very specific kind of support in a very specific timeframe.

    3 agree
  23. No wedding party for us, for the following reasons:
    1. We're doing a destination wedding, i.e., already asking people to make complicated plans and travel a long damn way for us, so we feel like it'd be a dick move to make further demands on anyone.
    2. Being a destination wedding, it's also a small wedding where we're already inviting all the people we're closest to — out of this group of really important people, we wouldn't even be able to say that certain people are EVEN MORE important
    3. Our mantra for planning this wedding is "Nothing that isn't fun." You know what's not fun? Buying an outfit you'll never wear again and taking orders from somebody. (For similar reasons, we have no dress code! apart from "don't wear something that'd cause anyone to call the cops")
    4. We don't want a lot of the hoopla like showers and big groups for dress shopping and bachelor/ette parties and etc. So we don't really need designated hoopla handlers.

  24. We are just having a maid of honor(my sister) and a best man(his best friend) plus the ring bearer (best man's son). I was going to have a bridesmaid, but I figured it would be complicated with her living 2 states away and she said she was fine not being in the wedding as long as she was invited. Neither of us have a ton of close friends in the first place, so a smalled wedding party fits us well( the wedding itself is only 35 people).

  25. Timely discussion , I was fascinated by the info , Does someone know if my business could get access to a sample DoL EE-2 copy to work with ?

  26. I am thinking no bridal party also. I prefer a small wedding where everyone who comes actually wants to be part of our special day. Who cares about formal pictures.. besides a quick share on social media they get locked away in a book or under a bed or who knows where! As long as I get some great pics with my love, and some killer candid photos of everyone just having fun, then I am one happy girl. So many times I have heard of people dreading going to a wedding, or being a bridesmaid or groomsmen and I would just hate that negativity on a day that I've been looking forward to since I fell in love. Nobody wants to go to a formal wedding when they could be boating, camping or skiing instead! (Or is that just me?) 🙂 I am going to try to keep it a fun, easy day that people will (hopefully!) look forward to! If not, I'm still marrying the love of my life so who cares! Oh and my friends and family can help any way they want or not! I'll tempt the with wine and sweets though 😉

  27. We started off with a small bridal party but after a couple of issues with 3 out of the 4 members, we made the hard decision not to have a bridal party. It was THE best decision we made throughout the entire wedding process. It took a huge weight off my shoulders and such a relief that I didn't have to stress about what they were wearing and also saved us a lot of money with the extras that would normally go along with it.
    On the day itself I had a couple of my closest friends and family help me get ready and I was so much more relaxed and all I was worried about was my new husband and myself, not making sure everyone was where they all should be etc. Also when we were getting our professional photos done it was amazing to spend that time being relaxed and being in the moment with my husband which was the most time we were able to spend with each other all day. Some of our other close friends helped out leading up to the wedding. Overall I would definitely recommend it and wouldn't change a single thing about our day.

  28. A little over a year ago, shortly after becoming engaged, I was given advice to not choose a wedding party until six months before the wedding to avoid drama or stress. "THAT'S CRAZY" i thought. "my MOH has been such a great friend, NOTHING IS GOING TO GO WRONG." oh, what a sweet summer child I was. My MOH has been the most contrarian of anyone in my bridal party, and refuses to actually help with anything I ask her (but still continually encourages me to "just ask!!!!!" if I need anything. Uh, ok.)

    I actually had to ask her if she even wanted to be MOH, and that my sister had offered to step up and take over as MOH. In hindsight I should have asked one of my sisters anyway, but I didn't know how to choose one over the other without hurting feelings. MOH swears up and down that no, she wants to be MOH, but as she has continually been not very much help and actually more of a nuisance in her refusal to just go with the flow, I have sought out help or opinions from other bridesmaids.

    It is SO odd. I haven't asked anything out of the realm of reality of her (she claimed she was planning the bachelorette, but when I asked other bridesmaids if they had heard anything they informed me that had not.) I am planning my wedding long distance and she lives in the city where we are having the wedding – a lot of people are going to be flying in – but when I sent an email about events during the wedding week she made a fuss about having to take time from work (uh, everyone else is taking time from work, too, on top of flying in) but when I called her on it she suddenly was able to boast about how flexible a work schedule she has.

    If I were able to do it again I wouldn't have made her MOH. It would have been so much less stressful – and more fun – if she had just been a bridesmaid.

    2 agree
  29. Hey friends! I'm new to Offbeat Bride and I'm so glad that I found this website and this article specifically.

    I'm in need of third-party opinions. My fiance has already asked one friend to be his best man and two other friends to be groomsmen. That's fine, I like all the guys. However, I am definitely not into bridal/wedding traditions and have chosen not to have bridesmaids/friends part of the ceremony . Some people close to the situation and at least one "friend" has expressed to me how odd they think it will be for my fiance to have his guys involved and I have "no one." How can you say I have "no one" when we're inviting 100 guests to our wedding!? I must add that when I've spoken to other folks about this decision they think it's really great to break up the tradition and love the bold move. The wedding, to me, is a celebration of two families and NOT an all eyes on the bride parade. My fiance is worried, I think, that I'll regret the decision. However, I've been a bridesmaid before and I certainly wouldn't do it again.

    Has anyone here has had experience directly or indirectly with a groom who has a party and a bride who prefers to fly solo? Or vice versa?

  30. This!
    My now hubby and I chose not to have a bridal party for a wide variety of reasons. When it came time to wedding planning, it really seemed a lot easier and less stressful since we didn't have to coordinate other people's schedules to get certain things done (choosing dresses tuxes, etc) or make sure that everyone was happy (I, by nature, am a hardcore people pleaser).
    I've also been in a lot of weddings, and every time after a wedding I always feel like I need to take a mini break from the bride because of some sort of dumb drama that happened during the wedding process. I will always say yes to being friends bridesmaids, but I knew this just wasn't for me!
    I loved having the feeling during our wedding planning that almost no one was going to be frustrated with me post wedding.
    Also, Not having a bridal party saved us so much $$ and time and I don't regret a thing! All the important people were involved in our wedding in some form and the day was about us as a couple. 10/10 would recommend no bridal party!

  31. When I first got engaged (right up until the point I started reading articles like this) I didn't even know that bridesmaids were meant to help out with the planning of the wedding – I don't think my friends know either! I was picking my bridesmaids based on how good friends we were, as a way of telling them how good friends we were. Uhh… then my FH said his cousin I'd never met had to be one and my sister threw a hissy fit (saying she wouldn't be my bridesmaid if I wore fur – I hadn't even asked her to be one yet – and getting mortally offended when I said that was fine) so now I'm rooting for not having a bridal party at all! My friends already know how much they mean to me, and I don't want the drama

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