Picking and choosing is hard.
Although I am not married (yet), I have seen my fair share of friends and family members get married, and most often the hardest part for them is choosing people for the wedding party, and choosing the guest list. Here are a few tips and tricks that hopefully help make choosing a little bit less stressful!
Take your time.
Once you’ve asked someone, you can’t take it back. So while it might be tempting to ask all your BFF’s the second they put a ring on it, don’t. Take your time. Give yourself at least a month to consider all the options. You'll want to keep in mind your partners' family members, as well as close friends who might wish to stand with you.
Not to sound like your momma, but I’m a fan of having yours and your fiancé’s siblings with you on your wedding day. I mean, these people are going to be around well past your 10 year anniversary and you will only become closer over time. If you have a big family where you can't possibly include everyone, maybe draw the line at teenagers and ask them to do other roles in the wedding (guest book attendant, usher, etc.).
Consider personality clashes.
If you have one friend where you are just not sure about, consider their personality and if they would work well or against the rest of your team. You want your chosen few to work together on the day, not butt heads at every issue. This is YOUR day, the last thing you need to be is a mediator for your wedding party. If you don't think they'll mesh well, it might be best to leave them off the wedding party list (however, if they are a close friend of yours, you can opt to seat them very close by to the head table, so that you can still see them and mingle when you have the time!). Another thing to note is: Don't expect anyone chosen in your wedding party to change for your wedding. Avoid asking them to dye or cut their hair (if they usually have unnatural colors), lose or gain weight, cover up tattoos, etc. These are your loved ones, and therefore if you are asking them to be a part of your day, accept them fully as they are or don't pick them. It will only cause arguments and heartache if you decide to pick them for your day, but then ask them to change- they will be very upset about it.
You can have as many or as few bridesmaids and groomsmen as you want. The average wedding party is 4 of each. However, if you want to go larger or smaller. Go for it. For smaller weddings (50-60 people), there are usually no more than 4. But for larger weddings, I’ve seen as many as 12 of each. Just know that when it comes to weddings, more isn’t ALWAYS merrier. The more attendants you have, the more details you have to organize— flattering dresses for all body types, bachelorette or bachelor parties with 24 attendants are hard to organize, wedding gifts, etc. Also keep in mind that as a photographer, a camera lens can only go so wide...so opting for 12 members on each side will mean will get pretty cramped in most wedding ceremony venues/churches.
Manage your expectations.
What sort of role do you want your wedding part to play? Do you want them to help you pick out a dress, address save-the-dates and invites, attend bridal showers, etc.? If so, you may want to ask friends and family who live close-by, or else you will have to deal with hectic schedules and might set yourself up for disappointment.
You will also want to consider those who are dependable, vs someone who is "fun". Although it may seem like you want all the funniest and outgoing personalities to be in your wedding party, the wedding party has important parts to play in your wedding such as holding the rings, help you with getting into your dress/ bathroom breaks (lol), helping to round up family members for the photographer, etc. You want the day to be as stress-free as possible, so pick people who not only keep you level-headed but also people who you generally enjoy being with who will help make your mood the best (even when something goes wrong).
If someone you really love isn’t the most dependable person but you can't imagine not having him/her up there- then have them, just keep your expectations realistic and know all the possibilities of what could happen, that way you won't be disappointed if they do. If you decide against it, give them another important job to prevent conflict (If they are creative, help with putting DIYS together, etc).
For those who you've decided are important, but not -quite- wedding party material, feel free to get creative!
I’ve gone to weddings where instead of being asked to be a bridesmaid, the bride's best friend was their officiant or sang a song at their ceremony. There are candle lighters, guest-book attendants, etc. You have free reign here, so please do not feel pressured to follow traditional protocol.
Don't return the favor.
Just because you were at your college roommate's wedding doesn’t mean that she has to be in yours. There is no need to ask someone that you haven’t spoken to in 5 years just to return the favor. If they approach you and ask why they aren’t in your wedding party, then just be completely honest. Explain that it was a tough choice but you feel like you’ve chosen the people who you are closest to at this point in your life and let them know they aren’t the only ones that you had to leave out, that there were other important people as well. This also goes for family members, your partner's family members, workplace friends, etc. Following the wishes of everyone else during your wedding day will not only lead to a LOT of disagreements and arguments, but it won't truly reflect you and your partner's day and you will see it in anything and everything that wasn't your choice at your wedding.
If you aren’t close to any particular children. Don’t feel like you NEED a flower girl or ring-bearer. And if you have TONS of children you love, feel free to have them all. I have seen a wedding where the bride had a little sea of children come down the aisle before her. She had realistic expectations for the children and knows they all may not be smiling or even make it completely down the aisle. But they are more important to her and her groom than having that ideal petal-dropping individual. This is especially important if you have decided to have an adult-only ceremony and/or reception, as it will cause guests to question why so and so's kids are there but their own had to be with a babysitter. If you really want to have a flower girl or ring bearer, feel free to get creative with this option too! I've seen everything from family pets being involved, to teenagers, to even the wedded couple's mothers being the flower girls!