Struggling to figure out who you should ask to be part of your bridal party? You're not alone. In an effort to avoid hurt feelings, many brides feel tempted to ask a long list of friends and family members, but it's important to make sure that every person standing by your side has played (and will continue to play) an important role in your life. To help you whittle down your list of contenders, here are some people you shouldn't feel guilty relegating to party guest-only status.
Even if you became friends with your ex post-break up, experts say there's no room for a past lover in your wedding party. Liz Curtis, wedding planner and founder and CEO of Table + Teaspoon, says, "Including an ex in your wedding party will make at least one person incredibly uncomfortable—you, them, or your fiancé." Her tip: Do invite the ones who truly mattered, but don't include them in any other aspect of your nuptials.
Especially if it's your second, third, or fourth cousin, there's no need to force him or her to stand up while you exchange vows. "For some of us, cousins are the siblings we never had, but for others, they're extended family we may not be as close to," says Ashley Stork, owner, lead planner, and designer at I do, I do! Wedding Planning. "Just because your mom is insisting you include your second cousin doesn't mean she needs to be in your wedding party."
Parents or Godparents
Your parents already get to play a special role in your wedding, so there's no need to include them in the bridal party unless you feel strongly about it. "Your dad may be your best bud, but do you really want him planning your bachelor party? Or do you actually want to put your godmother through dealing with the inevitable catfights and gossip of six 24-year-olds?" says Curtis. "Walks down the aisle, dances, and toasts should suffice for most parent-child relationships."
Your Fiancé's Opposite-Sex BFF
"In the spirit of keeping things traditional, you may be tempted to include your fiancé's bestie, who happens to be a girl, on your side of the wedding party," says Curtis. "But, if you've seen Julia Roberts' possessive tactics in My Best Friend's Wedding, you know exactly why this is a recipe for disaster." Solution: Skip the forced friendships altogether by comprising your wedding party of both men and women on both sides. "As someone who was my brother's best [wo]man and will undoubtedly have more male than female bridesmaids, I can tell you there's no benefit to excluding people based on gender now if it's not something you do in your everyday life," she says.
Your College Roommate
Unless she became one of your best friends and you've stayed close over the years, there's no reason to include someone you once lived with. "Don’t invite the girl you haven't seen since college to stand by you just to be polite," says Curtis. "This will likely annoy the rest of your bridal party more than help your cause." Instead, keep the guest list authentic by including only your closest friends from present day.
Your Sorority Sisters
The ties you make in Greek life may run deep, but when it comes to your wedding, your "sisters" don't hold the same meaning unless they double as besties. "This is a great situation where you can find another purposeful task aside from being a part of the bridal party," says Stork. "Invite them to the bachelorette party or plan a separate dinner where you can celebrate your nuptials with just them."
Your Friends' Significant Others
"Just because you asked Sally to be a bridesmaid, doesn't mean her fiancé Joe needs to be a groomsman, especially if Joe and your fiancé aren't pals," explains Stork. "If the best man's wife and the bride are close, but not close enough to be in the wedding, invite her to the shower and maybe even on the bachelorette."
It may very well be the case that not everyone close to you has a wide open schedule the year leading up to your wedding. Commitments such as grad school, new jobs, first pregnancies, and more will arise that may lead to one of more friends or family members not having the time, energy, and resources available to commit to being part of the wedding party. "If someone you love has a lot going on, he or she simply may not have time to be at your beck and call for an engagement party, shower, the bachelorette, a rehearsal, a rehearsal dinner, a wedding, and the next day at brunch," says Curtis. Respect these folks by including them in a different way.