Most couples I know – including me and The Beard – have made at least some kind of effort to end up with a balanced bridal party or symmetrical bridal party. That might mean six bridesmaids and six groomsmen or, less commonly, six bridesmaids and four groomsmen (or groomsmaids and bridesmen) who divide themselves evenly among the “bride’s side” and the “groom’s side” of the altar. Even less commonly you’ll see a mixed bag of gentlemen and ladies arranged on either side of the happy couple, in no set male-female order, but still with the same number of people on either side.
What can we learn from this? First, I think we can safely assume that the trend toward balance and symmetry has more to do with wedding photography than it does with family or friends. Just because the bride has ten best girlfriends doesn’t mean the groom has ten best buds (or brothers or even close cousins or coworkers). And then there’s gender – I still see the same sex-segregated wedding parties even in now when us chicks have plenty of dude friends (and vice versa). Second, “tradition” plays a big part in this, with brides and grooms never considering that they might have a mixed, uneven, or alternative wedding party because no one suggested they could.
So this is me suggesting it. Before you rack your brains to find another friend you like enough to complete your half of the wedding party, think about why you’re even thinking in terms of halves. Once you’ve wrapped your mind around the idea that your wedding photos can still look awesome without having equal numbers of bridesmaids and groomsmen, it’s time to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to wedding attendant orientation. See, the reason balance and symmetry work so well is that bridesmaids and groomsmen (and groomsmaids and bridesmen) usually stand lined up on either side of the bride and groom. And that, ladies and gents, is that I want to talk about!
There are plenty of reasons not to have your wedding attendants flanking you and your sweetie during the ceremony, particularly when you’re saying your vows at a venue that doesn’t exactly accommodate a long line of people spaced out side-by-side. Which brings us to our first alternative attendant orientation option:
Please Be Seated
I’ve been to at least one rather religious wedding where the attendants did not stand/kneel at the altar along with the bride and groom, but instead were seated in the front-most pews with the bridesmaids all on the bride’s side and the groomsmen all on the groom’s side. This is a great option for couples getting married in a small space or couples who still feel a little weird about having more bridesmaids than groomsmen or more groomsmen than bridesmaids. I couldn’t tell you how many attendants the couple I just described had since my attention was focused on the bride and groom during the ceremony. Come to think of it, this is also a great option for brides and grooms who want their guests to focus on the ceremony (as opposed to clothes and flowers and shoes) or those using an alternative seating arrangement like this one.
Circle of Friends
It’s not uncommon nowadays for the bride and groom to have lots of friends, even very, very close friends, in common, making it difficult to decide who will stand with whom in a non sex-segregated wedding party. The bride and groom who share their best buds might consider doing away with his and her attendants and having their men and maids stand around them in either a semi-circle or even a full circle if their venue supports doing so or they’ve opted for a circular seating arrangement. They’ll be surrounded by their circle of friends (and family, too) when they say their “I dos,” which seems like a pretty memorable and beautiful way to begin married life!
Face the Crowd
Imagine you and your intended standing in front of your officiant with your backs to your wedding guests. Where are the bride and groom’s attendants? Behind the officiant! They’re facing the assembled wedding guests (but focusing on bride and groom, natch) either in a semi-circle curving around the trio or in the more traditional straight line. Orienting the wedding attendants in this way allows the bride and groom to enjoy the feeling of being flanked by their most important loved ones both in the front (bridesmaids, etc.) and in the back (moms, dads, and other VIPs in the front rows). Everyone can still see the bride and groom, including that most important individual, the wedding photographer, and there are again no sides for the couple to worry about if they’d prefer to share attendants.
These different ways of orienting your wedding party at your ceremony work with sex-segregated attendant groups or mixed groups, and it makes no difference whether the bride has bridesmaids or bridesmen or the groom has groomsmen or groomsmaids. In fact, wedding parties that don’t quite fit the usual mold can work better in non-traditional orientations because wedding guests and, later, people looking at the wedding photos, aren’t expecting to see symmetry!