Siblings As Wedding Attendants: A Must or Optional?

Reader K., who wishes to remain anon for obvious reasons, wrote to me to ask about siblings in the wedding party – specifically inviting other people’s siblings into your own.

I’m getting married to a great guy at the end of this year and neither of us has chosen our attendants yet. I was talking about the whole thing with one of my friends who said right out that she’d rather not be included as a bridesmaid so I’m safe there, but she did mention that I probably ought to invite my fiance’s younger sister to be in the bridal party because not doing so would be offensive to my fiance’s family. What? I’ve never heard anything like that and my fiance has never brought it up, but it’s so easy to hurt people’s feelings and I don’t want to offend anyone. Do I really need to invite my fiance’s sister to be a bridesmaid? She’s nice and all, and we get along, but it’s not like we’re close.

Let me tell you a story: Once upon a time, an ex boyfriend told me that if we ever got married – thank goodness that train never left the station – he’d expect me to invite his sister to be a member of my half of the wedding party and that if I didn’t, he’d and his entire family would be sorely offended. It would literally be an insult to not invite her to be a bridesmaid. I was all, wait, that’s a thing? Turns out that in some families, it IS a thing. As in a thing you better do if you want to have at least a passing relationship with your in-laws. But from what I gather, my ex’s family’s attitude is thankfully not the norm.

Sometimes, of course, a bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom) will come to some agreement regarding swapping or including siblings to keep the halves of the wedding party even or segregated by gender. Now that it’s becoming increasingly acceptable to have bridesmen and groomsmaids, however, fewer couples feel compelled to hand off sisters and brothers to their future spouses. There’s no one wrong way to build a wedding party, so siblings can be included however you want them to be included. That is, IF you want to include them.

Ryan Smith Photography shows us what a sibling-heavy wedding can look like

I’m guessing from the tone of your email that you’re not exactly thrilled with the idea of having to give up one of your bridesmaid spots to someone you’re not particularly close to. My take on the matter is this: If you haven’t felt any particular pressure to include your fiance’s female siblings in your side of the wedding party and the idea never occurred to you on your own, I’d say don’t worry about it. It’s highly unlikely that your fiance’s family is gunning for your FSIL to be a bridesmaid and if she or your fiance hasn’t even hinted at the matter, you’re probably in the clear.

And let’s say the worst happens and someone does get offended… they’ll get over it. That’s a heck of a lot better than planning a wedding all on your lonesome because there’s no one among your bridal party that you’re close to at all, which really sucks.

9 Responses to “Siblings As Wedding Attendants: A Must or Optional?”

  1. Katie April 7, 2011 at 6:11 am #

    My fiancé has 5 sisters! While I considered having the youngest two as bridesmaids, having them all was never an option! With no sisters of my own, and my brothers refusing years ago to be bridesmen, I have two dear friends and a cousin. My fiancé skipped choosing his brother or mine and chose 3 friends instead.

  2. grace @ wedding favors April 7, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    To some, it may have been a big of a deal for the groom’s family to get someone from their family like his sister to be one of your bridesmaids, even your maid of honor! But, let’s just put it this way, it’s your wedding and you have all the right to choose who you want to accompany you in your most special day. :D

  3. The Jananator April 7, 2011 at 10:39 am #

    I totally thought about doing this, and it was def under pressure from my fiance’s family. In the end though I decided that it was more important to me to include people *I* care about than to appease my in-laws. Not that I don’t care about my SILs, but I haven’t known them as long as I’ve known my best friends. Why would I exclude them?

  4. liberty April 7, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    20 years ago I was not included in my brothers wedding at all – except to be used as a pack mule. Seriously, my boyfriend at the time was shocked at how I was treated that day.

    At a bridal shower (hosted by my mother – where I was again a pack mule) my sister in law was talking about her bridesmaids dresses. She said “They only would work on short skinny girls and so it’s good that my bridesmaids are all short and skinny” – while looking at my 6 foot curvy body dismissively. That was when I knew I wouldn’t be in the wedding.

    Years later I am very good friends with her and it’s not like it is something I think about regularly. I am not at all bitter or angry however it still hurt to think about (I am actually tearing up writing this – how lame is that?).

    I don’t think you absolutely must have family members in the bridal party, but you should kindly explain why and try to include them in other ways (beyond unpaid labor). You may not know them as long as you have known your friends… but they will be your family for the rest of our life.

  5. Melissa April 7, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Do what I did and just skip the bridal party altogether. It has made things SO much easier and eliminated a ton of extra decisions and costs! No one can be offended then!

  6. Nariya April 7, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    My husband and I solved the problem by having no bridesmaids or groomsmen at all. But I think I personally like the idea of having the fiance(e)’s siblings involved. There are other things siblings can do at a wedding — perhaps give a speech, help to design something, or even play music for the processional, as I’ve heard some siblings do. There’s a lot to do at a wedding and I think there’s a way you can include everyone. Being in the wedding party is just one option. If you don’t know your future in-laws very well yet, perhaps you can ask them to do something smaller, but still important, in the wedding.

  7. Jackie April 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    I think it’s important for the bride and groom to discuss these issues and come to an agreement beforehand so as not to offend any family members.

  8. Twistie April 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

    I have always said that if one is so moved, it is a graceful thing to ask a soon-to-be-sibling-in-law to be part of the wedding party… but it’s not a requirement.

    When Mr. Twistie asked my brothers to attend him, I thought that was lovely, but he was already friends with both of them. But I had a good friend who had two brothers and married a man with three! If he had chosen his brothers and his new in-laws-to-be, he would have had no room in the wedding party for his best buds and college roommate. They found other things for brothers to do.

    And when my brother the alpaca rancher got married, his lady had a brother. My brother disliked him. His lady disliked him. Neither one wanted him anywhere near the altar. But her father insisted that he wouldn’t come to the wedding if they didn’t include the brother in the wedding party. My brother accepted him as a groomsman… and the father of the bride failed to even show up.

    As it happens, I was a bridesmaid at that wedding, but I know it was because my sister-in-law liked me and wanted me there, not because anyone made a big fuss over it. Knowing she chose me because she genuinely likes me rather than because anyone tried to force her into it makes it mean a lot more to me.

    @Liberty: I don’t blame you for still feeling hurt when you think about it. You were treated shabbily. Even if she didn’t want you for a bridesmaid, she could have treated you with consideration and not gloated about how the bridesmaid dress she chose would only look good on a certain body type you don’t have right in front of you. That was pretty crap.

  9. Emi!y April 15, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    My brother’s getting married in September. I’m the oldest of four, two boys and two girls, and to save drama figuring out who goes where, they’re just going to have groomsmaids and bridesmen. My sister, brother and I are joining the group of guys on my brother’s side, and the bride’s sister and brother are joining her friends. They have a couple who are also friends, and they’re going to stand on opposite sex sides (if that makes sense). In total there will be three men and three women on each side.