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Working with Big Bridal Parties Tips for Brides and Photographers to Manage the Crazy and Make it Awesome


April 14, 2017

I’ve thought about bridal parties three different ways:

  1. You should only have your closest friends and family in the bridal party – keeping it small and intimate will cut down on drama and stress. Besides, you don’t want to look back on your wedding photos and think, “I’m not even friends with that person anymore!”
  2. It’s your wedding day and you can have whoever you want standing beside you, even if it’s a dozen people per side. I mean, how can you pick and choose who to invite? It’s better to go big and have lots of fun!
  3. You don’t need a bridal party at all. Hey, the people who will be there for you will be there for you no matter what, they don’t need a formal position in the wedding.


These are all true. I’ve had couples with zero attendants who had perfectly lovely and heartfelt ceremonies; I’ve had two-person bridal parties; and I’ve had bridal parties so big they were spilling off the altar. These are all fine! You just have to choose the one that’s right for you. But today – let’s chat about the big bridal parties because, while it’s not impossible, it can be a lot to wrangle on a wedding day and a little planning can go a long way in creating a pleasant experience for everyone.

If you want to invite your three sisters, four college roommates, six cousins, and two best friends (or your entire basketball team, Meagan and Luke, I’m looking at you), I salute you. But be sure these are all people you truly want standing beside you. Don’t think you have to invite them if you aren’t really feeling it. Choose people who will help you on your wedding day and make it less stressful. This sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but I’ve had plenty of weddings where the bridal party wasn’t attentive, didn’t know what was going on, and weren’t helpful to the couple. Four considerate, loving girls (or guys!) standing by you is way better than twelve who could take it or leave it.

For starters, choose a getting ready location that is conducive to a bigger party. I’ve walked into tiny, tiny hotel rooms with 10 bridesmaids, two mothers, two hair stylists, garment bags, food trays, etc.  If it’s bumper to bumper with people and stuff, it’s going to make for a cluttered, stressful environment. If you’re getting ready at a hotel with a big bridal party, ask the hotel for a conference room to get ready in – preferably one with big windows for lots of beautiful light and room to spread out.

Speaking of helpful – this next one is a MUST for big bridal parties. Weddings run on tight timelines without much room for error. Make sure hair and make-up starts EARLY – give more time than you think you’ll need – this is where bigger bridal parties lose the most time.  I usually allow 25 minutes for bridal party portraits and that includes group photos as well as individual portraits. This is still doable for bigger bridal parties, but it’s essential that everyone cooperates. I’m a pretty efficient photographer, but if groomsmen start wandering off for drinks and two bridesmaids forget their flowers or need a fresh coat of lipstick…these little moments add up! I’ve seen too many brides grow increasingly frustrated waiting for bridesmaids or groomsmen to start listening, get dressed, stop goofing off, etc. Unfortunately, it’s usually the bride + groom’s romantic portrait time that we have to shorten to make up for lost time and it doesn’t have to be that way!

For bridal parties with more than ten or so total, a second photographer is an absolute must. For the first several years of business, I offered single-photographer packages. I still do, but only for much smaller, intimate weddings in a single location. With a tight timeline and a lot of people, a second photographer becomes crucial. My second can photograph the groomsmen’s formal portraits while I handle the girls – it’s a huge time saver all around! Keep in mind that everything takes longer with more people – hair and make-up, moving between locations, the processional, group photos, reception announcements – be sure to build in extra time for these things that may take a little longer than normal.

I hope that helps! Make you be surrounded by the people you love most on your special day and keep your sanity intact. ;)

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