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How to Have a Wedding Without a Bridal Party

More and more couples are choosing to do their weddings without a bridal party or groomsmen, and you know what? We’re all much happier for it. And less poor.

There are literally endless ways to go about this, so don’t feel trapped by what others may expect of you (or even by the suggestions here). Do what you what!

But essentially, this is how to have a wedding without a bridal or wedding party and keep everyone happy at the same time:

Instead of having the traditional “wedding party” with everyone wearing matching outfits and standing together at the altar, assign interesting and USEFUL roles to the special people in your life so that they can actually contribute meaningfully to your wedding day – And then thank them publicly and sincerely at the reception!

I also made a chatty little video about this topic on my wedding YouTube channel which you should definitely check out if you haven’t already:

Planning a wedding can be easier and less stressful if we cut out all the things we’re “supposed to do” and instead let others help us with the things that we actually want to do. Tell your friends and family that you don’t want a bridal party and instead would love for them to contribute to your wedding planning process and be involved on the day of. Here are some suggestions to involve people meaningfully without having a bridal party or groomsmen:

Ask your most organized friend to be your wedding planner

Who is your most type-A personality friend who loves to organize things? Who would take on wedding planning duties with relish? We all know someone like this. If YOU are the type-A personality friend, then try and let go of the reigns a little bit and invite someone you love to co-plan with you.

This could even be two or three of your close friends. Give them real assignments and duties. This isn’t a “just for show” modern bridesmaid kind of role. People really want to help but they also don’t want to be intrusive so you have to ask them, and let them know how much it means to you.

You could give them a budget and assign them duties such as: searching for and getting prices from photographers or other vendors, figuring out decorations or flowers, arranging the dinner menu or dessert, or any other wedding planning that needs to be done!

What wedding planning duties are you dreading? Involve your friend(s) and pass the buck!

Ask a friend to officiate the ceremony

Nowadays, it’s easy enough to get certified online to officiate a wedding. My aunt officiated my brother’s wedding, and my brother officiated his sister-in-law’s wedding. Everyone and their literal brother is officiating weddings these days.

This is a great way to give a would-be bridesmaid or groomsman something real to do instead of just having them stand next to you in an expensive outfit.

It will also personalize your ceremony SO MUCH! So much more than having a religious pastor or priest who doesn’t really know you (if you are religious and planning on having a religious officiant, by all means ignore this part).

Make sure to choose someone who is close to you and who is comfortable with public speaking!

Let those near and dear to you do readings at the ceremony

Instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, why not put in some additional readings (poems, book excerpts, etc.) that you love? Keep them short and let more people do a reading. If you need help finding good readings, I spent WEEKS putting together readings from literature, songs, movies, etc. which you can find on my blog here 🙂

It seems a lot more special to me to be able to have a voice at your friend’s wedding than to be a mute bridesmaid, but maybe that’s just me.

Have a dinner or night out pre-wedding for your closest friends and family members

Traditionally, this would be similar to the rehearsal dinner or a bachelorette/bachelor party. But this could have a bit more of the goal in mind that you want to celebrate your friends and your appreciation for those relationships.

You could just throw a small party or dinner with your close friends and family and let them know how much you love and appreciate them. It could even be a picnic or bbq. Or a grown-up sleepover party, complete with movies and popcorn! And booze!

You could ask them to organize some games or activities for it, or to prepare PechaKucha-style slide shows about you (or you and your partner). PechaKucha is a speed-presentation where you present a topic in 20 slides, 20 seconds per slide! You could, in turn, prepare presentations about them (they can be really goofy).

Give a team of friends or family members the job of decorating the reception

You’ll be busy getting ready anyway so wouldn’t it be nice to give the decorating job to someone else? Someone who WANTS to help and be part of making your wedding great?

Ask a group of friends or family to do this for you. Ask people who you love and trust and who will honor your vision. You can give them a budget and even let them gather the items for you (ask if you’d like them to check with you first before making purchases).

And then be truly grateful and appreciative of their help 🙂 It’s a lot of work!

Give one special person the job of “running” the ceremony (behind-the-scenes)

Do you have any friends who are stage managers?

This role could be the same as your “wedding planner” person or you could split up the jobs that you assign so that another one of your friends is in charge of the behind-the-scenes for the ceremony.

On the day of your wedding, this will be the person coordinating everyone and making sure people proceed down the aisle how you want, the officiant has the script, the readings and the rest of the program happen in order, etc.

So ask someone authoritative who you trust.

Put your creative friends to good use

If you have any creative or artistic friends (or handy friends!), let them use their talents to make something for your wedding. Could they make centerpieces? A wedding arch? Programs?

Think about the elements that you’d like to DIY and ask them to take the lead on a project!

If you don’t want to skip a wedding party / bridal party altogether:

Have reserved seating in the front row

If you don’t want to totally get rid of the wedding party, consider reserving seats in the front row for a group of “special friends and family.” It actually seems much nicer to get to sit in the front row for the ceremony, and watch it head on rather than stand the whole time slightly to the side, doesn’t it?

You could even dress up the seats with individual name signs if you wanted to make them feel suuuper special.

Have them stand next to you but without wearing matching outfits

If you want your friends and family standing next to you but don’t want to do all the traditional matchy-matchy stuff, think about just having them stand with you, but dressed however they want to dress! Who cares?

Or you could give them a color to wear and they could all pick out their own styles and shades of that color that match their own personality.

Just get ready together

You could have a fun “getting ready” session together without having to officially name bridesmaids. Why not just hang out and have a good time getting ready without all the pressure of matching outfits and traditions?

Sometimes it’s awkward anyway – who’s allowed to see the bride and who isn’t? Who can and can’t come in the room? So stressful. Forget all those rules and just get ready with a group of friends and family.

THANK THEM PUBLICLY! And don’t be a nightmare

Remember that a huge draw of being someone’s bridesmaid or groomsmen is feeling like you’re special to the bride and groom and having that special relationship be publicly acknowledged.

It’s almost like you’re showing off your friendships as much as your romantic relationship on your wedding day! Really!

And because of this, not having a bridal party could make your close friends and family feel like they’re being jipped out of this opportunity.

That’s why it’s REALLY important to both heavily involve your “special people” and then publicly thank them individually at the reception.

Let them know in front of everyone how grateful you are for their help and how much those friendships mean to you. It will go a loooong way!

Finally, remember that everyone is helping you because they love you. Be flexible and don’t be a nightmare about details and perfection. Instead, enjoy the process of working on a project like this with all the people who care about you. It should be a memorable experience that you actually ENJOY.



Brittany is a writer and teacher in Vancouver, Canada. She started the website Wayfaring Weddings as a way to share her research on affordable, eco-friendly, and less stressful approaches to wedding planning.