Do You Really Need Bridesmaids and Groomsmen? A Humanist Celebrant’s Perspective.

Image by Agapé

Do I Really Want or Need Bridesmaids and Groomsmen?

As a humanist wedding celebrant, I have the privilege of collaborating with many different couples who are planning very different weddings. What is shared, however, is that couples are becoming much more intentional in their ceremony decisions: they make choices based on their own values and have a shared vision for their wedding which it’s my job to help bring to life. But in this world of greater wedding flexibility, from choosing to elope on a hill-side in a glittery jumpsuit, to having a micro wedding on your old school’s front lawn, one thing seems to be a little more rigid and lacking in flexibility: having bridesmaids and groomsmen. Is having bridesmaids and groomsmen something couples want? Is it a societal expectation? Is it a perceived pressure from friends and family? Let’s dig a little deeper.

When exploring the significance of a wedding tradition, I always encourage couples to look back. Where was it that the idea for bridesmaids and groomsmen originally came from? Well, as is so often the answer, ancient Rome. A superstitious people, the Romans believed that evil spirits could target the bride and groom and have a malicious influence on their married life. The thinking was, therefore, to have five extra women and five extra men dressed just like the bride a groom, to confuse those pesky malevolent forces that might have put themselves on the guest list. It must be said, it wasn’t just evil spirits at play- other humans were also something of a threat on a couple’s wedding day. Groomsmen were tasked with the responsibility of taking the bride-to-be safely to her wedding day without anyone intercepting the husband-to-be’s dowry! The laws of ancient Rome actually dictated that ten witnesses be present for every wedding. Just imagine how long the certificate signing would take if this were still the law today!

Weddings have evolved over time. Thank goodness we need not consider warding off evil spirits or protecting a dowry from bandits today! As the dynamics of modern relationships change, so too do the weddings people are having. We have seen in recent years a huge surge in couples choosing to have so-called ‘alternative’ weddings. As a wedding celebrant, I am hoping that the word ‘alternative’ soon becomes meaningless when referring to weddings; after all, there is no ‘should do’ or ‘must have’ in a wedding that people should have to seek an alternative to- rather, couples have the flexibility and freedom to choose whatever they want in their ceremony. With this in mind, couples are more regularly choosing to have micro weddings and elopements, both of which in their nature have a more intimate feel and usually have the couple at the centre, often without a bridal party or groomsmen.

So, what are the benefits of including bridesmaids and groomsmen in your wedding? Well, having your crew around you will no doubt make a nervous soon-to-be-wed feel more confident on their wedding day. They can also help in the run up to the wedding with planning of stag/hen parties, getting involved in some of the planning, and being hands-on with the smooth running of the ceremony and the reception. We have all seen a groom standing nervously at the top of the aisle- a best man beside him can offer moral support, a bit of banter, and some excellent distraction techniques if the bride is running late. Girls, haven’t we all looked enviously at wedding photos of bridesmaids and the bride-to-be sipping fizz and having a giggle while getting their hair and make-up done? Fizz, fun and a full hair and make-up upgrade- fantastic!

Aside from tradition, all of the above actually sounds sensible, right? So, what reason would I have for not having them, you might ask. While bridesmaids and groomsmen no doubt can offer an important support to you throughout the planning process and in the ceremony itself, so too could your close friends and family, without needing a formal role in the wedding party. By making the intentional choice not to formally surround yourself with bridesmaids and groomsmen, you can not only save a serious amount of money (no need for extra suits, dresses, hair stylists, make up artists etc.) but you can also keep it simple: the people in the spotlight are the couple. As it should be.

When my husband and I married in 2017 we chose to have no bridal party or groomsmen. It was something we weren’t sure about and we did wonder how it would be perceived by others. What we were sure about, however, was doing things our way. Frankly, I think our nearest and dearest were thrilled not to have been asked to do it (had we chosen people they’d have been scattered across the UK and beyond so the logistics of fittings etc. would have been a nightmare!) and were much more relaxed on the day by supporting us informally, but no less usefully, than a bridal party or groomsmen would. We had a tight budget and wanted to spend our precious pounds on giving guests the best possible experience by having extra money to put behind the bar and to supplement the costs of the hotel rooms in the venue we’d booked out for the weekend. Looking back, it was certainly the right choice for us and we wouldn’t change a thing!

As a humanist celebrant, I want not just my couples but all couples to feel able to do things their way, whatever that may be. For me, individuality and freedom of choice are key. You may want to have your girls surround you on your wedding day as your bridesmaids and that is brilliant! You may know that you’d be honoured to have your younger brother stand by your side as best man, and I’m really pleased about that. Alternatively, you may want your brother to be your maid of honour (two of my couples are having male Maids of Honour in 2025!), your kids to surround you at the top of the aisle, or just to stand solo as the strong duo you are. Whatever it is, I urge you to make the right decision for you. Not just because your cousin Claire will be miffed at not being invited to be a bridesmaid. Not just asking your mate Mike because you need an equal number of men to maids. And, most certainly, not just because the Romans did it.

What are your thoughts? Get in touch via the contact form if you want to discuss having a celebrant who helps you celebrate your love, your way.




About You

About Me