I Had 11 Bridesmaids, and I Don't Regret a Thing

I've always felt that weddings are a time to beautifully blend not just two hearts, but two families. This ceremonious moment also includes friends who know the couple well and have been by their sides throughout different times in their lives. When my girlfriends and I used to fantasize about who we would marry and what our weddings would be like, I always had an idea of which girls would be standing up there with me as I said "I do." By the time the fantasy of a dream man and a dream wedding became a reality for me, I had gathered a strong group of women and forged relationships with those who I knew were important enough to me and my fiancé to be more than just guests on our wedding day. So, I ended up with 11 bridesmaids. That's right — 11.

During the planning process leading up to getting down the aisle, I heard some remarks about being excessive and got plenty of side eyes and nonverbal reactions, which I knew would translate into a behind-my-back bridezilla discussion. And while the comments I heard and insecurities I had about having such a large bridal party bothered me a little then, I am more than happy to look back on those memories now and feel even more validated in my initial feelings of inclusion.

This week will be seven years since our wedding. While looking through our wedding album recently and reminiscing about the day, I am proud to say that my relationships with each of the women who walked down the aisle before me that day have not only sustained but also grown in their own way. Fortunately for me, I was right in choosing who I chose to be in my wedding. I consider myself lucky to have a few different solid groups of girlfriends. Making up my 11 bouquet-toting, cranberry-colored-dress-wearing bridesmaids were friends and family by marriage, two sisters-in-law, and two in-laws-to-be.

I know for some it's not easy to pick a maid of honor, especially when you have so many close girlfriends, but for me there was never any doubt who would hold that title. From the time we met the very first night of college, we were beyond kindred spirits and instant best friends, and I probably knew in that moment that she would hold the coveted title of MOH at my wedding some day.

I wanted to look back at our wedding day and know that the people who would be important in my future played an important role in our beginning.

I have known a few of the other girls since kindergarten, and we picked up some more friends along the way in middle and high school. This group grew up together, and we not only watched each other grow, but also allowed and encouraged one another to become the women we are today. Both my brothers were married before me, and including their wives in our wedding was a must for me. These women would be my future children's aunts and my built-in companions, and they are two women who love my brothers as much as I do.

Rounding out my 11 were my future sister-in-law and niece. While I knew then that I adored these last two, I chose to ask them to be part of the wedding party more because of what I believed I knew was to come. I wanted to look back at our wedding day and know that the people who would be important in my future played an important role in our beginning.

So here we are seven years later, and I am thrilled looking at the pictures, knowing my husband's sister was not only a part of that day but also there for moments like the birth of our first child three years later and the baptism of our second weeks ago. I love seeing my best friends from elementary school standing by me then, and I appreciate how we're still in one another's lives, enjoying shared excitement that two of them are about to have their first babies. The pictures represent a moment in time when I believed in the fact that these women meant something to me, but I couldn't have imagined how much more that would deepen over the past seven years. It was important to me that our wedding party be made up of not just those who knew me well and had stood by me my whole life, but also those who would be standing by me for important moments from the wedding day and beyond for the rest of my life.

When looking where I am now and how the women smiling back at me in those matching dresses are still a big part of my life, I have no regrets about having such a huge bridal party. It's a testament to our friendships and the relationships I have continued to make a priority in my life.

These women are my tribe; they stood by me before that day, and they stand by me now.

So if you are planning a wedding and having a hard time choosing who to ask to be a bridesmaid, my advice to you is to think of your past, present, and future. Who means something to you and knows you inside and out because they've been part of your life for so long? Who are you cultivating relationships with that you met through your future spouse? Who has become part of your family through marriage? And if you come up with 11 names? Don't feel like you're being over the top by not narrowing it down. If your fiancé or fiancée doesn't have that many friends or family to match your side of the bridal party? Who cares?! Weddings are becoming more and more nontraditional, and if you have a list of 10 and your spouse-to-be has five, what are the reasons to cut some of the ones close to you?

Our pictures came out great, I was able to stay within a small budget for bridesmaids gifts, and I now have a confident response to the eye rolls I got when telling people about my bridal party. These women are my tribe; they stood by me before that day, and they stand by me now. What better way to celebrate our friendship than by having them by my side as I pledged to spend the rest of my life growing and deepening a relationship with the man I love? I love my tribe, and I love that they were important then, are important now, and will continue to be important as we go forward in our parallel journeys through this crazy thing we call life.