Bridesmaid reciprocity an issue

Annie Lane

Dear Annie: I’m engaged to a man who is the love of my life, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My fiance, “Anthony,” proposed last week. We’ve tentatively set the date for next spring, and now I’m starting to do some preliminary wedding planning. I’m facing a dilemma regarding bridesmaids.

I’m the youngest of five siblings, and I’m the only girl. Yes, I have four elder brothers. (To answer the question almost everyone asks upon learning that fact, no, they were not overprotective of me. In fact, they teased me quite a bit.) Anyway, all of my brothers are married, meaning I finally have some sisters. I was a bridesmaid in all four weddings and the maid of honor in one of them. I’m not extremely close with any of my sisters-in-law, but I love them, of course. They’re family.

My conundrum is that I also have four best friends — two from high school and two from college — whom I would like to be my bridesmaids. They’re like sisters to me, too. Only one of them is married so far, but I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

Now to the problem: Do I have to ask my sisters-in-law to be my bridesmaids? Or can I just ask my friends? I know that some brides today have eight (or more) bridesmaids, but I’d like to keep it to four. I have no idea what the etiquette here is. I’ve read things online saying that you should pick whomever you want because it’s your wedding, but I could use some objective and realistic advice. Thanks in advance. — Always a Bridesmaid, Now a Bride

Dear Always: Do you have to ask your sisters-in-law to be bridesmaids? No. Should you? Yes, if you want to promote harmony in your family and grow closer with the women your brothers married.

I know I’ll hear from readers insisting that reciprocity is not a stipulation of being a bridesmaid. Just because a bride included you in her wedding party does not mean you have to return the honor. I completely agree with that. But this is family. Though your sisters-in-law would probably not hold any grudges if you didn’t ask them, I’m certain they would forever be touched by the gesture if you did. Your best friends should understand that better than anyone.

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