Used to be, choosing attendants was pretty formulaic. The bride chose her sisters and closest girlfriends, the groom his brothers and his nearest, dearest guys. And when either had a close friend or sibling of the opposite sex who they wanted in the wedding, they added that friend to their intended's side of the altar. No more -- today it's perfectly appropriate (and frankly, we think, pretty cool) for your best pals to be there for you -- male or female. There are a few extra "guidelines" for making things run smoothly, but they're no hassle when you consider the satisfaction of having just the right people standing by your side on wedding day.
Lisa & Mike
That's just how newlywed Lisa Threshie and her close friend Mike felt. "Mike always told me I would find Mr. Right, and when I did, I wanted Mike up there at my side too," Lisa says. "The wedding just wouldn't have felt right without him in it." How'd her fiance feel about that? "Being a traditionalist, I'd always thought my wedding would be a certain way -- and it didn't include a male bridesmaid," says David Threshie. "Would it look weird? Where would he stand? What would he wear?"
It was very simple. Mike was last in the bridal procession and at the altar because he was the tallest. He wore the same tuxedo as the groomsmen, and he didn't carry a bouquet (his choice!). And to avoid any confusion, David and Lisa told the photographer ahead of time which attendants were whose -- a good idea. That way, Mike was in the attendants-of-the-bride photos and on her side in entire-group pictures, not shoved in among the groomsmen.
Aaron & Heidi
In Aaron and Heidi Tandy's case, it was the groom who wanted opposite-sex attendants -- five, to be exact. More of Aaron's close friends were women. That was fine with Heidi -- the only problem was that Aaron wanted all the groomswomen in tuxedos. Heidi didn't quite see it that way. "It was our first real fight," Aaron says. In the end, they compromised and gave each of the attendants the option of wearing either a tuxedo with skirt or pants or a black dress of their own choice. Two chose tuxes, three the dresses, and all carried bouquets. "It worked great for us. Everyone was comfortable," Aaron says.
Make 'Em Comfy
The most important opposite-sex attendant guideline is to make the attendants feel comfortable in their roles. A racy lingerie shower with the girls or a raunchy bachelor party might embarrass bridesmen or groomswomen -- you might suggest a party that won't, or let 'em know you don't expect them to attend if they don't want to. But you might be surprised. When Paul David was a bridesman for his best friend, Shea McGinnis, he says he was actually less embarrassed by the male stripper at the bachelorette party than the bridesmaids were. "I could see a couple of them turning red," he says, "but I was fine with it."
Remember What's Important
Above all, when it comes to making opposite-sex attendant decisions, your wedding is precisely that: yours. There are no hard-and-fast rules. Here, we'll prove it: Bridesman Paul Davis walked up the aisle the same way the bridesmaids did -- on the arm of a groomsman. "It may have caused some comment," Paul says, "but participating in Shea's wedding the way I did was the best possible acknowledgment of our friendship I could ever have. I loved it."
Your Bridal Party