When I was in elementary school, I was not an athlete. Not to say I am playing at the "advanced" levels in Chicago Sport and Social now, but if the 7th-grade me who couldn't finish the "mile-run" day in gym class could see 29-year-old me training for a marathon, she would probably pass out in the nurse's office for the rest of the day. Consequently, another dreaded event in gym class was any activity in which leaders had to choose teams. Almost every time, I was near the end of the selection unless one of my loyal friends was at the helm. These days, picking teams comes more frequently in a social format--especially for that one important team in every girl's life--her bridal party. But what if you're picked for a party when you weren't planning on picking the bride for yours?
If you're one of the last of your friends to get married, chances are you might encounter this challenge, but even early brides run into this with a small budget, large family, or small grooms' party. With bridal parties getting larger every year--I once went to a wedding with over 600 invitees, 3 maids and matrons of honor, 2 junior bridesmaids and 9 regular bridesmaids--some brides are taking a step back and either having only family in their party (my sister-in-law did this and it was a blast because the group stayed cohesive due to how small we were) or even just having one person stand up on either side--a brother, a best friend, even a parent.
If you happen to find yourself choosing your bridesmaids and there's a friend who might have thought she was going to make the cut, there are a couple ways to handle it. First of all, however difficult the conversation might be, talk to her. If you're not super close to her, email her. In some cases, the wedding you were in happened years ago and time has placed some distance in your relationship, so an email is okay. However, if you are still close to her, give her the respect of a phone call or a face-to-face conversation. Even if you're not positive she thought she would be in the wedding, it's better to cover off so there is no confusion. I have had several friends where just the question of whether they were in the wedding never being answered put tension on the friendship with the bride.
Finally, just be up front. Explain that you would have loved to had her in the wedding but for whatever reason--budget, groom, family, etc--you can't. If there is another role--program handler, reader--offer it, but don't make up one as a fallback. There may be initial hurt feelings, but if you address it before you ask the rest of your party--or immediately after--you avoid putting her in any awkward or uncomfortable situations. Do what makes you and your groom happy and be honest in the process. In the end, your true friends will respect your decision as long as you handle the situation with care.