Why I'm Having 'Wing Girls' Instead of Bridesmaids

When I think of bridesmaids, I imagine a row of identical, pretty faces standing duitfully by my side while I recite my vows. However, my husband Michael and I already had a simple wedding ceremony last November, so we're only throwing a reception this second time around. I still wanted to find a way to incorporate my girlfriends into my special day, so instead of asking them to be bridesmaids, they're my "wing girls."

I figured that if guys can have wingmen backing them up in tricky situations, why not have my best gals around to support me? Wing girls help out with planning and provide emotional support, but unlike bridesmaids, their tasks are on a volunteer basis—not mandatory. I don't want them to feel obligated to throw me a lavish bridal shower or wear identical dresses to the wedding.

There’s Kate, my best friend since the eighth grade; Carrie, a fun, sassy coworker from San Diego; Kelsey, my best girlfriend from college who I studied abroad with in Spain; Christina, my lovely sister-in-law; and Minty, my newest friend who I study journalism with here in New York. They’re all really sweet, awesome girls, and although they didn’t know each other beforehand, they get along great.

I created a private Facebook group where I can run wedding ideas and photos by them. It’s perfect because it allows me to share plans and links without having to contact each friend individually, and by setting it to private, I don’t ruin the surprise for the rest of my guests. After polling for a favorite dress color, I asked the girls to select their own style that would make them feel comfortable and beautiful. It doesn’t matter to me what it looks like (within reason —no sequined bodysuits, please), as long as it’s purple. For the “bachelorette,” we’ll probably just get away for a night or two to the desert and do girl stuff: Lay out, go to the spa, and kick back with some cocktails. We’re also taking fun “getting ready” photos before the reception. 

bridesmaids I’ll admit that the ambiguity that comes with the wing girl title makes it difficult to ask them to do stuff for me. If you Google "bridesmaid duties," you’ll find antiquated lists that go on forever, requiring things like driving the bride around for fittings or helping her pack her honeymoon bags. There’s no such list for modern wing girls. To make things even more challenging, all but one of my bridesmaids lives on the opposite side of the country from me, so we can’t have a “wing girls day” where we sit around with bridal magazines and a bottle of wine to brainstorm ideas. 

I’ve read so many posts on the Internet that having a second wedding celebration long after a ceremony is “tacky,” and that brides who chose a courthouse ceremony “don’t deserve a big wedding.” Brides are subject to criticism and judgment no matter what their situation is, but a small part of me might feel like I don’t deserve full-on bridesmaids, either. I also may have watched one too many “Bridezilla” reruns and am now afraid of turning into one.  

Ultimately, even though there are no expectations for wing girls, I'm OK with that. Brides everywhere seem to be inching towards a less formal relationship with their bridesmaids anyway, whether by not requiring matching dresses or letting Mom plan all the parties. With weddings becoming more personal and unique to each couple, more brides are bucking tradition in favor of doing what's best for their situation. In my case, having wing girls just made the most sense. I’ve been so lucky to have their friendships and loyalty throughout the years—I don’t need them to wear a certain dress or throw a special type of party to know that they’re here for me.

Tell us: Are you having a traditional bridal party or plan on including loved ones with a less formal role? 

— Lisa Turner

lisa and michael

Lisa Turner is a real bride who is navigating the planning process with her friends and family while her groom, Michael Turner, is serving in Afghanistan. Already married last year, the high school sweethearts will have an official reception in January of 2013 in San Diego when he returns to the U.S. The party will take place in a clubhouse near the beach, complete with Mexican and vintage-inspired touches to celebrate their marriage in a fun and very California way.

Featured: David Tutera on How to Keep Your Reception Fun. See more Q&As with David