What's the decorum for having someone in your bridal party only because you were in theirs? I've been in two weddings, one for a couple where I'm good friends with both of the people in the couple and one a cousin that I've known since birth. While I love all these people dearly, I'm not looking to have a huge bridal party. Any more than four people makes me feel overwhelmed, and the four I've chosen are my dearest friends that I've been close to for many years. I've thought about having the couple be ushers or maybe some other position but what about the cousin? I hate that I'm going to have to break the news to her eventually, especially since she was very forgiving when I was her bridesmaid (I live across the country from her and was not the most tactful with responding about the dress, etc.).
Should I make her a bridesmaid just because I'd hate to hurt her? Or should I give her another job like the couple?
Baffled by Bridesmaids
Don't be so hard on yourself! It sounds like you are being a thoughtful, conscientious bride who is working hard to include the people she loves in her wedding in a way that feels right for her. Wanting to keep your wedding party small is a totally reasonable request, and not making the cut for a party of four isn't going to smart in the way it would if you had a party of twenty and your dental hygienist made it up there while your cousin sat in the pews.
It seems like your instincts are on the right track: talk to your cousin, tell her everything you told me and find a way to include her in the wedding in a way that feels thoughtful. What does she like? What are her strengths? It's hard to say no to people when they ask you to participate in their wedding, so no matter what you think of I'm sure she'll say yes, but if you find a way for her to participate that goes beyond 'you're not a Bridesmaid but here's something we need done' and makes her feel seen and valued, it's a win win.
And as you alluded to in your letter, being a bridesmaid is WORK. It's a big commitment of time, money and energy. And while I'm certainly not advocating for you to lead with, "hey I'm just saving you a ton of money dude," I think it may be useful for you to keep in mind, that yes, while there may be a part of her that is a little bit hurt (but she loves you and she'll recover) there may be a teeny tiny part of her that is actually thrilled that she'll be able pick out her own dress and avoid small talk with the groomsmen.
I get the vibe that you're pretty anti-bridezilla so it feels safe to remind you that at the end of the day this is your wedding. Talk to your cousin, tell her how much you love and appreciate her and want her there in her own special way, but a small bridal party is what is right for you and you hope she understands.
Have fun and save me some cake!