A Glossary of Who's Who in the Wedding Party

Read our cheat sheet to figure out who plays what role in your wedding.
Wedding party in a truck
Photo by Erin Hearts Court

Who knew planning a wedding would have so many moving parts—and include so many people? To help you figure out who does what, we've put together a list of all the major players in your wedding day. (Keep in mind that most roles can be played by either gender—why not have bridesmen and groomsladies?—and by as many people as you want.)

Traditional Roles

Maid/Matron of Honor 

She's the bride's right hand for the duration of the planning process. She (or he—guys can be a man of honor too) supplies a second pair of eyes and provides emotional support as needed. In general, the maid of honor heads up the bridal shower and handles numerous wedding day details, which include toasting the newlyweds, signing the marriage license, adjusting the bride's train at the altar, holding her bouquet during the vows and collecting gift envelopes at the reception. She also should help the bride get dressed and is the last attendant to walk down the aisle before the bride, traditionally holding the groom's wedding ring. The maid of honor and best man (below) can also be referred to as "honor attendants." 

Best Man

This guy acts as the groom's personal aide and advisor through all stages of wedding planning. He's a fashion consultant, bachelor-party master of ceremonies and commander-in-chief of the groomsmen brigade. His duties include (but aren't limited to): getting the groom to the ceremony on time; giving the wedding officiant their fee after the ceremony; signing the couple's marriage license; and holding the bride's wedding ring at the altar. He'll also be responsible for a toast and for keeping the dance party going throughout your reception.

Bridesmaids

These are the trustworthy gal pals and family members who form the bride's entourage. They're a support team for the maid of honor, helping with prewedding tasks when asked (addressing invites, making bridal shower favors, planning the bachelorette party and more). Bridesmaids are often expected to hit the dance floor running and play cohostesses to guests.

Groomsmen

A posse of male family and friends who assist the groom in planning and preparing for the big day. Their chief responsibility? To help the best man plan and pay for the bachelor party and to support the groom. It's also common to have groomsmen do double duty as ushers, leaving their posts in time to process with the rest of the bridal party. They also get to decorate the getaway car, dance with dateless ladies at the reception, and act as a resource for confused guests.

Junior Bridesmaids/Junior Groomsmen/Junior Ushers

These are young members of the wedding party (aged 9 to 16). They'll attend all major functions (excluding the bachelorette and bachelor parties) and fulfill the same responsibilities as senior squad members. Junior bridesmaids can wear more age appropriate versions of the bridesmaid dresses, or a style and color dress all their own, and junior groomsmen may sport a tux or suit.

Flower Girl/Child/Pet

Little ones aged 3 through 8 can walk down the aisle before the bride, scattering flower petals from a basket (or carrying a pomander). Little ladies, cute little boys or even your furry friend can fill this role. Most flower children sit with their parents after their walk down the aisle.

Ring Bearer

A young boy (or girl) aged 4 through 8, who walks down the aisle just before the flower girl (if there is one), carrying a small decorative pillow with two wedding bands tied to it (usually fakes, in case they got lost).

Father of the Bride

Traditionally, with the bride's parents' paying for the bulk of the wedding, the father of the bride fronts most of the budget. In addition, brides' dads have picked up additional to-dos along the way. Dad's chores might include airport duty, coordinating maps/directions to the wedding site, scouting potential wedding reception venues , doling out tips to wedding day staff and a variety of toasting and hosting tasks.

Father of the Groom

He used to get away with fading into the woodwork, but nowadays he's suited up for action. In terms of cost contribution, the groom's dad traditionally pays for a few major items, notably the rehearsal dinner. He might also fulfill numerous dancing, toasting and other obligations (escorting guests, move tables, address problematic service). It's nice too if he checks in with the bride's dad occasionally to offer support.

Mother of the Bride

The mother of the bride may serve as wedding planner, guest list moderator, traditional reception hostess, fashion critic and therapist. Other possible duties include researching family and ethnic wedding traditions, attending the bridal shower (maybe even hosting it) and rehearsal dinner, and dancing the night away at the reception. The nature of the bride's mother's role is entirely up to the bride.

Mother of the Groom

The groom's mom can assume any of the bride's mom's responsibilities, if she's up for it. Dole out to-dos diplomatically to prevent conflicts. She attends the bridal shower and is escorted down the aisle during the prelude. Her shining moment? The mother/son dance.

Officiant

The cleric or city official who performs the marriage ceremony. Examples include a priest, a rabbi, a minister, or a justice of the peace.

Ushers

Males (or females) who escort guests to their seats before the ceremony. Ushers are often employed in addition to groomsmen—this way you can involve other important guys in your day, including pre-teen relatives who may not have been up for all of the groomsmen duties (especially planning a bachelor party).

Optional Roles

Candlelighter 

In some Christian ceremonies, pre-teens aged 9 to 12 (or even adults) light candles at the altar just before the mother of the bride is seated. Candlelighters may dress like the wedding party or not—your choice.

Pages

Young boys (or girls) aged 6 through 9 who carry the bride's extra-long wedding gown train (think: Lady Di's dress) as she walks down the aisle. Also known as "train bearers."

Chuppah Carriers

In Jewish weddings, individuals close to the to-be-weds (usually family members or close friends) may hold up the chuppah poles during the ceremony. They're often part of the shushavim (see below).

Shushavim

A Jewish term describing anyone close to the couple who helps them plan and prepare for marriage. In many Jewish weddings, there's no traditional wedding party, but certain members of the shushavim (a mom, sister, best friend) might perform similar tasks.

Koumbaro/Koumbara

The koumbaro is the Eastern Orthodox groom's best man. (The koumbara is the female version.) Traditionally, the koumbaros was the groom's godfather, but today any close male relative or friend can do the job. In traditional Greek weddings, the koumbaro's role is highly symbolic, and his duties are many. For example, during the crowning ceremony, he must place the crowns on the bride's and groom's heads, then switch the crowns back and forth three times, uniting and binding the two lovebirds.

Hattabin 

A Muslim term for male family or friends who help prepare the groom for and participate in the wedding. Among Moroccan Muslims, it's common for the hattabin to propose to the bride on the groom's behalf.

Vratimi

Basically, they're Greek groomsmen. In traditional Eastern Orthodox weddings, the vratimi is a pack of the groom's male friends who help the koumbaro carry out his traditional role and perform various rituals.


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