Everything You Need to Know About Your Wedding Party and Their Responsibilities
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 groomswomen?—and by as many people as you want.) You'll want to ask your VIPs to be in the wedding party early in the planning process, so be sure to think about the family members and friends you'd like to include in your crew.
Quick List of Wedding Roles
- Honor Attendants
- Maid/Matron of Honor
- Best Man
- Junior Bridesmaids/Junior Groomsmen/Junior Ushers
- Flower Girl/Child/Pet
- Ring Bearer
- Father of the Bride
- Father of the Groom
- Mother of the Bride
- Mother of the Groom
- Candlelighter (Optional)
- Pages (Optional)
- Chuppah Carriers (Optional)
- Shusha Vim (Optional)
- Koumbaro/Koumbara (Optional)
- Vrati Mi
Wedding Party Responsibilities
Each member of your wedding party will have responsibilities unique to their role (which you can always change based on your individual preferences). As a whole, however, here's what makes your wedding party special:
- The members of your wedding party should help you with many different aspects of the wedding planning process. The people who make up your wedding party may help you choose vendors, assist you in picking out the wedding attire, put together invites, craft wedding decorations and be available for any of those last-minute needs that always pop up.
- The wedding party members are also usually in charge of planning and hosting many of the events surrounding the wedding, including the engagement party, showers and the bach parties.
- Members of the wedding party traditionally help the couple prepare on the day of their wedding.
- Wedding party members may wear special or matching attire. They may match each other or wear wedding colors. Usually, the wedding party members are dressed formally even if the dress code is semi-formal or even casual.
- The wedding party is also included in the portrait session after the ceremony. The couple will likely ask for different configurations of wedding party members for family and friend pictures.
- During the reception, the wedding party will often be given prime seating. They may sit at a large table with the newlyweds or at the closest tables to them
- Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the wedding party members serve as moral support for the couple during the wedding planning process and during the wedding itself. There will be frustrations and challenges along the way and perhaps some nerves or big emotions on the big day itself. The wedding party is there to offer love and encouragement. They help make the wedding a truly special day for the couple.
What is the 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 and holding her bouquet during the vows. 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. She also traditionally gives a speech during the reception. A maid of honor is unmarried, while a matron of honor has tied the knot. A bride can have a maid of honor, a matron of honor or both. The matron or maid of honor and best man (below) can also be referred to as "honor attendants."
What is the best man?
This guy (or gal—a female can serve as a best woman, if desired) 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.
What are 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 keep the dance floor running and play cohostesses to guests. If there's a guy who's particularly close with the bride, he can serve as a bridesman and perform these duties, as well.
What are groomsmen?
A posse of male family and friends who assist the groom in planning and preparing for the big day. What's 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 and act as a resource for confused wedding guests. Female-identifying close family members or friends of the groom can serve as groomswomen and perform many of these tasks, if desired.
What are 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.
What is a 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.
What is a 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).
What is an 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.
What are ushers?
Males (or females) who escort guests to their seats before the wedding 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).
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 his son's partner's family 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 wedding 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.
Optional Wedding Party Roles
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.
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."
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.