Do You Really Need Ushers at Your Wedding Ceremony?

Turns out they do a lot more than just hand out programs.
Man in blue suit with usher badge
Photo: Wirestock Creators | Shutterstock
lindsay tigar the knot
Lindsay Tigar
lindsay tigar the knot
Lindsay Tigar
Wedding Planning Contributor
  • Lindsay contributes articles to The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in honeymoon travel and creating wedding planning.
  • Lindsay owns a content agency, Tigar Types, to help businesses of all sizes grow their digital footprints.
  • Lindsay freelances for a plethora of publications, covering many topics, ranging from wedding advice and planning to travel, health and more.
Updated Nov 30, 2023

For many couples, assigning the role of wedding usher may be an afterthought—or a question mark. What do ushers do during the ceremony—and do you even need them? Turns out that wedding ushers have a pretty important role to play, creating many guests' first impression of your wedding day. It's also a great way to include loved ones in the ceremony. Ready to learn more? Here's everything you need about wedding ushers.

Wedding Usher Duties:

What Is an Usher at a Wedding? | FAQs | Duties

What Is an Usher at a Wedding?

A wedding usher is an individual who guides and escorts wedding guests around the venue and to their wedding seats before the ceremony, explains Sarah Anderson, a wedding consultant for Twickenham House and Hall.

"Although they are not official wedding party members, an usher is an honored individual to the couple they want to include in their big day outside the wedding party," she continues. "Attending the rehearsal and dinner before the wedding day is a helpful way for ushers to gauge their scope of responsibility and envision the big day within their role."

Wedding Usher Frequently Asked Questions

Like with many aspects of planning a wedding, most of the choices are personal ones. And no two weddings are ever exactly the same. These FAQs on wedding ushers will help you decide if you need wedding ushers, who to ask and how to manage their responsibilities:

Do You Need Ushers at a Wedding?

Including wedding ushers is a long-standing tradition, but it's sometimes overlooked when planning everything else, according to Kevin Dennis, a wedding expert and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services. "Having people on your team who can do crowd control—especially in the case of large weddings—will be invaluable," he continues. "It saves you the stress of constantly communicating directions with friends or family members while you're getting ready for the ceremony, and you can trust that everyone will be guided to the right place in time for you to walk down the aisle."

Who Should Be Ushers at a Wedding?

Anderson explains wedding ushers can be immediate family, cousins, friends, in-laws, aunts, uncles, teenagers of significance or a friend who cannot commit to the responsibilities of the wedding party but desires to participate in serving the couple on their big day. Choosing someone you know you can rely on is vital—and who won't skimp on their day-of duties.

How Many Ushers Do You Need for a Wedding?

Although there is no magic number for wedding ushers, Anderson recommends a general rule: one usher for every 50 guests. "For those looking to maintain the tradition of having ushers, this margin ensures no guest arrives ungreeted and has direction for their next step at the venue," she says. "For small weddings, even with fewer than 100 guests, having two ushers is helpful to keep one another company throughout the day and guide guests."

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How Old Are Ushers for a Wedding?

Dennis explains ushers can be anywhere from teenagers to older adults. Sometimes, it's sweet to have your teenage cousin—and also your able-bodied 85-year-old grandpa. "It's important to note that your ushers will be dedicating most of their time to escorting guests before, during and after the ceremony, so make sure that your ushers are self-sufficient and can stay on top of their assigned duties without much guidance," he adds.

What Is the Difference Between an Usher and a Groomsman?

An usher is not someone who's part of the wedding party, and their responsibilities typically end when the ceremony does, Dennis explains. On the other hand, the groomsmen have other duties on their plate, and they can't be expected to assist with ceremony seating and guidance while they're getting ready and waiting to walk down the aisle. "While it's important to communicate with the ushers leading up to the wedding day on what's expected of them, they're usually there to help on the day of instead of assisting throughout the entire planning process," he adds.

Wedding Usher Duties

So, what does an usher do exactly? From arriving well ahead of the ceremony to managing the flow of guests and those (annoying) late arrivals, a wedding usher takes care of small details to ensure a smooth wedding event. Consider these key duties when deciding who will be an usher.

Arriving Early

As part of their responsibility when accepting the role, Anderson says all ushers should arrive at least one hour before the official start of the ceremony to greet guests, sign the guest book, and reserve their chairs for the ceremony.

"Throughout this hour, an usher is responsible for directing guests from their cars to the guestbook and gift table and escorting each guest to their seat for the ceremony," she continues. "Because wedding guests need guidance, an usher provides all directions and necessary information to guests before the ceremony and reception."

Managing the Flow of Guests

Another way to think of ushers is traffic control of guests, cars, you name it. Dennis says if your venue has designated parking or other restrictions, ushers should feel comfortable directing traffic and even lining up cars if necessary.

"Venues can be tricky or even have areas that are off-limits in some cases, so it's a great idea to have a few people who are able to show everyone around the property and make sure they stay on track in terms of your timeline," he says. "If you'd like your ushers to lend a hand with any wedding setup, make sure they're clear on where your florist, DJ, etc. needs to go."

Preparing Guests for the Ceremony

According to Dennis, your ushers should know exactly when to time the ceremony seating. As he notes, often, the guests will arrive and then head to an early cocktail hour, so the ushers must coordinate with one another on when they should announce that it's time to be seated.

"Guests aren't always going to head straight to the ceremony after an announcement. It might take them a little extra time to make their way over there," he says. "Ushers should be prepared to escort elderly guests as well, as well as anyone who may need some extra help accessibility-wise. This is also when they'll be handing out ceremony programs and pointing folks in the direction of the restrooms before the ceremony begins."

Handling Late Arrivals

Unfortunately, there may be late arrivals or other disruptions to your ceremony. While an annoying truth of weddings, Dennis says ushers are great to have in this case, as they can direct any late guests to the seating in the back, or let them know where their reserved seats are.

Being the Bad Guy

And by the bad guy, we mean they can handle any and all hiccups that come up. As an example, Dennis says an usher can help your loved ones be mindful of the photographer, especially if it's an unplugged ceremony. And if any kids get antsy during the ceremony, they can also help guide parents to a quieter place. "Additionally, if any of your family and friends get lost on the way to the venue, an usher can save the day and make sure that they get to the right place - even if the wedding has already started," he adds.

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