Choosing the wedding party can be one of the hardest decisions for brides and/or grooms. Failing to select a friend might lead them to feel hurt, and siblings also may feel the pain of being bumped from the ‘party.’ Some couples insist that all siblings take part in the wedding in some way—as an attendant, usher or some other special role. Other couples might have tense relations with a sibling or family member and opt not to include them. Friends, cousins, nieces and nephews or perhaps Godchildren, however, are typically top choices for wedding party members and honor attendants.
The Knot 2017 Real Weddings Study revealed that ‘five’ is the magic number for the wedding party. Brides and grooms reportedly both selected—on average—five attendants each. While the number of attendants selected can vary significantly, the roles of these attendants are typically the same for most wedding parties. Although, some brides and/or grooms may be a bit more demanding as to what they need from an honor or other attendant. Bridezillas and Groomzillas are real!
If you’re planning your wedding and beginning to select your wedding party, here’s what you need to know about each attendant and their role in your wedding.
The Bridal Party
Maid of Honor
A Maid of Honor is typically an unmarried woman. Yes, the term ‘maid’ can seem extremely outdated and—well—maybe even problematic. But just think of ‘maid’ as a shortened form of ‘maiden.’ The role of the ‘Maid of Honor’ is a top position. She is the senior attendant, and her role is to take the lead on planning and service to the bride. But this role doesn’t have to go to a woman; brides also can appoint a Man of Honor.
The Maid of Honor is responsible for:
- Planning the wedding shower(s) (or helping to plan)
- Planning the bachelorette party (or hen party…depending on where you reside)
- Holding the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony
- Keeping the groom’s ring during the ceremony (many place the band on their thumb for safekeeping until the vows)
- Helping and/or assisting the bride before, during and after the ceremony (the intensity of this depends on the personality of the bride)
- Paying for their wedding attire (although, the bride may choose to pay)
Matron of Honor
The Matron of Honor is a position given only to a woman who is married. Her duties are the same as the Maid of Honor. And, yes, brides may appoint both a Maid and Matron of Honor. In fact, this is often a great way to ensure that top roles for close friends or siblings when choosing between one or the other could result in hurt feelings. Brides also can choose two Matron or Maids of Honor.
When a wedding party includes both a Matron and Maid of Honor, the two women typically split the duties.
The bride can select as many bridesmaids as she wishes. But remember that the more attendants you choose, the longer the processional will last. You also need to ensure that your church or wedding site has room for all the bridesmaids to gather in the front. While choosing a long list of bridesmaids is a great way to ensure that all friends and family are included, the ‘party’ could begin to feel a bit crowded. Use your own discretion when selecting your final number.
So what is the role of the bridesmaid? Here’s what to expect (not demand!) of your attendants:
- Help the Maid/Matron of Honor plan the wedding shower(s)
- Assist the honor attendants with the planning of the bachelorette party
- Purchase their dress/shoes for the wedding (some brides offer to pick up the bill, though)
Parents of the Bride
While the Parents of the Bride aren’t considered part of the wedding party, they are honorary members in many ways. Traditionally, the bride’s family has one of the largest roles at the wedding. As more and more couples are waiting to get married until they are older, the role of the bride’s parents has sometimes changed.
Traditionally, the Parents of the Bride are responsible for:
- Paying for the wedding and reception (again, this is a very old tradition. Many couples pay the bill for everything…and opt for budget-friendly options, too! Some families split the cost).
- Serving as hosts and hostesses of the wedding and reception
- Dance with their daughter at the reception (the traditional Father/Daughter dance)
The Groom’s Attendants
The groom can also choose as many attendants as he likes. However, the groom has a little bit more room in his party to allow for more friends or family members. While the bride’s side traditionally includes honor attendants and bridesmaids, the groom gets to select his Best Man (or Men), groomsmen and ushers.
Best Man (Men)
The Best Man is the groom’s main attendant. His role is similar to the Maid or Matron of Honor. But a groom also can elect to have a Best Woman if he chooses.
Regardless of the title, the grooms Best attendant is responsible for:
- Assisting with planning (and paying for) a couple’s shower (if this is on the agenda)
- Planning the bachelor (or stag) party
- Holding the bride’s wedding ring during the ceremony
- Paying for tuxedo or other attire costs
- Helping the groom before, during and after the wedding
The groomsmen have a pretty easy role. Like the bridesmaids, groomsmen are wedding party assistants.
Their duties include:
- Assisting with planning and paying for a couple’s shower
- Helping the Best Man plan (and pay for) the bachelor party
- Paying for wedding attire
Grooms often pick two or more ushers for their wedding party. While groomsmen typically escort bridesmaids, the ushers assist guests.
Their role involves:
- Ushering guests into the ceremony
- Assisting with cost/planning of the bachelor party
- Paying for wedding attire
- Escorting grandparents of the bride/groom
Parents of the Groom
The groom’s parents may opt to share part of the cost of the wedding. Some families split the bill, but financial obligations are personal to each couple, their preferences, and their culture.
In a traditional sense, the groom’s parents:
- Pay for and serve as host/hostess of the rehearsal dinner
- Per Weddingwire, the couple also pays for the bride’s flowers, alcohol at the reception, the wedding rings and officiant fees
Other Members of the Wedding Party
Many couples opt for a wedding party that includes other roles. Often, brides will appoint a flower girl, while grooms select a ring bearer. Junior bridesmaids and guest book attendants or candle lighters also are popular roles given to younger family members or to the children of close friends. These roles are also ideal for couples who have children and wish to have them in the wedding party (if the children aren’t old enough for more senior roles).
The flower girl role is typically reserved for younger children—perhaps even toddlers. She carries a basket or a bouquet. Traditionally, the flower girl scatters petals down the aisle as the bride enters the ceremony. The flower girl may or may not attend a bridal shower (this is up to the discretion of the bride).
The ring bearer is also traditionally reserved for younger children. He typically carries a pillow with a ring tied to a ribbon and may escort the flower girl. Most couples do not place their actual wedding bands on the ring bearer’s pillow.
These positions are reserved for pre-teens. They hold similar responsibilities as regular bridesmaids and groomsmen, but junior attendants aren’t responsible (or involved) in planning or participating in showers or other parties for the couple.
Guest Book Attendant
A guest book attendant can be anyone of any age. The role of this attendant is to ensure that all guests sign the guest book. Typically, the guest book attendant gives the signed book to the parents of the bride for safekeeping.
Most couples will appoint a group of their friends or family members as members of their wedding party, but the choice of who is included can be difficult. However, brides and grooms can have as many attendants as they wish. And there are many different roles to include in the wedding party that ensure that close friends and beloved family members get to play an active part in the couple’s big day. Remember that roles can be changed—a bride can have a Man of Honor and a groom can choose a Best Woman! When choosing attendants, it doesn’t matter who plays what role. The day is about love, and your attendants should be those who love and cherish you!