One of the first things you have to do after getting engaged is to pick your wedding party. So, who’s who and what does each role entail? While there are traditional wedding party roles that you can choose to include, it's ultimately up to you and your partner to decide who you want to participate in your special day. You might want to have a mixed wedding party, have no bridesmaids at all, or even swap a human for a pup. Your wedding, your rules!
Here’s a quick and easy guide to who's who in the wedding party to help get you started.
Do You Need a Wedding Party?
The answer is: it’s entirely up to you. Your wedding party is the group of people you want to include in the events leading up to the big day, during the ceremony, and at the reception. Giving your nearest and dearest a role is a meaningful gesture, but it’s more than merely that. This particular group will support you throughout this period of your life; they will be right there to hold you steady through planning and executing this memorable occasion.
Who to Include in the Wedding Party
Let’s face it, choosing your wedding party can be difficult. The last thing you want is to offend anyone by leaving them out. However, who you want to include in your special day is a personal decision. To keep things simple, those in your wedding party should be your best friends, siblings, and perhaps a close family member or two.
Traditional Wedding Party Roles and Responsibilities
Maid/Matron or Man of Honor
The maid or matron of honor is the bride's right-hand woman. Also known as the bride's honor attendant, this role is usually taken by the bride’s best friend or sister. If the bride's best bud and confidante is male, whether a friend or a sibling, she may choose to have a man of honor. It’s the highest honor in the wedding party and comes with a fair share of responsibilities. The maid/matron or man of honor helps the bride with all aspects of the wedding from planning to selecting the bridesmaids’ dresses. In the lead-up to the special event, they are responsible for things like attending dress fittings and planning the bachelorette party. During the day itself, they are there to offer emotional support to the bride as well as provide hands-on help with things like bustling the gown or affixing the veil.
The best man serves many of the same duties as the maid of honor. For that reason, the groom will usually choose his best friend or brother to fulfill this role. This person will stand by the groom’s side during the wedding and will also offer any support that’s needed throughout the day. The best man has a couple of core duties: plan the bachelor party, write a speech for the reception, help make wedding arrangements and, in some cases, hold onto the rings until the wedding ceremony.
Bridesmaids are close friends or relatives of the bride. While bridesmaids are traditionally women, in recent years mixed-gender bridal parties have grown increasingly common. This group takes an active role in the planning of the wedding. They are also expected to help the maid of honor plan the bridal shower and, in some circumstances, split the cost of this event. On the wedding day, the bridesmaids walk down the aisle ahead of the bride. Bridesmaids often take on other responsibilities during the wedding as well. For instance, they may show guests to their seats or hand out favors.
The groomsmen are the male counterparts to the bridesmaids and, as such, they take on many of the same duties. They are usually close friends or relatives of the groom and will be involved in many of the events in the lead-up to the wedding, such as the bachelor party. The groomsmen are there to support the groom in any way he may need. If there are no ushers, this group may welcome guests upon arrival and show them to their seats. Traditionally, groomsmen stand next to the groom during the wedding ceremony. They may also take on fun tasks such as decorating the getaway car.
While not all brides and grooms choose to have a flower girl, this role is a charming addition to any wedding party. Often a niece, younger sibling, or family friend, the flower girl walks down the aisle with the bridesmaids, dropping petals as she goes. She may also wear a bohemian flower headdress to mark her role in the occasion.
The male counterpart to the flower girl is the page boy. He may walk alongside the flower girl when the wedding party heads down the aisle. Most of the time, this role is taken by a young boy who is part of the family or a close family friend.
As the name suggests, the ring bearer is the one who carries the rings down the aisle. This person could be another member of the wedding party—the best man, the page boy, or the flower girl, for instance. However, you may want to appoint another member of the family to take on the role or, if you’re feeling whimsical, the family pet could take the role.
Mother of the Bride
Needless to say, the mother of the bride plays an integral role in the wedding day and the lead-up to the event. Oftentimes, she will spend the entire wedding day with the bride and help her get ready to walk down the aisle. She may also give a speech during the rehearsal dinner or wedding reception.
Father of the Bride
Traditionally, the father of the bride pays for the wedding. However, over the years, things have changed and it’s just as likely that the cost will be split between the two families or by the couple themselves. The father of the bride has two major tasks: give a speech at the reception and participate in the father-daughter dance.
Mother of the Groom
The mother of the bride often takes center stage, but the mother of the groom has an equally important role. She is there to lend support to her son, should he need it, and be a host at the event. In some cases, she may also take part in planning the wedding and can give a speech as part of the wedding reception as well.
Father of the Groom
The father of the groom does not have many formal responsibilities, but that’s not to say he can’t play an active role in the special event. Depending on your wishes, he may help organize aspects of the wedding, give a speech, and welcome guests to the event.
Often confused with the groomsmen, this group has fewer duties in both the lead-up and during the wedding. Ushers wear matching suits that are different from the groomsmen’s attire. Their duty is to greet guests and show them to their seats. Friends of the bride and groom may take on this esteemed role.
Whether you’re having a religious or non-denominational wedding, you will need to choose an officiant for the big day. This person may be a religious cleric or a celebrant. The role can greatly impact the wedding as the officiant performs the ceremony and is mainly responsible for taking care of the paperwork, including the marriage license.
Religious Wedding Party Roles
Some Christian services include candle lighters. These roles are usually taken by teenagers or young people in the family. The candle lighters walk ahead of the bride and light the candles at the end of the aisle.
During a Muslim wedding, the groom picks Hattabin rather than groomsmen. This group traditionally consists of the groom’s friends or close family members.
At Jewish weddings, the wedding party may include chuppah carriers. The chuppah is a canopy beneath which the wedding ceremony takes place. If the structure does not stand on its own, the carriers hold the poles of the canopy throughout the ceremony.
In a Greek Orthodox wedding, the couple must appoint Orthodox Christian wedding sponsors. The Koumbaro is the male sponsor and the female is called the Koumbara. These sponsors are traditionally responsible for gifting the couple the silver tray on the wedding table that holds the bride and groom's crowns and rings.