Once you and your favorite person decide to get engaged, one of the first and most exciting tasks on your planning checklist is to invite your closest circle to join you as your wedding party. This group of family members and friends support you along the planning journey and stand by your side on the big day. Some roles (like the maid of honor or best man) come with more responsibilities, while others (like a flower girl or ring bearer) are given tasks that require little more than looking adorable. Your parents can also be considered part of your wedding party as they give speeches and may help pay for the big day. Of course, who is in your wedding party is up to you and your partner. You might want to have a mixed wedding party, have no bridesmaids or groomsmen at all, or even swap a human for a beloved pet.
Wondering if you even need a wedding party? The answer is that 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.
Before you and your spouse-to-be choose who walks with you down the aisle, it's best to understand exactly what each wedding party role is and what responsibilities they entail. Ahead, we break them all down.
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, but who you ultimately include in your special day is a personal decision. Most couples opt to have their closest family members and friends serve as the members of their wedding party, but there are no rules that you have to follow.
If you're wondering what's traditional, we're sharing the classic wedding party breakdown here.
Maid, Matron, or Man of Honor
The maid, matron, or man of honor is the bride's right-hand person. Also known as the bride's honor attendant, this role is usually taken by a sibling or best friend. The role of matron is designated if the person in this role is married. 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. On the wedding 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. Occasionally, a bride will choose to have both a maid and matron of honor to split up responsibilities.
Best Man or Woman
The best man or woman has many of the same responsibilities as the maid of honor, only their job is to support the groom. For that reason, a sibling or best friend is usually tapped 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 or woman has a couple of core duties, including planning the bachelor party, writing a speech for the reception, helping make wedding arrangements, and, in some cases, holding onto the rings until the wedding ceremony.
Bridesmaids and Bridesmen
Bridesmaids and bridesmen are close friends or relatives of the bride. While the bridal party was traditionally made up of women, 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 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.
Groomsmen and Groomswomen
The groomsmen and groomswomen are the counterparts of bridesmaids and bridemen. 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 and rehearsal dinner. 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 and women stand next to the groom during the wedding ceremony. They may also take on fun tasks, such as decorating the getaway car.
Flower Girl and Flower Boy
While not all couples choose to have a flower girl or flower boy, this role is a charming addition to any wedding party. While it is traditionally a niece, younger sister, or family friend's daughter, the flower girl is in no way set in stone—many couples have cast boys, grandparents, and pets in this role. Whoever takes on flower duties typically walks down the aisle with the bridesmaids, dropping petals as they go. They may also wear a flower crown to mark the role in the occasion.
The traditional boy 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 Groom
The mother of the groom has an important role on the wedding day. She is there to lend support to the groom, if necessary, and be a host at the event. In some cases, she may also take part in planning the wedding, will likely share a mother-son dance with the groom during the reception, and can give a speech as part of the event 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.
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.
Often confused with the groomsmen, this group has fewer duties in both the lead-up and during the wedding. Ushers wear coordinating outfits, and if wearing matching suits, they are typically 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. You can also choose a friend or close family member to get ordained to perform this role.
When should you ask someone to be in your wedding party?
As a rule of thumb, you should wait until you know your wedding date or at least 60 days after your proposal. This will give you time to decide how big you want your wedding party to be.
How many people are in a wedding party?
It totally depends on how many bridesmaids and groomsmen you decide to include and whether or not you opt to have a flower girl or ring bearer. Based on this, you could potentially have a small wedding party, a very large one, or none at all.