A Guide to the Roles and Responsibilites of Your Bridal Entourage
by Carleen Melody
The selection of the members of your wedding party comprises a very personal and important part of your wedding plans. The roles played by the various members of the party are parts of a time-honored tradition. And as with most honors, there comes a certain amount of responsibility. Each role in the party carries with it particular duties and you should choose the members with that thought in mind - is this something they can handle?
Your wedding party should consist of those relatives and friends who are closest to you, people on whom you can always depend. The careful selection of those close few who will share the honor of a special place in your party will give you the feeling of being surrounded by those you love. And your feelings of security and affection will only add to your enjoyment of your special day as you'll be certain that everything has been "taken care of."
Here are some guidelines to think about when choosing the members of your wedding party.
MAID OF HONORTo get something out the way up front, the bride's choice of an honor companion is very often a married, divorced, widowed, or older woman these days, referred to as the "matron" of honor. We are aware of this subtle distinction, but for the purposes of this article we will refer to the bride's choice throughout as "maid of honor".
The maid of honor is your closest friend, whether or not she is a relative. This special role carries with it many responsibilities. She will assist you with the details of your wedding plans, like shopping for your gown, addressing invitations and choosing flowers. It should be kept in mind that traditionally the Maid of Honor will pay for her gown and accessories. She also usually arranges the Bridal Shower in conjunction with the bride's family. The maid of honor is "in charge" of the bridesmaids and should organize the fittings, instruct them on their duties, and coordinate the purchase of the maids' gift to the bride. In addition to attending the rehearsal, the maid should be committed to helping the bride dress and get ready before the ceremony. She assists the bride with her bouquet, and veil or train, at all times. it is important to note that she will also be signing the certificate of marriage or wedding license as a legal witness. At the reception, she should stand immediately after the groom in the receiving line, a place of honor, and her duties will continue throughout the party.
THE BEST MANAgain, we are aware of the designation for best "person" if the groom's choice of honor companion is a woman, but will stick with "best man" for this article to keep things clear. The duties would remain the same.
As with the bride's choice, this position of honor should go to your "best friend", relative or not. The best man normally pays for his own attire. He is in charge of instructing the ushers to their duties and will coordinate the groom's transportation to the ceremony. The best man usually holds the rings until the ceremony, although many couples prefer to have the maid of honor hold the groom's ring, leaving him only with the responsibility of the bride's ring. He will also sign the certificate as a legal witness to the marriage. The best man handles the miscellaneous payments such as the clergyman, church, or tips. At the reception, he holds a place of honor escorting the maid of honor in the receiving line and in all other wedding party activities. At the head table, he is the toastmaster, offering the first toast to the couple which marks the official start of the festivities. Your best man should also make sure that your car is ready to go (or be returned to a safe place) and he should be prepared to return your tuxedo to the rental store in a timely manner.
BRIDESMAIDS & USHERSBridesmaids should be prepared to help out, when asked or when needed, with the plans for both the wedding day and the bridal shower. They usually pay for their own attire and contribute to the purchase of the gift for the bride. Bridesmaids may be asked to coordinate special details during the ceremony preparations or at the reception.
First and foremost, the ushers should be prepared for an early arrival at the ceremony to literally act as ushers. They must make sure everything is in order: flowers have arrived, musicians at the ready, heat or air conditioning adjusted, etc., and should be ready to run errands and or handle any minor crisis using intelligence guided by experience.
They will seat the guests as they are arriving and then escort the bridesmaids down the aisle. They should also be prepared to deliver special assistance to the elderly or disadvantaged, and to coordinate the guests' trip from the ceremony to the reception, with special consideration for the out-of-towners.
FLOWER GIRL & RING BEARERIf you decide to add in these lovely traditions to your wedding party, choose carefully and spend extra time with them at the rehearsal.
The flower girl will carry a basket of flower petals to sprinkle down the aisle, or flowers to be passed out the to women seated near the aisle.
The ring bearer may either escort the flower girl down the aisle, or follow her, with the rings on a pillow.
(Give careful consideration to the ages of these members of the party. Although you may be tempted to consider the youngest members of your families for these positions because it would be so "cute", be sure they can handle the responsibilities. Ages 4 to 10 seems to be a good guideline. However since first addressing this subject in an earlier issue of this magazine, we've seen a really well-behaved, well-coordinated two year old boy serve as a bearer! By pinning the rings to the pillow for extra protection, he got down the aisle all by himself and in his tiny tux he was an adorable addition to the ceremony. Just make sure you're confident the child can handle the responsibility.)
PARENTS OF THE BRIDEThe Mother of the Bride is usually called on to help with the selection of the bridal gown, the particulars for the ceremony, and the menu and events at the reception. She is also generally the coordinator of the guest list and invitations. She serves as the hostess at the reception, standing first in line to greet guests.
Here are some helpful hints to organize the role:
- About three months before the wedding, announce your daughter's engagement in your primary local newspaper/newsletter, and the groom's hometown paper (if he's from a different area, state or country).
- If desired, this would be the time for the parents of the bride to host an engagement party for the members of your immediate or extended family and your closest friends.
- Before any plans are made, organize a list of tasks to be accomplished and a schedule. Then divide the list into three parts: Items for the bride, for the mother of the bride, and those to be handled together.
In general, the mother of the bride may be called uon to help out in any area of the wedding plans and may often act as the principle coordinator as the day approaches. But there are great rewards in knowing that you've helped to make your daughter's wedding a perfect one!
The traditional "movie" role of the father of the bride is no longer with us. It is not an automatic assumption that he will be footing the bill. But his other duties are pretty much the same. He will escort the bride down the aisle, and escort the mother bride in the receiving line. He can also be depended on to take care of the final bills at the reception (caterer, entertainment, ec.). By this we mean, he will be in charge of writing the checks or distributing the cash no matter who actually paid for the reception. And remember, no matter what year this is, he wants a special dance with his daughter!
PARENTS OF THE GROOMThe role of the groom's parents has remained traditional and customary. They usually host the rehearsal dinner, they generally stand in the receiving line, and they should be prepared and willing to assist the bride and groom in preparations if called upon. Often nowadays, the bride and groom, bride's parents and groom's parents act together as "one big, happy family" and the parents of the groom are as involved in all aspects of the planning and execution of the wedding as anyone else. This, of course, would be determined in the very early stages of the planning and would depend how you'd like things handled.
OTHER HONOR ROLESOther guests at your wedding can be called into "service" as well. They can fill any role from go-fer to coat checker or simply stand around looking good! This can help you add to the fun by giving special attention to someone who was excluded from the "official" party but is still close to you and holds a special place in your heart. Here are some suggestions.
- Personal Attendant
The bride and groom could each have a special person to run errands or fetch things when the maid of honor and best man are otherwise engaged with their other duties. For instance, they can get drinks for the bride and groom, help out in the restrooms, bring up the car - whatever needs doing right away. This is an especially good job for older teens who may otherwise feel out of place at these kinds of affairs. It gives them a sense of purpose and keeps you and your attendants from fretting over minor details.
- Cleanup Crew
These folks will help set things in order at the end of the reception. They'll gather up the gifts and deliver them to their proper destination, distribute centerpieces, cake slices and favors, help with the cars, and generally attend to any details which might see something or someone left behind! This is a great job for anyone who was left out of the wedding party for space or other reasons. It gives them a special role on your special day and you'll be sure someone you trust is in charge of some very important, often overlooked details.
- Honorary Attendants
This role is usually reserved for grandparents. However, in recent times with divorce/remarriage as an almost omnipresent consideration, the role has been extended to step-parents, step-siblings, step-grandparents and other members of your extended family. It also is a great way to honor friends and siblings at a small wedding. In other words, if it indeed had been a large wedding, these folks would have been in the wedding party. Generally, these honorees are not required to fill any special role, but are set off from other guests by wearing corsages or bouttonieres which the bride and groom provide and are often seated at a table or tables adjoining the head table.
In conclusion, as with all other aspects of putting together a wedding, careful planning, thoughtful choices and early decisions will add to your carefree enjoyment of your wedding when the roles each person are clearly defined and will enhance the memories of your special day as you recall what each member of your party did with you and for you at your wedding.
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