Your bridal party must be involved in specific tasks and has certain responsibilities. They must also pay for their wedding attire and transportation, and should be able to reserve time to help during the wedding preparations as well as with the rehearsal and the wedding itself. You should advise them of this when you ask for their participation in the wedding party. The bride is responsible for their lodging if necessary.
The Size of the Wedding Party
Go with your heart when choosing your bridal party as regards everybody involved on both sides of the couple.
The number of attendants is a personal choice.
The number of bridesmaids and ushers can vary from one to twelve or more, but there should not be more bridesmaids than ushers.
Count one usher per fifty guests to keep a steady seating flow before the ceremony.
The bride should present a gift to her attendants to thank them for their participation in the wedding. It should be something that relates to the wedding, such as a memento of the special day. All of the bridesmaids should receive the same gift. The maid of honor should receive something a little more special (brass picture frame, medallion, jewelry box). Do not forget children if involved.
The ushers and best man also receive gifts from the groom (engraved mugs, pens).
It is traditional for the bride and groom to give their parents gifts as thanks for their support, or to prepare a special dinner for them or take them out to the restaurant, after the honeymoon.
a) Bridal Attendants
Maid of Honor
The maid of honor assists the bride with pre-wedding tasks such as addressing invitations, recording and displaying wedding gifts, escorting the bride during shopping, etc.
If she is not a member of the bride's family, she usually arranges or gives a shower for the bride.
She helps in the coordination of dress fittings for the bridesmaids.
On the wedding day, she assists the bride at home, and checks that each bridesmaid is properly dressed, has her bouquet and has transportation to the ceremony and reception.
The maid of honor takes precedence at the ceremony, holding a bouquet provided by the bride, helping with the bride adjust her veil, arranging the dress train when she turns, and holding her bouquet as needed.
She may sign the marriage certificate as a witness if required.
She stands next to the couple in the receiving line, sits on the groom's left at the bridal table and stays alert to the bride's needs during the entire reception.
She helps the bride change into her going-away clothes if necessary.
She makes sure all guests have signed the guest book.
She takes care of the gown after the wedding.
She may also have to note down the gifts or money received during the reception, move the gifts to the newlywed's home, or deposit money and checks in the bank.
She brings wedding accessories back home (guest book, cake ornament, knife, special champagne flutes, extra cake or wine, etc.).
Any of the bridesmaids may give showers. They are also invited to all pre-wedding parties.
They may have to pick up their bouquets (provided by the bride) or participate in a pre-wedding photograph session at the bride's house.
They are part of the bridal processional and recessional.
One of them may be responsible for keeping an eye on the flower girl.
If the bride so desires, they may stand in the receiving line or act as hostesses, circulating among the guests.
They sit at the bride's table.
During the bouquet ceremony, they should encourage single women to participate.
They should be the last to leave the reception site, making sure everything is clean and tidy, and help transport the gifts and accessories.
The flower girl is often a young relative of the bride, between 3 and 7 years old.
The flower girl's parents are responsible for making sure she gets a good night's sleep before the ceremony. They should also be invited to the ceremony.
Traditionally, she carries a basket of flowers, provided by the bride, and walks directly before the ring bearer in the processional. Then she can quietly sit in the first pew or stand next to the maid of honor. For the recessional, she walks behind the couple with the ring bearer.
She does not stand in the receiving line and sits with her family at the reception.
The ring bearer’s parents are responsible for his attire, except for the ring pillow. They make sure that he gets a good night's sleep.
The young man (between 3 and 7 years old) carries the ring attached to a pillow. The best man takes it from the pillow at the proper moment. He can take a seat afterwards.
He immediately precedes the bride in the processional and walks next to the flower girl for the recessional.
He does not stand in the receiving line and sits with his family at the reception.
Children (boys or girls) can be included in the processional. Their parents should be invited guests so that they may assume responsibility of their children after their duties are done.
They always come in pairs and are needed only if there is a cathedral train. They carry the train during the processional and recessional.
The bride’s mother is traditionally responsible for the guest list, with the help of the bride, the groom and the groom's parents.
She helps plan the details of the ceremony and reception.
She helps select the wedding gown, keeps track of the gifts, and displays them in her house (if the maid of honor can't).
She also selects her dress and informs the groom's mother of her choice.
The bride's mother is the official hostess.
She is the last person to be seated in the ceremony, and the first to be escorted after the recessional.
He makes sure that the ushers are there on time and that they have their boutonnieres and gloves.
At the ceremony, the best man enters the chapel from the vestry (another procedure may be suggested by the officiant), immediately after the groom and stands behind him, slightly to his right, in a convenient position to present the wedding rings.
He helps the groom change into his going-away clothes and escorts the couple after the reception. He may arrange transportation or drive the couple himself to where they have planned to go. (Their luggage should have been placed in the car before the wedding.)
If he doesn't drive the couple, he stays until the end of the reception to help the maid of honor in her tasks.
The first business day after the wedding, he should return the groom's rental clothes to the formal wear store.
Ushers attend the bachelor party or arrange it themselves.
They help to prepare last minute decorations for the ceremony.
They are responsible for seating guests at the church.
They should arrive at the ceremony location at least 45 minutes beforehand to plan duties. They must also escort immediate family members to their places.
They wear gloves.
The bride's family and friends are seated on the left side of the aisle (facing the altar).
The right side is reserved for the groom's family and friends.
Eldest women should be escorted first.
If one family has many more guests than the other, everyone may sit together to fill up the empty seats on one side.
Certain rows of pews will be reserved for family members or special guests.
Parents sit in the first row of pews on their respective sides.
Grandparents sit in the second row of pews.
You may reserve more pews if parents are divorced and prefer not sit together or if you have special guests.
Reserved pews are marked with flowers or ribbons.
Seat all other guests from front to back as they enter the church.
The mother of the groom is seated five minutes before the mother of the bride. She is escorted by the usher and her husband follows.
When the mother of the bride is seated, it is a signal that the processional is about to begin. No guests are seated after the bride's mother is in place.
Once those duties have been completed, the ushers go to the back of the church to lead the processional.
After the recessional, two ushers will loosen the pew ribbons (if used) then pause at the side of each, signaling guests to file out row by row, from front to back.
All ushers should be prepared to direct guests to parking spaces, restrooms or the reception site.
They will also help elderly or disabled guests.
They gather any wedding party belongings left before leaving the site of the ceremony.
The ushers do not stand in the receiving line but are seated at the bridal table.
They help seat the members of the two families at the reception.
The photographer may need one of them to gather people together for pictures.
The ushers are alert to potential problems and are there to help in any situation.
They can also propose toasts to the bride and groom and dance with the bridesmaids during the first dance.
At the end of the reception, they help the bridesmaids transport the gifts and make sure the site is clean.
The groom’s parents are considered co-hosts of the wedding.
They must contact the bride's parents and arrange a meeting with them. It could be a pleasant meal together at home or in a restaurant.
They may host an engagement party (after the bride's family first hosts one) to introduce the bride to their family and friends.
They help make the guest list.
They are invited to all pre-wedding parties and they host the rehearsal dinner.
They arrive to the ceremony site fifteen minutes before the scheduled starting time.
The groom's mother stands third in the receiving line, after the bride's father, if he takes part in the line. The father may stand on her side or mingle with guests.
The groom's parents sit at the bridal table or at the parents' table.
During the first dance, they may be invited to dance with the newlyweds.