Choosing your wedding party can be tricky. The number of attendants, their roles, and who should pay for what can be confusing. Having a basic knowledge of traditional wedding roles and expectations is a great place to start when choosing the people you want to be by your side on your big day.
Matron of honour/maid of honour
This may be an easy choice for some and a difficult one for others, especially if you have a wide circle of girlfriends or female relatives. These days you don’t need to stick to the tradition of only female bridesmaids. You may have male friends that you wish to ask to become your ‘bridesmen.’ One of the most important things to consider is reliability. A Matron or Maid of Honour needs to be prepared to put themselves out if need be and take the pressure off you (it is not just about looking good while standing next to the bride!).
Traditionally the Matron of Honour or chief bridesmaid is expected to organise and pay for a bridal shower as well as organise a hens night with the bride (costs are covered individually). On the wedding day, they’re expected to help the bride get ready, hold the bride’s flowers in the church, and make any adjustments necessary during the ceremony and reception to the bride’s veil, dress and train. The chief bridesmaid and fellow bridesmaids may also be responsible for opening wedding presents and recording who they are from, or at least ensuring their safe transition from the reception area to the bride’s home or family transport. They are also responsible for signing the register as a witness, so they must be over 18.
Importantly the chief bridesmaid should be someone with a cool head and a whole lot of love in their heart for the bride. They will be someone who can help calm things down if nerves hit, and they will be genuinely overjoyed and honoured to be part of your special day.
The same mantra applies to your bridesmaids. If you choose bridesmaids whose personalities generally click and who see sharing your day as an honour, then you can expect a wonderful and memorable experience. Choose as many bridesmaids as you wish, although the more you have, the greater the probability of personality clashes. It’s also a great idea to consider the groom and how many groomsmen he has.
All members of the bridal party are expected to be available for dress fittings, rehearsals and get-togethers in the lead up to the big day and this means fitting in holidays and other commitments around these dates.
Bridesmaids are traditionally expected to pay for their wedding day outfits, shoes, jewellery, hair and make-up. However, it’s important that the bride is not too indulgent with these expectations. Choosing $400 shoes and expecting the bridal party to pay for them is inconsiderate. Choosing dress designs that are flattering to the size and shape of all members of the bridal party, as well as being functional (with a frock that can be worn again) is also a smart and courteous move.
Discussing costs, expectations and dress designs with your bridal party early in the planning process is a great way of avoiding any problems later on.
Like the Matron of Honour or chief bridesmaid, the best man is there to be the groom’s ‘right-hand-man’. He also needs to be someone with a cool head who treats the role as an honour, acts as a stress-buffer, and is prepared to help the groom in any way required. Of course, as with the bridesmaids, your best man doesn’t have to be a man! As with so many wedding traditions that have been modernised, women have also been asked to become ‘groomswomen’, and it is whatever the couple feel comfortable with that counts.
The best man will be expected to organise a bucks night, ensuring that the groom has fun but remains intact for the wedding day (with two eyebrows and a full head of hair). The best man is responsible for the wedding rings at the ceremony and traditionally gives a speech at the reception. The best man is also responsible for returning hired outfits to the store after the wedding.
The number of groomsmen chosen will likely depend on the number of bridesmaids. While their duties are few, groomsmen still have the responsibility of being available for all pre-wedding appointments and providing calm and support to the groom. The best man and groomsmen are expected to pay for their own suits and shoes and provide a gift to the couple. The groom is expected to provide his groomsmen with gifts recognising their contribution to the day.
The flower girl and pageboy roles aren’t essential, but they are a good way of including any special young children in your day. Both will need to be able to attend pre-wedding rehearsals and clothing fittings and parents are usually expected to meet the costs of their attire.
Confident (yet compliant) children need to be chosen for this role, as it is daunting for any child to walk out in front of a room full of adults. Most importantly accept the fact that on the big day, children may not follow instructions perfectly, can easily burst into tears or may even get an attack of nerves and want to stay with Mum.
The main role of the usher is to coordinate the movements of guests. At the ceremony they will hand out wedding booklets or order of service booklets and show guests to their seats. At the reception they may help show guests to their tables. It is recommended you choose one usher for every 50 guests.