Bridal Party Roles & Responsibilities: Who Does What And How To Pick Them

From the maid of honour to the ushers and the witnesses, here’s your ultimate glossary of who does what in the bridal party.
Photo | Rebecca Wedding Photography
Photo | Rebecca Wedding Photography

You’re engaged, congratulations! Now comes the tricky bit - choosing your wedding party. You may think it’s as easy as picking your friends as your bridesmaids, but there are a host of other duties you need to think of. So here’s an expert breakdown of who does what...

The maid of honour

Often abbreviated to MOH in our forums, she is your closest friend or relative. She will help you with the organisational side as well as the emotional aspects of planning a wedding. This might be helping you shop for your wedding dress, organising your hen do, or being a shoulder to cry on when you can’t get guests to RSVP on time. On the day, she will keep an eye on your dress and make-up to ensure you are looking gorgeous all day long. She might also have to help you out with less glamourous duties like holding your bouquet and er, helping you go to the loo! Choose someone who knows you inside-out, you trust inherently and who you envision in your life for many years to come.

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Bridesmaids

There aren’t any real rules for who to pick as your bridesmaids. They can be family or friends - just ladies you are very close to. You can have as many as you want, but beware of the cost: if you’re paying for their hair, make-up and dresses, it all adds up. As well as planning your hen do pre-wedding, they will help you on the day with specific jobs you assign to them (think setting up last-minute decorations or handing you a glass of nerve-calming champagne). Whatever responsibilities you decide to give them, your bridesmaids are there to support you and be your right-hand ladies on the day, so choose the women you would happily surround yourself with on any important occasion!

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Flowergirls and pageboys

These roles are usually filled by small family children such as nieces or cousins, or the bride and groom’s children if they have any. Although they might have duties such as scattering petals or holding the rings, they are mostly there for the cute factor - as we all know young children can be a bit unpredictable! They might feel too shy to walk down the aisle for example, or even throw a tantrum during the ceremony. If you're worried, try and do a rehearsal before the big day so they know what they’re doing, or abandon tradition and opt for older flower girls - a recent trend in the US saw couples opt for their grandmas to take on the role!

Best man

Much like the maid of honour, the best man is someone who is extremely close to the groom - it could be his brother or an old school friend. His duties will be slightly more hands-on than that of the maid of honour, as he will have to organise the stag do, chase invitations and look after the rings on the wedding day - plus the all-important speech! Taking the lead role in the groom’s party, he will manage the ushers to make sure they are all on track and delegate tasks. He will also need to keep a copy of the order of the day and suppliers’ phone numbers as he will be the first port of call if guests have questions or if something isn’t delivered on time. Unfortunately, this means he might have to avoid having too many drinks until his jobs are over! Depending on the venue’s terms of hire, he might also have to help with tidying up at the end of the night. 

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Ushers

The ushers are the groom’s right-hand men, and are usually tasked with escorting guests to their seats and handing out orders of service before the ceremony. They will help usher guests for the wedding pictures, and be close-by in case the best man or groom need anything. During the ceremony, they typically stand behind the groom, or, during more informal ceremonies, sit near the front of the room with the bridesmaids. They tend to be male relatives from either side of the family or close friends.

Mother of the bride

Often, the mother of the bride (or MOB) is very hands-on in the planning of the wedding - accompanying you to choose your dress, helping with your ‘something borrowed’ and ‘something old’ and working with you to put together the guest list. Traditionally, the bride’s parents would be responsible for funding the wedding too, but nowadays that’s not always the case! On the day, she will usually travel with the bridesmaids to the ceremony venue and stand in the receiving line to greet guests at the reception. She will act as a general support to you throughout the whole planning process and on the day itself – just what mums do best!

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Mother of the groom

The mother of the groom (or, you guessed it, the MOG) can take as much of an active role in your wedding as you like – whether that’s within the planning process or on the day itself.  Like the MOB, she’ll take her place in the receiving line at the reception, and help with the guest list if you like. You may want to do a mother-son dance, too, if you are planning a special dance with your father. 

Witnesses

There is no right or wrong way to pick a witness for your civil ceremony. Typically, you have already picked close friends and family for the other roles, so this is perfect for someone you want involved but just didn’t have room for in the closer bridal party. However, you do not want to pick someone you don’t see often, or aren’t likely to see again after the ceremony. Remember their name will forever be on your marriage certificate, and they will be in your professional pictures. Typically, the bride and groom each have a witness, but this isn’t set in stone either. The witness's job is a lot more relaxed than the others, as it only involves turning up on the day and signing the certificate to say they have witnessed your union. That’s not to say it should be taken lightly though - it’s a very significant role.

Readings

For both civil and church ceremonies, you can typically have two readings, though sometimes you are allowed more, so you will need to check with your vicar or registrar first. Those doing the readings can be family members or close friends, and can be as involved in the process as you like. For example, you might want to let them choose a poem or reading that they feel best describes your relationship - which would be a lovely surprise for the bride and groom. Or, if you prefer, you can just give them a text of your choosing that you feel will suit your ceremony perfectly.

Make sure you pick people who will be comfortable reading in public as it can be daunting standing up in front of everyone. One important thing to note is that you will need to run the texts by your registrar or vicar first, as there are strict rules. For example, during a civil ceremony, you are not allowed to have anything remotely religious, even if it is a song by a favourite singer (i.e. Ave Maria won't make the cut, even if it is sung by Beyoncé!).

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Master of Ceremonies

This slightly more formal role involves presiding over the day’s events - introducing guests, speakers and entertainers. As the official host, they call guests in for the drinks, wedding breakfast and so forth. Ask someone with plenty of personality and a loud voice!

Social media guru

Yes, there is such a thing as a social media guru. You might have noticed the rise in hashtags such as #TheSmiths and #LauraJasonWedding and the use of apps such as WedPics. The beauty of these is to curate all of your guests' pictures and messages from your wedding, and it means guests who weren't able to make it can feel like they are part of your day. 

Choose a social media-loving friend who will create lots of fun content on the night, and scroll through the hashtag post-wedding to collate all the posts. 

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