Choosing one's wedding attendants (reprint)

By request, Mannersmith is happy to re-post a series of wedding articles written in 2006.

Congratulations on your engagement!

The custom of bridesmaids and ushers is said to have originated as a way to confuse the evil spirits. If an evil spirit arrived at a wedding to curse the bride and groom, the extra people standing at the alter would confuse the spirit and drive it away, leaving the coupled blessed for their new lives together. Nowadays, it is simply an honor to help the wedding couple celebrate their big day. But how does one choose the bridesmaids and ushers? There are four basic questions you should ask yourself when choosing wedding attendants.

1. How many attendants should we have?

The decision of how many attendants is based on two things. First, how many guests you plan to invite to your wedding. The general rule of thumb is one attendant for every 40 - 50 guests. Next, you should decide how many attendants you would like to have for your ceremony. Remember that the bride and groom do not need to have an equal number of attendants.

2. Who should we ask to be attendants?

Close friends and family members tend to be the most popular choice for wedding attendants. Keep in mind that being a wedding attendant in a friend's wedding does not mean that they are automatically an attendant in yours. You are under no obligation to return the honor. You should keep a long-term perspective and ask yourself "Will I continue to be close with this person as years go by?"

Currently, the most common trend is towards sibling only wedding parties. This helps to limit the number and to eliminate hurt feelings for non-reciprocal attendant honors. While it was once considered taboo, mothers and fathers are now being seen as attendants in weddings. For second weddings, children from the previous marriages often serve as the attendants.

3. When should we ask our attendants to be in our wedding?

After you have announced your engagement, and sometime even before you have set the wedding date, you should decide whom you would like to invite to walk down the aisle with you. Once the bride and groom have the attendant list set, asking can commence. If you live in the same city, it is preferable to ask someone to be an attendant in person. If this is not possible, over the phone is perfectly acceptable. You should endeavor to ask all of the attendants within a short timeframe.

At this point, you should also consider the other honors within your wedding and ask those honorees. Additional seating ushers, assisting guests, watching the guest book, gathering gifts, ceremonial readings and singing solos can be imparted among others who you wish to be part of your wedding celebration.

4. What are the duties of the attendants?

Generally, the maid of honor and the bridesmaids are responsible for:

  • Assisting with pre-wedding activities
  • Hosting a bridal shower
  • Helping the bride dress and prepare the day of the wedding
  • Adjusting the bride's train and veil, as well as holding her bouquet, during the ceremony
  • Ensuring the reception is running smoothly and
  • Any other help the bride may require
  • The maid of honor may be asked to hold the groom's ring, stand in a receiving line and/or toast the couple at the reception.

Generally, the best man and the ushers are responsible for:

  • Assisting with pre-wedding activities
  • Hosting a bachelor's party
  • Helping the groom the day of the wedding
  • Escorting guests to their seats at the ceremony
  • Ensuring the reception is running smoothly and
  • Any other help the groom may require
  • The best man may be asked to hold the bride's ring, serve as a signing witness and toast the bride at the reception.

Best of luck as you begin your lives together. And remember, your maid of honor, bridesmaids, best man and ushers are all there to attend to you prior and during the wedding. Be sure to include them in the preparations so that you can remain calm and truly enjoy all of the preparations and wedding festivities.