not what they were. That doesn’t mean that they are better or worse (whatever
that means) than traditional ones. It just means that there is more flexibility,
and it is therefore more difficult for me to be categorical.
One couple may have ideas who they want to participate in their event; another couple will have completely different opinions.
being prescriptive, therefore, let me make a stab at defining the roles that
some people might play.
Bride and Groom
This is rather
will probably have a chance to welcome people as they arrive, so should not
neglect this duty – despite probably suffering with “butterflies”. He may well have
a few words to utter during the ceremony, but a lot more afterwards, if there
is a reception with speeches.
should thank both sets of relations and thank anybody who financed the wedding.
However, he should mostly be complimentary about his new wife!
will be the star of the show, of course, and her main task is to be
during canapes (if offered) or during the meal, both bride and groom should
make an attempt to see everybody and thank them personally for attending.
As well as the groom, the bride may (or may not) have a speech to deliver.
well be expected to have at least the first dance together.
parents may well be footing the bill for (or at least be contributing to) the
It is customary for the bride’s father to welcome the guests briefly at the start of the reception and express what (we hope!) is his delight at the proceedings.
that there are “best women” too these days, but, for the sake of simplicity, I
will refer here only to the male variety.
The Best Man
may have been involved with the preparations for some time, but, on the day, he
will be the person who liaises between the couple and the suppliers. He should
help keep the groom calm. He may have to do a favour for the groom (fetch some
water, check there’s a microphone functioning, inform the musicians that it’s
time for the entry music, or whatever).
The Best Man
may also serve as a toastmaster (“please go outside for the photographs now”
public role is probably to deliver his speech at the reception. This can be
about 10 minutes long, and, although it will presumably focus on the groom,
should not be exclusive. (Half the guests may well not know the groom.)
should be humorous (but not crude or controversial) and, while poking some fun
at the groom, should not be cruel.
Flower-girls, bridesmaids, ushers (or groomsmen) and so on may well be included. The first two are primarily part of the procession (in and, sometimes, out), and, to quite an extent are there to look pretty and enhance the bride’s appearance. They may help with the bride’s train. Ideally, they also need to be able to walk very slowly!
may be quite active (collecting gifts, for example, or doing errands and tasks
on the day). They may direct guests to their places and be on hand to answer
Or they might
get away with an ornamental role!
How much or how little the roles matter nowadays is down to how traditional the wedding will be. It’s certainly good to honour friends and/or relatives by including them in your ceremony. Just make sure they know what is expected of them!
You can always have a chat with your celebrant, if you’re not sure how to go about things.
Let’s face it: who should have the final say about everything when planning a wedding? Is it the bride’s family, who may be bankrolling the affair? Or the professional (if you’re employing one), ie the wedding planner?
It pays to listen to advice – but it must be the bride who takes the ultimate decisions.
If that’s you, this is what you will need to consider.
You must list what needs to be done – and by what time. You can buy a wedding book, or create one with a ring binder, say. Ensure you record names and contact details of suppliers.
You could do worse than download (forgive the plug!) my free “Wedding Countdown Checklist” (click here), and you’ll be well on the way.
You need to get on with this early in the process. Choose your maid (or matron) of honour; her main job will be to organise the bridesmaids and support you both emotionally and practically.
As for the bridesmaids themselves, you want people you can count on, so choose carefully.
Don’t forget you’ll later want to show your gratitude to them. It could be a gift presented at the reception or a lunch before the wedding.
Dress and Accessories
It’s also worth starting this process early (you ought to have placed your orders six or more months before the wedding). Your dress is the first priority. Then look for (if appropriate) veil, gloves, shoes, handbag, jewellery and undergarments. You may want to involve your maid of honour or a parent here.
You’ll need to decide on a hair and make-up stylist early. A good idea is to book a trial run a couple of months in advance of the wedding, as well as the ‘real thing’ on the day.
Other suppliers may book up quickly, so do your homework and act on your findings in good time.
You may want to have your engagement ring cleaned and even book a manicure.
Although, as I suggest, the final decisions will be down to you, there is no need to do everything yourself! Nor is there any sense in it, as burn-out would then be a real possibility.
So why not delegate (gently!)?
Your parents or in-laws may well appreciate being invited to participate. Drawing up the guest list is an obvious communal job. They might want to publish news of your engagement or your wedding in the newspaper. Maybe they can book a band for your reception.
Your bridesmaids may well enjoy being consulted about their dresses.
The groom can prove himself useful. (No, really!) Traditionally, he may take on buying the wedding rings, choosing the ushers and the best man (and their attire) and buying gifts for them. He may organise the registrars, the transport on the day, arrange to pay the celebrant and plan the honeymoon. So he needn’t get off that lightly!
In addition, at the start, you will surely visit the venue together. You may want to set the budget, discuss your ceremony, agree/write your vows, share thoughts on whom to invite and which gifts to put on the wedding list.
Your beloved may have contacts and might be able to help organise the catering, florist, photographer etc.
To sum up
The bottom line is: accept help and advice gracefully ; don’t try and do it all yourself; plan meticulously; be the final arbiter; and relish the whole process!
A wedding nowadays can cost £20,000 or even more. And that doesn’t take into account expenses for bridesmaids and guests. It’s quite an industry, and I, as a civil celebrant, clearly contribute towards this cost – although only in a very small way, I hasten to add!
Bridesmaids can spend as much as £1,000, if you factor in their dress, travel, accessories, and wedding present.
Attending a wedding as a guest, especially if that involves a hotel stay (and possibly, travel, professional child care, costume, wedding gift and stag/hen nights) can cost several hundred pounds. (And I’m not even talking about destination weddings.)
It’s therefore not so surprising that a number of people have to make personal sacrifices or even decline a wedding invitation for financial reasons.
If you are planning your wedding, there are some things you can easily do to make to save your guests money.
1. Keep engagement party/hen/stag nights modest in scale.
2. Assuming you use a department store for your gift list (or registry), it doesn’t have to be the priciest – or, if you’re absoultely set on a high-end list, do include some items that don’t cost too much. I’m talking about £30-£80. You could even register at Harrods as well as at John Lewis, say, to give guests a bit of choice.
3. If it’s feasible, offer the possibility to buy individual items, rather than a set.
4. You can give guests the option of a charitable donation, if you don’t really need gifts. Then people needn’t feel embarrassment, if they’re a bit constrained.
5. You may be able to use discount stores for your bridesmaids’ dresses. Or they can hire which should work out cheaper than buying new. If the colour scheme fits, they may even be able to use dresses they currently own.
6. Your ushers should be allowed to wear suits they already have, if they so wish.
7. Choose a venue that is accessible and within reach for most people. If it’s near public transport links, so much the better.
8. Don’t have a cash bar on the day (or not until you have provided a reasonable amount of drink first)!
None of these tips are particularly arduous, and following them may make a real difference to those you really want to attend your big day – and so ultimately to you yourselves.
It’s quite well-known that a huge percentage of people consider the prospect of dying preferable to public speaking.
In fact, most people involved in a wedding are likely to be afflicted by some sort of attack of wedding day nerves. A bit of adrenalin is good, but more extreme effects can include near-paralysis, mood-swings, depression and plain despair.
That’s not what anybody wants on a wedding day.
Why the nerves?
Nerves can surface because you fear your role or because you believe everything will go wrong.
One way to reassure yourself is to choose reliable suppliers, do everything as far in advance as is reasonably possible and re-confirm in reasonably good time. If you’ve planned sensibly, there should be no need for pessimism.
As for roles, every ceremony will be different, so there can be no one-size-fits-all approach, but I offer the following nuggets.
- Whatever your job is – whether or not it needs a list – you must have ensured well in advance that you understand what is expectated of you. If your tasks involve planning, do check in good time that everything is as ready as possible.
- Arrive in good time on the day – allowing for traffic delays and the like.
- Try and be as relaxed as possible. If things go wrong – and small things often will – they can often be remedied thanks to no more than a cool head and goodwill. Most people will be understanding, helpful, supportive and good-humoured at a wedding. They have come to participate in a great day, and will want it to succeed as much as you do.
- If you are getting stressed, though, stop and take half a dozen deep breaths and get back in control.
- Alcohol is not a great idea (well, not until you have completed your particular role).
The bride’s father may have a speech to make, but, as I have advised elsewhere (http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sG), this should be short and simple. It can be read from a card, if necessary (although preferably not verbatim). Nobody has demanding expectations of him, so he only really needs to smile and speak slowly and clearly
Otherwise, parents’ participation in the ceremony may include walking the bride up the aisle, perhaps, but there will be nothing unexpected or trying. Moreover, the celebrant will be in charge then, and can guide you, if needed.
The money’s been spent – there’s nothing more you can do. Don’t criticise or fault-find. Relax and enjoy the special day!
This role differs enormously from ceremony to ceremony. It usually involves holding and handing over the wedding ring, when requested. A good tip is to put the ring on your little finger until needed – but don’t put it over your knuckle! Your role may entail guiding the groom at every stage; it may even involve being a kind of master-of-ceremonies and photo-shoot organiser.
It will surely involve giving a speech. May I refer you to a previous blog, which covers this at length: http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sR.
Ushers, bridesmaids etc.
In most cases, you have been given an honorary position, so you have a limited (but important) role. The bridesmaids are there to support the bride and – to be honest – to look pretty. The ushers will need to help get people in to (and possibly out of) the ceremony venue. There may be other jobs later, but there is no need to be nervous. Smart, punctual and charming are the watchwords here. Enjoy.
The groom’s job is to remember the ring, be early and welcome people as they arrive (which should be enjoyable, as almost everybody will greet you with a big smile – and being nervous isn’t going to help you socialise!).
You don’t have to do much at the ceremony – the celebrant will prompt you. You will have to put the ring on the bride’s finger and you may need to recite the vows. (You can learn them off by heart, but much less stressful would be to use notes or read them from a 3 x 5 card – or even repeat them after the celebrant.)
The ceremony will whizz past and then it’s normally a question of signing the register (not too arduous!), the photos and eventually cutting the cake.
The only thing I have not yet mentioned is your speech. Again, I have written about this before in detail elsewhere, so please do have a look: http://wp.me/p5qOOT-sG.
Ordinarily, the bride shows up (not late, please!) a few minutes before ‘kick-off’. Her job is to be admired, – a beautiful dress and a lovely smile will go far. Sure, she will be the centre of attention, but she will be on a cloud of goodwill, so she needn’t be apprehensive.
Just remember that everybody is rooting for you all, and thousands of people have done what you are doing and survived. Some have even enjoyed themselves!
A Church wedding
Being faced with your wedding, especially if it’s a big event, can be pretty unnerving. Fun, exciting and wonderful – but unnerving. There are so many questions to be answered. I’d like to offer a guide to your wedding.
What happens at the Church?
Assuming you have chosen a Church wedding, you will need ushers (who should be the first to arrive, naturally). They should guide the bride’s family and friends to the left side of the altar and the groom’s to the right.
The groom and best man should arrive at least 15 minutes before the ceremony so the photographer can take a few shots before they enter the church (they will occupy the front right-hand pew).
Bridesmaids arrive about 10 minutes before the ceremony. Together with the bride’s mother (normally), they wait at the church door for the bride to arrive. (Another moment for the photographer?)
The bride, along with her father-to-be, will be greeted on arrival by the officiant. The photographer will certainly want to be in attendance here too!
Who goes where?
The bride’s father, family, and any relations and friends will have the officiant ahead of them on their right; obviously, the officiant will be ahead, but to the left, of the best man, groom’s family and selected relations and friends. The bride and groom, chief bridesmaid and bridesmaids will be central, facing the officiant in front of the altar.
The bride and groom followed by bridesmaids (and/or pageboys) will lead out at the end of the ceremony. Behind them, on the left, will be the chief bridesmaid, bride’s mother and groom’s mother; on the right, the best man, groom’s father and bride’s father.
The above follows the traditional order. Of course, a celebrant-led wedding will offer more flexibility and choice .
Next time, I’ll advise on the reception.
Michael is a celebrant based in London.