Who does What at a Wedding?

Who does What at a Wedding?

Weddings are 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.

Without being prescriptive, therefore, let me make a stab at defining the roles that some people might play.

Bride and Groom

This is rather more obvious!

The groom 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.

The speech should thank both sets of relations and thank anybody who financed the wedding. However, he should mostly be complimentary about his new wife!

The bride will be the star of the show, of course, and her main task is to be resplendent.

Either 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.

Both may well be expected to have at least the first dance together.

Bride’s Father

The bride’s parents may well be footing the bill for (or at least be contributing to) the proceedings.

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.

Best Man

I realise 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” etc.).

His main 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.)

The speech should be humorous (but not crude or controversial) and, while poking some fun at the groom, should not be cruel.

Other roles

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!

The ushers 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 questions.  

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.

Planning a Wedding

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!

Overcoming wedding day nerves

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.

General remarks

  • 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!

Best Man

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!