Whether you’ve just got engaged or you’re getting closer to your special day, no doubt excitement is in the air! Planning a wedding is a wondrous time and of course, there’s much to do.

One essential task is assigning those all-important wedding roles. We’re talking about the roles your nearest and dearest will undertake, such who will you choose as your maid of honour, the best man, who will be your ring bearer and your ushers (amongst other roles)? You may even wonder if you need all the traditional roles!

Who Does What Role On Your Wedding Day?

For some couples, not every role is necessary, however, it’s worth thinking about each of them (there are quite a few to consider) and whether you want these roles as part of your wedding day.

To help you, this piece will describe all of the usual wedding roles, and what they entail, so you can make an informed decision as to which are right for your special day.

Are All Wedding Roles Essential?

In a nutshell – no! If you want to, you could choose to have a small, intimate wedding without bridesmaids, ushers, a best man or even someone to give you away. An elopement wedding involves less than ten guests – often just the wedding couple, a witness and the officiant. However, many couples like the tradition of involving friends and family in the proceedings. There are no rules, if you prefer not to assign roles, then you shouldn’t feel any pressure to do so, it is your day after all.

Feel Free to Tweak Old Wedding Traditions!

Following on from above, you can also “tweak” certain traditions. For example, you may be a bride with a best friend who’s a man – there’s no reason why he can’t take on the role of man-of-honour. Or you may want your nephew or your best friend’s son of to be your flower boy. There’s no need to feel restricted by old traditions.

Roles at a Wedding and What They Mean

Wedding traditions in the United Kingdom go back hundreds of years, to the Middle Ages and while traditions change over time, many of them still remain today but they are beginning to move on, as more couples choose to adapt wedding roles to suit their union and personalities.

The Bride and Groom’s Wedding Party Roles

Traditionally, a bride will have her maid of honour, bridesmaids (and/or page boys), perhaps a flower girl and a mother and/or father of the bride. The groom will have his best man, ushers and/or groomsmen and a mother and/or father of the groom.

Other Roles at a Wedding

There are other roles too, such as the ring bearer (and this is a good example of how tradition has changed over the years, with many couples opting to have their own dog or another favourite pooch as their ring bearer, often complete with wedding costume too).

Let’s look at each wedding role in detail.

What is the Role of the Best Man at a Wedding?

It is up to the groom to choose his best man, and his (or her – there’s no reason why a groom can’t choose his best female friend or female family member) job is to offer support to the groom for the duration of the wedding – as well as throughout the planning process. For example, often the best man organises the groom’s stag night, he (or she) may also help with co-ordinating the groom and the ushers’ wedding outfits, and the best man will write the best man’s speech (and deliver it on the wedding day too). Often the best man is a trusted friend, a brother or another close family member.

What is the Role of the Ushers at a Wedding?

The groom’s ushers are normally close friends and it’s their job to support the groom and best man. Ushers help to ensure that the big day goes off without a hitch, but actually, the word “ushers” comes from ushering wedding guests into their seats for the ceremony, hence why you’ll often see ushers at the entrance to the ceremonial hall and later on, helping guests to find their places at the wedding breakfast. Often ushers also distribute the order of service and they’re on-hand to help out whenever required throughout the event.

As part of the ushers’ role is to support the best man, they might help with speech planning, organising the stag night and anything else needed during the run up to the big day itself.

What is the Role of Groomsmen at a Wedding?

People often get confused between the role of groomsmen and ushers – and with good reason! In the past groomsmen and ushers were responsible for different wedding-related tasks but today’s weddings normally choose one or the other – as the roles overlap.

If you opt for a very traditional wedding with traditional roles, then the groom should select a couple of groomsmen in addition to ushers (there’s no rule – there could be 3, 4 or more groomsmen). Usually the role is undertaken by very close friends, brother/s or other family members. The groomsmen stand alongside the groom and best man at the altar on the wedding day.

What is the Role of Maid of Honour at a Wedding?

To the bride, the maid of honour is the equivalent of the groom’s best man, and she (or he) plays a very important role in supporting the bride throughout the wedding planning process and for the duration of the wedding proceedings.
Most brides choose their best friend or a close family member to be their maid of honour, perhaps a sister, cousin or other. The maid of honour often helps with choosing or advising on bridesmaid dresses, co-ordinating fittings too, maybe joining the bride while bride’s dress shopping and helping with the emotional side as well (wedding planning can get emotional!).

During the ceremony, the maid of honour is part of the wedding procession, usually the last adult member to walk down the aisle, before the bride. The maid of honour also plays one other very important role – organising the bride’s hen night (with some help from the bridesmaids, if there are any).

While tradition dictates that the maid of honour doesn’t usually deliver a speech, nowadays it isn’t uncommon. Remember, it is your big day so if you want your maid of honour to give a speech, then by all means go ahead!

What is the Role of Bridesmaids at a Wedding?

Bridesmaids play an important role – but some couples choose not to have any and that is perfectly acceptable. The tradition dates back to the middle ages when bridesmaids were seen as essential because of superstition. It was believed that the bridesmaids would confuse evil spirits looking to bring bad luck upon the bride. Of course, today, bridesmaids play a very different role, supporting the bride and maid of honour with wedding and hen party planning and on the wedding day itself.

Some brides allocate specific tasks to bridesmaids, such as looking after certain guests helping the ushers guide guests to their seats or rounding up family members for the photographs.
Bridesmaids can be adults or children. Some wedding couples choose both, and some prefer one or the other. There’s also no rule against having none, just one, two or ten bridesmaids – it’s your choice!

What Role does the Mother of the Bride Play at a Wedding?

The mother of the bride plays a very important role! However, nowadays, some brides may prefer to choose someone else to take on the role of mother of the bride for personal reasons. This role could be assigned to a treasured aunt, a grandmother, a sister or a close family friend.

Mostly, the role is seen as a supportive role and the bride should feel completely comfortable leaning on the mother of the bride for emotional and practical support. The mother of the bride usually joins the bride when wedding dress shopping and helps with planning the celebration. It is also usual for the mother of the bride to choose to wear a show-stopping outfit for the wedding celebration, and sometimes the bride will help with selection!
On the big day itself, the mother of the bride will assist the bride with getting dressed and prepared for the ceremony, check everything is running to plan and stay with the bride until she walks down the aisle to get married. The mother of the bride may well stand alongside the bride too, at the altar.

Some mothers of the bride say a few words at the wedding, to thank friends and family for their presence, or make a toast. This is not absolutely necessary and is up to the bridal couple to decide whether or not they would like the mother of the bride to do so.

Depending on circumstances, sometimes the parents of the bride host the event or part of the event, and whether they do or don’t, both will play a role welcoming and mingling with guests.

What Role does the Father of the Bride Play at a Wedding?

As we’ve mentioned above, the role of father of the bride can be undertaken by any male relative or friend, perhaps a brother, uncle, cousin or other, and many brides choose someone other than their father, for personal reasons. Much like the mother of the bride role, it’s supportive, designed to help the bride with preparations before and on the big day.

A very important role, the father of the bride gives the bride away at the altar. Traditionally, the father of the bride is also the first male to see the bride in her wedding dress before the congregation get to see her. He will also walk her down the aisle to the alter and no doubt, revel in the attention too! Later on, the father of the bride will spend time welcoming and mingling with guests.

Of course – there’s another hugely important task that the father of the bride should undertake, and that’s the welcome speech. This speech is delivered at the wedding breakfast, and the father of the bride will thank everyone for coming, pay tribute to the bride, the mother of the bride and the groom too. Then, when the dancing begins, the father of the bride and the bride traditionally dance together – but of course, you might choose not to do this. Some brides prefer to dance with their mother, others with their friends. Remember, it’s your day, so feel comfortable to do as you please.

What Role does the Mother of the Groom Play at a Wedding?

Rather like the mother of the bride, the mother of the groom plays an important role and will receive plenty of attention from guests. The mother of the groom will also need to mingle, welcoming family and friends.
Traditionally, the groom’s party are the first to arrive at the wedding venue, usually before the bride and her party.

This gives the mother of the groom plenty of time to welcome guests and help the ushers to get people to their seats.
The mother of the groom may well get involved with wedding planning, depending on the couple’s preference and the bride too may want her future mother-in-law’s opinion on wedding dresses, flowers, wedding favours, guest list, décor and anything else (although there is no pressure to do so either).

What Role does the Father of the Groom Play at a Wedding?

Offering emotional and practical support to the groom, the father of the groom is just as important as the other parents’ involvement. It’s his job to also help with welcoming guests and to mingle during the reception/wedding breakfast/party. Some fathers of the groom make a wedding speech or a wedding toast, depending on what you want as a couple.

What Role Does the Ring Bearer Play at a Wedding?

As it sounds, the ring bearer is responsible for looking after and presenting the wedding rings just before the vows. As a couple, you can choose whoever you want to be your ring bearer – a bridesmaid, usher, groomsmen, family member, trusted friend or even your pet! Recently, it’s become very fashionable for a couple’s dog to be their ring bearer (if you have a dog), and some couples even dress their furry friend up, tying a pretty box around their neck with the rings inside. If you do decide to have your pet as your ring bearer, make sure that they’re well-behaved!

What Role Does the Flower Girl Play at a Wedding?

Traditionally, the flower girl is the youngest member of the wedding party and could be the couple’s daughter, a younger sibling, a family member or a friend’s child. There’s no rule as to how many flower girls you have at your wedding either – or you could even have a flower boy if you want to.

The flower girl usually walks down the aisle before the bridesmaids, holding a basket full of rose petals that they scatter along the way.

What Role Do the Page Boys Play at a Wedding?

Finally, there’s the role of the page boys. Normally, page boys are young boys, either family members, or the couple’s child/children, a good friends child/children or other. You could have one page boy, or a few page boys (or no page boys). The page boys walk along the aisle with the bridesmaids or flower girl. They may help the flower girl scatter rose petals, or one might act as ring bearer – it is completely up to you to decide what role your page boy/s play.

Final Words on Who Does What Role at a Wedding

Choosing the types of roles you want at your wedding is entirely personal and up to you as a couple. You both may prefer traditional roles or to do something different! The beauty of weddings today is that the roles can be whatever you want them to be, right down to choosing a pet as your ring bearer, or even having a beloved grandmother as the bride’s maid of honour.

Take time to decide who you want to play a role in your wedding, every role is special and so those carrying out the roles should be special to you too. No doubt, whoever you choose will be thrilled at the prospect.