The Wedding Series – Assembling The Wedding Party

LILLIAN So you’ll be my Maid of Honor…
ANNIE Oh god, of course I will.
LILLIAN We’ll have so much fun. We can plan everything together.
ANNIE …planning a wedding.
LILLIAN Are you sure you’re up for it? I know it’s a lot to ask and put on your plate. You’re going through a tricky time, it’s a lot to ask…
ANNIE Stop. It’s fine and I’m more than happy to do it. It’s not too much.
~ From the script of Bridesmaids (2011)
 Starring Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph

The question and the champagne have been popped. The engagement ring is on the finger. The announcement has been made, the date set and the venue selected. You’ve now reached another milestone in your wedding planning. It’s time to assemble the wedding party.

One of the highest compliments that can be paid to someone is to ask her or him to be part of your wedding party, and the very highest honor is to ask someone to be your maid/matron of honor or best man. The instinct is to ask the person who is the very closest to you emotionally, other than your betrothed. Often that person is your closest sibling or best friend.  It’s a very big deal for you and your betrothed to decide upon whom you will bestow these honors.

Aside from selecting your honor attendants (maid/matron of honor and best man), the size and formality of your wedding will help you to determine the number of additional attendants — i.e., bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers — that you choose to assemble.

Of course, this wonderful milestone frequently comes with complications. Although there are different issues to consider in selecting the bride’s versus the groom’s attendants, for both bride and groom it is advisable to:

  • First, set the date. Who you’ll ask and who will accept might well depend on the timing of your wedding. And, the date usually can’t be set until the venue is nailed down. So, first things first.
  • Decide on your own preferred configuration: The bride and groom may decide to have more than one honor attendant each, opposite sex attendants, honor attendants only, an unequal number of bridesmaids and groomsmen, two flower girls or two ring bearers, or no attendants at all. You get the picture.
  • Don’t include everyone. It’s not necessary to include all your siblings, long-time friends, future in-law relatives, your next-door neighbor, the coworker you’ve worked with for years, the offspring of your boss or biggest client and everyone in whose wedding you were an attendant. Draw the line or your attendants might outnumber your guests.
  • Don’t leave out someone important. While you are not obligated to ask anyone to be your attendant, you might consider asking the sibling or siblings of your betrothed. In doing so, you will have taken an important step to solidify new family relationships.
  • Honor Attendants to both bride and groom are expected to be their right arms, confidants and advisors and to ensure that everything runs smoothly during the planning stage, pre-wedding events and especially at the wedding ceremony and celebration itself. And they traditionally serve as official witnesses to the signing of the marriage certificates.

Assembling your wedding party is akin to assembling a project team. Each member of the team must have the right qualities — attitude, enthusiasm, interest, ability to work with others, loyalty, etc. Therefore, following are some additional points to consider:

The Bride’s Attendants

The maid/matron of honor has a number of responsibilities and is the bridesmaids’ and guests’ go-to person. While you might automatically plan to ask your sister or bestie to be your honor attendant, keep in mind that you will depend on her for practical as well as emotional support. Whoever you ask should be up to the task, organized, interested, outgoing and dependable. If you decide to have two honor attendants, choose those whose personalities blend and can work well together. Balance their tasks and avoid showing favoritism.

Your honor attendant should be someone to whom you are close rather than someone you’ve just met or recently begun to know. For example, ask your fiancé’s favorite cousin to be a bridesmaid instead of your maid of honor. Otherwise, your bridesmaids generally should be friends who will be enthusiastic about being included. Bridesmaids may be involved in organizing certain events and activities as well as attending them, and you want them to be interested and able to participate fully.

The Groom’s Attendants

The groom’s attendants usually consist of the best man and groomsmen. Like the bride’s honor attendant, the best man has several responsibilities, including delivering the wedding rings to the ceremony, overseeing the seating at the ceremony, coordinating the bachelor party and other important tasks. And like the maid of honor, he is the go-to person for the groomsmen and guests and he is the groom’s representative at the wedding ceremony and reception. It is important, then, that the groom select someone who he can trust and with whom he feels comfortable.

Junior Bridesmaids and Groomsmen, Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

Youngsters of any age can add a charming and heartwarming touch to a wedding, and there may be some special children and teens in your life who you would like to include in your wedding party. Broadly speaking, junior attendants are nine to 15 years old and flower girls and ring bearers (usually boys) range in age from three or four to eight years old. However, much depends on the maturity and personality of the children in question.

Children and adolescents generally do better at morning and afternoon weddings; evening weddings might be a bit too late for them unless they have been able to sleep late or had their proper naps during the day. An adult — either a parent or other responsible party — must be assigned to supervise younger attendants, flower girls and ring bearers, ensuring that the children understand what they are supposed to do, handling any mishaps and supervising them at the reception. For all weddings that include children in the wedding party, but especially at evening weddings, a separate room should be reserved where children can dine separately, be entertained and lie down if necessary. That means child size tables, chairs and cots should be acquired (purchased, rented or borrowed).

Other members of the wedding party should not be expected to supervise younger members, as they have their own responsibilities, and that applies especially to the honor attendants. Exceptions could be that a bridesmaid and/or groomsman oversee the flower girl(s) and ring bearer(s) during the ceremony, but another adult take over from there on, beginning with the recessional.

The Celebrant or Officiant

Selecting a celebrant or an officiant can vary among the clergy of your particular religious affiliation or a civil servant. In the U.S. laws vary from state to state, and may include various clergy, justices of the peace, judges (current or retired), commissioned officers of the Salvation Army, notary publics, mayors, governors, magistrates, court clerks or deputy clerks, etc. In states such as Alaska or California even a friend or relative can marry you with the proper authorization and documentation.

One popular, although romantic, misconception is that a ship’s captain can marry couples. This myth probably arose from bygone days in which sea voyages took weeks and months and the ship’s captain was the ultimate authority in all matters. And, of course, Hollywood and television helped to popularize that notion. But, due to the demand for shipboard weddings, one cruise line that offers them is Princess Cruises, the line that made the TV show, “Love Boat,” famous.

The Parents

Parents certainly have their place in the wedding ceremony and reception, and are expected to participate in the wedding rehearsal. Traditionally, the father of the bride escorts his daughter down the aisle and in that sense is an official member of the Wedding Party. Personally, I love the Jewish tradition of the groom’s parents walking down the aisle with their son as he takes his place at the altar, and the bride being escorted by both her parents. That way, all parents have a prominent role in the ceremony. Moreover, in many formal wedding programs the parents of both the bride and the groom are listed under “Wedding Party.” In any case, the parents have a high place of honor as well as important roles in the proceedings. In the case of divorced parents, there are protocols that will be addressed in a future entry.

The Pregnant Attendant 

If her due date is too close to your wedding date, you might be turned down by someone you’ve asked to be matron of honor or bridesmaid who happens to be expecting. If she accepts, however, you need to consider her particular attire and shoe style so that she looks and feels her best and coordinates with the other attendants. Other considerations include the amount of travel or running around she might have to do during the planning stage as well as ensuring that she need not stand or sit too long at a time nor wait too long to eat at pre-wedding events as well as at the wedding reception. If you — and she — can be assured that her health, safety and comfort will not be compromised — there is no reason that someone who is expecting should not be part of the wedding party.

Dogs and Cats and Birds (as Wedding Attendants) Oh, My!

If you have a beloved pet you might be tempted to include it in your wedding ceremony. Well, who wouldn’t want his or her best furry or feathery or scaly friend as ring bearer or even honor attendant at one of the most important occasions in life? But, there are considerations. You must ensure that your pet is well behaved and up to the task and consider whether your guests and officiant will be comfortable with your pet included in the mix. Some people are allergic or fearful of certain animals. Once you’ve cleared those hurdles, figure out how your pet can be included, what kind of adornment — if any — it will wear and who will be in charge of handling it before, during and following the ceremony. The pet handler/wrangler should be someone dedicated to the job other than a regular member of the wedding party. The exception would be if your wedding party is large enough to spare a member who is a skilled or professional dog/cat/bird/reptile handler.

Details, Complications and Variations

There are many details to address when assembling your wedding party. Complications can arise, and you may want variations that will suit you and your betrothed’s tastes and desires. These will be discussed in future entries. Stay tuned!

Until next time,




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