Wedding Roles

Traditionally, this website would be aimed at assisting the supposed Three Wise Men at a wedding – the Groom, the Best Man and the Father-of-the-Bride. But sometimes the Mother-of-the-Bride will take that role. Sometimes the bride will say a few words. And sometimes the Maid-of Honour will step up to the microphone. There are no longer hard-and-fast rules, just guidelines and imagination.

These days the running order of speeches and the structure of the reception can also be flexible but traditionally, the Father-of-the-Bride (or close family member) makes the first speech, welcoming everyone and proposing a toast to the Bride and Groom. The Groom then responds ending with a toast to the bridesmaids. The Best Man then responds on behalf of the bridesmaids and gives an entertaining speech, which may also end in a toast.

A few general things to keep in mind:

  • The wedding and reception will not be as emotional for the Groom as for the Bride but it is okay for the bloke to fake it.
  • It will not be as sentimental or important for the Best Man as the Bridesmaid (but once again, it is okay to fake it).
  • It can be as emotional for the Father-of-the-Bride as the Mother-of-the-Bride but it is NOT okay to show it.
  • The Groom’s conduct and character will be judged on the day but the Best Man will not be judged – he is an extension of the Groom’s character unless he gets drunk before the speech and makes a total botch of things and then the Groom gets a sympathy vote for having such a goose as an acquaintance.
  • The Father-of-the-Bride won’t be judged on the day either as he, traditionally, is paying for at least some of the bash, so guests will appear understanding if he slurs, stammers, falls over, passes out or bursts into tears.
  • Best to focus only on your own duties. Blokes are not great at multi-tasking and if someone else stuffs up their bit, it can only make you look better.
  • And finally, most people don’t enjoy making speeches but the better prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel. The BEST MAN will usually be more nervous than anyone else on the day – he is expected to be entertaining and witty, and half the room won’t know who the hell he is. The GROOM should be much more relaxed because he is relieved the ceremony is over, can speak from the heart and knows the honeymoon is just a bouquet’s toss away. He also has people to thank so half the speech is already pretty much written. The FATHER-OF-THE-BRIDE will probably fall somewhere in-between with nerves – he’s had a few more years of public speaking experience but he will want to do the right thing by his daughter, his son-in-law, his wife, the new in-laws and the guests attending. This is a very important role for someone who is not the centre of attention, even though he’s paying for it.
  • If you are the GROOM, some people you may wish to thank – all guests for making the special day even more so (especially if they have travelled a distance)… the in-laws for their beautiful daughter and for making you welcome in their family… your parents, for what they have given you and for making your wife welcome… anyone who has contributed to the wedding – NOT paid people like caterers or photographer etc but friends or rellies who may have helped with the decorations, cake etc – and the wedding party – the Maid of Honour/Bridesmaids, Flower Girl, Best Man/Groomsmen etc. Then say some lovely words about your lovely life-partner and close with a toast to the bridesmaids or just by wishing everyone a fabulous evening.

Back to those supposed Three Wise Men… Here are the traditional roles for the Best Man, Groom and Father-of-the-Bride at a wedding:

The Best Man

  • Organises the Usher (further notes below on how to shine here)
  • Organises buck’s night (not the night before the wedding please!)
  • Keeps groom on schedule, gets him to the ceremony, checks his dress
  • Looks after the Marriage Certificate
  • Pays the clergyman/celebrant, musicians, photographer etc
  • If no ring bearer, holds the bride’s ring (important!)
  • Witnesses the signing of the Marriage Certificate
  • Drives newlyweds to reception if no hired driver
  • Offers a toast at the reception following his brilliantly witty speech
  • Dances with the Maid of Honour/bridesmaid (dances only!)
  • Looks after the couple’s transportation following the reception
  • Returns any hired items on the groom’s side

The Groom

  • Just has to be on time, not look shabby, go with the flow. It’s up to the Best Man to earn his title – and you get the easy speech.

The Bride’s Father

  • Helps prepare guest list
  • Selects clothing that complements the groom’s
  • Rides with the bride to the ceremony
  • After giving the bride away, sits in the front left pew on the right of the bride’s mother (if divorced, takes a seat in second or third row – unless he’s paying for it, then he can sit where he likes!)
  • When the question “Who gives this bride away?” is asked, he responds on behalf of both her parents
  • Keep bride on schedule (probably the most difficult task)
  • Carries a clean hanky to hand to the Mother-of-the-Bride if required
  • Dances with the bride after the first dance
  • Acts as host at the reception
  • Gets drunk, has a man-to-man with the new son-in-law, breaks into singing Danny Boy (that’s not mandatory, that’s just a personal memory)

The Usher

The following duties are for the Best Man to give to the Usher:

  • Distributes wedding programs and maps to the reception if applicable
  • Seats guests at the ceremony. The traditional way of doing this is:
    • For females, offer the right arm
    • For males, walk on his left side
    • For couples, offer the right arm to the female and let the male follow
    • Seat bride’s guests in left pews and groom’s guests in right pews
    • With a large group, seat the eldest woman first
    • Just prior to the procession, escort the groom’s mother to her seat and then the bride’s mother to hers (just keep in mind that the bride is more important!)
  • The usher also dances with the bridesmaids and other important guests at the reception

Who Pays For What?

Traditionally the breakdown of who pays for the various costs associated with the wedding has been:

The Bride’s Family

  • Reception and ceremony costs, including the flowers, food and drink, music/entertainment, and decorations
  • Reception hire and church hire fees
  • The bride’s wedding gown, shoes, wedding jewellery and accessories
  • Corsages and bouquets for the bride’s attendants
  • The invitations and announcements, the wedding programs on the day, and associated postage and printing costs
  • Transport of the bridal party to and from the ceremony and the reception
  • The photographer

The Groom’s Family

  • The rehearsal dinner including invitations, food and drink, decorations and music/entertainment
  • Some or all of the cost of the cost of the honeymoon
  • The groom’s wedding attire

The Bride

  • A wedding gift for the groom and his wedding ring
  • Her own hair, makeup and beauty treatments, and (optionally) those of her bridesmaids
  • Gifts for her bridesmaids and attendants
  • Accommodation for out-of-town bridesmaids

The Groom

  • The marriage license and any costs for the minister or celebrant
  • The engagement ring and wedding ring for the bride, and her wedding gift
  • The flowers – a bouquet for the bride, corsages for the mothers and grandmothers, and buttonholes for his groomsmen and both fathers
  • Some or all of the cost of the cost of the honeymoon
  • Gifts for his groomsmen and attendants, and for the usher
  • Accommodation for out-of-town groomsmen

More Modern Arrangements

In recent years it’s become common for more flexibility to be brought into the whole thing about who foots the bill:

  • The bride and groom do all of the planning for the ceremony and the reception themselves and prepare a budget. The parents will then be given the opportunity to pay for the elements of their choice – say the total cost of the ceremony, or just the food and drink at the reception – or to contribute a set amount to the total cost.
  • The total cost is split more or less equally three ways between the the bride’s family, the groom’s family, and the bride and groom themselves.
  • The total cost is split between the the bride’s family, the groom’s family, and the bride and groom themselves based on the proportion of guests invited by each – the number of guests coming from each side of the family, and the number who are friends of the couple.
  • In circumstances where the bride and groom are older and financially secure, and/or the parents don’t have the financial resources, the bride and groom may choose to pay for everything themselves.