Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl, and a handsome boy, they got married and everyone lived happily ever after. In those days weddings were simple and everyone knew their duties and traditions. For instance, did you know that it used to be tradition for guests to bring bread and cake to a wedding and put these gifts in a pile in front of the married couple. If they couldn’t reach over the pile of baked goods to kiss, they were sure of a long and happy marriage. And that’s why we have a tiered cake today.

With an event like a wedding, there are sure to be many traditions and practices that should be observed. however, many of them seem archaic in the twenty first century and, as a result, the duties that each member of the families of the betrothed should carry out seem to have been forgotten or confused. As modern themed weddings come more to the fore, these traditional duties seem all the more obscure, nevertheless, if you’re after a traditional wedding, or you simply want to keep some traditional elements in your wedding ceremony, we’ve put together a complete list of the duties that each person is expected to carry out. From the parents of the bride and groom to the flower girl and ring bearer, each has their own part to play and this list will help identify who does what and when.

Wedding Couple Jointly:

Decide on a date. This should be far enough away for all invitees and vendors to make their preparations for the wedding, but not so far in the future that it becomes meaningless.

Decide on the theme, style and size of the wedding and set a realistic budget. Smaller weddings are becoming popular again as they are not only cheaper, but more intimate, allowing you to spend more time with each guest. When setting your budget, only plan on spending money that you actually have saved. Keep credit cards for dire emergencies rather than planning on maxing out your credit limit from the beginning.

Book a church, temple, registry office or other venue. Attend meetings with the officials who will be performing the ceremony to talk about what you want from them and what they will need you to do if you’re having a religious ceremony. If you’re writing your own vows, now is the time to put pen to paper. You might want to write them together so that they compliment one another or separately so you can really concentrate on your own feelings toward your other half.

Greet your guests as they arrive at the reception. The simplest, and most traditional way of greeting your guests is to form a receiving line. As your guests pass down the line you can spend a moment saying thank you to everyone individually, not missing anyone out or spending too long talking to anyone. The parents of the bride head the line, as traditionally they are the hosts, followed by the groom’s parents, then the happy couple. Guests file past and then the ushers lead them to their tables.

Once you get back from honeymoon you will need to finally take care of the thank-you letters. Ensure that each note thanks your guest personally for attending and the gift that they were generous enough to give you.

Wedding Dress
Wedding Dress
Wedding Dress

The Duties of the Bride

Once you’ve got the date in mind you should decide on the dress, the colours and theme of the wedding, the hair and makeup that you and your bridesmaids are going to wear. In the UK, if you’re calling all the shots, deciding the exact dresses and shoes that your attendants will wear, then you should pay for them. If you merely want them to wear a particular colour then you’ll be expected to make a contribution, but not buy the entire outfit.

Liaise with your wedding planner, caterer, band or DJ, florist, the photographer, videographer and baker to ensure that you are getting exactly what you want and that they know the precise schedule.

Men wearing a wedding ring is a relatively modern tradition, but if you choose to observe it, this is the point when you buy both rings.

Buy thank you gifts for the bridesmaids and matron/maid of honour. These don’t need to be hugely expensive, but they should be something that is a keepsake of your wedding day that they can treasure.

Complete the necessary paperwork to change your name with the registrar, credit cards and bank accounts, tax authorities and drivers licence, passport…

Duties of the Groom

Decide on who you want to be your best man and any groomsmen and ushers you are going to have. A best man should be someone who knows you very well and who you can trust implicitly. Sometimes, when there is a little friction between the groom and the bride’s family, it is a good idea to invite the bride’s brother to be best man. Such a gesture will be seen as a massive gesture toward overcoming differences.

Choose and pay for the outfits for yourself, your best man and other attendants. Most men will already own a suit that it fit for a wedding but if you’re going to have a traditional morning suit affair, or you want your attendants to wear a particular colour or style then you should pay for the rental or contribute toward the cost of new suits.

Now’s the time to choose a wedding ring. The tradition is that the wedding ring is a simple gold band, the precious metal represents the pricelessness of your relationship and the circle represents something never-ending. Today however, there are many different metals and profiles to choose from so shopping isn’t that simple anymore! Since it’s not going to be a surprise like the engagement ring was, it’s good idea to shop for the rings together to ensure you love the rings and that they are a perfect fit.

Send out invites to the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. No matter how confident you are about the ceremony, it’s still a good idea to have a rehearsal as it gives everyone a chance to familiarise themselves with what you want them to do.

If you have out of town guests coming in, it’s this point that you should be booking their accommodation. If they are flying in from overseas and making a holiday of it, you are only expected to pay for one night, two at the most, and then only if they are immediate family or taking part in the ceremony.

At this point you should be buying thank you gifts for your best man, groomsmen, ushers and so forth. As with the bridesmaids, these don’t need to be expensive, but something that will remind them of the day. You should also buy a gift for the bride. This can be absolutely anything but it should represent the union between you, this can range from a pair of diamond earrings representing you as a couple to a new house where you will start a new life together.

Paperwork! You need to complete all the paperwork that’s associated with getting married, such as registering your marriage with the registrar, local and tax authorities, mortgage provider, doctor and solicitor, department of work and pensions…

Next, you plan and pay for the honeymoon. Traditionally, this little break was entirely up to the groom, but these days it’s considered right to decide together where to go and for how long.

Families of the Bridal Couple

Parents of the Bride’s Duties

When your daughter announces that she’s going to be married, your first duty (besides being overjoyed!) is to arrange the engagement party. Naturally you will be inviting the family of the groom, you should also find out who, and invite the best man, matron/maid of honour and bridesmaids. It’s a party, so your daughter and soon to be son in law will want to invite as many people as possible but remember, everyone who is invited to the engagement party should also be invited to the wedding.

The bride will be too busy, so it’s down to you to put together a list of all your relatives that you think should be invited to the wedding. Your parents, siblings and other children are a given, more extended family are optional.

After the ceremony, you will be considered the hosts of the reception and therefore you will take your place at the head of the reception line where you will greet all of the guests, and make them feel welcome.

Duties of the Father of the Bride

Most of the duties that the father of the bride has to carry out are essentially financial and supportive. Traditionally the father of the bride pays for the wedding, although today, as weddings get much more expensive the bride’s father’s contribution is either only token, or an emergency fund.

If you’re buying a new suit, or hiring one for the occasion, then it is up to you to find and pay for your own. After that your role is fairly well done until the day itself.

On the day you will pick up your daughter from home in the bridal carriage. That might be an actual carriage, limousine, or rented luxury car. When you arrive at the wedding venue you’ll help her out of the car and escort her down the aisle, then take your seat on the first pew.

After the ceremony is over it’s your job to greet guests, be friendly, make a toast, dance with the bride, pay the caterer, the band and any parking attendants their fees and tips.

Once you’ve taken care of that as host you will be expected to thank each guest for coming, meaning that you will be the last to leave. (as host, it is worth finding out for certain who is responsible for cleaning up after the reception. Some will include tidying in their charges, some will bill you an additional fee if the venue isn’t left in a suitable condition.

Mother of the Bride’s Duties

Most of the duties of the mother of the bride are mainly to be supportive. You’ve always been her rock up to now, and although she’s moving her relationship with her man to the next level, she still needs you.

She’ll need your help and advice looking for a venue for the wedding and reception. I’ve no doubt she’ll want a romantic castle bedecked in silks and it’s your level head that’s going to ensure that she does get a beautiful wedding, just one that’s within the realms of reason!

Help choose the dress. You know her better than anybody and she knows she can trust you with a fair and honest opinion about the dress she should be wearing.

You should let the mother of the groom know what you are intending to wear so that you can coordinate. You don’t want to be wearing the same outfit, nor do you want to clash.

On the day, you’ll be charged with carrying the guest book to the ceremony and then on to the reception. After the party is over, it’s now your job to make sure that the guest book and all the wedding gifts make it back to your house safely to be kept until your daughter and son in law return from their honeymoon.

Duties of the Parents of the Groom

While the parents of the bride are expected to pay, or at least contribute to the wedding, it’s considered form for the parents of the groom to organise the rehearsals and subsequent dinner. The rehearsal ensures that everybody knows what their duties are and the dinner gives everyone a chance to congratulate the couple while also conferring with one another their own plans for the day.

As the groom is going to be busy planning his own guest list, it’s up to the parents of the groom to put together the guest list of family members. This will include your parents, siblings and other children. More extended family is welcome but not always necessary, especially if the wedding is smaller.

During the lead-up to the wedding you’ll need to keep abreast of any changes and developments, however, much of the organisation at this stage is down to the couple and the bride’s parents.

Duties of the Mother of the Groom

Besides the duties already mentioned, the only outstanding duty that falls to the mother of the groom is to plan the rehearsal dinner, including scheduling the venues, sending invites and so forth. You’ll need to keep in touch with the bride’s family as well as your own to keep on top of the finer details.

Father of the Groom’s Duties

The father of the groom also pays for his own suit or suit hire.

At the reception the father of the groom is also expected to make a speech, thanking the parents of the bride, welcoming the bride into his family and wishing everybody well.

The father of the groom is finally expected to pay for the bar tab. Depending on the type of bar that’s being run it’s possible to restrict the drink availability to beer, wine and a few pre-selected cocktails. You may want to put a pre-agreed amount behind the bar and let guests pay for their own drinks once they go beyond that amount, or you may want to provide all beverages from the wholesaler yourself. You should be aware that many venues will charge corkage for bottles that are opened.

Duties of the Attendants

Maid of Honour’s Duties

The Matron or Maid of Honour is essentially the chief bridesmaid. It’s her job to make sure all of the bridesmaids turn up to fittings when they are needed, to mediate any conflicts and fallings out that the girls have and essentially make sure everybody behaves, including the bride herself.

Along with the bride’s mother, the Matron/Maid of Honour should be solid and dependable throughout. The bride is going to be emotional and needs all the help she can get.

If the bride is not buying the bridesmaids’ dresses, but is offering a contribution, the Maid of Honour should ensure that the maids don’t go over budget, and that if they do, then it’s them who will be paying the extra costs.

The Maid of Honour should be there to help out with invites too, liaising with both families to ensure that everybody who should be invited is, that the invitations are sent out in time, followed up and replies or apologies are properly coordinated so that numbers can be confirmed.

The Maid of Honour will be organising the wedding shower and hen night too. The wedding shower should be held at home or at a restaurant that’s expecting you, as the bride and her attendants will have so much to carry. Talk to the bride about what she really wants from her hen night. Some girls just want something civilised at a nice cocktail bar while others will want to dress up and go all out for a big night or even weekend.

As Matron of Honour, you’ll be needed at all the rehearsal events, parties, dinners and rehearsals. Plans change and it would be unfortunate if you weren’t kept updated of any developments.

Your next duty is to help pack for the honeymoon. Because this was traditionally a secret from the bride, you’ll need to find out from the groom what to pack. Although the bride usually knows these days where she’s going, find out what special treats the groom has planned for their break so you can pack accordingly.

On the day it’s the Maid of Honour’s role to get the bridesmaids up and ready in the morning. That may involve getting them all to the bride’s house so that their hair and makeup can be done. If that’s not the case it’s still the role of the Maid of Honour to help the bride with her hair and makeup and still get the maids ready and at the venue in plenty of time.

During the ceremony, the Maid of honour should hold the bride’s bouquet while she has her hands busy. After the ceremony the Maid of Honour will want to sign the registry as a witness to the wedding.

At the reception it is becoming more common for the Matron of Honour to make a toast to the happy couple and co-host, ensuring that the bridesmaids are well behaved, that the ushers are performing their duties and otherwise acting as the bride’s second pair of eyes while she is enjoying her day.

Duties of the Bridesmaids

The importance of the bridesmaids is becoming diminished as they are seen more as distinguished guests rather than girls with a duty to perform. Firstly, bridesmaids are supposed to help in every stage of the planning of the event. They should know what the bride wants and act as assistants, liaising with vendors, running errands and generally being as useful as they possibly can.

The bridesmaids should help choosing the dress, offering helpful advice when asked. This duty is becoming less vital as the dress is becoming much more a personal and less a group decision.

Bridesmaids should help organising the hen night too. The Matron of Honour makes the grand plan, but maids should ensure that bookings are all in place, any entertainment is booked and confirmed and that all outfits and accessories are in order.

If the bride is letting you pick out your own dress, you need to ensure that you have one that fits with her instructions and be certain that it fits properly in plenty of time. There’s no room for last minute drama!

Bridesmaids are needed at all the rehearsals as the role that they play could change and they need to be aware of what will be the plan.

Finally, the bridesmaids will be there to help the bride and her family throughout the day, making themselves as useful as possible and co-hosting the reception, ensuring that everyone is welcomed and comfortable.

Best Man’s Duties

The Best Man’s duties essentially mirror those which are carried out by the Matron of Honour for the bride. He should be strong and reliable, ensuring that nothing is overlooked and follow up any details he thinks have been overlooked. He will coordinate with the groom’s parents to ensure that everyone that should be invited from the groom’s side has been and that their replies are properly logged.

The Best Man should also ensure that everybody has been paid and tipped properly, liaising with the father of the bride where necessary, he should also carry some extra cash for emergencies, such as the bar going over the agreed costs or additional taxis which might be needed.

During the ceremony, he is expected to hold the rings until they are needed, and during the reception he should be in charge of the ushers, making sure that everybody is seated in the right place and that everybody is having a good time.

During the speeches, it’s the Best Man’s job to deliver the final speech, thanking the hosts, the parents of the groom, the bridesmaids, ushers and all involved in making the day wonderful. He should then read out the cards and apologies from those guests who were unable to attend before going on to speak about the groom. Many people think that the Best Man speech should be funny and something of a ‘roast’, however, depending on the character of the groom and their friendship, it could also be a speech that praises the many things that make the groom unique, and what a perfect union this marriage is.