Q. When are the attendants invited to be in the bridal party?
A. As soon* as you have set your wedding date, you should invite your attendants to serve as members of your bridal party. This can be done in person, by telephone or by letter.
Q. Is it obligatory for me to have my fiance's sisters as my bridesmaids?
A. No, it is not obligatory, but it is customary. If you have a problem including them, be sure you and your groom-to-be discuss how you will handle the issue so there are as few hurt feelings or misunderstandings as possible. If they are much older and really not suitable "maids," perhaps you can include them in another aspect of your wedding or reception, helping introduce people or serving in another way.
Q, What do we do if one of the attendants backs out the week before the wedding?
A. You may, even up to the last day or two, ask another close friend to fill in. Friends should not be offended by a late invitation but rather feel flattered that you feel close enough to count on them in an emergency. It would' be most courteous of you to absorb any expense they will need to incur to participate in your wedding, however, since the cost would not have been planned in their budget. If there is no other friend available to step in, simply proceed with your wedding plans with one less attendant.. If this causes awkwardness in your processional or recessional, ask your clergyman for advice on alternative ways to enter and exit.
Q. Is there arty rule about the number of ushers and bridesmaids?
A. The only rule is really a practical rule of thumb— that there be one usher for every fifty guests. Otherwise, the average formal or semiformal wedding party includes four to six bridesmaids and at least that many ushers. There may be more ushers than bridesmaids, but there should not be more bridesmaids than ushers. A bride need not have any bridesmaids but she must have one attendant or maid of honor.
Q. May I have both a maid and a matron of honor?
A. Certainly. If you feel you want to have both, your maid of honor takes precedence, holding your bouquet, being in charge of the groom's ring and serving as a witness. If you have both, you need to decide whether you then wish to have an extra usher to escort the matron of honor.
Q. What are the responsibilities of the maid of honor?
A. In addition to holding your bouquet and the groom's ring during the ceremony and serving as a witness, the maid of honor is the bride's aide and "consultant," relieving the bride of as many chores as she can, especially on the wedding day. Although it is not obligatory, a maid of honor who is not a member of the bride's family usually arranges for or gives a shower for the bride, often with the help of the bridesmaids. She is also in charge of choosing the gift that will be given to the bride from all the bridesmaids together, and collecting the money to pay for it. At the end of the ceremony, the maid of honor helps the bride adjust her train and veil when she turns to recess. She also stands in the receiving line, may or may not propose a toast to the bride and groom, and she helps the bride change into her going-away clothes. The maid of honor also helps the bride's mother put away the bride's dress when the bride is changing to leave the reception.
Q. What are the responsibilities of the bridesmaids?
A. Bridesmaids may be single or married contemporaries of the bride whose special duties include forming the bridal procession and, if the bride desires, standing with her in the receiving line. Later they circulate among the guests, acting as "deputy hostesses." Any of them may give a shower, or they may all give one together. Often, bridesmaids give a luncheon for the bride, or attend one given by her. Generally they give her a joint present, engraved with their names or initials, as well as personal wedding gifts.
Q. What are the age limits for flower girls, ring bearers, junior ushers and junior bridesmaids?
A. Flower girls and ring bearers are usually between three and seven years old. Junior ushers and bridesmaids generally are between eight and fourteen, when they are too big to be flower girls and ring bearers, but too young to be bridesmaids and ushers. Depending on their size and your wishes, they may, of course, be slightly younger or older.
Q. What are the responsibilities of younger attendants and what do they wear?
A. Flower girls used to scatter petals before the bride, but more often today they simply carry a basket or bouquet of flowers. She must be part of the rehearsal, but whether she is included in showers and the rehearsal dinner depends on her age and the wishes of her parents. Her dress is paid for by her family. It may be similar to the bridesmaids' dresses or it may be modified to a child's style, in a matching color.
A ring bearer carries the ring or rings fastened to a firm white velvet or satin cushion with a white thread or a hat pin. Often, facsimiles are on the cushion and the best man and maid of honor carry the real rings. Like the flower girl, the ring bearer must attend the rehearsal, but his attendance at other functions is optional. The most appropriate dress for a ring bearer is short pants and an Eton jacket, preferably white, but occasionally navy. Small versions of the ushers' apparel are not appropriate.
Junior ushers, if there are two of them, often are appointed to be in charge of the white carpet or the pew ribbons. Otherwise, their only duties are to attend the rehearsal and to be part of the processional and recessional. They walk behind the regular ushers and dress like them.
Junior bridesmaids, like junior ushers, are responsible only to walk in the procession. They attend thé rehearsal, but they are not expected to give showers or contribute to the bride's gift. Junior bridesmaids need not stand in the receiving line, but may do so if asked to by the bride. Their attendance at the rehearsal dinner and at showers is not mandatory and depends on their age. Junior bridesmaids dress like the bridesmaids.
Q. What responsibilities does the best man have?
A. At some point before the wedding, the best man consults the ushers about a gift for the groom and is then responsible for ordering it and collecting money from the ushers to pay for it. He also makes the presentation to the groom, usually at the rehearsal dinner or at the bachelor dinner, if there is one.
The best man also assists the groom in coordinating the clothing the ushers will wear. If it is rented formal wear, he helps the groom make sure the measurements and sizes are given to the store in plenty of time, that the ushers are fitted,-if possible, and that the ushers are able to pick up their clothing. After the wedding, he takes care of returning the groom's clothing, if rented, and he or the head usher do the same for all the ushers' clothing.
The best man may help the groom pack for his honeymoon and makes sure that the clothes the groom will change into after the wedding are packed in a separate bag and taken to where the reception will be held.
He makes sure the groom is properly dressed in plenty of time and that he gets to the church on time. The best man is also responsible for the wedding ring and must be sure to get the clergyman's fee from the groom, which he delivers on behalf of the groom. He may do this before the ceremony while they are waiting to enter the church or, if he has time, immediately after the recessional. He sees the bride and groom into their car or, if there is no chauffeur, the best man drives the bride and groom to the reception himself.
At the reception, the best man does not stand in the receiving line, but mingles with the guests and helps the bride's family in any way he can. He is responsible for making the first toast to the newly-weds. After the toast, he reads aloud any telegrams or messages that have been received and keeps them carefully, to deliver to the bride's parents. The best man is the fourth man to dance with the bride after she has danced with the groom, the groom's father and her own father.
Toward the end of the reception he helps the groom change and makes sure he has everything he needs for his wedding trip. He then escorts the groom's family to the room where the groom is dressing, for their farewells. The best man is in charge of whatever transportation the bride and groom will use to leave the reception, and he keeps these plans secret to avoid the pranks of practical jokers. If the couple is leaving by car, he sees that their luggage .is in the car and may either drive the bride and groom to their, car or arrange to have it delivered at the moment of their departure. When the bride and groom are ready to leave, the best man leads them through the waiting guests, to the door.