A Western Wedding: Who's Who
by Jean Angus, 1 September 2002

Most contemporary Western-style weddings are large productions involving many people besides the bride and groom. The general rule of thumb is, the more the merrier, so it's quite common to find many members of the extended family and the couple's friends involved in one way or another. But, do you really know what all these people are supposed to do? Here's a rough guide to the individual roles of a typical Western wedding party.

Best person: Usually chosen because he or she is the groom's best pal, the best person is not necessarily male. He or she assists the groom with planning and shepherds him around on the wedding day itself. Some duties include throwing the groom's stag party, making sure that the groom isn't late, giving the officiant his fee or "ang pow" and holding the rings at the altar. The best person also gives the wedding toast with eloquence.

Maid/man of honour: The bride's personal assistant. The job scope includes making sure there are no ladders in the bride's stockings, carrying plenty of tissue, and soothing the bride's frazzled nerves. The maid/man of honour also throws the hen party, adjusts the bridal train if needed, holds the bridal bouquet while vows are being exchanged, and collects gift envelopes on behalf of the bride and groom.

Bridesmaids and groomsmen: Usually close friends or relatives of the wedding couple. Mostly there as eye candy, their duties include helping with pre-wedding tasks such as addressing invitation envelopes, as well as supporting the maid-of-honour and best man on the wedding day itself.

Flower girls: They are normally aged between 3-8 and walk down the aisle before the bride, scattering flower petals from a basket. Flower girls are not a necessity in a wedding party, but are often included at the request of their proud parents.

Ring-bearer: These days, it's common for the best man to hold on to the rings so the ring-bearer has been sidelined somewhat. The ring-bearer is traditionally a little boy aged 4-8. He walks down the aisle before the flower girl, carrying a little pillow to which are tied the wedding rings.

Ushers: They police the wedding guests, making sure that they are seated according to their relation to the bride or groom on either side of the aisle. Ushers also give out or arrange wedding booklets on seats before the ceremony commences.

Parents of the bride/groom: Purely decorative in the past. Nowadays, parents of the bride/groom are highly involved in the planning, and are given special honour at the wedding ceremony as the people who did such a great job bringing the lovely couple up. They may walk down the aisle before the bride; the bride's father may or may not give her away.

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