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What's a best man to do?

By Editors of Martha Stewart Weddings
updated 8:14 AM EST, Fri December 20, 2013
Being part of a wedding party is an honor -- and an obligation. Both the betrothed and their honored guests need to take the decision seriously. Being part of a wedding party is an honor -- and an obligation. Both the betrothed and their honored guests need to take the decision seriously.
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The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
The wedding party's tasks
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A wedding party usually has 8-12 people, but feel free to make your own rules.
  • Counsel attendants up front about what time and cash are entailed.
  • The maid of honor role doesn't necessarily have to be filled by a female.
  • The best man has a lot more on his plate than just planning a bachelor party.

(CNN) -- Being in a wedding party can involve a fair amount of responsibility and expense. Make sure all participants know up front what you are expecting of them and name your attendants soon after you choose a date so they have ample time to plan. Invite people to participate in a way that allows them to decline gracefully, and don't insist on an immediate answer. If anyone is unable to afford the associated costs, you might tactfully offer to help out if you can.

The Wedding Party

Couples usually have eight to twelve attendants, but you can have more or less depending on the size and style of your wedding. Some couples include children in the party, like nieces and nephews while others have honor attendants only. Don't feel you must choose an equal number of men and women. Loved ones don't come in boxed sets, and neither should your wedding party.

The Maid of Honor

How to Choose

Traditionally, the bride invites the sister closest in age to her to be maid or matron of honor, but these days she can ask any relative or friend, even a grandparent, parent, or adult child. A bride may name a brother or close male friend, and cast him in a slightly different, more masculine role. If she can't choose between two people, there's no rule that says she can't have both. The maid of honor has many varied responsibilities, so choose a good friend who will enjoy helping you with these important tasks.

What Does She Do?

As head bridesmaid, the maid of honor is in charge of delegating jobs and keeping the bridal party informed and organized. She will usually help the bride shop for the wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses, tell guests where the couple is registered for gifts, and host the wedding shower and bachelorette party. On the wedding day, she'll tend to the bride's veil, train, and bustle, hold the bride's bouquet during the ceremony, and sign the marriage certificate as a witness. At the reception, she and best man sometimes join the newlyweds for the first formal dance sequence and may offer a toast if she wants to.

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Follow the script -- addressing invitations
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The Best Man

How to Choose

At one time, the best man was usually a brother, but these days anyone is appropriate, provided he (or she) is important to the groom and is willing to assume this demanding role.

What does he do?

The best man helps the groom select the men's tuxedos and makes sure the groomsmen get fitted. He may also act as bachelor-party planner. In addition, the best man makes sure the groom gets to the ceremony on time and calms nerves. He stands at the groom's side during the ceremony, holds the bride's ring, and signs the marriage certificate. Afterwards, he hands out payments for the officiant, and for any other sundry expenses that come up, offers the first toast, safeguards gift envelopes, and orchestrates a smooth departure for the newlyweds when the party is over.

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Bridesmaids

How to Choose

In addition to family members and friends, the bride's entourage may include at least one of the groom's sisters. Older girls and young teenagers can join the party as junior bridesmaids.

What Do They Do?

The bridesmaids often help the maid of honor plan the shower and the bachelorette party or cohost these events. They attend prenuptial festivities and assist the bride or maid of honor with assorted tasks, such as securing hotel rooms for guests and keeping a gift log at the shower. Bridesmaids purchase the dress you have chosen and have it fitted in time for the wedding. If they're wearing dresses of their choosing, they need to be aware of any style or color specifications you may have. At the ceremony, they, with the groomsmen, precede the maid of honor in the procession.

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Groomsmen

How to Choose

Here, too, you want people you're comfortable with. A brother (or brothers) of the bride makes a wonderful addition.

What Do They Do?

Groomsmen might help host prenuptial celebrations -- the bachelor party, in particular. They pay for their own formal attire. At the wedding, groomsmen often serve as ushers; if so, they need to arrive early to roll out the runner, distribute programs, and escort guests to their seats. They walk in the procession alongside the bridesmaids and stand next to the best man during the ceremony.

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Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

How to Choose

If you are close to any small children, you might want to include them in your wedding party. Keep in mind, however, that children can't be expected to behave like adults. Flower girls and ring bearers should generally be at least 4 years old and mature enough to handle their role in the ceremony. A very shy or fidgety child will probably not do well in the spotlight, so be sure to ask their parents whether they think their youngsters will be able to manage.

What Do They Do?

The flower girl precedes the bride down the aisle, carrying a basket of petals, which she scatters as she walks, a nosegay, or an alternate accessory of the brides' choosing. After the procession, her work is done and she can be seated with her parents.

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Ring Bearer

What Do They Do?

The ring bearer walks down the aisle ahead of the bride, sometimes accompanying the flower girl. He will carry the wedding rings (or decoys, if he's too little to be trusted with the real things), tied to a small pillow. Once he hands the rings over to the best man, he can rejoin his parents.

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Who was in your wedding party and how did you pick them? Let us know in the comments below.

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