No one’s expecting the groom to get through his big day single-handed. In a vital supporting role are the best man and all the ushers. But what exactly are their duties?
There are no lie-ins on your wedding day. This is the most important appointment of your life. Make sure you’re up bright and early with a very bushy tail indeed.
A lot of grooms spend the evening before their marriage with their best man and ushers. They may even stay over, just to be sure their groom doesn’t accidentally oversleep.
Sometimes the bride’s family will host a pre-nuptial dinner, with everyone (bride, groom, parents, close family, best man and chief bridesmaid) all spending the evening together. It’s a good opportunity for everyone to run through the final plans and wedding day duties.
On the morning of the wedding, it’s the best man’s responsibility to get him and his groom to the venue on time. The groom’s bound to be nervous – possibly shaking like a leaf. ‘Bestie’ is his right-hand man. He must keep him calm, allay any last-minute nerves, and ensure his wedding suit is all present and correct. The one object he mustn’t forget about is the ring.
Wedding venues are never simple to get to. Be they churches in remote rural villages, big city registry offices or Caribbean beaches, there’s always a convoluted journey involved. Wise grooms will calculate the journey time and then triple it; just to be safe.
Plan to arrive at the venue at least an hour and a half before all the other guests. You’ll have time to iron out any last minute problems and then enjoy a pre-marital drink with the ushers.
This has become something of a wedding tradition within recent years. Groom, best man and ushers all meet up at a pub near the wedding venue and celebrate the groom’s final moments as a single man. Besides, you can hardly be expected to get hitched on an empty stomach, can you?
The pre-marital drink is also a chance to run through all the ushers’ duties:
You’ll need at least two ushers to take care of car parking at the wedding venue.
Two ushers should stand at the entrance to the wedding venue, handing out the orders of service and meeting the guests.
The remaining ushers should be inside the venue, directing or escorting guests to their seats. They’ll ensure the seats at the front are reserved for family, bridesmaids and close friends. As a general rule, the bride’s family and guests are on the left and the groom’s are on the right. At most weddings, since the bride’s father is the host, the bride will invite many more guests than the groom. As the venue starts to fill up you will normally find the right-hand side (the groom’s side) is emptier than the left. Since a lot of guests will be friends of both bride and groom, the ushers can keep things balanced by seating them on the groom’s side.
At very formal weddings ushers may be expected to escort single female guests to their seats. Unless the guest is elderly, this may however appear overly chivalrous.
One usher should have the job of giving you and your best man the signal just before the bride arrives at the venue door.
One usher should remain at the back of the venue, near the door, in case there are any late arrivals.
One usher should remain behind after the service to check for any lost property.
During the ceremony
Groom and best man will wait at the front of the wedding venue, near the altar or registry office desk. They don’t need to stand for the entire time. Once all the guests have arrived at the venue, they can take the weight off their feet – just as long as one of the ushers tells them when the bride is approaching so that they’re standing before she enters the venue.
Of all the wedding nightmare scenarios, the one most commonly featured on films and TV programmes is the lost ring. The last thing you want the best man to be doing is scrabbling around in his pockets looking for it. Guests will start giggling and you’ll start panicking. So make sure he keeps it in a jewellery box in his pocket.
Signing the registry
To make the marriage legal, the bride and groom have to sign the register. At a registry office this is done in front of all the guests. At a church it’s done at the very front, behind the altar, or in a separate room to the side. Two witnesses will have to sign, too – normally a parent from each family.
At the end of the ceremony, the entire wedding party will march out of the venue, led of course by the newly-weds. The best man is sometimes required to escort the chief bridesmaid. Once outside, the photographer will need to take some photos. The best man should help gather together all the relatives and ushers.
Off to the reception
The journey between the wedding venue and the reception is bound to be convoluted. Guests may have to negotiate winding country lanes or busy city streets. That’s why it’s crucial that best man and ushers help direct them all.
While one usher remains behind at the wedding venue, in case there are any stragglers, the others can post themselves at key junctions along the route to the reception. Standing by the road in their suits and with their button-holes, they’ll make effective human signposts.
A couple of ushers should also help the guests park their cars once they get to the reception. By this stage the Champagne will be flowing, so everyone will want to be out of their vehicles as soon as possible.