Traditionally, bridal party members are made up of only women. However, as more and more couples are choosing to do things in their own way, the bride is no longer confined to choosing just women to be in her support crew. Thus the term “wedding party” (or even “commitment crew”) is the more modern, all-inclusive term used to describe the people chosen by the couple to surround and support them on their special day.
There are three categories of people who are usually included in the wedding party:
At weddings with a "head table," the wedding party sits with the bride and/or groom. With a "sweetheart table", the couple is seated separately from their wedding party, but their closest friends and family are still in close proximity.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the titles and roles you’ll find in a traditional wedding party, as well as lengthier explanations for what each of these roles are expected to do.
Best Man: A close friend of the groom, the best man is predominantly responsible for the social aspect of the groom’s wedding party. He is expected to:
Maid or Matron of Honor: Traditionally, the maid (or matron) of honor attends all pre-wedding events that the bride attends. Here are the maid of honor’s expected duties:
Bridesmaids & Groomsmen: These wedding attendants share many of the same duties. Both bridesmaids and groomsmen are expected to:
Parents of the Bride(s) or Groom(s): Traditionally, the bride’s parents and/or groom’s parents are expected to be involved in both the wedding planning, wedding rehearsals, and the actual wedding day itself, and may also share financial responsibility for part or all of the wedding. The parents of the bride and groom typically:
Some or all of the parents will give a toast at the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception, welcoming their new child-in-law and celebrating the union of their two families.
Mother of the Bride: The bride’s mother can serve a similar role to the MOH in that she provides an extra level of support throughout the wedding planning process. Mothers of the bride usually help shop for the wedding dress, the bride’s necklace, costumes, and other important garments; she may also have a hand in planning the bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, and possibly a bridal luncheon for the bridal party and close female family members. On the wedding day, she helps the bride get ready, may walk her daughter down the aisle, and participate in the first dances.
Mother of the Groom: The groom’s mother may perform some or all of the above functions, though she usually plays a slightly smaller role than the mother of the bride. The mother of the groom takes part in the mother-son dance.
Father of the Bride: The bride’s father typically plays a smaller role in the run-up to the wedding, but has several duties on the day of the wedding. Some families choose to have a “first look” with the father of the bride, which allows the bride and her dad to spend some quality time together before the ceremony. The father of the bride often walks his daughter down the aisle and “gives her away” at the altar, either by himself or with the mother of the bride. He will also take part in the father-daughter dance.
Father of the Groom: The groom’s father’s role is often even more limited, though in recent years more and more grooms have included their fathers as members of their wedding party or even asked their dads to serve as their best men.
Other Family and Friends: Between (step)parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, you might have a whole horde of family knocking down your door to celebrate you and your partner on your special day...and that’s not even counting all your dear friends. Whether to choose to have a wedding party or not, you can find ways to expand your VIP roster by honoring your loved ones with specific roles or responsibilities. Here are a few ideas (feel free to get creative with titles):
The short answer is no—having a wedding party is definitely not a requirement if it doesn’t feel right to you and your partner. There are plenty of reasons why a couple might not want any wedding party members: perhaps they have too many friends and family to choose from and don’t want to make tough choices, or perhaps they would prefer to have just the two of them up at the altar for a more intimate moment. If you’re eloping, having a very small wedding, or if this is not your first time getting married, having a wedding party might feel unnecessary. The choice to have a wedding party—and if so, who those people are—is totally up to you.