Ahhh…weddings: The excitement of joining two people in matrimony; the beauty of the flowers, cake, and dresses; the joy of family and friends in celebration of love! Weddings are wonderful to experience and to look back upon. But weddings are not always so pleasant to plan. Some of the major particulars that need to be determined involve the happy couple’s closest champions, their family and friends. As soon as the engagement is revealed, communication with these individuals needs to occur. The expectations need to be clear. These conversations have the potential to be difficult, but if handled properly, you could be smooth sailing in no time.
Below, you will find the most traditional expectations of the major players in the wedding party. These are based on American wedding customs and can vary from person to person and family to family. That also needs to be taken into consideration when wedding two into one union. When planning your wedding party discussions, feel free to use these descriptions as guides to determine where you want to keep tradition and where you would like to build your own practices.
Traditional Roles and Expectations
Bride: Purchases groom’s wedding band, chooses maid of honor and bridesmaids, chooses bridal gowns
Groom: Purchases bride’s wedding band, chooses best man and groomsmen, chooses groomsmen’s attire
Bride and Groom: Choose the ceremony date, choose theme and venue, compile guest list, procure gifts for wedding party participants, coordinate for marriage license, select and secure officiant, send thank you notes
Father of the Bride: Pays for the bulk of the wedding, secures transportation and lodging for out of town guests, escorts the bride down the aisle, makes a speech at the reception, and performs father/daughter dance
Mother of the Bride: Assists bride with wedding planning, passes down family traditions, hosts bridal party and wedding reception
Mother and Father of the Groom: Hosts and funds the rehearsal dinner
Maid of Honor: As the bride’s biggest source of support, emotionally and physically stands by the bride, holds the bouquet during the ceremony, adjusts the gown and train of the bride at the altar, holds the groom’s wedding band, and toasts the newlyweds at the reception
Bridesmaids: Support the maid of honor by planning the wedding shower and bachelorette party, contribute to the DIY décor and favors
Best Man: As the groom’s biggest source of support, executes the bachelor party, gets the groom to the altar on time and in good fashion, escorts maid of honor, holds the bride’s wedding band, delivers toast at the reception, organizes transportation for newlyweds
Groomsmen: Assist in bachelor party details, help usher honored guests, escort bridesmaids up the aisle, decorate newlyweds’ exit vehicle
Approaching the Wedding Party
What an exciting time in the couple’s life. This is The Event that cements their relationship, it celebrates their promises to each other, and where the couple is presented to society as an official unit. A perfect time to have these conversations with the individuals that will be a part of your wedding party is at or around the engagement announcement. Some people have a meal, others throw a party, some share the exciting news individually. However it is done, take the opportunity as a couple to speak with the individuals about the honorable positions you would like for them to hold. That means the wedding couple will need to determine ahead of these conversations not just who will hold these positions but what the expectations of each role will be. And that will be the guide for approaching the wedding party participants.
Carve out time in the beginning to have individual conversations with each member of the wedding party. Find out how much time, effort, and money they can contribute to the special occasion. Use this discussion as a guide to their final responsibilities. If duties need to be reassigned, try thinking outside the box and do what works for this occasion, with this group of people, at this time in their lives. Is it reasonable to ask your retired father on a fixed income to fund your extravagant wedding you have dreamed of for forty years? Does it make sense to expect your best friend to leave her new out-of-state dream job to spend a month in town with you, wrapping up final details, planning and participating in your shower and bachelorette party, and being at your side for all the wedding festivities. Make these open and continuous conversations that you revisit throughout the planning process.
This may sound like a lot. A wedding is a major undertaking in itself. The couple needs all the support they can get. And though this day may be all about them (or the bride), they probably need this special group of individuals more than they know. The relationships with these important figures in the couple’s life should live beyond this occasion. Make sure they are taken care of to determine how beautiful and joyous this observance of love and commitment really is.
Who Should Pay for the Wedding?
Traditionally, the family of the bride was responsible for the cost of the wedding. Also traditionally, the bride was offered to the groom and his family with a dowry or a trousseau. This was to ensure that the bride was coming to the marriage with something worth the groom’s while. The bride’s family was in fact paying to have this daughter taken off their hands. With these gifts, she becomes the groom’s responsibility (since she couldn’t work and contribute to the household finances).
But that global tradition has mostly outgrown its roots. And, in my opinion, the tradition of it being the bride’s family’s responsibility to foot the bill for the wedding has outgrown its roots as well. These days, brides are bringing just as much, if not more, to the marriage as the groom. And, with many couples marrying later in life, each is often established enough to take on the cost themselves.
So, the new trend in the United States is to allow the couple to figure out how best to take on the wedding when it comes to the size, location, and other logistical details, as well as the financial responsibility. I recommend not falling into the trap of ancient traditions in these modern times. As the wedding couple, do what you want and what works for you and for your families. Meet with those contributing financially and set a budget, decide who will pay for what, and set deadlines. A spreadsheet might be a good idea.
What About the Rehearsal Dinner?
In the same vein of tradition, as the bride’s family has been responsible for funding the wedding, which has included flowers, catering, cake, venue, photography, music, etc., it has been the responsibility of the groom’s family to pay for the rehearsal dinner. This meal usually occurs the evening before the ceremony with the purpose of feeding the wedding party after rehearsing the wedding ceremony. Because the majority of the wedding cost has been on the bride’s side, the groom’s side has had the honor of funding the rehearsal dinner as a thank you to the party.
Again, feel free to keep this tradition if it works for the families. But the couple should make these decisions as they are planning their wedding events. It is perfectly acceptable for the couple to pay for the rehearsal dinner as a thank you to their wedding party, including their parents.