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wedding party

The wedding party

By Published On: November 1, 2020Categories: All About Weddings

The wedding party is the people who stand up with you during your ceremony. You might have:

  • maid of honour/matron of honour/man of honour/dude of honour
  • best man/best woman/best chick
  • bridesmaids/bridesmen
  • groomsmen/groomsmaids
  • flower girls/boys/grannies
  • ring bearers, or
  • literally anyone else or any other title you want.

I sometimes also refer to them as your attendants – they’re the people attending to your needs. This is different from the people attending your wedding, who I call your guests.

Pre-marriage equality we might have called this group the bridal party. But now that not every wedding in Australia involves a bride, it’s time for some updated terminology.

You might also see some wedding publications talking about your tribe or your crew or your team, but those words just aren’t me! You can call your people whatever you want – don’t let me stop you 🙂

So now that we know what the wedding party is, what is its purpose? Why do weddings traditionally involve a wedding party? Do you have to have one?

Purpose of the wedding party

The wedding party is often made up of the couple’s closest friends and/or relatives. They’re the people with whom the couple want to:

  • share their wedding preparations
  • get ready on the big day
  • travel to the wedding
  • have photos
  • share the ceremony space.

They’re also there to help the couple in whatever ways they need, which could include:

  • helping pick their outfits
  • assisting with tasks that need doing in the lead up to the wedding
  • planning pre-wedding events such as hen’s and buck’s nights
  • attending the rehearsal
  • making sure the couple gets ready on time
  • making sure the couple arrives at the wedding on time
  • providing moral support at all times leading up to and throughout the wedding
  • being on hand throughout the ceremony and the reception to help with wardrobe malfunctions, makeup touch-ups, and other issues.

Traditional history of the wedding party

There are several historical reasons for bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Bridesmaids

Throughout history, bridesmaids have been required to:

  • literally serve the bride. The story of Jacob in the Bible has his two wives, Leah and Rachel, escorted to the wedding by their servants – the brides’ maids. In biblical times bridesmaids tended to be domestic staff rather than friends or family members. Their job was to cater to the bride’s every need on the wedding day. While this can still be seen as the “job” of bridesmaids, they’re generally chosen because of their close relationship to the bride.
  • protect the bride from:
    • evil spirits who would come to curse the bride, so bridesmaids wore similar outfits to the bride to confuse the spirits; or
    • bandits come to steal the bride’s dowry of money, furniture, and other treasures; again, the bridesmaids acted as decoys.
  • not outshine the bride, being careful to select outfits that were less showy than the bride’s.
  • carry bouquets including fragrant herbs (even garlic) to ward off evil spirits.

Groomsmen

Throughout history, groomsmen have been required to:

  • help the groom kidnap the bride. Yeah. If the bride didn’t receive her family’s permission to marry, the groom and his “bride-knights” would simply steal her from her home. It was known as “marriage by capture”.
  • ensure the bride didn’t get kidnapped or try to run away during the ceremony. They were the groom’s personal army, ready to fight anyone causing an issue.
  • protect the bride and her dowry from robbers, ex-lovers, and evil spirits. Like the bridesmaids, groomsmen would dress like the groom to confuse the problem-makers.

Do you have to have a wedding party?

Now that you know why we have wedding parties and all their historical and current responsibilities, you may be questioning if you need a wedding party at all. The answer is a categorical no! If you don’t want a wedding party, you don’t have to have one. As many reasons as there are to have one, as outlined above, there are just as many reasons not to have one.

Saving money

Wedding parties are expensive: outfits, shoes, makeup, hair, etc, etc, etc. Someone has to pay for all of that – sometimes it’s the couple, sometimes it’s the attendants. In my experience, money is the number one cause of tension between a couple and their wedding party. If you are going to have a wedding party, make sure you discuss money expectations up front.

Focusing on each other

You get to be the absolute centre of attention, focusing only on each other leading up to and throughout the ceremony and the reception. You don’t have to worry about whether your wedding party members are happy or performing their jobs.

Avoiding extra events

If you don’t have a wedding party, you don’t need to worry about trips to buy their outfits and additional appointment times with the hair and makeup artist/s. You can even avoid having hen’s and buck’s nights if you don’t want them – wedding parties generally organise such events.

Circumventing the politics of selecting the attendants

How do you choose? Traditionally there would be an even number of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Some modern couples aren’t worrying about that. I’ve had a bride with 7 bridesmaids and her groom had 2 groomsmen. It was totally fine. But you still have to choose who those 7 or 2 people are! Is it family? Is it friends? Which friends? The ones you’ve known the longest or the ones you’re closest to? Who get to be the lead attendants – maid of honour and best man? It can be an impossible choice and someone is bound to be offended.

Steering clear of other people’s opinions

If you have a wedding party, they’re generally going to want to have a say on all the things. Sometimes that can be helpful. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and super annoying, particularly when there’s lots of contradictory views.

Involving others in your ceremony

There are always people I can suggest to take on the ceremony roles usually filled by the wedding party. I love to include parents, siblings, as well as close friends. This might be an easier way of including your special people than having them stand up next to you.

I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about! Will you be having a wedding party?

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