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bridesmaids - who is who

Attendants: A Glossary of Who's Who in the Wedding Party

Unattended at the moment? Find out who’s who and what they do with this wedding party cheat sheet.

Photo: Rich Graulich

Who knew planning a wedding would be akin to staging a major Broadway production? To help out with your co-directorial debut, we've prepared a cross-section of the wedding day cast of characters. (Keep in mind that most roles can be played by either gender, and by as many people as you want.)

Best Man

This guy acts as groom's valet (personal aide and advisor) through all stages of wedding planning. He's a fashion consultant, bachelor-party master of ceremonies, and commander-in-chief of the groomsmen brigade. His duties include (but aren't limited to): getting the groom to the ceremony on time; giving the wedding officiant his/her fee after the ceremony; signing the couple's marriage license; and holding the bride's wedding ring at the altar. He also is famous for his toasting skills and dancing savoir faire.

Bridesmaids

Trustworthy gal pals and female family members who form the bride's entourage (and ostensibly work well together). They are a support team for the maid of honor, helping with pre-wedding tasks when asked (addressing invites, making bridal shower favors, planning the bachelorette party, and more). Bridesmaids are often expected to hit the dance floor running and play surrogate hostesses to guests.

Candle Lighter

In some Christian ceremonies, pre-teens aged nine to 12 light candles at the altar just before the mother of the bride (see below) is seated. Candle lighters may dress like the wedding party or not. Your choice.

Father of the Bride

In traditional wedding circles, this guy fronts most of the cash -- that's no small feat. In addition, brides' dads have picked up additional to-dos along the way. Dad's chores might include airport duty, coordinating maps/directions to the wedding site, scouting potential wedding reception venues, doling out tips to wedding day staff, and a variety of toasting and hosting tasks.

Father of the Groom

He used to get away with fading into the woodwork, but nowadays he's suited up for action. In terms of cost contribution, the groom's dad traditionally pays for a few major items, notably the rehearsal dinner. He might also fulfill numerous dancing, toasting, and "manly" obligations (i.e., escort elderly women, move tables, address problematic service). It's nice, too, if he checks in with the bride's dad occasionally to offer moral support.

Flower Girl/Child

Wee ones aged three through eight who walk down the aisle before the bride, scattering flower petals from a basket (or carrying a pomander). Little ladies are the norm, but cute little boys can fill this role, too. Most flower children sit with their parents after completing their stroll.

Groomsmen

A posse of male family and friends who assist the groom in planning and preparing for the big day. Their chief responsibility? To help the best man plan and pay for the bachelor party and to support the groom. It's also common to have groomsmen do double duty as ushers, leaving their posts in time to process with the rest of the bridal party. They also get to decorate the getaway car, dance with dateless ladies at the reception, and act as a resource for confused guests.

Hattabin

A Muslim term for male family or friends who help prepare the groom for and participate in the wedding. Among Moroccan Muslims, it's common for the hattabin to propose to the bride on the groom's behalf.

Honor Attendants

The best man (see above) and the maid of honor (see below) are considered honor attendants. They may prefer to go by this title, forgoing gender-specific references. An honor attendant may also be known as "best person."

Huppah Carriers

In Jewish weddings, individuals close to the bride and groom (usually family members or close friends) may hold up the huppah poles during the ceremony. They are often part of the shushavim (see below).

Junior Bridesmaids/Junior Groomsmen/Junior Ushers

These are young members of the wedding party (aged 9-16). They'll attend all major functions (excluding X-rated bachelorette parties) and fulfill the same responsibilities as senior squad members. Junior bridesmaids can wear less-sexy versions of the bridesmaid dresses (if the dresses are risque); Junior groomsmen may don a tux like the big guys.

Koumbaro/Koumbara

The Koumbaro is the Eastern Orthodox groom's best man. (The Koumbara is the female version.) Traditionally, the koumbaros was the groom's godfather, but today any close male relative or friend can do the job. In traditional Greek weddings, the koumbaro's role is highly symbolic, and his duties are many. For example, during the crowning ceremony, he must place the crowns on the bride's and groom's heads, then switch the crowns back and forth three times, uniting and binding the two lovebirds.

Maid/Matron/Man of Honor

The bride's right-hand for the duration of the planning process -- she's there to supply a second pair of eyes and provide emotional support as needed. In general, the maid of honor heads up the bridal shower and handles numerous wedding day details, which might include toasting the bride and groom, signing the marriage license, adjusting the bride's train at the altar, holding her bouquet during vows, and collecting gift envelopes at the reception. She also should help the bride get dressed, taking care to frequently remind her that she looks beautiful. She is the last bridesmaid to walk down the aisle before the bride, holding the groom's wedding band on her thumb.

Mother of the Bride

The mother of the bride may serve as wedding planner, guest list moderator, traditional reception hostess, fashion critic, and cheerleader. Other possible duties include researching family and ethnic wedding traditions, attending the bridal shower and rehearsal dinner, and dancing the night away at the reception. The nature of the bride's mother's role is entirely up to the bride.

Mother of the Groom

The groom's mom can assume any of the bride's mom's responsibilities, if she's up for it. Dole out to-dos diplomatically to prevent conflicts. She attends the bridal shower, and is escorted down the aisle during the prelude. Her shining moment? The mother/son dance.

Officiant

The cleric or city official who performs the marriage ceremony. Examples include a priest, a rabbi, a minister, or a justice of the peace.

Pages

Young boys (or girls) aged six through nine who carry the bride's extra-long wedding gown train (think of Lady Di's wedding) as she walks down the aisle. Also known as "train bearers."

Ring Bearer

A young boy (or girl) aged four through eight, who walks down the aisle just before the flower girl (if there is one), carrying a small decorative pillow with two wedding bands tied to it (usually fakes, in case they are lost).

Shushavim

A Jewish term describing anyone close to the bride and groom who helps them plan and prepare for marriage. In many Jewish weddings, there is no traditional wedding party, but certain members of the shushavim (a mom, a sister, a best friend) might perform similar tasks.

Train Bearer

(see Pages)

Ushers

Males (or females) who escort guests to their seats before the ceremony. Ushers are often employed in addition to groomsmen -- this way you can involve other important guys in the big day, including pre-teen relatives who may not have been up for planning a lascivious bachelor party.

Vratimi

Basically, they're Greek groomsmen. In traditional Eastern Orthodox weddings, the vratimi is a pack of the groom's male friends who help the koumbaro carry out his traditional role and perform various rituals.

VIEs

Very important extras who act as readers, singers, poets, or party aides. A VIE can also serve as guest book captain (makes sure all guests sign), tradition bearer (walks down the aisle toting a family heirloom or heritage symbol), or etiquette guru (fields all guest questions that begin with, "Is it okay if...").

-- The Knot

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