June 2012

WANTED: Bridesmaids & Groomsmen - A Job Description

Author: Debbie Szpanka | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Friends who have seen us through everything from crazy crayon drawings to all the crazy people we used to date, and/or party pals who have proclaimed, at least one time, “I love you, man,” to a sizable audience. The appropriate candidates for these rewarding, yet, temporary positions need disposable income of some kind or a comfort level with installment plans, ability to travel, communicate in festive environments with various audiences of different generations with differing religious-political viewpoints, honed public speaking skills and experience with special events. Qualifications include: ability to juggle several projects at the same time (e.g. dress/tux fitting, hosting parties, writing and presenting speeches), the personal discipline to control their alcohol consumption in front of family members and distinguished guests or the acting skills and core balance and strength to fake it… and most importantly, reassuring us (the bride and groom) that despite what family members may be arguing, what details were forgotten, or if we are really ready for a lifelong or longtime commitment, that all is well and marriage is a beautiful institution which, for today, will be celebrated in a fashion which will bring fond memories for years to come.


Besides picking your bride or groom, the next big question for the betrothed couple is who will literally “stand up” for them as they enter the next, new phase of their life as a married couple. It’s a simple question with a complex job description that can bring warm memories for a lifetime, short-term debt, and dresses with matching shoes, which despite the best intentions, will never be worn again. Yet, it’s an honor for many who have a special place in the bride’s and groom’s lives to now to have a place at the altar with them on their wedding day.

A 25-year-old Bluffton woman who wishes to remain anonymous said she was recently a bridesmaid in a Savannah wedding for a childhood friend. She said it was an honor; however, it was also a stretch to fulfill her obligations with her well-heeled bride.

“She had a bachelorette party in San Francisco, several bridal showers up north, and a wedding in Savannah. While many of her affluent friends didn’t bat an eyelash at the series of travel obligations, along with dress, shoes, tailoring and gift expenses, I really had to pull up my bootstraps to find the nearly $1,500 to participate.”

The question is what are the responsibilities of the bridesmaids and groomsmen? According to Nina Callaway of About.com guide, an attendant is someone who is a supportive of the marriage and bride and groom and do can menial tasks such as errand running, holding the rings, the flowers, etc. and is a confidante and can calm the bride or groom during the stressful moments of the wedding and the preparation of it.

Duties of the bridesmaids include helping the bride shop for her dress and, when asked, giving advice or opinions about the wedding flowers, food, etc., helping the maid/matron of honor host a bridal shower, helping the bride dress before the wedding, being a social director at the wedding and perhaps throwing the couple a post-wedding brunch. The maid/matron of honor has additional duties, according to Callaway, such as helping with wedding planning, addressing wedding invitations, coordinating the ordering and tailoring of bridesmaid dresses, assisting with rehearsal dinner, holding the bouquet during ceremony and giving a meaningful toast at the wedding reception.

The bridesmaids are expected to pay for the bridesmaid dress, travel and hotel room for the ceremony and bachelorette parties and host a bachelorette party and/or bridal shower.

The groomsmen have the same gender-specific duties for the groom. They also can double as ushers for the wedding. The main role of the groomsmen, like the bridesmaids, is to be supportive of the groom and help out where needed.

Donna Jones, a Hilton Head Island wedding officiate, said she runs through a checklist for the bridesmaids and groomsmen before the wedding just to assure they have what they need and know what to do. “Before the ceremony begins, I always ask if the groomsmen and maid of honor have the rings.” Jones said. “There has been more than one wedding delayed as the best man runs back to the hotel to get the ring.”

Jones, who has performed more than 100 weddings in two years, said she is seeing trends emerge such as non-traditional attendants, opposite gender attendants or no attendants at all. “I see brides and grooms, especially those past their mid-40s, choose attendants who are the most special or influential people in their lives—his or her dad, brother or best friend who happens to be the opposite gender of traditional attendants,” Jones said. “I also see more couples choosing to have no attendants.”

Bluffton bride Kelly Carter, who married May 26th in the Las Vegas Hollywood Wedding Chapel, said it was just easier to do it on her own. “This way no one gets her feeling hurt. I also don’t have to worry about all the bridesmaids getting along, and no one has the expense of paying for a dress.”

Gay couples who want to proclaim their love publicly may also have attendants. While the supporting role is the same, there is less to do since in most states, like South Carolina, the ceremony has no legal bond.

Anne Rowland, who has family in the Lowcountry, had a “public declaration” ceremony in Indiana with her partner. “We didn’t know what to call our attendants,” Rowland said. “We started calling them ‘sisters-in-waiting,’ but that was weird, because we didn’t know what our sisters in their mid-60s were waiting for. We decided on ‘sisters of honor.’” The Indiana couple didn’t require their sisters of honor to have matching gowns, a decision they said pleased their attendants.

The 25-year-old Bluffton accountant said she has eight bridesmaid dresses that are just “sitting in her closet” that she knows she will never wear again. “I will eventually give them to a thrift store where someone will buy them for five bucks each, and it will be a part of their Halloween costume.”

Each wedding is unique, so it is advisable to ask the couple what is involved ( travel, parties, showers, etc.) before committing yourself to this very important job.

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